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Parashat R'eih
A Shanda for the Jews


August 22, 2014

 Av 5774


Candle Lighting: 7:08 p.m.


Dear Friends:


In the Talmud Rabbi Yosi comments on this verse from parashat 

R'eih: "When you cross the Jordan and settle in the land that the Lord our God is allotting to you..." (Deut. 10:12)


Rabbi Yosi taught: "The Israelites were given three commandments when they entered the land of Israel: to appoint a king, to destroy the descendants of Amalek, and to build the Temple." (Sanhedrin 20b)


The second commandment, to destroy the descendants of Amalek, derives from that tribe's cowardly attack on Israel in the desert. But Amalek was not the only tribe Israel was commanded to destroy. Israel was also to wage war on all the Canaanites and to wipe them out: "In the towns...which the Lord your God is giving you as a heritage, you shall not let a soul remain alive. No, you must proscribe [completely destroy] them-the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites-as the Lord your God has commanded you, lest they lead you into doing all the abhorrent things that they have done for their gods, and you stand guilty before the Lord our God." (Deut. 20:16-18)

 While the concern was clearly that allowing any of these tribes to remain might lead the Israelites to idolatry, the "morality" of God's commandment is still worthy of debate. However, I will save the moral concerns for a future time. I bring these verses to point out that later rabbinic thought dictated that it was only these tribes that God commanded us to destroy, no others.

Mahmoud Mansour 
and Morel Malka

Therefore, I find the anti-Arab hatred that is found in some segments of the Israeli population not only abhorrent but un-Jewish. Chants or graffiti of "death to Arabs" has no place in either a Jewish or a democratic society. 


This anti-Arab hatred most recently manifested itself last Sunday in Rishon LeTzion at the wedding reception of Mahmoud Mansour and Morel Malka. Mansour and Malka, after being together for five years, had decided to marry. The "problem?" Malka, a Jew, converted to Islam to marry Mansour.



The couple was refused a court injunction to stop a demonstration outside their reception hall by Lehava, which means "flame" but is also an acronym for "Preventing Assimilation in the Holy Land." The court ruled that Lehava's right to demonstrate was protected by freedom of speech. Monsour and Malka and their guests had to endure racist chants by the crowd of demonstrators ("An abomination is taking place in Israel!", "Daughter of Israel to the people of Israel,"  "Assimilation is a Holocaust.") as they entered the wedding hall.


Commenting on the demonstration, Allison Kaplan Sommer wrote in Ha'aretz: "All one needs to do is imagine how Jews around the world would react if something similar took place in Europe - let's say, in Germany. What if a neo-Nazi group took to Facebook to assemble crowds to wave signs and scream slogans to disturb a party celebrating the union of a Jewish man and a bride who had converted to Judaism and send a message that their union is an 'abomination?'"


Similarly, how would we feel if a Christian group demonstrated outside our synagogue every time a convert to Judaism married a born Jew? We would be outraged.


I don't find the conversion of a Jew to another religion cause for celebration. However, I do respect an individual's right to make their own personal choices and to marry whomever they want in whatever way they want.  To excoriate them, especially in racist slogans, is shameful and abhorrent. Freedom of speech does not mean that everything that is uttered should be tolerated by the rest of population. We need to protest and condemn hate speech of any kind. 


Reuven Rivlin

This is exactly what Israel's newly installed President, Reuven Rivlin, did on his Facebook page: "a red line exists between freedom of speech and protest and incitement. Mahmoud and Morel from Yafo decided to marry in freedom in a democratic state. The incitement against them is outrageous and disconcerting, regardless of my own stance or the stance of others. Not everyone needs to celebrate alongside Mahmoud and Morel, but we all must show them respect. We have within and among us difficult and profound disagreements, but incitement, violence and discrimination have no place in Israeli society. Expressions like this erode the foundations of our coexistence here in Israel."

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

[email protected]




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