Shalom Orzach

Stand To Reason

It conjures those grueling memories of Basic Training. Expeditious instructions: stand, sit, run, walk, the confusion is not necessarily cognitive rather corporal. The injunction in this week’s portion of Kedoshim is curious, 19:16

 לֹא־תֵלֵ֤ךְ רָכִיל֙ בְּעַמֶּ֔יךָ לֹ֥א תַעֲמֹ֖ד עַל־דַּ֣ם רֵעֶ֑ךָ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֽה׃

Do not deal basely with members of your people. You shall not profit by the shedding of your fellow’s blood. I am the Lord.

The terms Telech, and Ta’amod are more generally translated as to go and to stand (still). Why employ the negative in both cases, why not express the instructions in a positive mode, this is what you need to do as opposed to this is what you should not do. More so, why not reverse the red and green lights shone here, STOP telling tales, spreading gossip and GO, – run to save your friend who needs your help NOW.

The acclaimed commentator of the Middle Ages Abraham Ibn Ezra provides a staggering insight to the proximity of these two directives;  On the second command referring to standing by, he expounds, you should not join bloodthirsty men. An astonishing understanding of  לֹ֥א תַעֲמֹ֖ד עַל־דַּ֣ם רֵעֶ֑ךָ – do not stand with men who have blood on their hands. It is known that many people have been murdered and killed because of slander… Ibn Ezra sees these as cause and effect, speaking derogatively against someone, belittles their worth, their “standing” to the extent that their lives are in mortal danger. Their death arises out of the non- objection to the vile remarks made about them. 

This is an ominous and terrifyingly timely premonition. Those on campuses and other spaces that stand silently witnessing and or actively disseminating the repulsive rhetoric against Israel and Jews are passively watching and therefore actively abetting the slaughter of women, children and men, whether in hindsight or validating what God forbid may well occur. Read the small print if your desire is truly to “Be Holy”. Hate speech kills. We have seen too many examples of this in our history, agonizingly  recalled as this shabbat with this portion of Kedoshim, occurs between Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron. 

Ibn Ezra concludes his commentary on this verse by highlighting its closure; ‘I am the Lord’ , meaning I see what you do in secret. Stop hiding behind masks, and the pathetic explanations of university presidents and faculty, your true motivations are clear and we will not for a moment stand by.

About the Author
Shalom is a senior educator and consultant for The iCenter and serves as faculty for the Foundation for Jewish Camp . Prior, he served as the AVI CHAI Project Director and Director of Education in the Shlichut and Israel Fellows unit for the Jewish Agency. He has served as a consultant for the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Jewish Peoplehood Committee. Shalom was also a scholar on the prestigious Jerusalem Fellows Program, after which he served as the Executive Director of Jewish Renewal for United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA). Shalom is an acclaimed public speaker on contemporary Israel who brings extensive knowledge, humor and passion. He feels privileged to live in Jerusalem and loves sharing stories about life in the Land of so much Promise.
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