July 21, 2024
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Real Torah for the Real World: A Reply to Rabbi Mischel

We appreciate Rabbi Mischel’s explicit clarification in his that Amalek has no application to the current matzav (situation), and that he dropped all reference to “The Seven Nations” (“A Response to Rabbis Klapper and Kornblau,” November 16, 2023). Such dangerously misleading Torah analogies are not needed to convey the depth of Hamas’s evil. They only strengthen the forces of evil and hinder the IDF’s heroic battle to eradicate Hamas. We must teach and learn Torah with life-and-death responsibility.

Rabbi Mischel asks us questions directly, and to be respectful, we will respond briefly.

He argues that the Torah sides with Sarah Immeinu’s banishment of Yishmael, and on this basis argues for the banishment of all Arabs, or perhaps all Muslims, or both, from Greater Israel. He goes so far as to speak for God (“With these words, I believe God is telling Rabbis Klapper and Kornblau: ‘My dear “Abraham Jews”:’…”) and for all Israeli “Sarah” Jews (presumably excluding Rabbi Kornblau, an Israeli). We could respond that Yitzchak and Yishmael reconnect amicably at Avraham’s funeral, which occurs in Yitzchak’s 75th year. Medinat Yisrael turned 75 this year. If that narrative of Bereishit were our sole guide to Arab-Jewish relationships, this is davka the year to expect repentance and full peace. In that case, we would be “Yitzchak Jews.”

But we don’t expect repentance and full peace this year, because we reject the simplistic application of Biblical archetypes to contemporary situations. Consider: however one defines “Ishmaelite,” Iran is not included, while we have genuine if fragile peace with the UAE, Jordan, and other Arab countries. Palestinians are not uniquely Ishmaelite. The refugee camps outside our borders in Lebanon are as dangerous as those in Gaza. Deporting Gazans to other countries would likely spread antisemitism disguised as anti-Zionism. The world is complex, and we need all of Torah and a great deal of Mada to navigate it properly.

We engage with Rabbi Mischel as rabbis, not as pundits or prophets.

As rabbis, we note that Rabbi Mischel offers not a serious policy proposal but rather a cry of desperation and rage, couched in the language of Torah. As we wrote last time, eliminationist rhetoric and fantasies are morally, educationally, halachically, spiritually, and strategically dangerous. They distract us in the present and blindfold us for the future — indulgences we cannot afford.

Rage and desperation are more than justified by the horrors of October 7. However, they are not a sound basis for truthful Torah or for wise action, as every reader knows in his or her own life.

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