Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Revenge Is Mine and --- Mine, Too

At the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan, the Rabbinical collge of the Conservative stream of Judaism, some 300 or more students got to watch the film “Inglourious Basterds,” and then participate in a discussion with a panel of a Bible scholar, a distinguished rabbi, the seminary’s chancellor and the producer of the movie.

Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen said "Wow, that was fun.” And added,“I’m not supposed to feel that way, I know — I’m Jewish." Amy Kalmanofsky, assistant professor of Bible, said vengeance crops up all over the Scriptures.

Rabbi Jack Moline, head of a Conservative congregation in Alexandria, Va., said the film “is the first of all the movies about the Holocaust — there are more than 600 — in which Jews are portrayed as power brokers rather than victims.”

Some people in the audience used index cards to send questions to the panel; one asked whether there were some disturbing messages in a film like this. Killing Hitler seems all right, but when people today set fire to and blow up buildings, raining bullets on the survivors and rescuers, isn’t that terrorism?

Yes, the panelists agreed, it is a complicated thing — knowing when it is the right time and place for a massacre and when it is not.

“But remember,” Rabbi Moline said, “this is not an instruction manual for life. It’s a movie.”

That's it?

No deep thought?

No mention of Ehud Ben-Gera?

Moses and the Egyptians?

Samson and the Philistines?

You know, not divine retribution but personal-man actions.

That's something to debate.


yoni said...

the base model of what you're looking for is pinchas hacohen. as the panelists agreed,

" it is a complicated thing — knowing when it is the right time and place for a massacre and when it is not.

that, in itself, may not be a deep thought but it opens the door to what you seem to want to talk about. i'm available for conversation. and i've seen the movie, too. :)

yoni said...

but somehow i think (please forgive my harshness, i have much respect and gratitude for you and your blog) that you'd rather watch other people discuss it and snipe from the sidelines.

again, with apologies. perhaps, if you don't want to actually discuss it, since you already know what you think about it and aren't going to be moved, you could write a piece on this for some publication, or even on this blog, so that, again, other people beside you could discuss it.

so far as i can tell your point here is that certain acts of jewish g'vurah are praiseworthy. i assume that others, in your thinking are not. yet your identification with these particular examples seems to be a shared "manliness"- a trait also shared by acts of jewish g'vurah you presumably condemn. what, indeed, is the philosophical/moral/religious difference between the act of pinchas and the acts of teitel? i ask not to be obnoxious but because i struggle with these issues as a jew, and i value your opinion.

and please don't try to escape by mentioning pinchas's intentions l'shem shamayim or hashem later blessing his act or his position in the jewish heirarchy. teitel's intentions may very well have been "l'shem shamayim" in his own mind, and hashem doesn't seem to be giving out his personal haskama these days.

i just wasn't doing anything else important today and i've always been interested in this issue. there are few i would bother asking about it- you're one of them. and the current form of "jewish heirarchy" is totally different than it was in pinchas's time, and irrelevant in teitel's case anyway.

yoni said...

i'll give you a start: pinchas's action was a sudden and specific result of a sin he saw before his own eyes, not premeditated in other words, and didn't involve the deaths of "innocents". some of your other examples, as well as the example in "inglorious basterds" were, and did.

yoni said...

you just keep running "foward" and don't want to stop and deal with real issues. let it be noted. i protest. i demand more of my self-proclaimed "leaders". (walks off in a huff).

YMedad said...

Oddly, there was a group called Bnei Pinchas in the pre-state Yishuv but that was during WW II and they sought to prevent Jewish girls going out with British soldiers. (The article in Hebrew is here.)

That's the wrong use of violence or the natural reaction to take revenge for a crime committed.

But to your point: the difference you wanted me to clarify is that if there is no justice that can be obtained through existing frameworks of law, or that justice is denied, then Jews should not feel unique and special not to act in that direction.