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Sacrificing Our Children

Posted on January 4, 2015 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (11)


By Gary Konecky


Recently Leelah Alcorn (who was born male and named Joshua Alcorn by his Christian parents) committed suicide in an effort to bring attention to transgender people.


She, Leelah, died at age 17, an unloved child of G-d who was tortured by her Christian parents because she could not be the good Christian boy that they wanted her to be.


They kept her locked in their house, isolated from friends and a support system. They had her medicated on Prozac at three times the recommended highest dose, despite the fact that Prozac has been linked to teen suicide.


They took Leelah to Christian therapists who tried the discredited (and illegal practice in three US jurisdictions) of conversion therapy.


The result of all this alleged G-d fearing torture and abuse is that a child of G-d is dead, and died unloved, despite the parents claims to the contrary.


G-d does not make mistakes. G-d loves all His children.


So how could this tale of torture, cruelty, and ultimately hopelessness so profound as to lead to suicide happen. Was this G-d's will? The answer lies in a great difference between the bible thumping, ignorant, hateful, fundamentalist Christians, and those of the Jewish faith, who labor generation after generation to understand G-d's will. With their keen insights, let us see if G-d meant for this tragic death to happen, or if He had a different intent.


R. Samuel b. Nahman said in R. Jonathan's name: When Moses was engaged in writing the Torah, he had to write the work of each day. When he came to the verse, AND GOD SAID: LET US MAKE MAN, etc., he said: ‘Sovereign of the Universe! Why dost Thou furnish an excuse to heretics?1 Write,’ replied He; ' Whoever wishes to err may err.’ '

 

Note 1: For maintaining a plurality of gods.

- Midrash Rabbah - Genesis VIII:8

 

We know that when G-d dictated the Hebrew Bible, He created it with the potential so that those who wish to err may err. The perfect example of this are those who wish to err doing what they want and not what G-d wants would be those who preach hate and cite G-d's word as justification for their hatred.

 

Judaism and Christianity are oft times too very different faiths. Jewish tradition is to ponder, to question, to explore, to study, and to learn what G-d wants from us. Judaism is the tradition of Midrash, of Talmud, of rabbinic commentary. Christianity, especially fundamentalist Christianity, is the faith of unthinking blind obedience to a text that was never meant to be taken literally.

 

It is with these thoughts that I now turn to Deuteronomy 21:18-23, which discuss executing the wayward and rebellious son. Why am I discussing this passage? I am discussing this because the parents of transgender Leelah Alcorn, who was born Joshua Alcorn, executed her for being a wayward and rebellious son. Now some of you will tell me she was not stoned to death, but died as a result of being hit by a truck in an attempted suicide. Literally, you would be correct. Yet who was it that drove that child of G-d to such an end? Her bible thumping Christian parents, parents who so wanted a good Christian boy, that they engaged in systematic torture of their child, Christian parents who hired doctors to engage in malpractice (prescribing three times the recommended limit of the drug Prozac, a drug known to cause suicide would be malpractice; as would the Christian conversion therapy that is now banned in two states plus the District of Columbia). Now, they killed their child as surely as if they had her stoned to death for being a wayward and rebellious son.

 

And so we return to those who wish to err may err. G-d does not make mistakes. G-d created Leelah Alcorn and gave her a soul. G-d made her the way G-d wanted for G-d had a plan for that child, and now that child is dead, along with all the hopes and dreams she had.

 

The Talmud teaches us that no one was ever executed for being a wayward and rebellious son. Too bad Leelah's parents and their clergy could not be bothered to learn the meaning of G-d's holy word.

 

The mishnah (Bikkurim Chapter 4) has an entire chapter devoted to people who are shockingly similar to Leelah. Why is it that none of the Christians involved in stoning this child of G-d did not know of this chapter?

 

R. Jeremiah b. Leazar said: When the Holy One, blessed be He, created Adam, He created him an hermaphrodite [bi-sexual],2 for it is said, Male and female created He them and called their name Adam (Gen.V, 2).3 R. Samuel b. Nahman said: When the Lord created Adam He created him double-faced, then He split him and made him of two backs, one back on this side and one back on the other side.

