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Genesis 12:3 and the Moral Imperative to Speak Out

Oct 25, 2023

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וַאֲבָֽרְכָה֙ מְבָ֣רְכֶ֔יךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ֖ אָאֹ֑ר וְנִבְרְכ֣וּ בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הָאֲדָמָֽה׃

I will bless those who bless you And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth Shall bless themselves by you.”

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Genesis 12:3

The Holocaust stands as one of the darkest chapters in human history, when the world’s silence allowed the genocide of millions to persist. After the horrors of World War II, the phrase “Never Again” became a global rallying cry, a commitment to not repeat the mistakes of the past. The question is: Have we learned from history? Will the world again remain silent when evil rears its ugly head? Will our Christian friends stand with us when our enemies once again try to rid the world of the Jews?

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” These words are attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 1906 – 9 April 1945), a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, and anti-Nazi dissident. During World War II, Bonhoeffer gained renown for his unwavering resistance to the Nazi regime, expressing strong opposition to Adolf Hitler’s euthanasia program and the genocidal persecution of the Jews.

Bonhoeffer’s words are as relevant now, in the wake of the heinous attack committed by Hamas against Israel on October 7th, as they ever were. The atrocities committed by Hamas have shocked the world. It was the worst attack against the Jews since the Holocaust. Will the world again remain silent in the face of this evil? Will you be complicit in the atrocities committed against the Jews by not condemning them and speaking out against Hamas?

In Jewish tradition, there are numerous teachings that emphasize the importance of speaking out against injustice and evil. The Bible is replete with verses that call for the pursuit of justice and the protection of the innocent. The fact that we have a moral obligation to speak out against wrongdoing is deeply rooted in our religious heritage.

Leviticus (19:16), for example, prohibits standing idly by while someone’s blood is shed. It is a direct call to action, emphasizing that silence is not an option when others are suffering. This commandment underscores the duty we have to intervene when we witness harm being inflicted upon others. It emphasizes that we may not be mere bystanders; rather, we must take action against the injustice taking place before our eyes.

The Jewish sages have also expressed the importance of speaking out against evil. In Tractate Shabbat 54b, for example, it states, “All who can protest against something wrong that is being done in the world and does not do so is held accountable for it.” This profound statement underscores that silence is not a neutral position as Bonhoeffer said; it is a form of acquiescence. Inaction in the face of evil is, itself, evil.

In light of these teachings and the horrors inflicted upon innocent Israeli civilians by Hamas, it becomes clear that silence at this time is not an option. The loss of innocent lives and the suffering endured by the Israeli people demand our vocal condemnation and our active efforts to bring about justice. The fact that there are still over 200 innocent men, women, children and elderly being held hostage requires us to speak out and demand their return. Remaining silent is an endorsement of the violence, terror, and suffering endured by the victims. To stand quietly on the sidelines is to be complicit in the injustice.

In this week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha, God tells Abraham “I will bless those who bless you and curse him that curses you” (Genesis 12:3). Those who offer their blessings to Israel shall themselves receive blessings, while those who choose to curse Israel will, in turn, be cursed. Now is the time to stand up for Israel. By remaining silent at this time you are placing yourselves among those who curse her.

Let us heed the wisdom of our tradition and raise our voices against the darkness. Let us bless Israel through our words and our actions, and let us demonstrate our commitment to justice, compassion, and the sanctity of human life. May God bless Israel and all those who support her.

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Relate Bible Verses: Chapter 12, Chapter 19

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