All Questions Answered by Dr. Samuel Joseph (Emeritus)
Question: How should the Jewish community respond to the chaos and brutality in Libya? On one hand, Gaddafi is murdering innocent people and we, of all people, should not be silent. On the other hand, many of those innocent people are from groups like Al Qaeda that actively seek to destroy Jews and Israel. Does our sense of human responsibility extend also to those who actively hate us?
In the story of the Exodus, the Israelites flee from Egypt and are chased by Pharaoh and his army. We learn in that story, and it is repeated in the Haggadah, that God causes the Sea of Reeds to crash in on the pursuing Egyptians and they drown. (Exodus 14:26-29) The story continues in the Passover Haggadah that the angels begin to rejoice and God admonishes the angels saying, “You rejoice while my children are drowning?”
We get no pleasure from the death of any human beings . When we allow the deaths of human beings we lose our humanity.
Rabbi Immanuel Jacobovitz writes in “The Morality of Warfare”, a medieval Jewish source movingly tells us that one hundred Shofar sounds at our New Year services correspond to the one hundred groans by the mother of Sisera (Judges 5:28) when she saw her son killed in his battle against the Israelites. He was a brutal tyrant, wreaking terror on our people. His death was our salvation. Yet, he had a mother and to this day we hear her cries and recall her grief over the death of her child.
We are people who should be repulsed by violence and brutality. We ourselves have been murdered innocents. Who, if not us, should stand up and shout to the world, “enough, stop!”
Yes, as Jews our responsibility to save all humans from violence extends to those who actively hate us.
Rabbi Samuel K. Joseph
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