Note 2: Normally androgynos means one whose genitals are male and female; but here it means two bodies, male and female, joined together.

Note 3: Thus Adam himself was originally male and female.

- Midrash Rabbah - Genesis VIII:1

 

Now that we understand that the original Adam, the Adam before Eve, now that we understand that the very first man created was male and female, we can understand that Leelah is not an exception, but is very much the way G-d created her, nor was she unique as people similar to her go all the way back to Adam and the creation story in Genesis.

 

We also know Leelah was not unique because she was not the first child to be stoned to death for being transgender. We also know of gay and lesbian children that have been stoned to death as well.

 

As a society, we pride ourselves on our sophistication and our technological achievement. We look with amazement, and a sense of disbelief at the biblical stories of idol worship and human sacrifice. Some of us wonder how any civilized society could engage in child sacrifice. Yet those stories describe the very society we are. And so I conclude by asking how many dead children will it take before we stop stoning our children to death? How many dead children will it take before we stop sacrificing our children to the idol of biblical liberalism,? How many dead children will it take before we stop sacrificing our children on the alter of hate, especially hate preached by those clerics, parents, and others who choose to err?

The Value of a Single Human Being

Posted on December 7, 2014 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)

By Gary Konecky

 

In the story of Noah; we learn that humanity was corrupt, that humanity engaged in various perversions, that greed was prevalent, and that the injustice and corruption stemming from that greed were rampant. We also learn that the world was destroyed because of that greed, as well as the sins of injustice and corruption that flowed from that greed.

 

In the story of the destruction of Sodom, we learn that the residents of Sodom had immense wealth. Yet despite that wealth, even because of that immense wealth, they became greedy and corrupt. We learn that Sodom was destroyed not because of sexual immorality, but because of that greed; greed that lead to corruption, cruelty, and injustice.

 

We live in a society where the rich and powerful seem determined to repeat the sins of the generation of the flood and of Sodom. Furthermore, we have politicians and judges taking bribes (excuse me, campaign contributions) and that seem to be only concerned with pandering to the rich and powerful.

 

We are still in the effects of a lingering, protracted, no end in sight recession; a recession that has dragged on through all or part of the terms of two presidents (both democrat and republican). Despite the massive economic hardship resulting from this recession, we hear the politicians of the rich and powerful demanding that the rich pay less in taxes, which as Warren Buffet pointed out is ridiculous when he as one of the richest men on the planet is in a lower tax bracket than his secretary. We hear these same politicians clamoring for cuts in unemployment benefits on the grounds that people are jobless not through the politicians' economic policies, not through massive corporate financial and mortgage fraud, but because the unemployed are lazy. These same politicians tell us that food stamps, which help feed the hungry, need to be cut because poverty is a judgment from heaven.

 

In contrast, there are numerous teachings on our obligations to those less fortunate than ourselves. There are numerous teachings on our obligation not just of charity, but of kindness to others.

 

Yet there is something even more remarkable. According to the Jewish tradition, there are 613 commandments. Of all the things that could be a common link between many of the commandments, the least likely, gender, is the link that many have in common. For it turns out that many of the commandments are gender specific. Yet, there is something even more remarkable, for the Mishnah (Bikkurim, Chapter Four), and Jewish religious law spend an huge, disproportionate amount of time discussing people who are hermaphrodites (androgynous) and tum tum (people of indeterminate gender). This fascinates me. For in the course of my extensive interactions with others, I have never met a tum tum, and I have met only one hermaphrodite. Therefore, I am left to ponder why so much time and attention would be spent on such a small minority.

 

Yet the answer is obvious. We are all created in the image of G-d. We all have value. We are all members of the community. We all have a unique mission, a mission assigned by G-d to fulfill. Additionally, we all deserve kindness. Furthermore, those in poverty deserve not just our kindness, but they also deserve our charity.

 

And so each of us stands at a crossroads. We can follow our leaders, people determined to reenact the sins of the generation of the flood and of Sodom; or we can follow the example of the rabbis and sages who believed that everyone (even those we would wrongfully consider somehow deformed and inferior) has value and needs to be given a place in our community and in our lives.

A Blade of Grass

Posted on November 16, 2014 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (0)

By Gary Konecky

“Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, 'Grow, grow.'“

- paraphrased from Genesis Rabbah 10:6

 

 

How often do we take G-d's creation for granted? How often do we do what we want to G-d's creation without thinking? How often do we view houseplants as just things, things that we throw away when we do not want them? How often do we pluck a leaf while walking past a tree?

 

Nor is the issue just grass and trees. What of the animals that are part of G-d's creation. How often do our real estate developments move into the land that is their home? How often do the new homeowners then complain that the wild animals are ruining their gardens, raiding their garbage cans, etc.? What is the usual response to these complaints? Usually it is to authorize some kind of hunt to kill the animals.

 

Nor is it just our treatment of wild animals. What of our domestic animals, such as those in factory farms? What of pigs in gestation crates? What of chickens kept in battery cages? What of dogs in puppy mills? What of the pets in that are in the custody of Humane Societies that turn a profit from killing the pets in their care? What of downer cattle that cannot walk and are moved into the slaughter house with construction equipment so that they can be killed and sold as food?

 

Then there is the ultimate consequence of all this. In the span of just a few paragraphs, we have moved from insensitivity to plants to animal cruelty. From animal cruelty to the mistreatment and murder of fellow humans is not that big a leap. In the US, the “Land of the Free,” we have the prison-industrial complex, where locking up people is good business and is a very profitable business. After all, if you can lock up animals for profit, then why not people?

 

Then there is the Military-Industrial Complex, where roughly half of all federal spending is geared to the US Military and defense contractors. The US defense budget is so huge that it exceeds the defense spending of the rest of the planet combined.

 

Having squandered our wealth on the military-industrial complex (not to mention those killed and wounded to justify shoveling more money at the immensely profitable military-industrial complex), we then wonder why we have no money for schools. We wonder why our college students cannot afford tuition and fall prey to massive student loan debt, debt so huge that an increasing number of students will never be able to pay it off. We wonder why we cannot afford needed medical care. We wonder why we cannot afford unemployment benefits for those who lost their jobs during the Great Recession. We wonder why our roads are falling apart and there is no money to fix them, and we wonder on and on and on.

 

And so I return to the lowly blade of grass and ask what can a blade of grass teach us. The reason I ask is that even the lowly blade of grass is so important that it has an angel to watch over it.

Kindness, gratitude and passing it along

Posted on September 22, 2014 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (0)

By Gary Konecky

My lover is a manager at a local hotel. He did a favor for a hotel guest. That guest, in turn, gave him passes to the local Renaissance Fair.

 

As we had the passes, we went to the Fair and had a delightful time. While we were waiting to enter the fair, the woman in front of me (who wore a custom reminiscent of the Renaissance era) had a clothing tag sticking up from the back of her dress. I told her that the tag was showing and she was extremely grateful.

 

While walking through the fair, we came across a gentleman with a very elaborate staff. I complimented him on the staff and he was thrilled.

 

Years ago, a friend of mine asked me to accompany her to a meeting with the nursing staff at the nursing home where her father was being cared for. While visiting that home, I waved at one of the patients. His face lit up like I gave him a million dollars.

 

Down the street, is a gentleman confined to a wheel chair. Every time I see him, while I am walking my dogs, I wave at him. Initially, he did not respond. Now he looks for the chance to wave to me when he hears us coming.

 

What can we learn from this? We can learn that the smallest acts of kindness can brighten someone's day. We can learn that the small gestures of kindness mean a great deal. We can learn that kindness takes little effort and no money. We can learn that being nice to someone can result in someone else being nice. We can learn that gratitude often inspires kindness, and that kindness often inspires gratitude.

 

 

 

 

 


"Old Jim": The face of G-d in all of us

Posted on September 7, 2014 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)



By Gary Konecky

 

Some months ago, I reread Cast A Giant Shadow, the biography of U.S. Army Col. David “Mickey” Marcus, U.S.M.A. Class of 1924. Mickey Marcus is the only Israeli General buried outside of the Land of Israel and the only US solider buried at West Point who died fighting under a foreign flag. His tombstone reads: “A Solider for All Humanity.”

