(1) And it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham, and said unto him: ‘Abraham’; and he said: ‘Here am I.’ (2) And He said: ‘Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell you of.’
R. David Hartman, A Heart of Many Rooms, 14
The God of Abraham, therefore, takes two very different forms in the book of Genesis: a God who demands total surrender to His command [the God Abraham encounters at the Akeidah] and a God who invites independent moral critique and judgment [the God Abraham encounters at Sodom]. These two paradigms have informed religious life as well as interpretation and exegesis throughout Jewish history. For many teachers from the time of the Talmud to the modern period, including Yeshayahu Leibowitz and my own teacher, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the Akeidah, the binding of Isaac, was the dominant paradigm of religious life and thought. For them, the survival and continuity of the tradition require the unconditional surrender and loyalty that the Akeidah represents. To be claimed by God, I must be willing to sacrifice my intellect and intuition, to give up everything I know and cherish as a human being, in deference and obedience to the word of God.
(9) When you come into the land which the Eternal your God gives to you, you shall not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. (10) There shall not be found among you any one that makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, one that uses divination, a soothsayer, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer, (11) or a charmer, or one that consults a ghost or a familiar spirit, or a necromancer. (12) For whosoever does these things is an abomination unto the Eternal; and because of these abominations the Eternal your God is driving them out from before you.
R. Leon Wiener Dow, "On Edge." The Shalom Hartman Institute
We are startled - not surprised, yet nonetheless startled - by the unbearable ease with which soldiers, police, and bystanders pull the trigger or beat until senseless and dead the perpetrators (and sometimes merely the alleged perpetrators) of these heinous crimes, even after they no longer pose a threat. We law-abiding Jews are fearful of the violence that will be inflicted upon us by other Jews if we try to stop them from roaming the streets of central Jerusalem, moving store to store, restaurant to restaurant, or taxi to taxi in search of Palestinians upon whom to inflict violence.
And we are unnerved by the way in which the media - and, as a result, so many of us, in our conversations - have adopted a lexicon of dehumanization: the terrorist was “neutralized” or “exterminated,” or “terminated,” or “liquidated.” Threats are neutralized, inventory is liquidated, contracts are terminated, rodents are exterminated. Not people, especially those who no longer pose an immediate threat to those around them. Moments of honest assessment of the behavior and language that have crept into the mainstream of Israeli society leave us deeply unsettled.
R. Aaron Panken, "Message from the President: Next Week in Jerusalem." http://huc.edu/news/2015/10/25/message-president-next-week-in-jerusalem?
We live in an increasingly extremist world. In my thinking, our role as Reform Jews around the world is to ensure that the moderates never lose a profound and important public voice. The true danger in this situation rests in the ongoing acts of extremists on both sides, those who make no effort to examine the situation for the hope that may still reside within it. When some believe that there can absolutely never be any form of peaceful co-existence, all that is left is to work only for warped goals of harm to others through any means possible. Let me be clear: I do not believe in any way that there is a moral equivalence between those who commit terrorist acts and those who appropriate land from others for political gain, but we must acknowledge that both of these activities do lead to increased violence. We can only move forward when both sides acknowledge the claims and pain of the other and take real steps to compromise through a deep understanding of both sets of claims. It is only when we work together on education and economic opportunity, on improving safety and quality of life on both sides, and on seeing the problems and the opportunities of coexistence, that we can actually make progress together.
The great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber once spoke of segregation in the American South as the substitution of an “I-It” relationship for an “I-Thou.” He meant to say, I think, that if you never truly know the human beings on the other side of a conflict, if they are nothing more than an “It” to you, then you can ignore their humanity, and then, in a sense, anything goes, even the worst acts of violence.
Let us continue to be a voice for learning about the other, for replacing “I-It” with “I-Thou,” for analyzing what limits our ability to co-exist and removing it, for seeking understanding and eschewing the demonization and marginalization of those with whom we disagree. Of course, we must always be diligent to ensure the safety of our people, but it must be done in the context of ensuring the dignity and safety of every human being, and moving toward a long-term future of peaceful coexistence. When we raise our voices to do this, we help ensure that the next week in Jerusalem will be better than the last.
R. Jeremy Kalmanofsky, "How the Middle East Conflict is Warping Judaism." The Forward.
We are told that the Second Temple was destroyed because of sinat hinam, abundant, pointless hatred. Now, the remarkable Jewish society created in our ancestral homeland might likewise be destroyed by hatred — the kind found in the souls of those who hate Arabs and want to burn their homes, and those who hate secular Jews and want to destroy their values and sometimes their bodies (remember the murderous madness at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade).
As the senior Rabbi Kook taught, the only plausible response to abundant hatred is abundant love, ahavat hinam.
(6) And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, And the leopard shall lie down with the kid; And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them.