I was looking through my old emails tonight and found something from my old anthro prof (the Great Satan) about Judaism vs. Christianity. I grew up Jewish, and never really thought about it from an outside perspective before, so it was interesting. I've actually heard the story of the dying SS officer, in a service, actually, but I never really gave it much though until now. What do you all think? Discuss.
From: The Chronicle [[email protected]
Sent: Thursday, February 13, 2003 4:00 AM
MAGAZINES & JOURNALS
A glance at the February issue of "First Things":
A Jewish perspective on hate and forgiveness
Christianity preaches that we must pray for the salvation of even the frightfully wicked, but Judaism teaches that sometimes we should not forgive, and indeed, we should hate the most hopelessly evil, writes Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik, a Beren fellow at Yeshiva University who currently studies philosophy of religion at Yale Divinity School.
Rabbi Soloveichik looks at Simon Wiesenthal's classic Holocaust text, "The Sunflower," in which Mr. Wiesenthal describes how, as a young concentration-camp prisoner, he is summoned by a dying SS officer who confesses his participation in the murder and torture of hundreds of Jews and beseeches Mr. Wiesenthal's forgiveness. Mr. Wiesenthal, unable to comply, leaves the room, but remains tortured by his experience and organizes a religious symposium to examine his decision. The resulting exchange, Rabbi Soloveichik observes, reveals a "remarkable contrast" between the replies of Christian and Jewish symposiasts. While Christians look to the crucifixion and the teaching of Jesus, who said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," Jews invoke the example of Hebrew prophets who sought the defeat and disgrace of their enemies, proclaiming, "Father, do not forgive them, for they know well what they do."
Rabbi Soloveichik asks: "Is an utterly evil man ... deserving of a theist's love?" and, reflecting on his conversations with Christian clergymen, concludes that there is "no minimizing the difference between Judaism and Christianity on whether hate can be virtuous." He examines the "theological underpinnings" for each faith's approach to hate and notes that "the crucifixion is a story of a loving God seeking humanity's salvation," but that "not a single Jewish source asserts that God deeply desires to save all humanity."
Speaking to Israel's critics, Rabbi Soloveichik recognizes that "the danger inherent in hatred is that it must be very limited, directed only at the most evil and unrepentant." Still, he argues that when repeated attempts at forgiveness prove futile, hatred can serve as protection in a way that is "essential for Jewish well-being."
This article is available online at http://www.firstthings.com/