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Monday, 22 December 2014

Why are Jews liberals?

Daf Yomi Yevamos 79

Following the three years of famine in the land of Israel, David set out to appease the Gibeonites who had been wronged by King Saul, thereby causing the famine.

The Book of Samuel states, “The king called to the Gibeonites and said to them ‘What shall I do for you and how shall I atone so that you may bless the heritage of G-d?’  And they replied, ‘We do not seek silver and gold from Saul and from his house, nor do we seek a man from amongst Israel. . . Seven men shall be given to us of his children and we shall hang them to G-d.’

David tried to appease them but could not.   He then declared: There are three signs of the nation of Israel – they are merciful, they are bashful, and they are charitable.
As a consequence of their cruel demands, “The king called to the Gibeonites and said concerning them that the Gibeonites shall not be considered of the Children of Israel.”

Jews naturally lead the way in the promotion of liberal values.  As King David declared, at the core of our essence, we are merciful, bashful, and charitable.  Jews are very prominent givers to all causes and fight valiantly for the rights of all.  If someone does not feel anguish at the suffering of another human being, you must question their lineage.   Are they really Jewish?

The challenge is to know when to overcome one’s natural liberal proclivities for the sake of a higher morality.  For example, we might naturally be in favour of euthanasia – after all, shouldn’t people be able to choose for themselves whether or not to live a life of suffering?  But the Torah challenges our natural inclination and instructs us that murder is murder.

The same is true concerning Israel.  Our merciful tendencies inspire our hearts to go out to the Palestinians, who are suffering at the hands of leaders who have held them to ransom for half a century in an effort to maintain their underdog status.   The challenge is to overcome our natural proclivities and stand up and advocate proudly for Israel, whose government and army go to unsurpassed lengths to do whatever they can to ease the plight of the Palestinians, while valiantly protecting the safety and security of all Israelis. 

Your job in this world is not to be content with your natural inclination.  It’s wonderful that the Almighty created us with tendencies towards mercy, charity and liberal values.  The challenge is to overcome that proclivity when the issue calls for fighting for a higher moral calling.  May you always merit seeing the good in everyone, fighting for their rights but knowing when to put your own feelings aside to fight for a higher moral cause!