First let’s clear up some terminology:
Ultra-Orthodox is a derogatory word used by American Media and those against what I call Observant or Religious Jews. (Haredi is the Hebrew equivalent of Ultra-Orthodox.)
I dislike BOTH of these terms equally as they are slang for ‘fanatic’.
When I say Observant/Religious Jew I am referring to Jews who follow Torah law and observe the *mitzvot* associated with Jewish tradition/law (ie keeping Shabbos and keeping Kosher). It is NOT meant to mean anyone else is in any way less of a Jew (providing they are born to a Jewish Mother or converted according to Jewish law.
Who exactly is an Ultra-Orthodox Jew? Do they mean ALL Hasidic Jews? A few of the groups? All of the groups? To a secular Jew (and many non-Jews) any Observant Jew – visually defined by having a beard and wearing a black hat and a black coat, whether a suit or a long Hasidic one – is looked at as a fanatic.
Note: Here in the USA there is no such distinction made. Observant Jews are usually categorized as Hasidim, Orthodox and Modern Orthodox.
Now to address fundamentalism and Judaism.
Let’s begin by defining Jewish law as “laws according to the Torah” and in Hebrew, “Halacha” – which is all 613 Commandments of the Torah codified into a book called, “Shulchan Aruch” The Code of Jewish Law. For this discussion I’m going to use “Halacha”.
Torah: Leviticus 18:22, “You shall not lie down with a male, as with a woman: this is an abomination.” and the punishment for violating this law is: 29: For anyone who commits any of these abominations, the persons doing so shall be cut off from the midst of their people. Click here to see the whole Torah passage
Anyone who follows Biblical law may see this as black & white. People who are learned in Halacha understand that this refers to ONE specific act (anal sex). Over the years the Rabbis included any Homosexual act in this prohibition. There are myriads of opinions, commentaries and discussions on all the details of what can and cannot be done according to Halacha. This really has no bearing on our discussion, but it does merit mentioning so we have a baseline to measure from. That being said, ANY punishment for violating this Torah prohibition is DIVINE. Not by man. Only G@d can enforce this punishment.
Judaism, in ANY form, absolutely FORBIDS harming another Human being. This prohibition goes so deep as to include “Lashon Hara” slander as a form of harm to another. Halacha says that slander kills THREE people: the one who says it, the one who hears it as we’ll as the one who it is about. To suggest that ANY Rabbi or individual would have condoned yesterdays attack shows a complete lack of knowledge concerning Halacha and Judaism itself.
Are there individuals who secretly wish harm on those who violate Halacha? Sadly, and as evidenced by the horrific attack yesterday, yes there are – are they in the majority? Absolutely not. As I said above, harming any Human is absolutely forbidden. Preservation of life is THE single most important rule in Halacha – so much so as ALL of Halacha is suspended in order to save a Human life.
Indeed Israel’s Chief rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef denounced the attack, stating that it violated Jewish law, and called on the legal authorities to deal with the attacker with utmost severity.
“The Torah of the Jewish people forbids all violence and [attempts to] injure any person, and especially someone who tries to kill another person,” said Lau. Yosef said the attacker should be considered like “any other murderer. It’s unthinkable that a man can lift up his hand against another Jewish soul in the name of religion,” said the rabbi. “I am praying from the bottom of my heart for the full recovery of those who were injured, and in the face of this type of hatred I call on the entire Jewish people to return to unity in kindness and tolerance.”
Fundamentalism has been defined as, “unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs“.
Are observant Jews fundamentalists because they keep kosher or don’t turn on of off appliances and lights for the 25 hours of Shabbos (Sabbath – from Fri sunset to Sat 1 hour after sunset)? Are observant Jews fundamentalists because they pray 3 times a day? Wash their hands before eating bread? Because they dress in what they consider Modest colors (B&W) to humble themselves before G@d?
Fundamentalists? Perhaps in the literal sense, but not militant, not violent. Never suggesting harm come to another because they are a non-believer or ‘sinner’ if you will. 100% the opposite. Judaism teaches “Love your fellow as yourself” (Hillel) and challenges it’s practitioners to embrace those who are “not yet observant” and encourage them to see the beauty in observing Torah and doing it’s Mitzvos (commandments).
The recent stabbing at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade was done by an extremely disturbed individual acting alone. He had been convicted of the same crime in 2005 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison from which he was released only 3 weeks ago. He reportedly wrote and published a letter last week saying that there is an obligation to stop the “parade of sin” at all costs. “It is the obligation of every Jew to keep his soul from punishment and stop this giant desecration of God’s name next Thursday,” he wrote according to Ma’ariv. He said the parades were happening “because of our enormous sins.”
Where was the Justice system? How did they not monitor this convicted criminal better? How did he get past the security at the Parade itself? Why wasn’t he stopped before he stabbed 6 people?
THESE are the questions to be asking. This is where the onus lies.
Were there Observant Jews at the Parade protesting? Yes and that’s their right. They see this is something against Halacha and have the right to voice their disapproval. But by eyewitness accounts those same observant Jews were the first to rush to the aid of those injured. Those same observant Jews run Israel’s emergency services as shown in the pictures of the event. Those same observant Jews voiced concern that such a horrific crime took place in the holy city of Jerusalem.
So, are the ‘fundamentalist’Jews responsible for this attack?
ABSOLUTELY NOT. Hatred and violence are antithetical to Halacha.
“Then who CAN I blame? I mean SOMEONE has to take responsibility for this HEINOUS act of violence!!!”
Unfortunately, that is our tendency as Human beings. We need to assign blame in order to try and justify violence like this.
I pose that responsibility lies with the Justice system. The attacker was obviously not rehabilitated in his 10 year prison term – which is what prison is supposed to do. Was there no psychological testing done before he was released into the free world again? Why was he not monitored and apparently allowed to attend ANOTHER Pride parade with his known violent tendancies in tow? Perhaps an ankle bracelet was called for in this instance?
I hope the outcome of this abhorrent act against both man and G@d will result in a reformation of the Justice system that failed him. Our Torah sages have said, “”Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh” which means “all Jews (literally: the people of Israel) are responsible for one another.” But to assign blame to the Ultra-Orthodox ‘fundamentalists’ is just ridiculous and uncalled for.
Elli is an actor, singer, comedian and voice-over artist lovingly referred to as “The King of Broadway”. A Chabad trained Rabbi and Cantor turned entertainer, Elli has appeared in numerous films and TV shows (IMdB Elli (V)). Elli has performed at most Cabaret Cabaret venues in NYC and is also the force behind the Celebrity Video Interviews and Entertainment Reviews at: www.broadwaykingdom.com. Elli is currently working on his fourth one-man show. For more about Elli go to www.thekingofbroadway.com
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