By HaRav Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute
“Do not judge Your slave strictly, for no human being can ever be considered righteous before You” [Tehilim 143:2].
“Do not judge us, for no human being can ever be considered righteous before You.”[Selichot Prayer, Ashkenazi tradition].
I am writing this close to the time of reciting the first Selichot prayers before the beginning of the new year, at the end of the Shabbat before the holiday (or one week earlier if, as happens this year, there are not at least three days between Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah). A refrain in the Selichot which is repeatedly recited is the one quoted above: “Do not judge us.” We beg G-d and ask to be released from judgement on this fateful day. Our request to be released from judgement and to have “what we skipped in the prayers be a source of love” is based on the sentiments of King David, also quoted above: “For no human being can ever be considered righteous before You.” We are not capable of standing up to the demands of strict law, and we can only survive if they are applied together with a measure of mercy.
David was the one who “established the standard of repentance.” (“The words of David Ben Yishai, and the words of the man who was chosen to be supreme” [Shmuel II 23:1] – “He established the standards for repentance” [Avoda Zara 5a].) He asked to close the accounts of his sins (including sending Uriyah, Batsheva’s husband, to his death) outside of the realms of the courts – that is, beyond a strict legal framework, and not within regular legal processes. David knew that within the confines of the legal system there was not much opportunity for mercy. In fact, not only were his chances for mercy low, we see in his words a general call against ruling according to strict legal principles whenever there is reason for special considerations: “No human being can ever be considered righteous before You.”
We have had Enough of Strict Legalese
The above words will serve as an introduction leading from the current time of the year, the season of judgement, on to current events within our land: The exacting legal process which is taking place now against Sergeant Elor Azaria. This combat medic from the Kefir Brigade was rushed to treat an IDF soldier who had been stabbed in Tel Romeda, in Chevron, where many terrorist attacks have taken place. Elor is accused of shooting the terrorist even though it would seem that he had already been neutralized. As it happens, this took place on Purim of this year, a date which is known for serious events in the area (such as the Goldstein killings).
I do not remember any other military trial that was conducted with such fanfare, including fundamental analysis of the purity of arms and setting the safety lock of weapons when confronted by an enemy, on the ability to make snap judgements about life and death under battle conditions, on the future influence on the moral stance of soldiers and officers who will from now on be afraid of being brought to trial, and on the need to maintain an appearance of wielding “swords of justice” as judged by hostile western nations who get their support from traitorous Israeli leftists. I simply cannot remember any such case in the past!
It is interesting to see (and for me it is very refreshing) that a strong lineup of military and security experts has come forward to “testify” in favor of Elor, based on military, security, and moral considerations. It seems to me that the only officers who followed the line of the Commander-in-Chief and appeared for the prosecution are currently still in uniform. (Can it be that they are driven by extraneous considerations, such as future promotions?) The clear conclusion from what has transpired so far is that this farcical affair must be brought to an end immediately, without trying to settle all the details of the ballistics or the pathology involved (exactly when did the terrorist die?). It is not relevant for us to try to determine if the soldier was experiencing a “shooter’s high” (for the very first time in his life?) or if he should have run a table of considerations through his head whether to shoot or not, and then to make a cool decision, taking into account doomsday feelings and the influence of lawyers.
As far as I am concerned, we have heard enough in the testimony brought before the learned military court in Yaffo. The curtain should be drawn on this show, and a conclusion should be reached – with complete agreement of all sides and behind closed doors – to give a minimal sentence, without a formal judgement. Any other alternative will cause harm to the IDF and/or to the State of Israel in international circles.
If He had been Religious and a Settler...
I want to make one more point: It is nothing short of a heavenly miracle that Elor Azaria does not wear a kippa, is not a settler, and doesn’t even sport a beard. I can just imagine the reactions of the media that we would have seen against our own people if he had appeared to be “one of us.” All that remains for us is to pray for all those refined souls who thirst for Azaria’s blood that their own sons will never find themselves in Chevron in a similar situation.
“Do not judge us, for no human being can ever be considered righteous before You.”