The Burning Issue – Where is G-d In The Picture?

Stockholm in Sweden has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons.  Then again, as one of the world’s most arch-secular regimes, we should have seen it coming.

Three weeks ago, a Koran was burned by a libertarian activist in front of a major mosque in the Swedish capital, sparking predictable and understandable outrage among Muslims locally and worldwide. Apparently the motive of this activist was to test the parameters of Sweden’s famous – or infamous – principle of freedom of expression. He need not have worried. The Swedish authorities were only too happy to give the go-ahead.

Last Friday, not to be outdone, another activist received permission to burn a Torah outside the Israeli embassy.  (Apparently he was planning to burn a Christian bible at the same time.) It turned out that the man, Ahmed Alloush, a Muslim was never going to carry out his threat but merely wished to see if the law was being applied selectively against the Koran. Satisfied that it wasn’t, he bizarrely did an about-face and turned his cameo into a one-man demonstration against the burning of all sacred texts.

Of course this in no way changes the fact that the Swedish police were only too happy to allow sacred scriptures and in particular the Torah to be burnt.

What interested and I must say dismayed me in particular was the reaction worldwide, particularly by Jewish representative individuals and bodies to this outrageous complicity on the part of the Swedish authorities

US antisemitism envoy, Deborah Lipstadt, declared it would create an “environment of fear …impact[ing] the ability of Jews and members of other religious minority groups from freely exercising their right to freedom of religion and belief in Sweden”.

Didn’t she miss something?

 European Jewish Congress president Ariel Muzicant called the proposed act “provocative, racist, anti-Semitic and sickening … sending a message that minorities are unwelcome and unrespected”.

Indeed, but is that all??

Israeli Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen, called the decision “a hate crime causing great harm to the Jewish people and Jewish tradition”.  Israeli Ambassador to Sweden, Ziv Nevo Kulman, used similar words  condemning the burning of sacred books as “an act of hate and disrespect that has nothing to do with freedom of expression”  Israeli President, Isaac Herzog, called it “blatant incitement and an act of pure hate”  Co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Peter Wertheim, termed it “an act of hatred, malice and intimidation”.

Yes, all true – but to whom is the hate and incitement principally directed???

 I was waiting for someone – anyone – to articulate the real atrocity, to hit the bullseye.

Was there not something horribly significant in the fact that the sacred texts of what the world has always recognised as the three great monotheistic religions were alone being targeted.

The chief ‘victim’ of the devised hate crime was G-D.  The planned and officially approved perpetration was an intended act of pure sacrilege and desecration, more heinous even than blasphemy which is with words alone.  These are terms which are scarcely heard anymore, let alone understood, even though blasphemy constitutes one of the seven Noachide Laws bequeathed from ancient times to all humanity.

 Had the Torah been burned, G-D forbid, with Swedish complicity and indeed ‘blessing’, it would have been an act in a league of evil all its own. It would have constituted, in Jewish language, a gross public chilul haShem.

Judaism is the only faith to proclaim that an entire people heard the voice of G-D proclaiming a Divine message at a documented time and place. The Torah has been passed down, generation to generation for 3,300 years as the direct word of G-D to Moses and Am Yisrael at Mount Sinai and for the ensuing forty years in the desert.

The Christian new testament and the Muslim Koran, by contrast, are the products of a claimed revelation by one individual. They are, by their own leaders’ admission, the work of man. Their degree of sacredness cannot begin to compare to that of the Torah.

 Is it embarrassment or is it the corrosive effect of the suffocating secularism which has suffused the world that has made our Jewish representative leaders blind to the real abomination that the burning of a Torah constitutes?

It is a symbolic act – one that tragically has been perpetrated many times in history – to proclaim the canard that the Jewish G-D, rachmana le-tslan, is ‘dead’, ‘superseded’, ‘irrelevant’.

In the past, Torah burnings were perpetrated in the main by fanatical adherents of our ‘daughter’ religions to try to prove their faiths’ supremacy.

Now they too, ironically, are victims in the face of the sickening secularism that threatens to take over the free world and destroy it.

Al eleh ani bochiya (Lam 1:16)For this, how can a person of faith not weep?

About the Author
Rabbi Chaim Ingram is the author of five books on Judaism. He is a senior tutor for the Sydney Beth Din and the non-resident rabbi of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation. He can be reached at