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December 3rd, 2008
08:05 AM ET

Love the victims, loathe their killers

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and boys pray next to the bodies of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and boys pray next to the bodies of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

All terrorism is monstrous, but the murder of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg by ‘religious Islamic extremists’ stands out for its unspeakable infamy. The deliberate targeting of a small Jewish center and its married young directors, whose only purpose it was to provide for the religious needs of a community and feed travelers, proves that those who perpetrated this crime are bereft not only of even a hint of humanity, but every shred of faith as well. The world’s most aggressive atheists are more religious than these spiritual charlatans and pious frauds. When Osama bin Laden, whose beard masks the face of the ultimate religious hypocrite, attacked the World Trade Center in New York, the target was purportedly chosen as the very symbol of American materialism and excess. But what could these ‘religious’ people have been thinking in exterminating a twenty-something couple with two babies who moved from the world’s richest country to India to provide religious services and faith to the poor and the needy? What blow against Western decadence were they striking by targeting a Chabad House whose entire purpose it is to spread spirituality to people whose lives lack it? Now is not only a time to remember the victims but to hate their killers. One cannot love the innocent without simultaneously loathing those who orphan their children.

I know how uncomfortable people feel about hatred. It smacks of revenge. It poisons the heart of those who hate. But this is true only if we hate the good, the innocent, or the neutral. Hating monsters, however, motivates us to fight them. Only if an act like this repulses us to our core will we summon the will to fight these devils so that they can never murder again.

I am well aware that my hero Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” But surely the great man never meant for this to apply to people like Hitler who was never going to be stopped by love but only by an eloquent loathing as articulated by Winston Churchill which summoned an allied campaign to carpet-bomb his war-making apparatus into oblivion. Indeed, had King’s non-violent movement not been protected, at crucial times, by Federal Marshalls and the National Guard, the terrorist thugs of the Ku Klux Klan might have killed every last one of them.

As for my Christian brethren who regularly quote to me Jesus’ famous saying, ‘Love your enemies,’ my response is that our enemies and G-d’s enemies are different parties altogether. Jesus meant to love those steal your girlfriend, cut you off on the road, or swindle you in a business deal. But to love those who indiscriminately murder G-d’s children is an abomination against all that is sacred. Is there a man who is human whose heart is not filled with moral revulsion against terrorists who target a Rabbi who feeds the hungry? Would G-d or Jesus ask me to extend even one morsel of my limited capacity for compassion to fiends rather than saving every last particle for their victims instead? Could G-d really be so unreasonable, could Jesus be so cruel, as to ask me to love baby-killers? And would such a G-d be moral if He did? Could I pray to a G-d who loves terrorists? Could I find comfort in Him knowing that He offers them comfort as well? No, such a god would be my enemy. He would abide in Hades rather than heaven. And I would be damned before I would worship him. I will accept an eternity in purgatory rather than a moment of celestial bliss shared with these beasts.

Now is the time for our Muslim cleric brethren to rise in chorus and condemn the repulsive assassins who use Islam to justify their hatred. One such courageous Imam, and one of the North America’s most prominent, is my friend Imam Shabir Ali of Toronto who courageously responded to my call with a public statement the day after the murders: “Such terrorist attacks are not justifiable on any grounds. Islam cannot condone such murder of innocent civilians. From what you have described, Rabbi and Mrs. Holtzberg are of great service to humanity. Our knowledge of their service adds to our sense of loss and grief that such bad things can happen to such good people. Islam is built on the monotheist foundations which the Jewish people struggled for many centuries to maintain in the face of much severe opposition. Muslims and Jews should work together for a better world in which the terrorist acts we have seen in Mumbai this week are a thing of the past. I pray that the perpetrators will be brought to justice, and that the Lord with compensate the victims with a handsome reward in this world and the next.”

But as the next world is reserved for G-d, who also has much to answer for as to how He can allow righteous people like the Holtzbergs and all the other Mumbai innocents to die, it is for us the living to recommit to their work. I suggest that best possible response by the world Jewish community to this travesty is to implement a program of a Jewish peace corps to Chabad Houses the world over. Young people, especially students age 16 to 30, should offer to spend two weeks of each summer volunteering for a Chabad House somewhere in the world to help the emissaries with their very difficult and important work. This past summer three of my teen children volunteered to work for Chabad in Cordova, Argentina and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives, as they shared in the isolation of a dedicated Chabad family who have lived there for 20 years to cater to the spiritual needs of the local community.

