By 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 who 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.