 

During the Israeli War of Independence, one of the Israeli Army officers asked Mickey Marcus why he spent so much time with common soldiers. The answer that Mickey Marcus gave was the story of an incident that happened while he served as the New York City Commissioner Of Corrections under beloved Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.

 

The story was of a bad riot in one of the prisons. At the height of the riot, a little dog who belonged to one of the prison guards got loose and ran into the cell-block where the riot was occurring. The rioting inmates caught the little dog and started torturing it. Then there was a rumbling from the shadows of the cell-block. It was “Old Jim,” the most terrifying inmate in the prison. Old Jim's physical appearance was in itself terrifying. Furthermore, Old Jim was a convicted triple murderer. He went to the cell where they were torturing the dog and said: “Whoever wants to be shortened by a head, let him go on tormenting the dog.”

 

There wasn't a sound except for the whimpering of the dog. Then the inmates put the dog down. The dog hesitated a moment then went over to Old Jim and rubbed its head gratefully against Old Jim's legs. Old Jim bent down and petted the dog. His face, a hard face, suddenly softened. In this instance, in that prison, Old Jim, whose face bore the evidence of his crimes, suddenly softened as he went from a murderer into a kind person.

 

The dog then left Old Jim and went back to its owner, and Old Jim's face hardened back into the face of the convicted triple murderer. Yet in that precious instant, that all too brief moment when Old Jim's face softened, we had a peak into his soul, his G-dly soul, his good soul, the soul that G-d gives every person.

 

The reason that Mickey Marcus gave that army officer to his question about why he, an Israeli Army General, would spend so much time with common soldiers was that everyone has a G-d given soul, and that he did not want to overlook it.

 

May we remember the story of “Old Jim” everyday of our lives. May we never overlook the G-d given soul in others, even when it is not apparent, even when it is hidden by the face of a murderer.

 

 

Source:

Pages 256-257 of Cast A Giant Shadow, The Story of Mickey Marcus Who Died to Save Jerusalem, by Ted Berkman, copyright (c) 1962 by Ted Berkman, published by Manifest Publications.

Words of Consolation

Posted on September 6, 2014 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)


By Gary Konecky

 

Some months ago, I reread Cast A Giant Shadow, the biography of U.S. Army Col. David “Mickey” Marcus, U.S.M.A. Class of 1924. Mickey Marcus is the only Israeli General buried outside of the Land of Israel and the only US solider buried at West Point who died fighting under a foreign flag. His tombstone reads: “A Solider for All Humanity.”

 

When Mickey Marcus's mother died, Rabbi Tedesche sent him an obscure poem entitled The Ship. The poem describes the gradual receding of a ship as it sails away and disappears over the horizon. The poem concludes:

Gone where? Gone from my sight – that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone at my side says: “There! She's gone!” there are other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “There, she comes!”

And that is dying.

 

May these words offer consolation and comfort to all who mourn.


Source:

Pages 170-171 of Cast A Giant Shadow, The Story of Mickey Marcus Who Died to Save Jerusalem, by Ted Berkman, copyright (c) 1962 by Ted Berkman, published by Manifest Publications.


Hate Crime Laws and Police Misconduct

Posted on October 17, 2013 at 6:00 PM Comments comments (1)

By Gary Konecky

Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may live and possess the land the Lord,

your God, is giving you.” - Deuteronomy 16:20


You shall set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself in all your cities that the Lord, your God, is giving you, for your tribes, and they shall judge the people [with] righteous judgment. - Deuteronomy -16:18


And you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger,

since you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” - Exodus 23:9


"Who watches the watchmen?" - Juvenal


The Bible is very clear on the matter of pursuing justice. The Bible also mandates police, courts and judges. All these people are charged with the mandate that “they shall judge the people [with] righteous judgment.” Additionally, the Bible is also clear on oppressing the stranger, or those different than we are. To this end, many states have enacted hate crime laws.


Hate crimes are often motivated by something that the victim cannot change (race and sexual orientation being just two examples). The perpetrators of hate crimes brutalize the victim with the intent to not just to hurt the victim, but often to send a message of intimidation to that victim's community and to all those who are like the victim. Therefore, while I am in favor of laws that increase the punishment for such crimes, I must also question their effectiveness.


