The Jerusalem Post has printed some of the names of the rabbis who called for vigilante violence against Arabs and Jewish terrorism against Arabs. Of course, the rabbis say…
…it isn't so, even though it is clear the proclamation is a call for violence. I think looking a little deeper into the proclamation makes that call for violence a bit clearer.
Again, the announcement in part said:
- "Each and everyone is required to envision what the enemy is plotting to do to us, and to match it measure for measure."
- The Mercaz HaRav terorist attack is "the direct result of the lack of a proper government, which should have acted according to the Shulkhan Arukh [Code of Jewish Law] which states that one must not forgive goyim who harm Jews or their property. [Again, if anyone has a source for this statement, please post in the comments. I can't find it anywhere.]
- The rabbis called for '"blessed local actions."
- The day will soon come when "Jews will congregate in their cities... and strike those who wish upon them ill."
The last bullet point is a quote from Megillat Esther, traditionally read on Purim, which begins this year one week from today.
Purim is the well-known anniversary of the Baruch Goldstein Cave of the Patriarch Massacre. Dr. Goldstein murdered 29 Arabs and wounded 150 others praying in the mosque located in the shrine at the site exactly 14 years ago next week on the Jewish calendar. The number 14 when written in Hebrew letters spells yad, hand or arm, and is traditionally associated with the idea of strength and military action.
The sentence quoted by the rabbis in full reads this way:
The Jews assembled in their cities, in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, to lay hand on those who sought to harm them, and no one stood up before them, for their fear had fallen upon all the peoples. Esther 9:2. [Judaica Press translation.]
Now it becomes important to see which rabbis signed this proclamation. Here is a partial list with affiliations from the Jerusalem Post:
The long list of rabbis who signed the notice includes Daniel Stavski, head of the Shorashim Institute; Yitzhak Shapira, a resident of Yitzhar, near Nablus, who is connected to maverick Chabad rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg; Ya'acov Yosef, estranged son of Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef; and Uzi Sharbaf, son-in-law of Rabbi Moshe Levinger, who was convicted in 1985 together with two others for killing four Arab college students in Hebron and who was later pardoned from serving a life sentence.
Rabbis Druckman and Yosef are Chabad members. Shapira is the student of Chabad rabbi Yitzchak Ginzburg, who has been arrested for incitement to violence and related crimes several times. These three rabbis along with the others mentioned above are all well known members of the hard right. Many are supporters of Baruch Goldstein. Some are themselves members of outlawed Kach movement and other Kahanist groups, as was Baruch Goldstein, who is buried in the Rabbi Meir Kahane Memorial Park in Kiryat Arba, a settlement located on the outskirts of Hebron.
Some people would like you to believe this proclamation is innocent, that the rabbis who signed it did not mean for anyone to take violent action. But this is not so.
When extremist leaders like these men make statements that, like this one can easily be understood as calls to violence, they must make sure to choose their words carefully. And they must make sure to clearly state that no violent action should be taken.
These rabbis did neither.
Worse than that, less than 10 days before the 14th (yad) anniversary of the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre and the yartzeit of its perpetrator, Baruch Goldstein, the rabbis used a verse from the Megilla that would be clearly understood by the hard right as a green light to take terrorist actions against Arabs.
After noting that the ear of Mordechai and the Jews had fallen on the leaders of the empire, the Megilla continues:
5. And the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword and with slaying and destruction, and they did to their enemies as they wished.6. And in Shushan the capital, the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men.7. And Parshandatha and Dalphon and Aspatha,8. and Poratha and Adalia and Aridatha,9. and Parmashta and Arisai and Aridai and Vaizatha:10. The ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the adversary of the Jews, they slew, but on the spoil they did not lay their hands.11. On that day, the number of those slain in Shushan the capital came before the king.12. And the king said to Queen Esther, "In Shushan the capital the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men, and the ten sons of Haman; in the rest of the king's provinces what have they done! Now what is your petition, and it shall be granted you, and what is your request, and it shall be done."13. And Esther said, "If it please the king, let tomorrow too be granted to the Jews to do as today's decree, and let them hang Haman's ten sons on the gallows."14. Now the king ordered that it be done so, and a decree was given in Shushan, and they hanged Haman's ten sons.
15. Now the Jews who were in Shushan assembled on the fourteenth day of Adar as well, and they slew in Shushan three hundred men, but upon the spoils they did not lay their hands.
16. And the rest of the Jews who were in the king's provinces assembled and protected themselves and had rest from their enemies and slew their foes, seventy-five thousand, but upon the spoil they did not lay their hands
Verses 12 through 14 is the famous doublet of the Megillat Esther. In verse 12 the king notes that the Jews had killed the 10 sons of Haman, and he asks Esther what else she would like. The plain meaning of her response is that she wanted the king to grant the Jews another day to kill their enemies. And she wanted the bodies of Haman's sons hung in public to show the populace that, in fact, these men were really dead, and that Haman's line had been entirely cut off. And the king grants her decree.
However, some rabbinic texts understand verse 13 to be referring to a time somewhere in the future when some other enemy – the spiritual if not the physical descendants of Haman – will rise up against the Jews. They understand the verse this way because Haman's sons are listed by name immediately above as killed, and the king confirms this in verse 12.
According to Rashi (citing Seder Olam) what was the crime of Haman's sons? They successfully conspired to stop the Jews from rebuilding the Temple. Rebuilding the Temple was not resumed until after Haman and his sons were killed.
In rabbinic thought, Haman is a descendant of Amalek (1,2,3 – there are many more) the biblical foe of the Jewish people who we are biblically commanded to exterminate, whenever and wherever it is found. In common rabbinic parlance, today's Palestinians are Amalek, the spiritual (and perhaps even the physical) descendants of Amalek and Haman. And they conspire to stop us from worshiping on the Temple Mount and from rebuilding the Temple itself.
Palestinians are Amalek. Haman is Amalek. Purim celebrates the defeat of Amalek. Baruch Goldstein – the terrorist hero of many of these rabbis – both killed Amalek and was himself killed on Purim.
Now, read the verse from the proclamation this way:
"The Jews will assemble in their cities to lay hand on those who try to harm them, those who keep us from our Temple Mount and stop us from rebuilding our Temple, and no one will stand up to stop them, because fear of 'holy' Jews acting in 'God's name' will frighten the nations into submission."
This, I believe, is the message many of these rabbis' followers got from that proclamation.
Will they act?
Maybe not. Israel has after all already killed the mastermind of the Mercaz HaRav terror attack along with at least three other senior terrorists. So the need for revenge may have been muted.
But make no mistake about it.
As many of these extremists stamp their feet at the reading of Haman's name next Thursday night and Friday, they will be thinking of those murdered yeshiva students, a Temple in ruins, and an act of 'holy revenge' taken 14 years ago.
And one day soon, they will act.