A few months ago a friend (Shalom) asked me what I started to call “the Shalom question”. We were talking about people drifting away from Judaism and the Jewish people, and what, if anything, could convince them to stay. He suggested, as a religious Jew, that he always ended up having to invoke God in some way, and that that was not convincing to someone who didn’t believe. I very much wanted to believe that a convincing reason could be found, that didn’t require faith.
Well, recently I have been reading a book by Jonathan Sacks that has gone a long way towards answering this question for me. He talks inspiringly about how Judaism brought concepts of justice and valuing human life to the world, which, combined with the undoubted achievements of several famous Jews, seems a reason to keep this group going. After all, if we made such a difference to the world in the past, who knows what other contributions may be just round the next corner?
But then I hear this little voice in the back of my head. Every time I read an inspiring line about some important contribution to social justice or individual morality, this voice said “but is that really how things are now? Are we really that moral?”
And then I saw this video of what happened last Thursday in Hebron
People will say that every group has some bad apples, and that the soldier who murdered the unarmed terrorist was immediately arrested and condemned by our leaders.
But the thing is that you see no one around very concerned. Not concerned to provide medical assistance to the injured terrorist, and not surprised or concerned when a soldier points a gun and kills him in cold blood. Here are about a dozen randomly chosen fellow Israelis, and not one objected.
So how am I supposed to believe that somehow we have this high moral standard? Based on this random sample, I have to conclude that a large number/majority of us have no problem with murder.
“Sholom Ache once thanked God that his people have not been given the opportunity to commit against others the crimes that had been committed against it. Perhaps every nation, once it has power, abuses it.”
Rabbi Sacks however, goes on later to say that he believes that, in the guise of Israel, Judaism will finally be able to put into practice all its moral principles for a good society that for 2000 years remained just theoretical.
I am sorry to say that is not what I am seeing. It seems like we have headed much more down the path warned of by Ache, and by Yeshayahu Liebovitz:
“[Control of the Arab population] will undermine the social structure that we have created in the state and cause corruption of individuals”.
I see no immediate solution, even if I have some ideas.
But for now, whenever I read inspiring lines of text such as Rabbi Sacks’, there will remain a quiet voice of doubt in the back of my mind that we are not such a moral light to the world.