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“How should Jews treat their Arab neighbors?”

 

That was the question posed in the Ask the Rabbis section in the May/June issue of Moment Magazine.

 

Beloved Chabad Rabbi Manis Friedman gave this answer: “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 (Western morality) 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 ). … Living by Torah values will make us a light unto the nations… .”

What kind of Judaism is this? It is Torah-True Judaism. What kind of morality is this? It is Bronze Age Torah morality.

 

Of course, you might argue that this isn’t Judaism at all, or that it is Judaism at its worst. You might insist that anyone who takes such talk seriously and judges Jews and Judaism by Rabbi Manis’ standard is an anti-Semite, but, honestly, Rabbi Manis is a well-respected cleric; Chabad is a powerful Jewish movement with centers in every major city (and many minor ones) around the world.

 

His Judaism is as Jewish as mine. Maybe more so, as I reject any Jewish value that fails to echo the best of Western morality as articulated in the Humanist Manifestoes and the Declaration of Universal Human Rights.

What I find most interesting is that Rabbi Manis’ morality is the same as that of his Muslim counterparts. They too reject Western morality. They believe in killing innocent men, women and children – although they might spare the cattle. They take pride in blowing up holy sites, especially those of rival Muslims. And they use religious holy days, especially those of rival Muslims, for some of their most violent attacks.

 

The only difference between Rabbi Manis and radical Muslim clerics is that the latter are willing to murder their fellow Muslims while Rabbi Manis is not yet calling for the murder of his fellow Jews. But give him time.

What do we say in response to this? If Rabbi Manis were a Muslim cleric, we would demand his universal condemnation by the Muslim leadership. If we didn’t get it, we would use that as proof that Muslims are hate-mongers and Islam is evil.

 

So can we expect universal condemnation of Rabbi Manis by Jewish leaders? Of course not. In fact his teaching was published without comment in one of the most respected of American Jewish magazines. His ideas were given as much credence as those of any of the other rabbis asked to respond to the question.

 

We Jews get all worked up because the Pope didn’t use the word “murder” when talking about the Shoah, or Holocaust; he used “killing.” Yet we won’t break a sweat over Rabbi Manis and his blood-soaked Torah. So why should we expect Muslims to act differently?

The truth is the future lies with Rabbi Manis and his Muslim and Christian counterparts. And this may not be a bad thing. Jewish, Christian and Muslim extremists have more in common with one another then with their more “Western” colleagues; they might do a better job negotiating peace.

 

Their willingness to slaughter every man, woman and child – they will have to come to some agreement over cattle – may allow them to end the bloodshed with some version of divinely sanctioned mutually assured destruction. In other words, they will be forced into inaction because they know that any action will trigger the end of all of them.

Of course, once they have ended the fighting between themselves, they will turn their attention more fully to the heretics within their respective religions. Ain’t peace a glorious thing?

 

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is director of the One River Foundation in Murfreesboro, Tenn. He blogs at Toto.

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