Torah for today: What does the Torah say about.. Hate Crime?

Torah for today: What does the Torah say about.. Hate Crime?

By Rabbi Zvi SolomonsTorah-For-Today-300x206

Human nature is a difficult thing to fight. Yet attitudes can change if we want them to. Look at the change towards LGBT people.

It was heartening to see the Chief Rabbi meet with the Jewish Gay advocacy group Keshet. The rabbinate wants to make our shuls welcoming for everyone in our community – no matter who they may be. Yet our brains are hard-wired to recognise difference and otherness rather than what we have in common.

Distinction and discrimination were a strong defence mechanism in our primordial state, before we became civilised enough to filter out our animal side and recognise the human in other human beings. Some of us find the animal still resides within. Police figures suggest hate crime has jumped by 18 percent.

How should we respond to this as Jews? The Torah tells us not to oppress a stranger and not to hate Egyptians. The rationales through which the Torah instructs us are telling: “For you know the spirit of the stranger,” says the Torah, (Exodus 22,22; 23,9)

“For you were strangers in in the land of Egypt…” The Torah tells us to love strangers for the same reason (Deuteronomy 10,19).

Deuteronomy 3,7 tells us not to abhor an Egyptian because we lived there once. In his book, The Dignity of Difference, the emeritus Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks tells us difference and diversity is God’s plan. This may be best expressed by a wonderful Mishna in Sanhedrin, which explains that while a human being stamps out coins from a die and they all come out the same, God stamps humans out of the die of Adam and Eve and we all come out different (even twins!). For this reason each of us can say, “For my sake the world was created”.

The reason the Torah prescribes capital punishment for murder is that it is, in a way, the destruction of a whole universe. Crimes of hatred are similar to the Amalekites’ unreasoning hatred of the People of Israel.

They are irrational and strike at our fundamental humanity, an attempt to destroy an entire world view along with the victim. I conclude on a sad note.

Even among our own community, who know better, I find hatred of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims as a group, and derogatory references to ״schwartzes״ remind us to be aware of the hatred which can break out of our own chests. We do know better.

The Mishna in Sanhedrin teaches that we are all descended from Adam and Eve, so no person can say they have better ancestry than another. The Torah approach to hatred (and hate crime) is to rub it out of the world, starting with ourselves.

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