Finally, the world witnessed how the Holtzberg’s non-Jewish nanny, Sandra Samuels, saved their two-year-old Moshe’s life, running out with the child while risking being mowed down by machinegun fire. In that instant, we saw how the religious differences between pale beside the higher of us all being equally G-d’s children, Indian and Jew, Muslim and Christian, and how acts of courage and compassion are that which unite us. As I write these lines the State of Israel is being lobbied by the Hotlzberg’s remaining family to grant Ms. Samuels immediate citizenship. A hero of her caliber would be an honor to the Jewish State and the request should not be delayed by even a single day.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This World: The Jewish Values Network. His upcoming book, The Kosher Sutra, will be published in January by HarperOne. His website is http://www.shmuley.com

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Filed under: India • India Attacked • Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Jim,

    "You Shall Know them by their Fruit" A Good tree does not produce EVIL fruit"- All the Terrorists have done is proclaimed to the world that their deeds are evil & are of their Father the Devil.- They call Moses a Prophet but do not listen to His words- They call anyone who disagrees with them infedels- Yet their own actions prove them the infedels.
    Yes God is Love & because of that love he sent his only son to pay for all of mankinds sin but many forget Forgivness is based on repentence
    if they ofend once you go to them & tell them their fault, if they do not repent you then take witnesses if they still do not repent you go public, if they still do not repent you are told to treat them as heathen & G-d will deal with them.All men are guilty of breaking Gods Laws & are worthy of Death- We cannot throw the first stone as we are just as guilty & worthy of death as they are.

    December 3, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  2. Melissa, Los Angeles

    As an Atheist I do not agree with your point Rabbi that I am more religious than those terrorists – I am not religious one bit as I don't believe in your God or anybody's God – I believe in humanity to treat others with respect whether they're gay, straight, black, white or what religion they choose to believe in. It is with that thinking that keeps stroking the flames of the hatred you're spewing. Your intolerance for their religion and their intolerance for yours will continue this violence. You have allowed religion as well as these terrorists to blind you from humanity. Sandra Samuels rescued the boy not out of some religious intent – she did it because it was the right thing to do – to help out our fellow man – a selfless act that cannot be taught out of a Bible, Koran, etc. You bring up Martin Luther King Jr. and his non-violent ways and that if it weren't for the National Guard and Federal Marshals – he and his followers would be dead. Think for a moment if MLK Jr. had reacted with violence – African American's would be no closer to gaining civil rights with that type of behavior and would instead reinforce the negative stereotypes that they're all violent etc. and to this day may just barely gain those rights. 50 years ago yesterday Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person. She did it without violence and look at what that single non-violent act has done for all African Americans. The time has come for all violence to stop and allow all to believe or not believe in who they want.

    December 3, 2008 at 12:35 pm |
  3. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    Well said, Rabbi Shmuley. You certainly challenged this Christian (Catholic). Still I do not agree with you about "hating our enemies"....... Jesus did say "love your enemies" He did not say "hate the ones that steal your girlfriend" ....... Jesus is clear, "LOVE YOUR ENEMIES." OF COURSE...... we must fight and defend ourselves, especially the innocents like the Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife! But.......hate my enemies? No, I pray for them, that GOD will have mercy on their souls! And that terrorism will become obsolete as we love our Muslim brethren and show the terrorists how VERY WRONG THEY ARE!

    SHALOM TO THE HOLTZBERG FAMILY, AND TO YOU, RABBI.

    December 3, 2008 at 11:08 am |
  4. Annie Kate

    It is hard to comprehend the senselessness killing of this young couple and so terribly sad to think of their young orphaned children who will never know their parent's love and goodness now. You asked though if G-d would expect you to love the terrorist that killed them. There are a lot of people on this blog that can probably answer this question with direct quotes but I think that fundamentally the Christian religion teaches one to hate the sin but not the sinner, otherwise there can be no redemption for the truly penitent. A very tall order in a very imperfect world.

    My condolences to the family and to the community that nurtured and cherished this young couple.

    December 3, 2008 at 10:28 am |
  5. Kristen

    Shame on this rabbi for justiftying hatred and violence in the name of religion. Hatred is wrong and immoral, no matter who it is directed towards. God asks us to forgive those who have tresspassed against us, not because it is an easy thing to do, but because it is the right thing to do.

    This rabbi's attitude only serves to perpetuate the violence that has plagued Israel for so many years.

    December 3, 2008 at 10:11 am |
  6. Cindy

    Nice article but off on a few points!

    Yes we should be so mad at these terrorists who kill innocent people that we all stand together and fight them until they are all eradicated and can't spread their terror or hate anymore. But NO we should not hate anyone! God is love and the only way that we can truly be like him is to love everyone....even ones that kill others and who we don't like.

    If you allow hate in your life then you are opening yourself up to more sin than just that one. And you are lowering yourself down to the terrorists level by living, breathing, and wallowing in hate like they do. Besides that....God says vengeance is mine saith the Lord....so He will take care of these people. It should not become an all consuming thing to us. But when you allow hate in that is exactly what happens...it consumes you to the point that that is all you think of.

    You shouldn't waste a minute of your time hating anyone!!

    Cindy...Ga.

    December 3, 2008 at 8:53 am |
  7. Alex

    Though that group of terrorists singled out Jews and other specific people to target, it is apparent, at least to me, that individuals such as those who committing the atrocities in Mumbai, are not only driven by hatred, but lack the basic qualities of humanity. Certainly the tragic deaths of the Rabbi and his wife are nothing more than a continuation of hatred for Jews that has existed probably since the beginning of time. It also shows that extremists place little value on human life, let alone their own. That shows these individuals are incapable of having a conscience and is reason enough to remove them from the face of the earth by any and all means possible. Animals of lesser intelligence even have a higher regard for life than these people.

    December 3, 2008 at 8:31 am |