Torah For Today: This week – Sarah Everard

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Torah For Today: This week – Sarah Everard

Rabbi Zvi Solomons takes a topical issue and offers an Orthodox Jewish response

Rabbi Zvi Solomons
People paying their respects and laying floral tributes for Sarah Everard at the bandstand in Clapham Common, the day after the cancelled vigil. Credit: Matthew Chattle/Alamy Live News
People paying their respects and laying floral tributes for Sarah Everard at the bandstand in Clapham Common, the day after the cancelled vigil. Credit: Matthew Chattle/Alamy Live News

The Torah speaks about protecting those who have no protector, notably the widow and the orphan. Indeed, the whole Book of Ruth speaks of widowhood and vulnerability.

Boaz is praiseworthy for taking on the responsibility to protect his kinswoman Ruth despite there

being others and spreads his cloak over her at the threshing floor to symbolise this.

Such Biblical gallantry is however not to modern tastes. Women are independent people, with no need for male approval or protection. Respecting women’s independence is part of being a decent human being.

Walking home on a dark night we must be aware of how vulnerable women feel to violence and show by our actions – for example crossing to the other side of a road – that we are aware of their vulnerability and have good intentions.

We should also remember that at no time outside self-defence should violence be a commonplace.

Sarah Everard

One might argue that the Hebrew word for an attack, hamas (no refererence to terror organisations) carries the same import as grievous bodily harm. 

The first reference to this in the Torah is the corrupt generation before the Flood.

In Sanhedrin 58b, there is a list of sayings against violence. Resh Lakish says that even lifting up your hand against your fellow is wicked.

Some of our rabbis even say that a violent person’s hand should be cut off but certainly authorities today do not agree with such drastic action.

The many stories of domination and abuse springing from Sarah Everard’s tragic death, and the #MeToo attachment, both remind us that however far men have come we could go further and do better.

  •  Rabbi Zvi Solomons serves JCoB, the Jewish Community of Berkshire in Reading

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