The Temple Institute: The King of Justice



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The King of Justice

September 25, 2001
2001 The Temple Institute, Rabbi Chaim Richman - All Rights Reserved

This morning while reciting the special prayers for the Ten Days of Repentance, "Our Father, Our King, act for the sake of those who were murdered for Your holy name," I was thinking about Hillel Lieberman.

A year ago today, on a Shabbat morning, Rabbi Hillel Lieberman walked out to meet his death in Shechem (Nablus). After hearing that Palestinians had destroyed Joseph's tomb following the evacuation of Israeli troops, Rabbi Lieberman, a resident of the Elon Moreh settlement, was one of the founders of the yeshiva at the shrine, and had a strong attachment to the holy site. He left the synagogue on foot and began walking to nearby Nablus. The 36 year-old teacher and father of seven, unarmed and clad in a tallit (prayer shawl), was brutally murdered. His bullet-ridden body was found the next evening by security forces, at the southern entrance to the city.

At the time, many in Israel expressed shock over the rabbi's action. What in the world did he expect to accomplish, one man walking alone and unarmed into the lion's den? Did he think he could save Joseph's tomb? His wife seemed surprised by these questions. She stated that her husband had reacted as any Jew should react... She asked: "When a Jew hears that the righteous Joseph's tomb is being desecrated, how can he restrain himself? Where was everybody else?"

Still, I sometimes wonder what Rabbi Lieberman was thinking about as he made his way, two days before Yom Kippur, looking up at the same blue sky that Joseph saw from the bottom of the pit, after his brothers sold him out.

Yesterday, we saw an old familiar face, the face of peace, in our window again. For death has come up in our windows" (Jer. 9:20). In a drive-by shooting murder, over 20 bullets were fired at the vehicle in which 28 year-old Salit Sheetrit, a member of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu in the northern Jordan Valley, was traveling with her husband on the country's major north-south highway. Salit was hit in the head and died shortly afterwards. Her husband sustained minor wounds in the attack.

All these things are happening here in Israel while America prepares her moves and officially declares war against "global terror." Some of us are wondering if Salit Sheetrit's murder is considered "global terror" according to the new coalition rules. Does terror in Israel count, if it is perpetrated against Jews by potential coalition members? The very same forces to be entrusted with the sacred task of ridding the world of terror. Maybe we live on a different globe?

Now that Salit Sheetrit has been buried, we can tell you that the murderer of Sarit Amrani, mother of three, who was shot dead just five days ago (as part of the Palestinian cease-fire), has already been released by Arafat and is back on duty...

We Jews are an wonderfully resilient people. We have a knack for making the best of a bad situation. It would seem that as a result of all that we have been through in the nearly 2,000 year-old Diaspora experience, we can get used to anything. Thus 400 Israelis have been murdered and thousands wounded by our "peace partners," and each day seems to bring new tragedy... the Temple Mount has been closed for a full year, and remnants of the Holy Temple are being systematically destroyed... and everyone seems to be getting used to the situation.

At coffee shops and restaurants, armed guards stand in the doorways. We are already used to it. What a wonderfully resilient people we are! In what other civilized country, would the patrons of a restaurant tolerate the need to be guarded while they sip their morning coffee, with the service included in the bill? How would Americans react if it became necessary to post guards in every McDonald's?

This week a special exhibition opened in the city of Nablus... the same city in which Hillel Lieberman was murdered a year ago today. Crowds are lining up to see this exhibition. Here is how the event was reported by the Associated Press:

"Opening an exhibition today marking a year of violence, a Palestinian re-enacted a bloody suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Wearing a military uniform and a black mask, he entered a doorway under a replica of the Sbarro pizza restaurant in Jerusalem, and set off a fake explosion. Visitors crowded through the doorway to see a recreation of the August 9th suicide bombing, complete with body parts and pizza slices strewn all over. In the downtown Jerusalem attack, the bomber and 15 other people were killed.

In another room of the exhibition, visitors looked through dark windows to see figures dressed as suicide bombers, each with one hand on Islam's holy Koran and the other on an automatic rifle, re-enacting the grisly last testament by real suicide bombers in front of video cameras before carrying out their deadly attacks.

Near the end of the exhibition stands a large rock. Behind it is a figure wearing a black hat, black jacket and black trousers, typifying an ultra-Orthodox Jew. A recording from inside the rock calls out: "O believer, there is a Jewish man behind me, come and kill him..."

Palestinian support for suicide bombings against Israel has increased sharply in recent months. A July poll showed 58 percent support for the bombers, more than double the figure of four years ago, when hopes for a peace deal were strong... "

It would seem we can get used to anything. Prime Minister Sharon has hit ground zero, declaring that the Palestinians can establish a state. And we keep hearing about the magic "48 hours" of quiet, after which Sharon will gladly accommodate Foreign Minister Shimon Peres (dubbed this morning by former Prime Minister Netanyahu as "Israel's first astronaut" since he is 'floating in outer space;' that is, totally disconnected from reality) in his obsessive desire to meet with Arafat in order to please America and help them shore up an international coalition...for fighting terror. Although two Jewish women have been gunned down within days of each other and last night alone, there were 20 incidents of Palestinian "cease-fire firing," the American Sec. of State continues to urge Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to meet with Yasser Arafat. As we understand it, as of this writing, Mr. Powell has no plans to sit down with Bin Laden. With the exception of a few Jews that have been murdered recently, Mr. Peres says that things are getting much better. Everyone seems to admit that even if there could be quiet for 48 hours, it won't last for long. Perhaps we are all wearing masks, having devised some sort of strange collective consciousness; a national defense-mechanism that enables us to be able to deal with all of this and yet continue. But if our masks fall, will we still be here? The Diaspora trained us well, but we are now in the Land of Israel....

It is two days before Yom Kippur. We are all reflecting that on Rosh HaShana, we declared G-d to be sovereign over the world, and beseeched that He vanquish the rule of evil and establish His own rule for all to see. During the days between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, we carefully examine our actions and engage in sincere repentance, in preparation for the awesome - yet - merciful sealing of judgment on Yom Kippur. And during these days of awe, we reflect upon G-d's perfect attribute of justice. For when it comes to the justice of human beings the book of Proverbs tells us that "in the place of judgment, there is wickedness." But in our special prayers during this season, we refer to G-d as "the King of Justice." Only His justice is perfect.

Perhaps, two days before Yom Kippur just one year ago, this is what Rabbi Hillel Lieberman was thinking about as well.

With blessings for inscription in the Book of Life,

Rabbi Chaim Richman

PO Box 31876 Jerusalem, Israel 97500



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