As we approach the days of awe in the Jewish calendar, the 10 days of repentance between Rosh Ha Shana and Yom Kippur, I am sitting on a terrace overlooking a beautiful valley in Tuscany. Thin bands of fluffy white clouds embrace the mountains across the valley. And I can go no further; I must face up to my own guilt. Not just the things I did wrong, or the pitiably small thoughts I may have had, but never voiced. But also the choices I made, the people and ideas I have supported, the sides I have taken.
Rav Daniel Landes of The Pardes Institute in Jerusalem got me thinking about it with an article he published in the Israeli newspaper Ha Aretz in which he challenged Jews to consider — just consider — whether we share the guilt in the deaths of Gazans even though they were put in harm’s way by Hamas. The terrible, inescapable fact is I stood behind the ones who pulled the trigger.
Jewish law approves of pursuing the pursuer (rodef, in Hebrew), even killing him to save lives. It was the flawed rationale for the murderer of Yitzchak Rabin. But we must ask ourselves whether the “collateral damage” death of even a single person deserves a place in our viddui, our confession on Yom Kippur.