My experiences in Fair Lawn (Bergen County, NJ) seem especially relevant to this last point. Shortly after Mathew Shepard's death from a savage hate crime, I came home from work to find the word “FAG” written in my parking space. It is important to note that a hate crime law was in effect when and where this incident occurred. Concerned for my personal safety, I called the Fair Lawn Police Department. The responding police officer said, and I quote this precisely: “No crime had been committed.” The Anti-Violence Project in New York City classified this as a hate crime, yet the responding police officer felt that this was perfectly acceptable behavior.


When I pursued the matter, and provided the Fair Lawn Police Department with photographs of the crime scene, then Chief Marshal observed that the only footprints in the photographs of the freshly fallen snow of the crime scene went from Stuart Pace's car to the crime scene and back to Stuart Pace's car.


It is important to note that Stuart Pace has excellent political connections in Fair Lawn. It is also important to note that Stuart Pace has repeatedly run for elected offices in Fair Lawn.


Having observed that the only suspect in this hate crime was Stuart Pace, then Fair Lawn Police Chief Marshal went on to say that there was insufficient evidence to investigate the matter further. And so I must ask, exactly what did the New Jersey hate crime law do in this case? Did it do even less than it did in the case of Tyler Clementi's tragic death, where the unrepentant Dharun Ravi was sentenced to a mere slap on the wrist? Then as if the slap on the wrist was not injustice enough, Ravi did not even have to complete his slap on the wrist sentence. Can we honestly say in either of these cases that righteous judgment was rendered? Can we say in these cases that no one oppressed the stranger?


Getting back to the Fair Lawn Police Department, it is important to note several things. The Fair Lawn Police Department has been the subject of numerous lawsuits including one for a police officer repeatedly smashing a boy's head against a concrete sidewalk, and another lawsuit for beating a suspect in police custody for no apparent reason. These police officers are backed by a very powerful union, the result of which is that police officers seem to be unaccountable for their actions and appear to have a license to do anything they want.


There is also the alleged anti-Jewish remark said to me by the late Joan Pace (mother of the aforementioned Stuart Pace) on Yom Kippur. When I complained about this incident, as well as about the Fair Lawn Police's inaction concerning alleged ongoing harassment by members of the Pace family, then Borough Manager Metzler and then Fair Lawn Police Chief Rose dismissed my concerns saying that Joan Pace's comments were concern for my “spiritual welfare.” Since when are anti-Jewish remarks said on one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar concern for any Jew's “spiritual welfare?” Years later, in an amazing coincidence, Borough Manager Metzler, Fair Lawn Police Chief Rose and Fair Lawn Police Captain Cook (who was accused of destroying evidence in a lawsuit) all resigned within days of each other.


I myself have been forced to sue Fair Lawn. I was forced to drop that lawsuit when Fair Lawn covered up not only their wrong doing, but the alleged criminal and civil acts committed by members of the Pace family. How is this the actions of “Justice, justice shall you pursue?” By the way, I am not the only one to accuse the Fair Lawn, NJ Police Department of destroying evidence and covering up their actions when sued. In another charge of Fair Lawn destroying evidence as part of a cover up of their wrong doing Fair Lawn, “investigated” themselves and determined that they did nothing wrong.


I now come four incidents of vandalism to my car in recent weeks. Owing to the actions of the Fair Lawn Police Department (including actions not mentioned here), I contacted an attorney who then contacted the Fair Lawn Police Department and requested that they contact the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office and request that the county prosecutor's office investigate the matter.


Acting Captain Patterson, the Fair Lawn Police Department Officer in charge of internal affairs responded to the request from my attorney. During a telephone conversation, he informed my attorney that his department will not take any action (neither investigation nor referral to the county prosecutor) concerning these incidents. Additionally, he went on to state: “The Fair Lawn Police have always treated Mr. Konecky in a courteous and professional manner.”


Let's think about this. We have the incidents cited above. We have me engaging the service of an attorney to report a crime, an act which shows a shocking level of distrust of this police department. Acting Capitan Patterson, the officer in charge of internal affairs (an officer with 18 years of serving with his friends in this police department), has publicly stated that his goal is: "I want to bring back pride to the police department," Please note that officer in charge of internal affairs is not concerned with the numerous lawsuits and scandals his department has been embroiled in, he is not concerned with unprofessional conduct, police brutality, and alleged illegal activity. His concern is the morale of the officers he serves with.


