Monday, October 17, 2011

Your Brother's Bloods

Today I have met with a number of people and it seems that the trade of 1,000 terrorists for Gilad Shalit seems to be on everyone's mind.

The aspect that seems to bother people the most is not as much the additional security threat of 1,000 released terrorists, or the feeling that this will encourage future kidnapping.  Those are all concerns but today I have heard mostly about the injustice that the evil murders who are responsible for terrible atrocities will go free while their victims and the families of their victims will suffer forever. 
Young Shoshana Greenberg was murdered with her unborn child and the woman responsible will go free. 
One writer said that granting these terrorists freedom is like pouring salt on an open wound, because the wound of losing a loved one never closes.
It seems that justice has taken a beating in the world.

As part of the new Rashi initiative, I had two learning groups today on the weekly parsha and in both groups the issue of Gilad Shalit came up.

This week is parshat Bereishit.  The first parshah of the Torah.  It talks about the creation of the world, the expulsion form the garden of Eden, and the part I find most intriguing, the murder of Hevel (Able) by his own brother Kayin (Cain).

What a story.  It has everything.  It deals with envy.  It deals with anger and drepression.  It has action.  The midrash even adds greed, religion, and sex.

For so many reasons this iconic episode in the history of humanity is viewed as a paradigm for human relations: particularly Kayin's response to God - "Am I my brother's keeper?"

Rashi uses the Kayin and Hevel story to teach a number of lessons, including one that may be the most well known and often quoted in all of Jewish philosophy.

When God finally accuses Kayin of killing Hevel God says, "your brother's bloods are crying to me from the ground. (4:10)"  Rashi is very sensitive to annomalies in the grammar of the text.  He points out that the word "bloods" is strangely in plural.

Rashi comments: "his [Hevel's] blood and the blood of descendats."
In other words, by killing Hevel you have also shed the blood of any future descendants that will now never be born.  The gemara learns from this the famous teaching that saving one life is like saving an entire world while taking one life is like destroying an entire world.

Alan Dershowitz quoted this teaching in a piece he wrote reflecting on the exchange.

Hamas and its evil followers demonstrate a complete disregard for this moral principle found in our Torah, but whether you agree or disagree with the decision, as Dershowitz writes, it clearly demonstrates that the Jews continue to hold by this ideal.  In the eyes of Israel and the jewish people, one life is considered an entire world.


  1. I fully agree with thee posting. Great work! Yet I disagree with the last sentence, "In the eyes of Israel and the Jewish people, one life is considered an entire world.". If it were true, then why do so many Jewish people in the USA strongly support the DFL party? They are, and continue to be, the authors and strict supporters of abortion, the death of 56,000,000 Abels and their "entire worlds" and future potential.