Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Is the Will of God Negotioable?

A not-to-be-missed comment by Rand:

"I do not have to tell you that The Will of God is Not Negotiable."*

*The line is from Jeffery Woolf's beat down on Eliyahu Fink, found here

Sorry for being patronizing, but that is adorable.

It also reminds me of something I once read:

"A Sanhedrin that executes once in seven years, is called murderous. Rabbi Eliezer b. Azariah says once in seventy years. Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva say: Had we been members of a Sanhedrin, no person would ever be put to death. Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel remarked: They would also multiply murderers in Israel."

Rabbis Eliezer, Tarfon, Akiva and Shimon were promptly excommunicated, and their names forgotten. The will of God is not negotiable. (I found this fragment in the Cairo Geniza, after it was lost for centuries.) It further took decades on research on my part to uncover names like Maimonides, Mendelssohn, Elijah of Vilna, Israel ben Eliezer, Frankel, Hirsch, Schechter, Berkovitz, and Soloveitchik. Because we all know the will of God exactly and it is not negotiable.

This reminds me of a fascinating (unintentional) back-and-forth between Rabbi Shai Held ( ) and Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf (

Held declares "the real division [between religious groups] is between those who acknowledge that they read selectively, and those who do not - or who, given their assumptions, simply cannot." Rauf responds that "Islam at its essence is as peaceful as true adherence to Christianity. The Holy Quran says that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind. True adherence to Islam would end terrorist attacks." Now, I do not believe that "Islam at its essence" exists, there are a thousand varieties of Islam, and Mohammed didn't live in the 21st century to create a canonical 21st century Islam. And the exact same goes for Judaism and Christianity, which is why I could have put any Rabbi on the list above and Soloveitchik and Frankel could refer to any Soloveitchik or Frankel, because each innovated, otherwise they wouldn't be influential. The point is that even for Rauf, who firmly argues that Islam is not negotiable, Islam *is* negotiable, you're just doing it unconsciously.

I'll conclude with a question, and I'd like to hear Rabbi Woolf try to answer it honestly:

There are over 1.5 billion Muslims on this planet. Currently some portion of the under 2 million Muslims living in Gaza are fighting with Israel. Hamas is not a Salafist group, by most accounts they preach a fairly mainstream form of Islam. Woolf's thesis seems to be that Hamas religious beliefs force it to fight Israel. So where are their 1.5 billion correligionists, a fair percentage of whom who ought to bound by the same requirements as Hamas? (And please don't say their tacitly supporting them and that's equivalent - we both know it isn't. If they believed in an absolute chiyyuv to kill Jews they'd be in Gaza with rockets and AK47s.) And assuming that Hamas really has unique religious beliefs that force it to kill Jews, what are the odds that all the adherents of this heretofore unidentified sect of Islam would happen to live among the under 0.2% of Muslims who live in the Gaza Strip?

Think about it.

1 comment:

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