Thursday, May 23, 2013

Are physical attacks on innocent people by religious Jews - terrorism? by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Five Towns Jewish Times   How very horrifying it was to see video footage of the Tsarnaev brothers gleefully place down a bomb that murdered four and injured dozens.  It is not just the callous banality of their deeds, it was the smirk on one of their faces.  It was their joy in their involvement that sickens and repels us.

But are we really so different?  As of this writing there are protests going on in Israel concerning the government’s decision to draft Yeshiva students.  The draft and its protest is not the issue.  The issue is how can we not condemn the horrifying actions of religious Jewish men pushing and shoving huge metallic garbage bins into a large crowd of people?
Let us just do a double take here.  Did we really see this?  There is no question that unleashing such a large, massive, metallic object into a crowd of people can cause both serious injury and or death.  How is this so substantially different than the sickening actions of the Tsarnaev brothers?
One difference is that perhaps the victims hit by the massive garbage bin have a greater chance of getting out of the way.  But what if they can’t?  What if they get stuck, or fall and trip?  It is deeply grieving that our brethren could even contemplate this, much less actually do it.    The combination of the mass and velocity here could very easily create deadly force.
One of the fundamental principles of the Mussar movement is that learning the relevant sections of halacha to a particular sin, raises our awareness to that Aveirah.  With this in mind, let us briefly review what the Shulchan Aruch Choshan Mishpat section has to say about such behavior.
The general prohibition of trying to hurt another person is found in Choshain Mishpat 420:1.  There, the Shulchan Aruch writes that the Torah is concerned that additional injury not be caused to someone receiving a punishment – all the more so in regard to innocent people in a crowd. [...]


  1. Of course, attacking Jews randomly or throwing chemicals on women is fine, but fighting the enemy armies and terrorists is totally assur.
    How perverse, indeed!

    1. Eddie where did you see any reference to you first assertion? Rabbi Hoffman and anyone knowledge of elementary halacha would clearly hold that both are prohibited

    2. I am sorry, this was a sarcastic comment - and I apologize if it does not appear so to the reader.
      It was basically mocking the attitude that violence agaisnt Jews is justifiable - which clearly is not, in halacha or l'havdil secular law.

      In summary, the answer is that random violence it totally wrong.

  2. We are certainly different. The people pushing the bin are a violent subset of an abnormally anti-Zionist subset of the chareidi community at large. Any normal chareidi thinks they're crazy. In Muslim society, such actions are admired and condoned.

  3. "Any normal chareidi thinks they're crazy"

    I beg to differ, do not agree, there are many normal charedim that would never act in that manner YET they admire, respect and agree with this abhorrent behavior. They are considered courageous and extremist L'dvar hashem by many normal.......

  4. Eddie's basic point is not based on any book reference but on witnessed events. There are many in the Chareidi community who would like outsiders to believe that anything those who are self-professed "Chareid l'dvar HaShem" is in consonance with "Daas Torah". We are told that the whole objection to army service is because it's "against the Torah". So when we see video of Chareidi community members acting like mobs in East LA can we help but wonder if they think that their behaviour is recommended by the Torah?

  5. I find the argument pointless. So whoopie doo if they are not identical to jihadi terrorists. Like we need to know also that they don't speak Arabic or do Haj, or venerate Bin Ladn.

    They are violent, dangerous, reckless, spiteful, hateful and thoroughly unhalachic though they hide behind the cloak of torah.

  6. "In summary, the answer is that random violence it totally wrong."

    Terrorism is far from being random violence. It is intended to give the perpetrators power. Consider the Mongols; their brutality rapidly taught the futility of resistance or interfering with the rulers; the same for the Moghul invaders of India who also wanted to teach that remaining HIndu or Buddhist would bring death and converting to Islam would bring life. In the case of the Moghuls, the infliction of terror for this reason rested on firm Koranic support.

    If this is a "yehareg v'al ya'avor" situation, at what point does it then become justified to harm others to prevent them from committing the grave sin of putting their fellow Jews in this horrible position? Is it in some manner self defense to resist the authorities?

    The public face of the current movement to demand continued government support for education with no attempt to teach economically useful skills is street violence.

    If the chareidi leadership attempts to forcefully and effectively disavow and marginalize the thugs they will face accusations of collaboration from the thugs and their secret backers will level: "What? you oppose our tactics? It's yehareg v'al ya'avor and your tactics haven't worked! This is the only thing left! If you oppose our means, it must mean you oppose our ends!"

    Worse, I suspect that some among – at least – the chareidi political leadership would be perfectly happy to have their ends achieved by street thugs so long as the pols can keep the appearance of clean hands. In any case, if it's the street thugs setting the course, are, are Gedolim in charge or the thugs?

    If we consider the familiar Muslim Salafi/Wahhabi/takfiri model we see "Islam opposes killing innocent people" coupled with defining all Jewish Israelis as "not innocent. Does the road the chareidi thugs are going down lead to a similar end? If it does, who can turn them back?

