Wednesday, January 5, 2011


1 Shvat 5771
January 5th, 2011

The Governor of the Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated this week by his own bodyguard, incensed by his employer’s opposition to a law that condemns those who insult Islam to death. Facebook pages in support of the assassin are sprouting up faster than Facebook can take them down.

This presents a problem for us Jews, though it is not the problem you might think.
The problem is that Torah contains a commandment identical to the Pakistani law:
“And a fight broke out in the camp and…The son of the Israelite woman pronounced the Name of God, cursing it, and he was brought to Moses…
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: take the one who cursed God outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands upon his head, and let the whole community stone him.”
Leviticus 24:10-13

You may have noticed that even in the most earnest of Jewish circles we no longer stone people to death for blasphemy. Have we then abandoned Torah?

We have not. But we have brought revolution to religious ideas. And we do believe that those revolutions bring us closer to God. The relevant revolution here is what my teacher, Rabbi Sharon Brous, teaches as the central Torah of her life: that God’s dignity is expressed through human dignity; that injustice harms the image of God. So we’ve learned that to kill a person for cursing God degrades God’s holy Name even more.

Fundamentalists are forever attempting to uncover the Torah (Bible, Koran) in its immaculate form. But only dead things don’t change. Etz hayyim hi – Torah is a living tree. It is eternal because lives beyond change. To ignore our own spiritual evolution is to ignore God’s plan for the world.

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