After going to bed Tuesday night having spent the day listening to the eulogies and seeing the young bodies being laid to rest, Israel was rudely awakened by the terrible news that quite possibly our own kind had committed atrocities as evil and as horrific as those perpetrated against us. With the facts of the case still unsolved that morning, many of us operated under the mistaken belief that Jewish hands could not possibly be responsible for such wanton acts of violent and senseless revenge. We refused to countenance a scenario in which Jewish men would kidnap an innocent Arab youth, murder him and bury his carcass in a forest.
By Sunday we knew the truth, and in violation of the Leviticus commandment “You shall not let any of your seed pass through [the fire to] Molech, neither shall you profane the name of your G-d” we learned that a half dozen barbaric teens snatched an innocent Arab child, drove him to the forest and burnt him alive. And G-d’s name was defiled, and G-d’s name was defamed, and G-d’s name was violated. And the purported People of G-d, and the purported People of His Book were made a laughingstock.
How could it be that from neighborhoods which are meant to teach G-d’s words of kindness and mercy there emerged a gang of murderers who could perpetrate and witness such horror. Is it because on the Sabbath morning they pay too much heed to the declaration made that the State of Israel is the flowering of G-d’s redemption, and therefore anything performed in furtherance of such redemption is permitted. Perhaps in their warped minds the thought occurred that an independent state allowed them to sever themselves from other states and from other nations to the extent that they could find no common ground with the gentiles surrounding them.
Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that these youths were never taught the lessons of Sabbath afternoon. Indeed there is a longstanding Ashkenazi custom, which has been virtually abandoned in Israel but is still preserved in many communities across the world of reciting a chapter from Ethics of Our Fathers after Mincha. It is there that Avtalyon warns “scholars to be careful with [their] words” lest the disciples misinterpret them “and the Heavenly Name be profaned”. It is there that Akiva the Sage teaches us: “Privileged is man to have been created in G-d’s image…as it is said “For in the image of G-d did He create man”
Commenting on this Mishna, the nineteenth century Orthodox rabbi, scholar and journalist, Dr. Marcus Lehmann writes:
“When rabbi Akiva said that man is privileged, he clearly meant that all men are privileged, not only Jews. This was a remarkable declaration in an age when the idea of equal rights was still unknown. Rabbi Akiva was proclaiming a basic tent of Judaism, that man is created in the likeness of G-d and this had been stated long before in the Torah”
Clearly the vengeful abductors and killers have no inkling of the concept of equality. Clearly they empathize more with the story of Joshua’s conquest than G-d’s creation. Where were the teachers when their students equated ancient Canaan with the modern State of Israel? Where were the teachers when their students were brainwashed into thinking that a nationalist viewpoint cannot tolerate peaceful coexistence with their fellow gentile.
Conservative thinker and talk show host Dennis Prager once asked his radio audience whether, given the awful choice, they would prefer their sons to be the murderers or the murdered, the overwhelming majority opted for the latter. However terrible it is to bury children who have been violently butchered, a religious Jew can always comfort himself in the knowledge that their pure spirit will continue eternally. G-d has His plans and we are not to blame. What are we to do however when we discover that some of our members, however tiny that percentage might be have so corrupted their souls to the extent that any G-dliness that may have existed has been permanently erased. How can we remain blameless for their hideous acts? How can we claim the upper moral hand, when our kin perform acts as vile as the enemy’s?
As residents of Aon Shvut and as people who live so near the abduction site we have a special duty to try and ameliorate the situation. Often when moderate Muslims try to distinguish the acts of their radical brethren from their own, the question is asked why no Muslim demonstrates in protest of the fanatical acts committed in the name of their religion. It is up to us then to demonstrate to the rest of Israel and to our children and to those around us that we will not stand idly by when our good name is being soiled by barbarians. If we rallied our troops to save the physical lives of three of our best we must make the same efforts in preserving our spiritual sanity and wellbeing. If extra recitation of Psalms, extra learning of our texts and extra kind deeds were all called for when we thought our teens were still physically alive, how much more so are such deeds required when we discover for certain that our camp has been struck by a spiritual malaise. For the sake of our children, and led by our spiritual leaders, we must act now and we must act decisively to ensure that our children understand unequivocally that all humanity is sacred, and that we shall never depart from such a principle.