A terrible crime has been committed in Israel. A rebbi, with the approval of the school principal, dared burn a copy of the New Testament. For this act, they have been suspended and are now facing dismissal from their job.
What happened was that a missionary trying to proselytize a Jewish child handed him a copy of the New Testament, which the boy in all innocence brought to school. The rebbi thereupon confiscated it and burned it as required by Halacha. Even if it had been a Torah scroll written by a non-believer, the Halacha requires that it be burned, including the many Names of G-d written within it. When the Minister of Education got wind of what happened, it created a major uproar. She was not upset that the missionary passed out Christian literature to Jewish children in order to convert them, but rather at the terrible desecration of G-d’s name that such an act supposedly represented. If Jews show such utter disrespect toward the holy books of other religions, than this will cause them to do the same to our own Holy Books went the minister’s argument. One must teach respect and tolerance for all religions and certainly never teach them to burn books that are holy to others.
This raises some very difficult questions. Firstly, who caused greater damage? Was it the teacher who burned the book in front of the students or the newspaper that published these facts for millions to read? Secondly, doesn’t the Torah command us to destroy any idolatrous image, despite the fact that this act is offensive to other religions? What would the Minister of Education have said had the boy brought in a crucifix to yeshiva and the rebbi had broken it in front of the entire class? Would this also constitute “a desecration of G-d’s Holy Name”? Will the Israeli Minister of Education now ban the study of Torah, since it calls for the destruction of all idolatrous material in our possession? Will she also ban the prayer of “Olainu” which contains an offensive line regarding idol worship? And lastly, what would the Minister of Education have to say if the teacher had burned a copy of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” or “Mein Kampf” or had burned the pages of the Koran that call for the destruction of all infidels, or some old copies of Christian writings that were outright anti-Semitic? Are we permitted to teach our children about the anti-Semitism preached by the Catholic Church for hundreds of years and about the Crusades, or is that also considered too pejorative? How careful and sensitive must we be not to offend other religions?
While we don’t teach our children to break other people’s idolatrous images, are we permitted to break the images that are in our own possession? No Jewish child has ever gone into a Mosque or Church and done any damage to it, since they know that it doesn’t belong to them. Let’s remember that historically it was Jewish books that were burned by Christians and not vice versa. Let’s remember that this story did not take place in some Moslem or Christian country but rather in Israel.
While one can argue that this act of burning idolatrous material should have been done discreetly and in private, yet if that be the case, shouldn’t the newspaper too be guilty for sensationalizing this news by bringing it to the publics attention and thereby fanning the flames of hatred? Aren’t they just adding fuel to the fire?
One also wonders why there isn’t an uproar against the missionaries who spread their beliefs among our young Jewish children, which happens to be against Israeli law? If there is any desecration of G-d’s Holy Name, it is being done by Israel’s Minister of Education who has allowed the Name of G-d to be missing from the school curriculum and allowed thousands of Jewish children to be raised without knowing the meaning of Shma Yisroel. There can be no greater desecration of G-d’s Name than this!