Ask the Rabbi: ‘Maim or kill in self-defence?’

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Ask the Rabbi: ‘Maim or kill in self-defence?’

Ask the Rabbi…. with Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet

Ask the Rabbi

Warped views on stabbings

Dear Rabbi,

I found what you wrote last week about the current situation in Israel particularly harsh. You make it sound as though all Israelis are innocent and all Palestinians guilty. There is guilt on both sides.

I agree that murder in any form is wrong, but so is occupation and apartheid.


Dear Saeem,

I too agree that murder in any form is wrong. I also think equating killings with ‘occupation’ and ‘apartheid’ suggests that while you think murder is wrong, you don’t necessarily consider the recent wanton stabbings of Israelis as murder, rather more a stand against ‘occupation’ and ‘apartheid’.

I’m not sure what you mean by occupation, but if you are suggesting that Israelis are occupying a land that doesn’t belong to them, let me refer you to the following story: An Israeli ambassador got up in the UN and said: “Before I begin my remarks, I want to tell you a little Biblical story. As you know, upon their Exodus, Moses and the Jewish people crossed the Dead Sea. Immediately after crossing, Moses himself decided to go for a little swim. He removed his clothes by the waterside and went for a brief dip. Upon his return to shore, he noticed his clothes were missing. I suggest,” said the ambassador, “that it was the Palestinians who stole his clothes!” The Palestinian representative jumped to his feet: “I object! That’s preposterous! Everyone knows the Palestinians weren’t even around at that time!” “Thank you,” said the Israeli ambassador. “On that note I’d now like to make my remarks.”

As for your shameful allegation of apartheid, let me just cite one little example to you. The 13-year- old-boy that Mahmoud Abbas insisted was innocent and executed later emerged alive and well on the mend in an Israeli hospital (video footage proved him far from innocent).

Do you think an apartheid state would attend to the needs of those you claim it seeks to cut off? Contrast that to the stabbing of Aaron Bennett and Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, which took place right outside an Arab medical clinic on Hagai Street.

The clinic was open at the time, but no staff responded to treat the wounded in the same way Magen David Adom does, even when responding to terrorists wounded at scenes of their attacks. Alas, the two men died as a result.

Do Arabs walk freely in Jewish quarters? Generally speaking, yes.

Can I, as a yarmulke-clad Jew walk freely through an Arab quarter? I’ll let you answer that and then you can talk to me about apartheid.

As for your apparent justification of the stabbings – if that’s your belief, then you are surely not in a position to argue against any response.

If to your warped thinking it is OK to kill in the name of some kind of “war,” then it is equally OK to defend myself whatever the costs. Don’t come crying when you choose to bring a knife to a gunfight. After all, using your twisted logic, all is fair in love and war.

Maim or kill in self-defence?

Dear Rabbi,

Is it acceptable for Israeli soldiers to shoot-to-kill would-be terrorists, especially when they could just maim them?


Dear Matthew

We abhor killing in the Jewish faith under any circumstances. So if you first maim the terrorist, to walk up to him and terminate him in order to “finish the job” is morally problematic.

But whether you have to stop and think before taking out a man or woman in some knife frenzy – “do I shoot him in the leg or should I aim for his hand?” – while he’s getting up each time attempting to wreck more havoc – I don’t think any law in any land would insist on that. Excessive force is wrong, but when the threat remains viable then you have to eliminate it at all costs.

School’s ‘mad’ questioning

Dear Rabbi

I read with horror about the Orthodox school asking the parents of applicants intimate details about their bedroom antics. Is this not just religion gone mad?


Dear Betty,

Unfortunately, because most people haven’t seen the questionnaire and the media is ignorant about Jewish laws of family purity, which attest to observance levels, the public are just exposed to a soundbite that sounds sordid and gets completely misconstrued. Whether such a question should be asked is for an adjudicator to decide. But believe me when I tell you it is far more innocent and has little or nothing to do with whatever you or the media imagine it to be.

I am praying on the move

Dear Rabbi,

I’m going to be travelling on business several times over the next few weeks. Unfortunately, all my flights are very early morning. If I want to pray with my tefillin, what’s the earliest I can do so?


Dear Raymond

Consult with your rabbi but, generally speaking, you can recite most blessings and prayers at the start of the morning service from dawn (roughly 90 minutes before sunrise). However, the earliest time for tallit and tefillin would be when there is already partial light – approximately 50 minutes before sunrise. There are websites you can Google that will give you the correct times and best methods. However, sometimes you’ll find that you’ll have to do the Tefillin on the plane. Not the end of the world. And while doing so, find another Jew who might want to join you.

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