Jul 18, 2014

Evil and the Image of God (A Response to Dr. Daniel Gordis)

[Note: Friends, my teacher Rabbi Daniel Gordis referred in his Jerusalem Post piece to a Shabbat meal I shared with him last week. Here is the comment/response I submitted:]

Evil and the Image of God (A Response to Dr. Daniel Gordis)
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

The most unfortunate element of this piece by my teacher, Dr. Daniel Gordis, (A Dose of Nuance: Whatever Happened to Evil?, JPost, July 17) is his framing of the conversation we shared at his Shabbat table last week in Jerusalem. I was the rabbi who asked his help in developing language based in Jewish values to describe not Hamas, for whom I believe the Torah's instructions are clear (see Ex. 22:2 for the  injunction to kill your murderer before they kill you), but Palestinians, who I believe are being held hostage by Hamas' evil bloodthirst. (For now, I leave behind the fact that the rabbis of the Talmud eliminated the halachic applicability of the term "Amalek" 2,000 years ago.)

I ask again, because it is a crucial question, one that protects Jews from embodying the hatred cast against us time and time again. Is there a way to communicate Jewishly about Palestinians that doesn't effectively erase our recognition that they are created in the image of God? I asked this question after witnessing the saving power of Iron Dome above my head, and after witnessing pervasive Israeli humanism in the face of the terrorists' onslaught on our lives. I am in awe of the deep humanity of the IDF, warning Palestinians before firing on rocket-launchers placed to maximize civilian casualties. Just imagine the numbers of deaths if Israel weren't concerned with  saving Palestinian lives. 

I beg my teacher's forgiveness for airing my encounter with him in such a public way, and share that my comment is not only a clarification of what I actually said, but also a caution against what I fear can happen when Jews lump Palestinians into one moral category. I was in Israel as one of the leaders of the AIPAC Progressive Rabbinic Mission to Israel 5774, and stand proud as a liberal Zionist rabbi in Berkeley, CA. I'm not worried about proving my credentials.I am worried about our deep pain and rage turning our necessary military response into an ideology of hate. We are better than that, and the Jewish state is premised upon broader notions of humanity than only Jews. We do have enemies, and we are called to embody God's holiness when we fight them.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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