Friday, September 22, 2006

Rosh Hashanna D'rash 5767

Shana Tova to all my dear readers.

This d'rash will not be interpreting text, but rather reminiscing about the past. It's an attempt to express my regret for not acting more forcefully against the forces that are slowly turning my peoples, both of them, in a force for evil in the world.

Someyears ago duing the 1990s, I was in Baltimore one summer weekend (I even think it was in Elul), and I attended morning Shabbat services at Chizuk Amuno, one of the large Conservative synagogues in that community. For some reason, the Rabbi, Joel Zaiman (who was, and maybe still is, a big wheel in the Conservative movement) decided to give a sermon about whether or not it was permissible to torture captives. I have no idea whether there was any relation to the Parsha or not, or whether the good rabbi was inspired by a recent Israeli Supreme Court decision that limited such practices. In any even, after much pilpul, Rabbi Zaiman came dpwn on the side of Torture, using the "ticking bomb" rationale. That is, if you have a suspect who has information that could immediately save other lives....

The problem with that rationale is that, of course, it's based on a lot of assumptions that the toturer has no idea about whether or not they're true. Real-life experience seems to be that this scenario is so exceedingly rare that it's a terrible basis for any sort of policy on the matter. However, it's much more common that torture victims provide innacrate information, that they'll tell the torurer whatever the torurer wants to hear just to end the pain.

Now I could go on about how I'm totally disillisioned with Rabbi Zaiman, who was apparently more worried about whether Zahal operatives are legally protected than he is about moral Principles. I could go on about how I think that his position makes him, in my mind, totally unqualified to serve as any kind of moral guikde for me. But I won't.

The reason is becuase back in those days a decade or more ago, when the rabbi spoke those words, I kind of nodded on with agreement. Sounds reasonable Who wouldn't want to take any possible steps needed to prevent death and destruction. And I know that I'm not alone. There are all too many people in this country who have stopped thinking, just nod their heads at whatever authority figures tell them, and in do so allow all sorts of injustices to continue. Even today, hardly anyone is raising a ruckus that our own government tells us that it's necessary for u to behave like the adversaries who we so rightly condemn.

This Rosh Hashanna I plan to repent for my sins of being inattentive to facts, by allowing myself to uncritically accept whatever is spoon-fed to me by authority. I resolve to go forth and do whatever is in my power to challenge injustice and violence, even if it comes from my own people.

Never forget. Challenge Authority. Think for yourself.

God gave us the power to think. He must have had a reason. Not using that power is an affront to God Himself.

L'Shana Tova Tiakatevu.


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