Big-Time Rabbi Gets in Big-Time Trouble

Rabbi Schachter PhotoLast Wednesday, Rabbi Herschel Schachter, a Rosh Yeshiva at YU, was giving a class to young Americans at Yeshivat HaKotel in Jerusalem. At some point, the class was opened up to questions, and in response to a question regarding service in the army, he said that your decision to serve in the army should be based on what the army was doing. Well, that’s not so bad. Yes, doubting the army is taboo in Israel, but I’m alright with that. Here’s the kicker. He went on to say, “If the army is going to give away Yerushalayim [Jerusalem] then I would tell everyone to resign from the army – I’d tell them to shoot the rosh hamemshala [prime minister].”

Yes, yes, yes, that’s what he said. Unfortunately, the YouTube video of this unfortunate quote was removed, but the Jewish Week wrote down a transcript. That’s called incitement folks, it’s bad. Here in Israel, we’ve already had one prime minister murdered after Rabbis couldn’t keep their mouths shut, and apparently this Rabbi thinks the world would be better if it were to happen again.

In all fairness, I should also report the apology that Rabbi Schachter issued recently,

Statements I made informally have been publicly excerpted this week. I deeply regret such statements and apologize for them. They were uttered spontaneously, off the cuff, and were not meant seriously. And they do not, God forbid, represent my views. Jewish law demands respect for representatives of the Jewish government and the State of Israel.

OK. It’s something of an apology. However, it seems difficult to accept. Rabbi Schachter apologized for speaking off the cuff and for not respecting representatives of the Jewish government. Where’s the concern for human life? Where is the apology for saying the same things that have already resulted in one murder? Rabbi Schachter is an important public figure and a rabbinic leader. His words are received hungrily by thousands of students, and even among other Rabbis he calls the shots. He is the halakhic decisor for the Orthodox Union and for dozens of rabbis across the country. The Mishna (Avot 1:11) tells us, “Sages, be careful with you words!” We know in our own recent history how important a principle that is. Rabbi Schachter needs to know it too.

YU also needs to do better. Even if this is the best apology Rabbi Schachter can muster, I expect something more from YU. What would you do if your teacher, or your children’s teacher, said such a thing? What would happen to a professor who spoke this way? The university’s failure to censure Rabbi Schachter is a tacit acceptance of his remarks. I pray to God that YU and the many well educated people there don’t agree with Rabbi Schachter – and I want to hear them say so.

The governor of New York is about to lose his job for paying for sex. Rabbi Schachter advocated murder. That’s a big deal.

18 Responses to “Big-Time Rabbi Gets in Big-Time Trouble”

  1. supposedly he was joking… not that jokes about killing people are ever appropriate


    Steg (dos iz nit der shteg) · March 11th, 2008 at 9:45 pm
  2. incitement is a crime
    he left in a hurry
    thanks for injecting some sense


    tzvee · March 12th, 2008 at 6:19 am
  3. This is a serious matter that can not be brushed off with an apology. Last night, IBA News revealed that 2 prominent rabbis had green lighting terrorist (my word) acts by Jews in retribution for the Mercaz HaRav murders.

    The words of Rabbis may have contributed toward an atmosphere that led to the Baruch Goldstein murders, the Rabin assassination, and who knows how many other foiled acts.

    The sad part is not what Rav Schachter said.People say stupid things. What is sad is that the condemnation comes almost exclusively (yes, I did say almost) from the secular and from the left.

    We ask, L’Havdil (or maybe not), where are the voices of the moderate Imamas when radical Muslims say and do outrageous stuff. This is a fair question.

    But we must ask:where is the loud criticism of our rabbis and of our political leaders?


    Emet Seeker · March 12th, 2008 at 6:42 am
  4. This rabbi represents the direction in which the winds are blowing in the national-religious world. His words are our future. He wasn’t joking–you don’t have to be Freud to know he wasn’t joking.


    Jonathan · March 12th, 2008 at 8:24 am
  5. Why is the Rabbi wrong? If a politician (or anyone) commits treason, is he not liable for the death penalty?


    Biggity-B · March 12th, 2008 at 11:09 am
  6. 1) Israel doesn’t have the death penalty (except for Nazi war criminals, and even then carried out in only one case).
    2) Even if it did, it’s up to the courts to determine what constitutes treason, not a rabbi from New York or an 18-year-old deserter.


    BZ · March 12th, 2008 at 11:25 am
  7. Biggity-B,

    Do you have some type of direct link to HaShem, thank gives you the power to determine what is treason, or who should be subject to the death penalty?


    jonthan · March 12th, 2008 at 12:15 pm
  8. 1) The Rabbi probably does not teach secular Israeli law, but Rabbinical law. Rabbinical law still contains many capital crimes.

    2) True, it is for the courts to decide, the Sanhedrin. Most of what they is a bit academic and must be applied.

    And, jonthan, yes, I do.


    Biggity-B · March 12th, 2008 at 1:15 pm
  9. And which of the four categories of capital punishment in rabbinical law does shooting fall into?


