Rabbinic Text Calling for Terror: What Can We Learn?

This introduces a kind of literary authoritative text in Judaism called a ‘P’sak’. A P’sak is quite similar to an Islamic Fatwa. Remember way back in the day, just a few years ago, when everyone in the West became obsessed with Fatwas that were supportive of harming civilians? What has emerged is a parallel development in the Israeli Jewish world. There are indications of some pretty terrible things emerging in the shadows of the radical Christian community that also parallel this. Protestants, for example, when they get nasty, don’t make legal decisions for a variety of theological reasons, but they do start ‘praying’, like praying for a president’s death. But that is not our subject right now.

A P’sak and a Fatwa  have another thing in common, they are not as authoritative as they look from the outside because so many people claim this authority. On the other hand, it is a more dangerous and insidious seepage into the religious mindset.

What to do? Well, the liberal response was and always will be throw the bums out of the public square, legislate, criminalize. Then again, they scream bloody murder when folks who don’t like vices want to criminalize all the things they believe are ‘vices’. Legislation of the public square is good and necessary nevertheless, especially in terms of incitement to violence, one of the great innovations of modern law. But it is not enough to move the world in a better direction.

The truth is that fatwas and p’saks are just a way, a style of religious thinking. And if there be the kind that are murderous and cast a dark shadow on the world, well then let there be the kind that cast light. We need a competition in religious legal thinking that claims tolerance, pluralism, negotiation with enemies, compromise, respectful and equal relationships with non-believers. We need it to become a serious, expansive literature, so that the extemist literature below becomes a sad footnote in Jewish history, not the precursor to a religious fascist state.

From “Rabbinic Text or Call to Terror?”
By Daniel Estrin


The marble-patterned, hardcover book embossed with gold Hebrew letters looks like any other religious commentary you’d find in an Orthodox Judaica bookstore — but reads like a rabbinic instruction manual outlining acceptable scenarios for killing non-Jewish babies, children and adults.

“The prohibition ‘Thou Shalt Not Murder’” applies only “to a Jew who kills a Jew,” write Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. Non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and attacks on them “curb their evil inclination,” while babies and children of Israel’s enemies may be killed since “it is clear that they will grow to harm us.”

“The King’s Torah (Torat Hamelech), Part One: Laws of Life and Death between Israel and the Nations,” a 230-page compendium of Halacha, or Jewish religious law, published by the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in Yitzhar, garnered a front-page exposé in the Israeli tabloid Ma’ariv, which called it the stuff of “Jewish terror.”

Read the full article here.

© Marc Gopin