Are Rabbis Prophets? Thoughts about the Kidnappings in Israel

With the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers by terrorists, the Israeli government, defense forces and police have been working tirelessly to bring the boys home quickly and safely. People throughout the world have been praying for the victims’ wellbeing.

As could be sadly expected, the vicious enemies of Israel praise the kidnappings. An Arab member of the Israeli Knesset justified the kidnappings as a legitimate tactic to fight Israel’s “occupation” of Arab land. Palestinian children are taught to raise three fingers to proudly cheer for the capture of three Israeli children. The international media, if they cover the story at all, tend to be “even handed” or clearly negative about Israel. Their compassion for victimized children around the world doesn’t seem to extend to victimized Israeli teenagers.

While these negative behaviors are deeply painful and offensive to Israelis and good people everywhere, we have almost come to accept these anti-Israel manifestations as “normal.” We have become so used to the immorality and hypocrisy of Israel’s detractors, that we don’t really expect them to behave morally or fairly when it comes to Israel.

But we would expect that rabbis—spokespeople of Torah—would speak passionately and morally especially when Israel is under attack. Indeed, the vast majority of rabbis do speak out in defense of Israel. During the current kidnapping crisis, rabbis worldwide have mobilized their communities to come together in prayer and solidarity.

Yet, we have read of prominent Israeli rabbis who have made public statements that are extremely problematic. One leading Israeli religious Zionist rabbi has proclaimed that the kidnappings are God’s punishment of Israel because the Knesset has passed legislation that he deems to be “anti-religious.” The Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel is quoted in the Jerusalem Post as teaching that the kidnappings are God’s way of testing the Jewish people.

Are these rabbis prophets? Do they have direct access to the workings of God?

These rabbis—and others who speak like them—are surely not gifted with prophecy, and they surely do not have direct access to the workings of God. Their proclamations are disgraceful examples of religious arrogance. To say that these kidnappings are punishments or tests from God is shameless and pretentious.

These kidnappings are not the work of God, but the work of criminal terrorists. They are fully responsible for their heinous behavior. The blame must be attributed to the criminal terrorists and all who encourage and support them.

When confronting difficult crises, we all ought to pray, to support those who work to resolve the crises, to demonstrate solidarity with victims of immorality and injustice. This requires physical and moral strength—and humility. People who are not prophets should not arrogate to themselves the right to proclaim that they know God’s will. They don’t.

When such people pretend to speak in God’s name, they desecrate God’s name and diminish our religion in the eyes of the thinking public.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Marc D. Angel is Director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. Author and editor of 38 books, he is Rabbi Emeritus of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of New York City, and Past President of the Rabbinical Council of America.
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