Sunday 31 January 2016

070) Remember The Last Time Someone Called Someone a Rodef:

(This article was written on 27/01/2016, but the writer was asked to withhold publication till now.)

Last Friday night there was reported to be a police raid on the compound in South Africa where Rabbi Eliezer Berland and hundreds of his followers were staying. Some say the police special unit, or Hawks, were involved, but they were unable to arrest the rabbi who is wanted on alleged sexual abuse charges.

According to the religious group’s official website, a local rabbinic leader had this to say about the raid:

“Ironically, the very same people who stand behind the Shabbos Project are the ones responsible for the most profound desecration of the holy Shabbos...

“The police later confessed that while they did not have an arrest warrant nor a search warrant, they were following the orders of the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Johannesburg Warren Goldstein son of the Supreme Court Judge Ezra Goldstein. Rabbi Goldstein who stands behind the influential Shabbos Project supposedly assumes that “Keeping It Together” is something that should be done in one’s own community and with people who think like him, but when feeling threatened by influential figures from a different community especially when they are leading on “their turf” then “Break It Apart” more accurately defines the expected behavior...

“The Shulachan Aruch Choshen Mishpat chapter 388 speaks extensively on the halachic status of a rodef, a person who goes and tries to imprison his fellow in the hands of non-jews, there is a Mitzvah to kill him before he can carry out his plot.

“...They have a halachik status of a rodef.[1]

People reading this may not be entirely aware of the implicit danger in labelling someone a rodef.

In classical Jewish law the concepts of a rodef (a ‘pursuer’ – who either threatens the life or property of a fellow Jew) and moser (one who ‘turns over’ a Jew to non-Jewish authorities) go hand in hand.
Both rodef and moser need to be physically eliminated before they can carry out their evil intentions.

Historically, the legal statuses of both rodef and moser were formulated at a time when the Jewish people were living under hostile domination and needed to be vigilant against surveillance from informers within their own ranks.

For centuries these concepts were essentially dormant and existed primarily in theoretical jurisprudence. Amazingly only around 1994 did some rabbinical figures begin to revive these legal categorizations with particular reference to President Yitzchak Rabin. They believed his politics were putting Jewish lives at risk and that he therefore fitted the profiles of rodef and moser, and had to be killed. This interpretation required some extrapolation because the original law of rodef was not intended to be used in the political arena.

Yet, many influential leaders in the rabbinical world (although they denied it later), believed so strongly that Rabin qualified as a technical rodef that they ruled that there was no need to go through a court or Beit Din, and that a death sentence could be carried out by any Jew who felt bound by Jewish law. This in effect declared open season on Rabin.

Within a short period of time the issues of rodef and moser were common knowledge and openly discussed and debated all around the world. We all know what happened next when a young devotee named Yigal Amir simply carried all this quasi halachik rhetoric to its inevitable conclusion.

The actual moment of granting rabbinic endorsement to Amir, is described by a source to Shabak, Israel Security Agency as follows: “...not a word passed between Amir and the rabbi he had chosen to soon as Amir entered his office, the rabbi exited through a second door. Left on a lectern in the middle of the room, however, was a copy of the Talmud open to the Sanhedrin Tractate, Chapter 49, in which the ancient sages discussed the biblical passage...from which din rodef derived. Amir understood the cue, read the page of the Talmud and went on his way.”[2]

Two days into the week of mourning for assassinated President Rabin, prominent settler Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun stood up and publically declared; “If rabbis had not (sanctioned  the murder), no youngster would have dared to do such a thing...If these people whose rulings or words led to Rabin’s death do not reveal themselves...I myself will reveal their identity!”[3]

What’s frightening is that twenty or so years later, on another continent, people in positions of rabbinical authority have not learned the dangers of reinstating that selfsame obsolete and theoretical law that didn’t take long to find a willing cohort to carry it out to its unspeakable conclusion.

It must be pointed out that details of the raid are still unclear and there certainly is no evidence as to who ordered it. According to the website, the rabbi said; “...I am not certain who sent the police” – but then goes on to implicate and name those for whom he clearly has no evidence of any involvement in the raid! This is grossly irresponsible to say the least. And then to declare them a rodef is incitive in the extreme.

I implore all those who use terms like rodef or moser as designations for those whose views they are well entitled to disagree with, to retract their dangerous terminology before some other devotee thinks he too can act in the name of G-d.

[1] See full article here
[2] Murder In The Name Of G-d. The Plot To Kill Yitzchak Rabin, by Michael Karpin and Ina Friedman, p. 129
[3] Ibid. P. 121

1 comment: