New York – This column will undoubtedly generate a lot of flack and some people will be quite upset about what is written. Nonetheless, discussion and thought are items that have always characterized who we are as a people. The question is; Did we do the right thing in inundating Florida Governor Crist’s office to stop the execution?
The issues are manifold. On the one hand is the issue of Ahavas Yisroel. Even Klal Yisroel’s biggest detractors would admit that there is hardly an ethnicity that demonstrates such internal concern for each member as the Jewish people do. But there are other issues as well.
Firstly, this particular person, although he did express remorse and regret, he also did murder a human being – Tzelem Elokim. All people were created in the image of Hashem and it is a horrific thing to snuff out the life of any individual. The Meshech Chochmah writes that the punishment for murder – Jew or gentile, is death. For a gentile victim the punishment is Misa Bidei Shamayim. A gentile court should definitely enforce its laws – and it is a good and proper thing to enforce the death penalty for murders.
But even for those who disagree with this first point – there is another issue –the second point. A governor under significant political duress will never, ever commute a sentence. Once again to those who may have missed that previous sentence – a governor whose political future is in serious question will never alienate the civil service workers in his state – ever. Anyone with an ounce of political sense will know this to be true. One would have better luck selling Israeli Bonds at a Palestinian National Convention.
With this in mind, how is it that the brightest and the best minds in our orthodox Jewish organizations attempted such a campaign when they new there was zero chance of it coming to fruition? The political damage to Orthodox Judaism was enormous. The harassment to the victim’s family was so significant that they actually asked the Jews to stop calling them and harassing them. Indeed, the family of this woman were called “Nazis” in asking for the death penalty being invoked here. Is this also not an enormous Chillul Hashem? How dare any of us call them Nazis.
One phone caller to Governor Crist actually said, “By us.. the most important thing is a Jewish life.” What?? Is this person insane? Is this the message that we are giving- yes seek justice in every way, but when it comes to one of us – don’t mete out the punishment that the wheels of justice finally came up with – because this guy happens to be one of us.
And don’t the people who run these organizations and campaigns realize that there will also be people in our camp who are not the brightest candles in the box who will make Chilul Hashems constantly and consistently when we ask them to take to the phones, emails, and letter writing? Numerous people have complaints against those who have signed off on hafganot in Yerushalayim because they do not rein in the mishugayim – why then did our organizations not do the same? Especially, when there was no gain here.
A third point involves a re-examination of our role among the nations. One of the reasons for our galus is to bring the Umos haOlam to a realization of the yashrus of Darchei Hashem. When we place our interests above the public good in something so public – does that really further enhance yoisher and appreciation of the Darchei Hashem?
Have we not taken the idea of “But is it good for the Jews?” to such an extreme level of absurdity that we apply it to the detriment of society around us? The question is not wrong, but it should be tempered with, “Is it good for the Jews and is it good for society?” If a Jewish young man is dealing drugs – that is bad for society – he should be punished – because what he has done is wrong, immoral and destroys the basic fabric of society around us. Every case is different and every situation should be judged on its own merit, but here we have a case where we seemed to have lost our judgment in what was an appropriate hishtadlus or not.
True, what will be said is that we are ignoring the mitigating circumstances. The perpetrator was extremely sorry for what he had done, he was young, his IQ was low, he was either on alcohol or drugs, etc. They will point to the inherent unfairness of a situation where other people whose crimes are much worse receive much lighter sentences. This may all be true, but the fact is that an innocent young woman who dedicated her life to the betterment of the world – was brutally murdered with a bullet to her head. Crime must be punished. Vicious crimes must be punished even more. We must always do what is right – even when it hurts.