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Wolpe on the murder of teens: Don’t say ‘BUT’

by Rabbi David Wolpe

July 7, 2014 | 4:08 pm

<em>Palestinians carry the body of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khudair during his funeral in Shuafat on July 4. Photo by Ammar Awad/Reuters</em>

Palestinians carry the body of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khudair during his funeral in Shuafat on July 4. Photo by Ammar Awad/Reuters

Please, please don’t say ‘but.’  The words after ‘but’ invalidate everything that comes before – 
“He’s a nice person, but he does steal from the company.”  You see?  “But” is a meaning duster, sweeping all that precedes it.

So everyone who has written condemning the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, and then goes on to say “but of course” Palestinian society does not condemn their own murders, or Israel is raising up in anguish, or anything else, is missing the point.  The point is to be ashamed and to grieve, not to use this murder to prove we are nonetheless better, or they are nonetheless guiltier. 

When we beat our chests on Yom Kippur, we do not say before God, “But the man in the seat next to me is far worse.” That is not contrition; it is self-justification disguised as repentance.  At a time of national self soul-searching it is too facile and false to use a Jewish crime as a stick to beat our enemies.  Jews did this.  Blind hatred did this. We should look inside, and be ashamed.


David Wolpe is the rabbi of Sinai Temple. You can follow his teachings at facebook.com/RabbiWolpe.

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