Violence in School, Is This Jewish?

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Parshas Kedoshim

The statistics are staggering, mind numbing. Every two years, more people are killed by handguns in the United States than the total number of Americans killed during the entire Viet Nam conflict. Everyday, 15 children nineteen years old and under are killed by gunfire.

We are all in a state of shock over the nightmare catastrophes of violence taking place in schools in America . Sociologists, psychologists and detectives are struggling over how such a thing could happen. I obviously do not have the answer but at the same time I don’t completely understand the answer given. The answer is not to put policemen at the entrance of every school in this country to check for bombs and ammunition. That may be necessary but it only begs the question.

In our culture and tradition there is no violence. Certainly there is no violence for the sport. Most Poskim maintain, for instance, that there is no halachic prohibition in hunting for sport, yet all Poskim say that it is not the Jewish way. If it is not prohibited by the Torah, what makes refraining from it Jewish? The answer is “Kedoshim Tihiyu”! We are commanded by G-d to be holy and to be a cut above the rest.

Society is becoming completely desensitized to violence and human pain. Murder is just not what it used to be. As Jews we can not allow ourselves to ever become desensitized. Our neshamos are too precious and the result is too ugly.

The Ravad in Hilchos Shechita explains that before every Shechita the Shochet must check his knife and make sure it is razor sharp. This explains the Ravad, is not only to make sure you don’t have a posul shechita but also to constantly sensitize the shochet to the pain the animal is feeling. Kedoshim Tihiyu! If I would be in charge of the kashrus of a slaughterhouse and I would witness a shochet laughing while shecting, I would dismiss him on the spot. Although he technically is not violating any Halacha, Kedoshim Tihiyu!

I’m not sure that we can change America but let’s not allow America to change us. I’d like to pose a question, if we watch a violent warehouse scene where the average death rate is 18 men a minute and we find ourselves enjoying it, what does that say about us? In the eyes of G-d, Is this enjoyment a virtue or a fault? After playing America ’s most popular video game where the object is to shoot the maximum amount of people in 60 seconds, can I then listen to the delicate problems of my family and friends and lend them a heart and hand? Can I still do a yid a chesed the way I did before? If your answer is yes, get to the doctor fast. If it still disturbs you, Ashrecho. The Neshama was not designed for this kind of exposure. It takes its toll. Feel the pain, Kedoshim Tihiyu!

We pray that we never lose our sensitive neshamos. We strive to fulfill the Mitzvah of Kedoshim Tihiyu, ki Kodosh ani. If we want G-d to feel our pain, be sensitive to our tears and hear the crying of our souls, than we must remain Kodosh. Who knows? We may even make a difference in Western culture and we can fulfil the prophecy where the world will look to us for guidance and strength.

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