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Thou Shalt Not Turn the Other Cheek

05/26/2022 09:43:30 AM


Rabbi Scott Hausman -Weiss

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The tired adage carted out far too often is “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  I don’t think either is true.  Because what kills people are bullets.  Yesterday’s gunman in Uvalde, Texas had just turned 18; within days, not only had he come to possess two long guns, but 375 bullets, all acquired in one purchase! 

How many bullets?  Forget about gun laws or sentence guidelines and background checks or red flag laws.  Common sense says that an 18-year-old kid buying 375 bullets should raise a red flag in anyone’s mind.  Right now I am not trying to debate whether or not amending the 2nd Amendment, with laws restricting gun ownership, will end gun violence.  I indeed do believe that we are suffering from far more than lax gun laws or overreach and under-regulation of guns.  This is Texas, and last I checked, this is supposed to be the buckle of the Bible belt.  And close to the center of that buckle, we are taught to not place a stumbling block before the blind; to build a parapet around one’s roof to protect a guest rolling off while asleep; to not stand idly by the blood of your brother.  AND we are taught:

Lo tisna et achicha bilvavecha; hochei’ach tochi’ach et amitecha v’lo tisa alav chet.  "Do not hate your brother or sister in your heart; you must admonish, yes, admonish them or you will bear some of their sin." (Leviticus 19:17)

In Jewish tradition, the Torah focuses significantly on the moral and ethical prescriptions and proscriptions shaping the limits of our oft-celebrated freedom. We are not freed from Mitzrayim for the sake of “Jews Gone Wild!” For 50 days, from Passover to Shavuot, we are to ponder the significance of our freedom and to come to understand what it means to receive Torah at Mt Sinai.  Meaning, yes we are born to be free, but it is impossible to be completely free, 100% of the time, if we wish to live IN society.  God’s greatest gift to each of us is precisely  that yearning to become our best selves to express, to dream, to imagine, and to create.  And we do have full license to challenge others; to engage passionately, to express anger, to weep, to mourn, to grieve lost people and lost worlds.  This is what drives our own Tochechah, Admonishment of others.  We are not “turn the other cheek” folks.  While the Torah lauds Moses for his humility, for the depth of his self-reflection, it also demands that we call others to account when necessary. 

And here is my Tochechah!  I don’t care what the 2nd Amendment says or is purported to mean.  I don’t care about rights and liberties and freedoms if their logical outcome yields a world in which we have to recognize that our neighbors are the most dangerous threats of all to our and our loved ones’ lives.  A professor of mine once taught, while focused on laws and regulations such as these, that the Torah does not legislate against acts that have not taken place.  The Torah isn’t in the business of proscribing unreal behaviors.  People do place stumbling blocks before the blind; visitors do get hurt in ways fully predictable in one’s own home; people do stand by as their neighbor is being beaten to a pulp.  Two assault rifles and 375 bullets purchased by an 18-year-old boy with a troubled past in a small town, not to mention social media messages (in both Uvalde and Buffalo!) declaring or at least hinting at what he planned to do, shouldn’t require the most sophisticated algorithm for at least someone to take notice and take action! 

Lo tisna et achicha bilvavecha; hochei’ach tochi’ach et amitecha v’lo tisa alav chet.  "Do not hate your brother or sister in your heart; you must admonish, yes, admonish them or you will bear some of their sin." (Leviticus 19:17)

IF we are to live IN society, we cannot permit the limitless bearing of arms, whose reasoned use is in the battlefield.  When we allow these arms and armaments to be purchased, stored, collected, and some even inconspicuously carried, we turn our homes into forts and our schools, businesses and streets into battlefields.  This is a clear IF - THEN proposition.  

If the likes of vehicles, fishing rods, babysitting, and urban chicken raising all require training, paperwork, certifications, and background checks, because, “gone wild,” each of them can cause havoc, mayhem, and even death, so truly should guns and bullets, whose primary purpose is to tear through skins, metals, and materiel...At least as much as what is required to have fresh eggs in your backyard.  Don't you agree?

Mon, March 20 2023 27 Adar 5783