Samuel Stern
Rabbi in the heartland of the USA

The World Was Filled With Hamas

Israelis protest the judicial overhaul in New York City's Times Square as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the city to meet with world leaders at the UN's General Assembly, September 19, 2023. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
Israelis protest the judicial overhaul in New York City's Times Square as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the city to meet with world leaders at the UN's General Assembly, September 19, 2023. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

After last week’s service, I got a comment: “You normally seem so calm on the bimah, but last week you seemed pissed off!” I understand that comment. Grief is hard. I am grieving right now for the over 1,400 civilians and hundreds more IDF soldiers murdered by Hamas terrorists. Some days I am sad. Some days I am angry. Some days I fight despair.

I wish I could shut myself in my home and sit shiva constantly for each dead Israeli. Jewish Israelis, Christian Israelis, Muslim Israelis, Jew or Arab, Bedouin or Druze. I mourn them all. I walk into a world outside my home that does not recognize my pain and moves along as if nothing has happened.

But I can understand a world that moves along. That is always the normal experience of a mourner. Our world is shattered while everyone else’s is fine. It doesn’t really bother me that everyone I meet doesn’t see or recognize my pain. What does bother me are those that revel in my pain, and those who deny it. These people either celebrate the acts of Hamas terrorists or deflect with false moral equivalencies.

The first category are infuriating, and they choose to reveal themselves to the world as hateful bigots who seek death and destruction for people different than them. They celebrate the death of Jewish people, from college professors to social media commentators. They are a sign of rot in the human soul, which pollutes the earth. I recognize their moral corruption, and calling it out is an obligation of good people everywhere. There is no good without morality, and a good person is a moral person.

The second category, the deflectors, are somehow more rotten, and more corrupt. They rip down the fliers of the kidnapped that we want to be released from Hamas terrorist captivity. They speak of Gazans without mentioning why Israel is striking, to wage war against Hamas terrorists. They lie about a hospital being destroyed by Israel, claiming it to be the most horrific attack, and then when it is clear that Palestinian Islamic Jihad misfired a rocket into the hospital parking lot, and that the hospital is still standing, they never mention it again, with no retractions or condemnations of terrorists. This is soul-deep moral corruption that the Torah speaks of this week in Parashat Noach.

At the beginning of the parsha, to explain why God decided to flood the earth, there is an explanation for God’s extreme plan: “Va’tishacheit ha’aretz lifnei ha’elohim va’timaleh ha’aretz Hamas.” “The earth (the people of the earth) had become corrupt/rotten before God; the earth was filled with Hamas (meaning violence, cruelty, or injustice).”

I am not suggesting that God will imminently flood the earth. I am stating that there is too much corruption and rottenness in the souls of many human beings, and it is affecting the future of our planet. Every person who lies about Israelis killing civilians by ‘bombing indiscriminately’ or blowing up a hospital. Every person who parrots Hamas terrorists is a part of this moral rot.

If good people do not stand up against the Hamas terrorists, in a strange way, the word of the Torah will have more than one meaning: the world will be filled with violence and injustice, and the world will be filled with Hamas, both meanings will apply to the detriment of all of humanity. There can be no immediate or lasting peace without agreement that terrorist groups are a scourge that must be removed from the earth. Those who truly seek freedom and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians alike ought to be cheering for Israel as it frees Gazans from Hamas. Anyone who doesn’t represents moral rot that is actively hurting our world.

This is a historic moment for our world. Indifference is not acceptable, siding with evil is not acceptable, and anyone who is pushing for a ceasefire without the release of the over 200 hostages held by Hamas is on the side of Hamas, violence, and injustice. Anyone who defends the actions or motivations of Hamas is on the side of Hamas, violence, injustice.

No one can be indifferent, and even without a flood, nothing will ever be the same. All people of good moral conscience must recognize that if we want a world of peace and justice, we must stand together against the terrorist group Hamas and the force of Hamas, violence, and injustice on Earth.

About the Author
Samuel Stern is the rabbi of Temple Beth Sholom of Topeka, Kansas. Ordained by HUC-JIR in Los Angeles in 2021, Rabbi Stern has participated in numerous fellowships, including with AIPAC, the One America Movement, and the Shalom Hartman Institute, and has been published in the quarterly journal of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
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