On the murder of young Israelis and the innate value of individuals

Posted: July 1, 2014 in Because I love Judaism I can never be a pure rationalist, My moral code, On Compassion
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I am completely beside myself with a combination of rage and sorrow. Of those two emotions the latter massively  predominates. This week I stand firmly with the citizens of Israel in mourning the loss of the three blameless young men who were brutally murdered by the blatantly evil, completely repulsive, animals who have no respect whatsoever for the sanctity of human life.

In the mature societies of the 21st century, both Americans and Israelis,  Jews and Gentile,  believers and atheists, and millions of loving, mainstream, Muslims must stand together against the seemingly endless, barbaric terrorism that engulfs the Middle East. To anyone with even a drop of rationality such incendiary crimes must not be tolerated. I will state my believe as succinctly as I can: Hamas is an adversary of peace, harmony, humanity, honor, individual human dignity, and respect. To my mind, anyone who takes a position counter to that is simply exacerbating the problem.

In Jewish law, the preservation of human life takes precedence over all other commandments. This is a Talmudic teaching with roots in Leviticus 18:5 where it says:

אֶת-מִשְׁפָּטַי תַּעֲשׂוּ וְאֶת-חֻקֹּתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ, לָלֶכֶת בָּהֶם:  אֲנִי, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם. (“You shall therefore keep my statutes and ordinances, which if a man do, he shall live by them.”)

In the Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Yoma 85b) the rabbis added this: “That he shall live by them, and not that he shall die by them.” Accompanying this is a corollary teaching in Tractate Sanhedrin 37a – Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:9 that says: Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world. In other words, every time you destroy human life it is as significant as if you have destroyed the entire world! Our sages have much to say on this and I am certainly not educated enough to be qualified to discuss most of it. Still, I want to share my own opinion.

Every human being has not only his or her own potential but also the potential to procreate. Procreation has the potential to continue לדור ודור (L’dor VaDor), from generation to generation, ad infinitum.  Every human being also has the potential to save other lives and to enhance the lives of those around them. Between procreation and the general promotion of life, every single individual human being is a link in a potentially infinite series of generations. Thus, if you destroy a single life you have destroyed infinite potential and have destroyed an infinite succession of futures. You have destroyed an infinitely large potential population, or, the whole world!

 Thrice, with these despicable murders, Hamas has destroyed entire worlds! Worse still, through the murders of Eyal Yifrah (19), Gilad Shaar (16), and Naftali Fraenkel (16) Hamas has thrice destroyed the most precious subset of all human life YOUTH! All humans have the infinite potential I described above. Young people, though, have the greatest potential to contribute to the world in THIS LIFE. The senseless murder of 3 teenagers is arguably the most heinous of all murders. What is not arguable, but indisputable, is that such murders are surely the saddest.

At the memorial for Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali, the finance minister of Israel said what I said above in a yet more poignant way when he remarked:

“We are burying a child today; a child who could have been the child of any one of us. Therefore, he is indeed the child of each and every one of us.”

So, why am I enraged? Because this is the 21st century and once again some excruciatingly evil people have acted like it was the 10th century and have destroyed infinite human potential.

And my sorrow? If you have to ask that, then read this over and over again until you get it. How can one not weep uncontrollably over the irreverent disregard for dignity and the senseless destruction of infinite potential?




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