This is also obvious from a look at the Fair Lawn Police Department website, a website that has no mention of internal affairs or how to report police misconduct. When I called the Bergen County Prosecutors Office to ask who handles internal affairs in Fair Lawn, they could not tell me as they were unaware that anyone handled internal affairs in Fair Lawn. Does this in any way resemble: “You shall

set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself in all your cities that the Lord, your God, is giving you, for your tribes, and they shall judge the people [with] righteous judgment?” Does this sound like a police department concerned with the conduct of its officers, or does this sound like a police department whose top brass is concerned with pleasing their police officers and the police officers' union, even if the public suffers?


Nor is the situation in Fair Lawn unique, as there have also been incidents of police misconduct in other police departments including three New York City Police Officers (including one from Internal Affairs) being involved in a recent rampage.


In one of the cases discussed here we have a hate crime law that the Fair Lawn Police Department and a judge converted from a law to protect us into a cruel joke and a mockery of justice. But perhaps the issue is not hate crime laws after all. Perhaps the issue is what seems to be a rampant police disregard for the rule of law. And so the issue may not just be the above quotes from the Bible about seeking justice, appointing law enforcement personnel and judges that judge with righteous judgment, as well as us not oppressing the stranger. Perhaps the issue may go all the way back to ancient times, when it was asked: “Who will watch the watchman?”


Sodom, USA

Posted on October 13, 2013 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)


By Gary Konecky

We know from the Talmud and from commentaries on the Hebrew Bible that the sin of Sodom was greed. This greed manifested itself in a perversion of justice and oppression of the poor.


With this thought in mind, let us look at the situation in the United States today:


And so I must ask, how is the United States today any different from Sodom?

The US Congress: Creating Sodom in the USA

Posted on October 6, 2013 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

By Gary Konecky


Recently, a friend called my attention to an article about homeless men deliberately getting AIDS so they can receive social services and so they can stop living on the streets.  That somoeone would be so desperate, and it is far more than just a single individual, speaks volumes about our failed, immoral leadership.


In recent weeks Congress again voted to cut Food Stamps.  Washington seems to have an unlimited appetite for defense spending, pointless wars, tax breaks for the richest among us, welfare benefits for mega-corporations and those who are well off or outright crooks; yet they bitterly resent spending money on the poor or sick among us.  I cannot help but be reminded of this week's Torah passage of Noah (where man's greed is responsible for the world's destruction) and the upcoming Torah passage of Vayeira, that deals with the destruction of Sodom (and that man's greed is responsible for the destruction of Sodom). Least we think that we are not in Sodom, I want to point out that in an effort to prevent 30 million people from having access to health insurance, members of Congress have shut down the federal government. They have told millions of Americans, starve (by cutting Food Stamps) and die (by attacking the Affordable Care Act, which they call Obamacare). These leaders have in effect said; our wealth is so important that your hunger and death matter to us; for the sooner you die, the more we have for ourselves. How is this any different then what happened in Sodom?


Nor is that the only issue. The Republicans in Congress have also spent millions of dollars to deny gay and lesbian couples their constitutional rights by defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) when anyone with a basic understanding of the Constitution can tell you DOMA is unconstitutional. These same bigots have also spent millions of taxpayer dollars seeking to deny women access to reproductive health services.


Inevitably, these same politicians also claim to be acting because of their deep concern with moral values, their deep concern over family values, and their claims that they are doing G-d's will or following the Bible. How they can claim that is beyond me for “…what the L-rd demands of you; but to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk discreetly with your G-d.” – Micah 6:8 Additionally, we are taught:

  • "If all the sufferings and pain in the world were gathered (on one side of the scale) and poverty was on the other side, poverty would outweigh them all." - Exodus Rabbah 31:14

  • “For there will never cease to be needy within the land. Therefore, I command you, saying, you shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your poor one, and to your needy one in your land.” – Deuteronomy 15:11

