Last 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.