Friday, October 21, 2011

Gadhafi's Death - One Rabbi's Reaction

The United Nations along Amnesty International and Human Rights watch are calling for an investigation into the circumstances of Moammar Gadhafi's death. The questions persist as to whether Gadhafi was killed in crossfire or was summarily executed as many suspect. Peter Bouckaert, a director for Human Right's Watch was quoted as saying, the killing of Gadhafi is a "blemish on the record of the new Libya."

And yet, if Gadhafi was executed, it is hard not to support the Libyan rebels in their actions. Gadhafi was responsible for the deaths of thousands, and their anger towards their former dictator is palpable to say the least.

We too want to rejoice in his death just like we wanted to rejoice in the death of Osama bin Laden. Yet as the scholar Nahum Amsel wrote in The Jewish Encyclopedia of Moral and Ethical Issues, “One certainly can be happy that an evil person and the evil he or she caused is eradicated from the world … after all, the Jewish community does celebrate the downfall of Haman and the defeat of the Egyptians. Part of Purim and Passover certainly is being happy that the enemy is defeated.”1 But even then, our Torah reminds us not to hate in one’s heart (Leviticus 19:17).

Our tradition then seems to be telling us to be happy when evil is vanquished, but not to rejoice in the destruction of life, no matter how evil it may be.

An enemy of peace, an enemy of the world is dead. Baruch Dayan HaEmet. Blessed be the true Judge. We do not rejoice in Gadhafi’s death. But we do pray that the world will be a little bit safer with him gone. And maybe his death, though not brought about by any means of justice may help us at least move a little bit closer towards the ultimate goal of shalom, peace in this world and in the whole world.

1 (Amsel, Nachum, The Jewish Encyclopedia of Moral and Ethical Issues, Northvale, 1996, pg. 93)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gilad Shalit

Let us rejoice! After more than five years Gilad Shalit is finally home. Shalit was kidnapped while on patrol near the Gaza border by members of Hamas on June 25, 2006. Hamas denied any access to Shalit from aid organizations like the International Red Cross which was in stark violation of the Geneva convention.

Shalit's whereabouts were unknown for years and only occasionally would Hamas release scant proof that he was still alive. This included a DVD that Israel had to release twenty female prisoners in order to obtain a copy of it.

It now seems that Shalit was always intended to be a pawn. And it appears Hamas has achieved its goal of Israel releasing over 1,000 prisoners including convicted terrorists responsible for the deaths of many Israelis.

And yet, Shalit's return is not a defeat. Instead, as Miki Goldwasser wrote in an op-ed for Ynet, "Today is our victory day. The day where we decided that our values and our confidence in the righteousness of our way shall guide us. As long as there is no peace, and let us hope it arrives, our sons shall be serving the State with confidence. Mothers will again be able to entrust their children in the hands of worthy commanders."

There are some in Israel who felt and feel the price is too high. And there is a compelling argument to be made
. But that is the price we pay whenever we cherish life. We place the principle of Pikuach Nefesh, saving a life, above all of our other principles. It is part of what defines us as Jews. Today a life was saved. And all of Israel, and all the world can rejoice.

I don't know if this will help bring about peace to the rejoin so desperate for peace. But at least today, there is finally peace in the Shalit home, a home which up until today, was in mourning.

So let us rejoice, during this festival of rejoicing. Gilad Shalit is finally home!

An Israeli Day of Victory