The Bible Says What? Jephthah murders his own daughter
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

The Bible Says What? Jephthah murders his own daughter

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner takes a controversial passage from the Torah and applies a progressive response

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner

If you are looking for a Biblical role model, maybe avoid Jephthah in the Book of Judges.

Seeking victory in battle against the Ammonites with God’s help, he decided to make a vow. If God gave him victory, whoever came out to meet him on his return home would be sacrificed as a burnt offering. Returning victorious, it was his daughter – his only child – who met him.

Jephthah blames his daughter, saying it is her fault and she has brought grief to him by being the first to greet him. She is given two months, but Jephthah ends up carrying through his vow.

Jephthah was reckless, selfish and ultimately murdered his own daughter. But it all started with a vow. Jephthah failed to realise the enormous power of words and that making a promise is not something to do lightly.

Judaism has long encouraged us to avoid making vows, and of course we have a significant ceremony to renounce vows and promises at Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur.

When we make a promise, we don’t always understand what we are committing ourselves to.

Our promises may not have murderous consequences, but they can still when we make them without really thinking cause great pain to ourselves and others.

We only need to look around us in the world to see the damage done by rash promises, whether they tear down trust in our political systems when they are not seen to be kept or set fear upon vulnerable people in the expectation that they might.

Our words are powerful and we must deploy them with the greatest of care. There is only one vow I think of making after reading Jephthah’s tale – I vow not to make vows.

Better to promise little and simply do our best for the world around us.

  •  Laura Janner-Klausner is senior rabbi to Reform Judaism 
Help perform the greatest mitzvah: save a life

While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.

That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.

We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.

Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”

read more:
comments