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Running on Jewish Time

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

On the Existence of Genocide

[Its the 10th of Tevet and I just finished The Sunflower by Simon Wisenthal. This needs to be said]

Murder is a complicated sin. On the surface level it is morally equivelent to maiming, the two follow each other in Mishpatim. In each the damage is irrevocable, the language of the Torah the same:
Eyin tahat Eyin, Shein tahat Shein..... Nefesh tahat Nefesh. [shmot 21:23-24 ]
but we learn the that eye is not an eye but the price of one, the tooth not a tooth but the monetary compesation.

But a soul is still soul and we execute men who commit murder.

Murder is a complicated sin, because there is more than the harm done to the man murdered,
there is a harm done to every other person*.

Every drop of blood that seeps from that dead man's body cheapenes the blood that still flows
in living veins.

The death penalty is no deterrent in the conventional sense, is no vengence for the sake of the family, but a cold terrifyingly profound acknowlegdement of the preciousness of life.

Every murder is personal, every death as every life, unique.

I do not know if I believe in crimes against humanity. I've never met this humanity, I've only met people.

This concept of genocide seems to speak of forces of socio-economics and philsophical movements. In a single wave of the hand absolving all those who were complicit as trapped in forces beyond their control.

Perhaps my vision is too narrow and my mind too direct, but in the whole blaze of atrocities, I see only one moment in time.

One gun, One bullet, One finger on the trigger. One choice.

One death.

That is murder. and I do not understand the greater degree of horror for 'genocide' than six million such moments.

*Rav Hirsch


  • I am confused by your confusion. Genocide is not just murder. It is tocompletely erase any memory of a culture and people so that it is as if they never were at all! It is so incredibly evil. Hating and killing for the mere sake of them being different than you?!?!

    We name our children after passed loved ones because we want their memory to be remembered. We all grapple with the concept of mortality and struggle to make sure our living was not in vain so that we made a difference in this world somehow.

    And then there is genocide... the opposite of this. The feeling that only your race is supposedly 'superior' and has the right to continue dwelling on the earth.

    Yes murder is evil but it is just one person. The killing of an entire culture? That is super-evil.

    By Blogger FrumGirl, at 2:17 PM, January 10, 2006  

  • frumgirl- entire cultures do not die out in a moment. They are killed away, slowly, one person at a time. One murder, then another, until there is no one left to murder. genocide is super evil, yes, but only because we shiver at the thought of killing one so we can't even imagine having the ability to kill someone and then go straight to killing another and another. These are each personal murders, and although the goal may be different in each situation, either to kill a culture or kill an individual, they are both done the same way. The only difference I see is in the killer.

    By Blogger araya(uh-ray-uh), at 4:35 PM, January 10, 2006  

  • Frumgirl-

    My point is that genocide happens one murder at a time. What fascinates me is the personal responsiblity.
    Every life is made up of moments, where we choose constantly.

    A murder commited in cold blood... how does a person choose it


    thank you for defending my point. I will try and post my comments soon after I've worked through something else

    By Blogger Masmida, at 11:55 PM, January 10, 2006  

  • Genocide is murder..plus

    I guess an analogy would be
    Person A. Steals $100 dollars from his neighbor on the train.
    Person B. engineers schemes and brings down a corporation

    They're both commiting the act of stealing. However one is staeling from thousands of people and bringing down a company in the process.

    By Blogger David_on_the_Lake, at 11:34 AM, January 11, 2006  

  • Truman Capote's In Cold Blood


    Edwin Black's War Against the Weak

    should prove interesting.

    The Talmud teaches that the eye is actually equivalent to one's life, and eye doctors (ophthalmalogists?) are allowed to hence disobey shabbos laws (such as driving a car to the hospital) in order to help one with a wounded eye. I always thought that was beautiful, as was your chilling post.

    By Blogger yakki, at 8:55 PM, January 11, 2006  

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