Who is the wicked person who just attacked my fellow citizen with a knife?
The simple son looks for a concrete answer and quotes Rambam, in reference to Torah (Exodus 21:14), “If a person willfully schemes to kill his neighbor – he shall be taken from my altar and put to death.” He opens up his Guide for the Perplexed and reads, “The wicked and calculating person – if he seeks sanctuary among us, we must not provide him with asylum and not have mercy upon him…because compassion towards the wicked – is cruelty to all beings.” This son is simple because he accepts the interpretations of others and applies them to his life without question. What about the compassion of God in the Bible? Why doesn’t the Simple Son ask why God sent Jonah to save Niniveh, a corrupt city that needed to change its ways? He doesn’t answer because he is simple and wants to be told what to do and what to believe.
The child who doesn’t know how to ask just follows the crowd as they beat the Eritrean refugee to death and mistakenly kill the Jew for looking like an Arab. He is the child who grew up in the school system that taught him, “Never mind. It’s good to die for your country.” He cannot even ask why it is good to die for his country or why it is not good to live for one’s country. He lives in a land without a people for a people without a land, and cannot formulate questions about the people who were there when he arrived. He uses his Bible as a deed for land, but there are people there now with rights and needs and human dignity to be maintained.
The wise son asks, “”What are the statutes, the testimonies, and the laws?” He is angry and defensive, but he doesn’t rush to judgment. He may render the attacker defenseless, but he doesn’t decide his fate. He understands that a society without democratic statutes and laws is not a society worth fighting for. Just as the Bat Kol said, that the law follows the ways of Hillel for his humility, he is humble. He also examines the other side first before making his case.
So who is the wicked person who just attacked my fellow citizen with a knife? He is not a tourist in this land. He is someone’s child, maybe a brother, possibly a spouse and parent. He loves this land; it’s soil, it’s olive trees, it’s history. And he relies on its limited resources for sustenance: its fruit, its grain, and its water. But he, unlike me, only gets water on Tuesdays and doesn’t enjoy the protections of law when his olive trees are uprooted.
He, like me, wants to enjoy the privileges and protections of sovereignty, but he knows no sovereignty. Since 1967, he has not been a citizen. He cannot travel freely, cannot worship in his holy places at his own discretion, and cannot control the way his tax money is spent. When he resists the occupation, this is called “a euphemism for violence,” and the conversation ends without addressing his needs.
When he examines the other side first, what does he see? In one hand he sees an olive branch and, in the other, the keys to the Caterpillar tractor which is about to build a new settlement. As he sees the other side sing about hope, he feels no hope, just despair. When he tries to use non-violent means to achieve his political objectives, he is told that boycotts are anti-Semitic.
But he has also gone too far and allows his despair to let him behave like a monster. There is no excuse for his wickedness, and his monstrous behavior is not an excuse to respond in kind. “What is hateful to you, do not do unto others.”