Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Rabbi, Popular Lecturer, Succesful Author - and Dead Wrong

Rabbi Manis Friedman is a Chabad Rabbi and popular lecturer. He has a cable television show, and has authored a successful book, Doesn't Anyone Blush Anymore? - which is currently in its fourth printing. Since the 70's more than 150,000 of his recorded classes and lectures have been sold. He is also the brother of popular Jewish singer Avraham Fried.

I wish I could stop there. I would love to just leave the man alone with his accomplishments. But once again Chilul HaShem has raised its ugly head. He has made public statements that are abhorrent to Judaism. They are false. And they make Judaism look like a primitive and barbaric religion.

Moment Magazine asked a number of prominent Rabbis of various denominations the following question:

How Should Jews Treat Their Arab Neighbors?

Here in part is his response:

I don’t believe in western morality, i.e. don’t kill civilians or children, don’t destroy holy sites, don’t fight during holiday seasons, don’t bomb cemeteries, don’t shoot until they shoot first because it is immoral.The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle).

First of all making the sweeping statement that he doesn’t believe in western morality makes it sound like there is absolutely no value in it. That is clearly untrue. There is much in western morality to admire and much that coincides with Torah morality. But let us give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he meant to apply that evaluation only to the tactics of war – as he emphasizes immediately afterwards.

It is the rest of that comment that is beyond the pale!

He doesn’t believe that killing innocent civilians is wrong?! The Jewish way is to kill men, women and children?!

This is not only a Chilul HaShem, it is false. How anyone who calls himself a rabbi can say such an outrageous thing is beyond belief! He should surely be censured by every God fearing Jewish rabbi in Orthodoxy.

He might defend his response by saying that those civilians aren’t innocent. That’s nice. But how does he know that?! I suspect that he doesn’t. He just assumes that every Arab hates us and would kill us if they had the chance. This is a popular view in some circles – but it is clearly wrong.

I can understand his frustration. Who hasn’t fantasized along these lines when Jews were under attack? …when our men, women, and children were being blown up in suicide bombings, or in other ways murdered, kidnapped, or tortured? Visceral emotional reactions to events like these might very well be normal.

I have certainly had these kinds of thoughts after a suicide bombing. I tend to be blinded by anger and just want to demolish everyone! Carpet bombing Arab neighborhoods is a thought that crosses my mind when I see a news story like this. Watching the carnage, and Zaka volunteers literally picking up the pieces of flesh strewn about – crying mothers, bloody bodies half dead being carried off on stretchers some with serious permanent injuries - and then watching the joy in the Arab street about it - makes me want to puke with disgust! And it makes me want to wipe them all out!

But after calming down and some more deliberate thinking I realize the injustice of such an act. One cannot assume that every Arab or Palestinian wants to kill us. There is no evidence of that - certainly not about all of them. Killing civilians without ascertaining their guilt is an outrageous act worthy of condemnation and completely Assur.

The results he seeks are probably well worth achieving and quite mainstream:

First, the Arabs will stop using children as shields. Second, they will stop taking hostages knowing that we will not be intimidated. Third, with their holy sites destroyed, they will stop believing that G-d is on their side. Result: no civilian casualties, no children in the line of fire, no false sense of righteousness, in fact, no war. Zero tolerance for stone throwing, for rockets, for kidnapping will mean that the state has achieved sovereignty. Living by Torah values will make us a light unto the nations…

All this is true. Civilian casualties are an unfortunate part of any war and to be expected. But the devil is in the details. One thing that is not true is to use the means he suggests to accomplish those results. Because that would be deliberate murder and would be truly sick! And it makes his entire comment one big Chilul HaShem.