    1. The KolKoreh that I saw from R Yosef, and (I cant remember which) Ashekenazi gadol specified there should be no violence.
      They know that each time there is a demo, there is also violence, against the police and sometimes bystanders.
      The yehareg v'lo yaavor is again a false one, just as it was in the case of Kol Isha.
      The rabbis try to make the case that everything is a shmad, and kefiya of heresy, for which one must die. However, this is factually and halachically incorrect.

      a) there is no "yehareg" option. In the case of idolatry, the oppressor will force someone to bow to an idol or face death. Has anyone said this? Have lapid or benent said that they will kill haredim or anyone ho refuses to serve in the army? This is totally false.

      b) Even in the case of kefiya for a non cardinal sin, it is only when the oppressor does it to mock religion. If it is for his own benefit, then it is not yehareg. So, if Lapid wants to save money for the government by cutting yeshiva stipends, it is not a case of oppression, just personal benefit.

      c) Have any poskim actually stated it is yehareg situation? I previously showed that teh claim that yeharef applies for Kol Isha in the army was mistaken. In fact, recently some soldiers simply asked to be excused when women sing,a nd it was granted.

      d) Rambam has very harsh words for those who seek a yehareg situation when they can flee but dont, and they wish to be heroes.

  7. Eddie,

    The halacha you have referred to is operating in a context where, if I understand you correctly

    • Certain rabbis and other leaders use expressions which taken literally have a life and death meaning (shmad, yehareg, etc.)

    • These leaders know (because it keeps happening) that this will stir up their communities and is likely to lead to mob violence, because there are people in their communities who will take action, even violent action based on the literal meaning of what the rabbis say. (Whether these followers actually understand it literally, or just find it useful to pretend they do, I don't know.) . When things get out of hand, well, the rabbis didn't actually mean SHMAD shmad, just metaphorical shmad so they're not responsible for things getting out of hand (Rav Eidensohn has professional expertise in disorders in which symbol and reality are confused; doing it on purpose in this sort of situation seems to me to be terribly irresponsible at best, maybe being machshilp lifnei iver.)

    • These leaders count on the police conducting themselves professionally, with self-restraint in the face of violent provocation but if they don't, or if a mistake is made, then there are chas v'shalom martyrs so politically it's a win-win

    Perhaps what has happened is that these leaders' old dance partner, Tommy Lapid, is off the scene now and Yair isn't playing the old game in the same way.

  8. Dear Rabbi,

    Yair Hoffman compares these garbage can movers to the Tsarnaev brothers whose specific intention was to kill and murder. Do you agree with the comparision?

    Did you read the caption on the youtube vid?

    "A minute after police started throwing stun grenades into the crowd (for no apparent reason), this garbage came flying down the road, knocking off a horse onto the ground!"

    Are charedim denied the right to self defense when stun grenades are being thrown a them?

    1. That is a fair question you ask, Jack. It's amazing to me that the supposed champions of democracy who tout the virtues of that ideal in speech and in writing get such a jolly pleasure out of police brutality towards what is in actuality the highest of citizen expressions and healthiest of exercises when conducted within reason - a simple demonstration - according to democracy if we're truly going by that. You know, the right to assembly?

      Have these democracy-lovers forgotten about inalienable rights? Or are they just so phony that deep down they are fascists who love the iron fist of police brutality against their political personal foes and championing of "democracy" (or maybe in this case, "equal burden?" Leave it to the israelis - and the fascist worshippers of state and state power- to invoke socialist undertones) is just a useful cover to project themselves as the popular hero.

      In some ways the anti charedi crowd (so-called liberals or moderates) is worse than even the rotten apples amongst haredi society. They invite the worst forms of tyranny. They need to learn a lesson from the mamlachtim in religious zionist society and how that worked out for them in order to see what is coming down the pike...but then again the mamlachtim themselves didn't learn the lesson either.

    2. And of course, those shouting from treetops in the exile will not feel the brunt of the damage that is caused by their cheerleading for the violent state oppression and tyranny they so love.

  9. What exactly do we mean by the idea of unalienable rights? Here's one account:

    But when we give powers to government, we never alienate or give up these fundamental rights. Government merely acts as a delegate or an agent of the people and is always accountable to the people. This is why we have the right to alter or abolish government if it infringes upon natural rights consistently over a long period of time.

    Just out of curiosity, do the people have the "right [...] peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" if the Sanhedrin is in existence?

    1. I don't know exactly how a Sanhedrin operates or all the rules governing citizen interaction with it, but it's a moot point considering a Sanhedrin doesn't currently exist. I'm speaking to the blatant hypocrisy of these galut rabbis who supposedly cherish democracy but actually cheer for the trampling of democracy by police brutality. This is a huge problem in Israel but no one says a peep about it because the victims of the random police violence are always the bane of the "moderates'" existence such as, settlers and haredim. And nowadays the police wouldn't dare use such tactics against the true enemies of the Jewish people (starting with the letter A) when they have their violent riots. But I am sure if they tried to do things like Israel used to do, the "moderates" would be the first to beat their breasts over it.

  10. horrified by the defenses of this insane actMay 27, 2013 at 4:31 AM

    You can rationalize all you want, but when a policeman attacks a Chareidi it is evil and when a Chareidi endangers the public it is evil. This article merely pointed out that Yidden do not push dangerous items into crowds. Anyone who defends this has blinders on - period. If someone would have been killed by this, you would have blamed the police - who forced the dumpster pushers to act - and you would have avoided responsibility. We all have the responsibility to stop rishusdika behavior not defend it.


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