    BZ · March 12th, 2008 at 1:19 pm
  10. www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c36_a4862/News/New_York.html

    Leading YU Rabbi Shocks,Then Apologizes
    But some in Orthodox community want Hershel Schachter disciplined for harsh statements against Israeli government.

    Rabbi Herschel Schachter: Apologizes for seeming to advocate shooting Israel’s prime minister.

    by Gary Rosenblatt
    Editor And Publisher / New York Jewish Week

    Some Orthodox Jews were wondering this week what it would take for Rabbi Hershel Schachter, a prominent rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University’s rabbinical school, to be relieved of his duties for making offensive statements — the latest of which has proved to be the most shocking of all.
    At the same time defenders of the rabbi were questioning when the community would come to recognize the stature of the Talmudic scholar they revere and show more respect toward him.
    The divide is not a new one in a Modern Orthodox community whose young men and women tend to show more obedience toward rabbinic sages and leaders than their parents do. And Rabbi Schachter has a history of making politically incorrect statements — but none as seemingly egregious as the one made last week to a group of students in Israel in which he appeared to advocate shooting the prime minister of Israel if the government “gives away Jerusalem.”
    The statement, part of a 39-second clip posted on YouTube last Thursday, was from a discussion Rabbi Schachter had in Israel earlier in the week with American post-high school young men studying at Yeshivat HaKotel in Jerusalem. (The clip was removed from the Web site within a day.)
    The rabbi, a leading decisor in the Orthodox community, appeared to be responding to a question about serving in the Israeli army. He said: “First you have to know what the army is going to do. If the army is going to destroy Gush Katif, there’s no mitzvah to destroy Eretz Yisrael.
    “If the army is going to give away Yerushalyim [Jerusalem], then I would tell everyone to resign from the army — I’d tell them to shoot the rosh hamemshalah [prime minister],” which prompted laughter from his audience.
    “No one should go to the army if they [the army] are doing aveirus [sins],” the rabbi continued. “We’re talking if the army is seeing to it that the country is secure, if they’re doing the right thing.
    “I’m not sure if the army is doing the right thing,” he added, …


    Arieh Lebowitz · March 12th, 2008 at 1:46 pm
  11. I can’t argue whether or not you do, but your link contradicts the link of many Torah chachamim:

    Rav Ovadiah Yoseph
    Rav Amtial
    Rav Lichtenstein
    Rav Aviner
    Rav Riskin…

    …just to name of few.


    Jonathan · March 12th, 2008 at 2:37 pm
  12. “Do you have some type of direct link to HaShem, that gives you the power to determine what is treason, or who should be subject to the death penalty?…

    And, jonthan, yes, I do”

    How can I argure with that?

    I didn’t realize a that a modern day prophet/great Torah sage (maybe you are both?) looks at JewSchool.


    Jonathan · March 12th, 2008 at 2:40 pm
  13. Hi Jonathan,

    Consider yourself in good company.

    B


    Biggity-B · March 12th, 2008 at 2:57 pm
  14. I do. Thank you.


    Jonthan · March 12th, 2008 at 5:55 pm
  15. bz:
    not all cases of capital punishment fall into the arba mitot bet din.
    for example, if ones life is threatened it is a mitzvah to kill the attacker first which ever way he can.
    also, there are laws concerning one who takes jewish legal matters to the gentile courts of law. about him him is written “kana’im pogim bo”. zealots may strike him. literally to kill him.
    may the neshomo’s of the murdered, Hashem yikom damam, have an aliyah and may they be meilitz yosher for all of israel.
    misaimim b’tov.
    shabbat shalom


    jacob · March 13th, 2008 at 9:32 am
  16. Yikes Jacob,

    You seem mighty confused. The right, or even obligation, of self-defense is not a form of capital punishment, it is only a case where killing is allowed. Not unlike how killing in war is not capital punishment, it is still killing, may or may not be permitted, but it is not capital punishment.

    As to Kana’im Pogim Bo, that is a rule regarding someone who witnesses someone having sex with a non Jew. The paradigm of that is the story of Pinchas. Whether that is capital punishment or not, well there’s lot to discuss there.

    What you’re referring to, I think, is the law of a Moser. This is a funny law, it’s not really clear what its source is and has been applied in different ways over the years. THe classical model is someone who turns over a Jew to the non-Jewish authorities – since the non-Jews would certainly kill any Jew they could, so that was a form of indirect murder, and therefore rabbinical courts sometimes authorized the killing of that person. The actual interpretation and application of that law has varied through the years and has always been controversial. Either way, that is the type of thing that does not fit into the four categories of Rabbinical capital punishment, it is an odd extra-legal activity that courts have done in the past.


    Josh Frankel · March 13th, 2008 at 9:44 am
  17. Herschel Shaechter should be fired from YU at once.


    Amit · March 14th, 2008 at 6:47 am
  18. [...] Nat Barnat writes on Jewschool: [...]


    YU’s Rosh Yeshiva Advocates Shooting Israel’s Prime Minister If He Withdraws From Jerusalem · April 7th, 2008 at 9:27 am

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik