Zealotry in the name of faith is no virtue
“Be not righteous overmuch, and do not make yourself overwise. Why should you destroy yourself?” Kohelet 7:16
There are many definitions of fanaticism. Voltaire asked this telling question: “How can you answer a man who tells you that he would rather obey God than men, and who is therefore sure to deserve heaven in cutting your throat?”
The classic story of zealotry in the Torah is that of Pinhas, grandson of Aaron the High Priest. The Israelites were cavorting with Midianite women, much to the displeasure of the leadership of the Israelite people. Pinhas noticed a fellow Hebrew, Zimri ben Salu, in the act of flagrant and public sexual immorality with Cozbi bat Tzur. He immediately grabbed his sword and ran it through both of them. While the Torah gives Pinhas credit for his motives, in the Talmud he fares less favorably. Extremism is too often very dangerous.
How ashamed we were when we learned that the brutal and horrific murder of a Palestinian boy, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, was committed by zealous Jews. We Jews don’t believe in collective guilt, but we do believe in collective responsibility.
All Jews, in Israel and in the Diaspora, are saddened, angered and sickened by such a gruesome, vicious, heinous act. Prime Minister Netanyahu quickly condemned the murder of this Arab child, Muhammed, in these words:
I send my condolences to the Abu Khudair family. I pledge that the perpetrators of this horrific crime, which must be resolutely condemned in the most forceful language, will face the full weight of the law. In the society of Israel, there is no place for such murderers. That’s the difference between us and our neighbors. They consider murderers to be heroes. They name public squares after them. We condemn them and we put them on trial and we’ll put them in prison.
And that’s not the only difference. While we put these murderers on trial, in the Palestinian Authority there is continuous incitement for the destruction of the State of Israel. It’s a staple of the official media and the educational system….
Today the world faces serious existential threats from fanatic Islamists who bring terror and threats of more terror on a regular basis. Iran and its rapid advance toward becoming a nuclear power, along with its puppet states, pose a serious threat to the stability not only to the Middle East but to the entire world. Islamist fanatics in Asia, Europe and even the United States, are a potential threat to a free, democratic society.
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 after the three Jewish teens were found dead, the mother of Amar Abu Eisha, one of the suspected kidnappers, affirmed that, “if he truly did it – I’ll be proud of him. I raised my children on the knees of the religion… and their goal is to bring the victory of Islam.”
By contrast, Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat spoke with Hussein, the father of the slain Muslim boy, and expressed his shame “in the name of the citizens of Jerusalem.” And President Shimon Peres said: “If Jews kill they will be put to the court like any other criminal. There is no privilege, all are equal before the law…. We do not distinguish between blood and blood.
The murder of a child is reprehensible, regardless of the religion or nationality of the child. We must stop the incitement, it’s time to respect the law. We know where words can lead, to more sorrow, to more danger….It’s time for all of us to show restraint, to show understanding and let us as human beings, all of us, be true to our morality and to our hope of living together in peace.”
With grief and distress, and prayers for reconciliation and peace, we must say to the words of President Peres, “Amen, may it by Thy will.”