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Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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No, Rabbi Boteach, the death penalty is barbarian, and hate is idolatry and dumb

About Anger, Hate, Revenge, and Capital Punishment

I’ve written against the death penalty over and over again, both from the perspective of Jewish Law and from a psychological perspective. I hate to repeat myself, but I must address the subject, now one of America’s most famous rabbis has raised the issue and has written a book on Kosher Hate.

In short: he’s almost completely mistaken.

Development

Rabbi Boteach started out very nicely outside of the box. Being Gay was not against the Torah—how could what you ARE be a sin? He did suggest that Gay-Jewish men should marry Jewish women because they will make such nice husbands and fathers, and otherwise, so many Jewish women would numerically be forced to stay single, but hey, no one is perfect.

He stressed that sex is a positive thing in Judaism, and charmed many Gentiles, even on television, with the wisdom of the Sages and the Rabbis about sex and about relationships. He did a lot of good work. Past tense.

His friend Michael Jackson, suspected (and then confirmed) as a serial pedophile, he advised marrying a woman. He never apologized for that.

Lately, he’s really on a slippery slope. He started an election campaign as a Republican. He wasn’t elected but, in the process, wrote a lot of unwarranted apologetics for right-wing political deceit. He did write that the GOP should rid itself of its anti-sexuality campaigns: anti-abortion, anti-Gay, anti-marriage equality, etc. It would just go downhill from there.

Boteach chose to debate Evangelicals. I warned that he would lose doing so, and so would all Jews. He went anyway. He flattered them and got nowhere. He didn’t castigate them, in the stern fashion that Christians got used to over the ages, about Antisemitism in the churches, and their missionary assault and dreams on the Jews, etc. He had to be lovely.

He wrote a book Kosher Jesus. It has a 15-chapter section: “Why the Jews Cannot Accept Jesus,” instead of: “Why Jews Have no Need for Jesus.”

It didn’t stop there. He then started campaigning against the fake turning the other cheek and loving one’s enemy. He was right that that advice was unfit for humans and that the Christian bloodbath through the ages proved that. But, that doesn’t mean that hating is holy and anger is redemptive.

Yes, there is a place for anger and hate—in therapy. But, funerals of Jewish-Israeli victims of local Antisemitism are so uplifting because people cry, praise the murdered, and praise G^d. While, funerals of (would-be) terrorists are often marred by screams and threats of hatred and revenge. If one needs to die, it’s so much better to die a victim than a victimizer. It’s so easy and primitive to hate, so elevated and elevating to focus on life.

Capital Punishment

The good rabbi didn’t stop there. Today, he wrote he wants the death penalty for terrorists who murdered Jews in Israel, claiming that is Jewish.

He’s so off the derech (Jewish way). First of all, this is assimilation to the worst of the culture surrounding him. One of the ways the US is backward (besides a lack of universal health care) is capital punishment. All of the trial, incarceration (often for decades), and execution procedures are nothing Jewish Law could agree with. It’s plain, stupid, hate-filled revenge and cruelty. Trying to prove the value of human life by killing humans.

On a side note, why does he reserve the word ‘innocent’ for Jews? Are there no innocent Muslims? He sees “The conflicting value systems of the two opposing camps.” That is so reminiscent of Christian Dualism (not Monotheism): Evil against Good. The Talmud explains: There’s no sinning but in an attack of folly. Had you thought about it some longer, you’d not have done it. There are no inherently evil people. If their nature was bad, they’d be innocent. His anger betrays he thinks they do have free will.

This is on top of Christians saying for 2,000 years that they have God and the Testament of love and Jews have the Testament and God of hatred. International press agencies always call Israel’s deterrence: revenge.

“No terrorist who takes that many lives should be permitted to live.” Does He still believe in G^d? Why do we say: “May G^d revenge their blood”?

He is right that Judaism allows for some revenge and feeling of vengeance but only in very limited fashion (compare the avenger of blood). So, we can find Hebrew Bible verses and Rabbinic comments about revenge, but they pale in comparison to G^d’s Advice to forgo this. They were highlighted by father and son Kahane, may G^d revenge their blood. But they almost became a caricature when ignoring the multitude of texts preaching peace.

The summary of the Hebrew Bible is: Don’t do unto others which you don’t want others to do to you. All the Rabbis agree that “An eye for an eye” means we must financially compensate, not permission to take revenge.

When we must hurt of stop others, doing so angerly makes it a very grave sin (Jacob protecting Dinah against Esav, Shimon and Levi in Shechem, Shimon and Joseph). Not everyone is as calm and holy as Phinehas.Life in jail stands for: unacceptable deeds AND one can always repent.

The Talmud says that a Rabbinic Court that awards the death penalty more than once in 7 years is a bunch of murderers. Some say: once in 70 years! Here, we sometimes have multiple antisemitic murderers per day.

Besides that, research shows that the death penalty doesn’t deter. Plus, in this case, it’s especially meaningless. These Jew-hating Muslims are not afraid to die. What use is to kill or promise to kill them? House demolitions and withdrawing entry permits of close family somewhat seem to work.

And, is he willing to kill them, or is the dirty work for someone else?

His rationalization for his revenge is that mass murderers who rot in jail could become bargaining chips for hostage-takers. Too easy! Does the rabbi have a donor card to facilitate becoming an organ donor after death? He could add another one, that he doesn’t want to be exchanged for any murderer and the like if taken captive. I have. Jonathan Pollard did.

He must do some serious soul searching, including asking his best friends how he got into this assimilated mess. And, consult a real therapist.

But possibly the worst thing he wrote today was about ‘others like Eichmann.’ You got to be kidding. He must ask forgiveness for this false Holocaust comparison. Even Arafat could not stand in the shadow of Eichmann.

But, I can’t recall he ever said he was wrong, I’m not holding my breath. Sad. Let him prove me wrong. Reb Shlomo always said: You never know.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 1500 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: https://mmvanzuiden.wordpress.com/ or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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