Torah for Today! This week.. Political assassinations

Torah for Today! This week.. Political assassinations

Rabbi Benjy Gordon offers insight into the Torah's view on a crucial topical issue

Jo Cox
Jo Cox

The terrible news of the murder of Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen, saddened the country. It was the first political assassination in the UK since the murder of Ian Gow in 1990.

Thousands attended services and remembrance gatherings and an online fundraising campaign online raised more than £1million in Jo’s merit.

Political assassinations have been a part of our history for thousands of years. In ancient Jewish history, before democratic elections were used to nominate leaders, political assassinations were far from rare.
The day after the Jewish new year, many Jews commemorate the day on which Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, was murdered. Gedaliah was the last head of the era’s independent Jewish kingdom and was killed by a militant leader.

Assassinations are mentioned throughout the books of the prophets. Even Saul, the first king of Israel, tries many ways to assassinate David – sending him on suicide missions and so on.

These are just a couple of the most famous assassination attempts, but there were many others, both from within the Jewish community and of foreign leaders.

While choosing to become a public figure means taking on responsibilities and limiting the time you have for your personal or family life, it should never mean being killed.

As Jewish people, we know what it means to give your life for what you believe in. It has been a part of our history since our formation as a nation.

While we may not agree with all of Jo Cox’s views, we certainly respect her ability to give so much of her life for what she believed in and, ultimately, we are saddened that she ended up losing her life because of what she stood for.

While political assassination is not on the agenda of the average member of our community, we often help to “assassinate” high-profile individuals in other ways, be they politicians, England managers or the president or rabbi of the local shul. By voicing our disgust, our negative views and our dislike at the words and actions of others, we can destroy their careers and family lives.

On the other hand, a positive word can help to build and encourage those who run our communities and will help to ensure we can work together with the leaders of our community and country to live happy and peaceful lives.

• Rabbi Benjy Gordon, Jewish Futures Trust

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