Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood…” Then G-d blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them… “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything… Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of G-d has G-d made man” (Genesis 8:29-9:6).
According to Rabbi Albo, the passage’s logic is clear. Noah offers an animal sacrifice in thanksgiving for having survived the Flood. G-d sees that humans need this way of expressing themselves. They are genetically predisposed to violence (“every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood”). If, therefore, society is to survive, human beings need to be able to direct their violence toward non-human animals, whether as food or sacrificial offering. The crucial ethical line to be drawn is between human and non-human.
The permission to kill animals is accompanied by an absolute prohibition against killing humans (“for in the image of G-d has G-d made man”). It is not that G-d approves of killing animals, whether for sacrifice or food, but that to forbid this to human beings, given their genetic predisposition to violence, is utopian. It is not for now but for the end of days. Meanwhile, the least bad solution is to let people kill animals rather than murder their fellow humans. Animal sacrifices are a concession to human nature. Sacrifices are a substitute for violence directed against mankind.
The worst form of violence within and between societies is vengeance, once described as “an interminable, infinitely repetitive process.” Hillel said, on seeing a human skull floating on water, “Because you drowned others, they drowned you, and those who drowned you will, in the end, themselves be drowned” (Avot 2:7). Sacrifices are one way of diverting the destructive energy of revenge. Why then do modern societies not practice sacrifice? Because, argues the contemporary thinker Rene Girard, there is another way of displacing vengeance. As Girard writes:
“Vengeance is a vicious circle whose effect on primitive societies can only be surmised. For us the circle has been broken. We owe our good fortune to one of our social institutions above all: our judicial system, which serves to deflect the menace of vengeance. The system does not suppress vengeance; rather, it effectively limits itself to a single act of reprisal, enacted by a sovereign authority specializing in this particular function. The decisions of the judiciary are invariably presented as the final word on vengeance.”
Not only does Girard’s theory reaffirm Rabbi Albo’s view. It also helps us understand the profound insight of the prophets and of Judaism as a whole. Sacrifices are not ends in themselves, but part of the Torah’s program to construct a world redeemed from the otherwise interminable cycle of revenge. The other part of that program, and G-d’s greatest desire, is a world governed by justice. That, we recall, was His first charge to Abraham, to “instruct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just” (Genesis 18:19).
Have we therefore moved beyond that stage in human history in which animal sacrifices have a point? Has justice become a powerful enough reality that we no longer need religious rituals to divert the violence between human beings? In his book, The Warrior’s Honor (1997), Michael Ignatieff tries to understand the wave of ethnic conflict and violence (Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Rwanda) that has scarred the face of humanity since the Cold War’s end. What happened to the liberal dream of “the end of history”? His words go to the very heart of the new world disorder:
“The chief moral obstacle in the path of reconciliation is the desire for revenge. Now, revenge is commonly regarded as a low and unworthy emotion, and because it is regarded as such, its deep moral hold on people is rarely understood. But revenge – morally considered – is a desire to keep faith with the dead, to honor their memory by taking up their cause where they left off. Revenge keeps faith between generations…
About the Author: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently “The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning.”
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
People love their GPS; just type in the address and it tells you exactly how to get to where you want to go.
In the same way as a married woman is precluded from marrying another man without a get, so too is this widow prohibited from marrying another man without chalitzah.
The Ban Of The Communities
Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?
“My mother raised us to independence, all of us,” Rivka says, which certainly plays itself out in the fact that all three children have taken a different path.
“ ‘We’re almost out of stamps,’ I said. ‘I’ll be happy to run over to the post office and pick up a supply.’ ”
Bris Bein Habesarim affirmed that Hashem gave the land to Avraham’s children. It does not specify for how long. It did not guarantee the Jewish people eternal ownership of the land
According to the Raavad if one who is uncircumcised breaks something he will be exempt from paying for it since he was chayav kares at the same time as he was obligated to repay for the item he broke.
Why does Hebrew refer to mothers-in-law as “sunshine” when society often calls them the opposite?
Having herself been victimized by Pharoah, Sarah should have been more sensitive to Hagar.
Avram’s father was not impressed with the cleverness of his son. In fact, he was so unimpressed that he took him to Nimrod the king, who pronounced him an enemy of the state and attempted to execute him.
How do the stories in Lech Lecha help us understand the central tension of Abraham’s life, legacy?
Abraham did not govern society but instead was the representative of God’s kingdom on earth.
Hagar grossly miscalculated her own merits and demonstrated a serious lack of gratitude for Sarai.
The Babel story is the 2nd in a 4-act drama that’s unmistakably a connecting thread of Bereishit
Sukkot’s duality is that it’s the most universalistic and the most particularistic of all festivals
When we cry from the heart, someone listens; When we cry on Yom Kippur, God hears us.
So we work, but one day in seven we also rest and spend more time than usual with family and friends. In shul we reestablish our links with the community. Through the festivals we relive the history of our people, and cure ourselves of the narrow sense of living for the moment. On Rosh Hashanah […]
Simply, for Rambam the number 14 (2×7) was his favored organizing principle.
Torah isn’t a theological treatise or a metaphysical system but a series of stories linked over time
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/reconciliation-vs-vengeance/2013/03/20/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: