Thought for Shabbat – May 18, 2018
What is the value of a human life? Is the value, to the extent that it can be quantified, affected in any way by gender, race, or nationality? As we examine the events of the last week on the Israel/Gaza border, these are important questions. No matter what one’s beliefs or place on the political spectrum vis a vis Israel, one cannot help but wince and be heartbroken that our people take lives to deal with an existential threat.
After all, the life of the Palestinian in Gaza is a disgrace. They live in difficult conditions under an authoritarian Hamas regime that has a callous disregard for human life of any kind, whether Israeli or Palestinian. Yet in analyzing the death of 62 people, 50 of whom were Hamas operatives, it is important to note that these events were not protests. They were what Rabbi Donniel Hartman in his blog in the Times of Israel calls “an attack against the sovereignty of Israel and its right to exist.”
After all, what would you call it if thousands of people massed the border of any other country and were throwing and flying incendiary devices, attacking patrols, setting IED’s at the border, and trying to cross the border with the intention of committing violence and mayhem? Yet Israel is once again held to a double standard, a standard that no other nation would ever try to live up to or demand of itself.
And yet, the plight of the Gaza Palestinians cannot help but create compassion within us for those who have no choice in life. These are people who live in fear of those who should be helping them, alleged leaders who instead of using relief money to create opportunity for their people and the humanitarian causes for which it is intended, use the relief money for military and murderous purposes. In the aftermath of this loss of life, perhaps there can be a change in the way the world reacts.
Instead of the anticipated recriminations and blame game in which the world will condemn Israel for the act of defending its border and people, perhaps there can be a new template which reflects a new way to recognize the value of human life as more than a political weapon. Perhaps the world will come to realize that the lives of the people of Gaza have value, and that the only way to protect them and give them security is to recognize that the only people who do not value the lives of Gazans, the only ones who actually rejoice at a death as a photo opportunity and ammunition for propaganda are the purported leaders of Gaza, the terrorist organization of Hamas. Even as they fired on those trying to invade their border, Israelis cared more about those lives than Hamas did.
As Jews, we have to recognize the need to protect Israel’s border from invasion and violence of all kinds whether by suicide bomber, terror tunnel or kite. Also as Jews, we have to recognize the value of Gazan life. Only by having compassion for those who needlessly die can we preserve our own souls and adherence to the higher standard that God demands of us and that we demand of ourselves.
Rabbi Yaier Lehrer
We have much to celebrate this weekend. On Sunday morning we will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot which will include the memorial Yizkor service. On Saturday night at 7:00 PM there will be our annual confirmation ceremony for those who have stayed on for study after their b’nai mitzvah through tenth grade. We congratulate the Correnti, Hertzman and Schwartz families and hope you will be present. Following services there will be cheesecake and some Torah study for those who wish to participate in honor of Shavuot. As a congregation we will also be participating in the annual night of study at the Jewish Community Center beginning at 10:00 PM tomorrow night. I will be teaching a class called “The Garden of Eden Revisited” at midnight.