To my liberal rabbinical colleagues who hold the view that the Torah’s wisdom is necessary in the search for morality, I present this necessary reminder that what constitutes the will of the Torah is in the eyes of the rabbis who interpret it.
And sometimes there is murder in their eyes.
Rabbi David Stav, of the moderate Israeli rabbinic organization known as Tzohar, issued a halakhic opinion last week ruling that it is forbidden to kill a terrorist who has otherwise been rendered harmless.
“In these days in which the blood is boiling… it is important to preserve our moral superiority; [we must] not harm those involved in murderous acts who have already been neutralized and do not represent a threat,” he ruled.
Au contraire! was the reply of Chief Rabbi of Tz’fat (Safed), Shmuel Eliyahu, who is a paid Israeli government official:
“It is forbidden to leave a murderer alive,” Eliyahu told the Galei Yisrael radio station…. He accused Tzohar rabbis of “forgetting Jewish law” because “they are only interested in looking good to non-Jews.”
Continued Eliyahu, “Jewish law is clear… there are courts that can avenge blood and there are individuals who can avenge blood. This is Jewish law: If the court does not avenge the blood, then an individual can avenge the blood.”
…“We can’t be consumed all day with what others are thinking about us,” the rabbi concluded. [emphasis added]
As if the only reason to refrain from an on-site, no-trial execution is that others might think badly of Israelis.
Both of these Orthodox rabbis have the support of some number of colleagues. Both of these rabbis believe that they are upholding the word of God’s Torah.
Secular Humanistic Jews hold that both the Torah and its interpreters are ill-equipped to provide us with necessary or adequate moral guidance.
Rulings like this remind us why that is.