In celebration of Bonfire Night earlier this month, a group of people burned a model of Grenfell Tower, mocking victims as the tower was consumed by flames. So, what does the Torah have to say about this?
On witnessing a future Holocaust, the Torah projects the horror felt by foreigners. “Wherefore is the great anger that has caused this?” they exclaim.
Lamentations illustrate this with the physical responses of passers-by viewing the destruction of Judea. “They whistle through their teeth” at what they see. So, astonishment is expected from witnesses of tragedy, but not mockery.
The Edomite enemies of Israel who rejoiced over Judea’s downfall are prophesied by Jeremiah to suffer similarly.
Among co-citizens, where personal enmities arise, our sages warn of not rejoicing at another’s downfall, quoting verbatim from the biblical book of Proverbs: “On the downfall of your enemy do not be glad, and when he stumbles, let your heart not be glad”.
In the bonfire incident, it appears there was a racist element to the fun poked at the memory of those who died.
At a time when Britain is about to Brexit, it is crucial to ensure the fabric of society is not damaged by hate of this depraved kind.
According to Torah law, the hurt caused to those loved ones of the victims of the fire is civilly actionable.
A Torah Crown Prosecution Service would file charges for causing pain through mockery of the relatives’ painful death.
On a public level, cruelty against all creatures is one of the seven Noahide commandments, which should be defended anywhere in the world.
May the people of Grenfell be remembered by us with love, and their death commemorated with respect, while lessons for public safety are learned for good
Rabbi Ariel Abel serves the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation
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