  • “Jose b. Johanan (a man) of Jerusalem used to say: Let thy house be wide open, and let the poor be members of thy household” - Mishna (Mas. Avoth Chapter 1)

  • "Just as G-d clothes the naked... so must you clothe the naked. The Holy Blessed One visits the sick... so you must also visit the sick. The Holy Blessed One comforts mourners... so must you comfort mourners. The Holy Blessed One buries the dead... so must you bury the dead." - Talmud (Sotah 14a)


Lessons for all of us

Posted on May 11, 2013 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

By Gary Konecky


The Book of Jeremiah deals with a series of prophecies foretelling the destruction of the Kingdom of Judea, the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and the Babylonian exile. All these prophecies also tell either why the destruction is coming and/or how to avoid the destruction. One of these prophecies occurs in chapter 22 and will be the prophecy I will be exploring.


Verse 3 tell us:


So said the Lord: Perform justice and charity, and rescue the robbed from the hand of the robber, and to a stranger, an orphan, and a widow do no wrong, do no violence, and shed no innocent blood in this place.


Verses 15 -19, which are addressed to the King of Judea (who is responsible for the spiritual and moral climate of his kingdom), tells us:


15 Shall you reign, for you compete with the cedar? Your father-did he not eat and drink and perform justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. 16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy, then it was good. Is not that the knowledge of Me? says the Lord. 17 For your eyes and your heart are on nothing but your gain and on innocent blood to shed and on the oppression and on the crushing to do. 18 Therefore, so said the Lord about Jehoiakim, king of Judah; They will not lament him, [saying], "Hoe, brother!" or "Hoe, sister!" they will not lament him, "Hoe, lord!" or "Hoe, his glory!" 19 A donkey's burial shall he be buried, dragged and tossed past the gates of Jerusalem.


Rashi, the great Jewish sage, explains some of the points in the above verses as follows:


3 do no wrong This means taunting with words.15 Shall you reign Will you live long that you contend to make your rule oppressive to let all know that you are a king? your father Josiah, who demeaned himself with humility, did he not eat and drink and enjoy pleasure all the days of his life? 17 on your gain to steal money. the crushing the crushing of the poor..18 Hoe, his glory! Woe for his glory. 19 A donkey’s burial As they drag the carcass of a donkey, so will they drag his carcass...


There is a lesson for us in the above. Hugely profitable corporations in the US pay no income taxes, while the poor do not have access to medical care. One of the most successful anti-poverty programs in history, a program born out of the poverty and pain of The Great Depression is under attack yet again. I refer to Social Security, a program that has helped countless widows and orphans over the decades. “and to a stranger, an orphan, and a widow do no wrong...”


I am writing this weeks after the horrific terrorist attack on people at the Boston Marathon. Nor is it just the Boston Marathon, as there have been shootings across the US in recent months. Nor does the violence stop there, as there have been countless suicides of children who were harassed into the grave because they were gay or lesbian. “do no violence, and shed no innocent blood in this place.


To conclude, we are told in Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord demands of you; but to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk discreetly with your God.” What does walk discreetly with your G-d mean? It means to follow G-d's ways. What are G-d's ways? The Talmud (Sotah 14a) tells us: "Just as G-d clothes the naked... so must you clothe the naked. The Holy Blessed One visits the sick... so you must also visit the sick. The Holy Blessed One comforts mourners... so must you comfort mourners. The Holy Blessed One buries the dead... so must you bury the dead."


Somehow, taking money from the poor so the rich do not pay taxes seems to fly in the face of these teachings. Somehow, driving gay and lesbian children into committing suicide seems to fly in the face of these teachings. Somehow, mass murders (at schools, offices, movie theaters, and a marathon) seems to fly in the face of these teachings. Let us not forget that G-d takes these teachings seriously, for this is the reason He gave for the destruction of both the Kingdom of Judea and His holy Temple.



Sources


Source for the above bible quotes and Rashi's commentaries:

The Complete Tanach with Rashi, copyright (c) 1999 by Davka Corporation and Judaica Press


Source for the Talmud quote:

The Soncino Talmud, Judaic Classics by David Kantrowitz, Version 3.0.8, Copyright 1991-2004, Davka Corporation.


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