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You shall not forgive

Posted By Obadiah Shoher On September 6, 2011 @ 9:22 am In morality | No Comments

“Be jubilant, the tribes of his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants, pour retribution on their enemies, and expiate his land and his people.” – Deuteronomy 32:43

When a Union Carbide factory accident took thousands of lives in the Indian city of Bhopal, Mother Theresa flew there on the company’s plane and pleaded with the locals for forgiveness; in short, to refrain from lawsuits.

Forgiveness is a beloved child of oppressors. Not surprisingly, many states embrace the Christian doctrine of forgiveness: sovereigns can do anything to their subjects, subject them to vagaries of war and taxation, and then simply say, “sorry.” Forgiveness is often justified by imaginary bonds: the oppressed subjects and their dishonest rulers belong to the same people, work for the common good, and similar nonsense.

Forgiveness is even more critical for democratic governments whose politicians are inherently demagogic. They lie to voters, telling them the things they want to hear, and afterwards carry out altogether different policies. Consider the case of Rabin: during his election campaign he promised Jews tough measures against Arab terrorists, but at the same time secretly promised Arafat the Oslo Accords in exchange for Arab votes. To all purposes, Rabin was guilty of breach of trust, betrayal of his fiduciary duty to the Jewish majority, and treasonous dealings with the enemy—which resulted in the mass murder of Jews during the Oslo intifada. Yet, the establishment decries his just execution by Yigal Amir, insisting implicitly on forgiveness for Rabin’s crimes against Jews. A similar attitude prevails for Ariel Sharon, whose past merits are employed to claim forgiveness for the crime of expelling the residents of Gush Katif and delivering Gaza to the Hamas government. The majority of Israeli politicians are guilty of gross offenses before their voters, and forgiveness is essential to maintain the political order.

Certain dishonest rabbis have entered the lucrative field of government apologia and teach that Jews are obligated to accept the law of the land, must not hate each other, and so must bear with the government. The Torah, however, is explicit, “You shall not follow the majority to evil.” Jewish compliance with the law of the land has two qualifications: the law should not be predatory or evil. In other words, it should not grossly worsen the Jews’ situation or run contrary to the Torah, in which case we are obligated to circumvent and even fight it. The prohibition of hating applies only to decent Jews; as for non-decent ones, a psalmist has said, “Do I not hate, O Lord, those who hate you?” And the prohibition of taking revenge against another Jew hinges upon a working system of justice which would take care of him. Clearly, that is not the case in modern Israel, where leftist courts have aligned themselves with our Arab enemies.

The alternative to forgiveness is justice, and in our circumstances justice has nothing to do with the courts.

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