Thursday, August 20, 2015
Are You a Heretic or a Psychopath? Towards a Halakhic Morality
(See Haredi Criminal in Training.)
Imagine that you are secretly taken to a dingy cellar where, surrounded by cloaked figures, you find a bound and gagged child. Puzzled, you ask your escort for an explanation and are told that this child, personally innocent of all wrongdoing, is a genetic Amalekite. He has been chosen because of his great purity to be the first Amalekite, since possibly biblical times, to be killed in fulfillment of the commandment to wipe out Amalek. If they simply took a Nazi or an Arab terrorist Amalekite, people might think that this had something to do with justice. By choosing an innocent little boy, they are demonstrating that they are only motivated by a desire to fulfill God's will, the only innate good in the entire world. Any attempt to be moral is really sowing the seeds of heresy; it implies that you have personal values and think that they can trump the word of God. Only by committing the most profoundly immoral act possible in God's name can someone hope to save himself from this trap. To be clear, this Amalekite killing has been organized by top Torah scholars and all legal and pragmatic issues have been dealt with. They hand you a document signed by leading sages in support of carrying out this "mitzvah" as well as a declaration from the government promising to not interfere with this "free exercise of religion" or punish anyone afterward.
I, for one, would never agree to such a thing; I would even try to stop them. The interesting question, though, becomes why I would save the Amalekite. I could easily defend this decision on Jewish grounds. We are both the children of Abraham, whose tent was open to everyone and challenged God to spare Sodom. Rather than hunting Amaelites, we should pray to God to have mercy even upon Amalekites. Even if Jacob was right to steal the blessings from Esau, the rabbis teach us that Esau's tears have harmed us through the generations. Should we risk the tears of the boy's Amalekite mother when he does not come home? Moses looked into the future before he killed the Egyptian to make sure that no one righteous would come from him. Do we have a prophet to tell us that no one good will come from the Amalekite? Moses told God to either forgive the Jewish people or "erase" him from his book. Part of our job as the chosen people is to tell God that if he wants us to be serial killers than we do not want his people. Let God find some other group to do his dirty work.
Some of these arguments might have more merit than others and I am sure readers can come up with other justifications. But let us be honest here, these are justifications. The real reason why I would not murder the Amalekite boy is that, underneath my Orthodox exterior, I really am a follower of the "Benzion Noam Chinn religion." This religion has a lot in common with Judaism. So, as the Benzion Noam Chinn religion only has one adherent, it made sense for me to formally practice Judaism in order to have a community. When there is a contradiction between the two, I will attempt to cover up the problem through intellectual creativity. It should be understood though that this is all really a dodge and if I ever run out of solutions I will simply reject Judaism rather than be untrue to my Benzion Noam Chinn religion.
The Benzion Noam Chinn religion is hardly a pacifist creed. If there was a member of the Naturei Karta tied up instead of the Amalekite than I would have no problem with slitting the guy's throat. He is a moser, who is spoken out against Jews to non-Jewish government officials, endangering millions of Jews. So, according to both the Benzion Noam Chinn religion and Jewish law, such a person deserves death to be carried out even extra-judicially. That being said, the Benzion Noam Chinn religion strongly opposes killing innocent little kids. I will follow what my true religion teaches me, regardless of what Judaism commands.
It is common to hear rabbis declare that all of their decisions are based on halakah and they never make recourse to any outside sources, certainly not to anything non-Jewish. Such people are either intellectual imbeciles, who have never considered the implications of taking such a doctrine seriously, or they are dangerous psychopaths, ready to murder innocent children when their "unbiased" reading of a text comes up kill. Such people are a danger to society in general and the Jewish people in particular.