Confronting Violence

GP: This lecture is based on Rabbi Sacks’ new book, Not in God’s Name. It is an important book and should be studied. Rabbi Sacks, shlit’a, is probably one of the most eloquent spokesmen for the Jewish People to the nations of the world today. He is able to impart those sections of Torat Moshe to Christians and Moslems which they share with us and to make the analysis vital and the issues urgent. And he uses traditional textual analysis to do this. One might think that textual analysis is an academic exercise. To the Jew, it is the key to understanding the infinite depths of Torat Moshe. The sublety of meanings, the ability to go this way or that way without doing violence to the text itself, is a fundamental characteristic of Torah study. It is because of the sacredness of the text and the belief that the text itself is G-d given that enables and empowers such textual analysis.

However, the terminology could be simplified without loss of depth. Instead of “Dualism”, the term “Intolerance” might be preferred, so to place the subject in its proper place. In most cases of violence and oppression, the image of G-d in man is denied and obliterated. But there are cases such as with Louis XIV, who decided that revoking the Edict of Nantes and the persecution of the Huguenots would lead to a beneficial political result. For him, it was only an expediency and not an ideology.

Further, Rabbi Sacks has no solution to combating Terrorism. Would the Islamic theorists at Al-Azhar University, Cairo sit down with Rabbi Sacks to talk the matter out? Further, how can you call a man “good” when he advocates a murderous ideology? “Devoted”, yes, but “good”? When a Terrorist wants to kill you, there is only one proper response, to kill him first. There is no dialogue or coming together to reason and talk. It is instructive to analyze the psyche of a Terrorist, but not to see his point of view.

Toleration, respect, and compassion are required to create a well functioning society. Intolerance by a dominant group leads to terrible cruelty and economic decline. See the “Perfect Historical Experiment“ recounting the simultaneous Glorious Revolution (1689) and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685).

Rabbi Lord Sacks remains in the domain of the theoretical. His lectures are to academic institutions. But the analysis will have to be applied to urgent matters which cannot await a theoretical resolution . Consider the following Post by Arnon Groiss
(November 2016):

The schoolbooks in use in UNRWA schools are provided by the host governments in its areas of operation. UNRWA can add to the curriculum its own books and it did publish schoolbooks promoting issues such as tolerance, non-violence and human rights for use in its schools in the West Bank and Gaza. But a thorough examination of these books revealed that they systematically avoided dealing with these subjects within the wider context of the Middle East conflict and restricted the scope of their discussion to Palestinian society alone (for instance: tolerance between Palestinian Muslims and Christians, protecting the environment, acceptance of the handicapped, etc.). These findings reveal that the PA books, including those ones in use in UNRWA schools, are based on three fundamental principles regarding their attitude to the “other” and to peace within the conflict: De-legitimization, demonization and indoctrination to a future war for the elimination of the State of Israel, though without stating that explicitly. Following are the findings with some examples:


According to the PA schoolbooks used by UNRWA, Jews are not considered a nation entitled to national rights like other nations, but are rather citizens of various states. The Jewish nationalist movement in modern times – Zionism – is defined as a colonialist movement created by European Jews: “Zionism is a political-colonialist [istitaniyyah – “colonizational”] movement created by the Jews of Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century with a view to gathering the Jews of various nationalities from all parts of the world and concentrate them in Palestine and in its neighboring countries by way of immigration and the expulsion of the Palestinian people from its land in order to establish the State of Israel” (Modern and Contemporary Arab History, Grade 9 (2014).


In England of the 17th and early 18th centuries, it was not a straight path to religious toleration even after the Glorious Revolution which Daron Acemoglue and James A. Robinson describe and justly extol as the pivot point in Western Political History. The Tory’s under Queene Anne passed the Occasional Conformity Bill (1711) “which punished with ruinous fines any man who having qualified for State or municipal office by taking the Sacrament in an Anglican church, afterwards attended a place of Non-conformist worship. Three years later The Schism Act took away from Dissenters the education of their own children, which was to be handed over to persons licensed by Bishops of the Established Church. The many excellent schools that the Non-conformmists had established at their own cost were to be suppressed, and their teachers turned adrift. However, Queen Anne died shortly after this Act was approved and was not put into effect. “the Schism Act was the worst blot on the record of the Tory party after the Revolution, and rendered its downfall a pre-condition of religious freedom in England. For if the Schism Act had had time to come into force, it must have led to the abolition of varieties of religious belief, or else to a civil war. But the dynastic crisis precipitated by the death of Anne divided and ruined the Tory party, saved the Dissenters without resort to arms, and established the full Eighteenth Century era of domestic peace, latitudinariansm and toleration. The ascent of the House of Hanover to the Throne of England was assured by the early and untimely death of Good Queene Anne. ” (Trevelyan)

The Schism Act (13 Ann., c. 7) was a 1714 Act of the Parliament of Great Britain.The Act stipulated that anyone who wished to keep a public or private school, or act as tutor, must first be granted a license from a bishop. Also, he must conform to the liturgy of the Church of England and to have taken in the past year the rites of that Church.

The Act was aimed against Dissenter schools (dissenting academies), but on the day the Act was due to come into force, Queen Anne died[1] and the Act was never enforced. Upon the Hanoverian succession in 1714 and the subsequent supremacy of the Whig party, the Act was repealed by the Religious Worship Act 1718.[2( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schism_Act)

GP: Dissent within the Limits of Law (here undefined) is an essential ingredient for the well functioning of a society. This holds true for corporations as well. The importance of Dissent is a major topic in universities and business schools investigating the decision making process of groups, be they large or small.

See November 9, 2016: “Hong Kong lawyers condemn Beijing’s legal “interference”. According to Acemoglue and Robinson, China will still become a failed nation if dissent is completely crushed.

To see my notes to this lecture click here

Click here to Read Rabbi J. David Bleich: The Methodology of Halakhah