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The Orlando Massacre: A Hate Crime against Man and God
Rabbi Benjamin Blech

The Orlando Massacre: A Hate Crime against Man and God

Omar Mateen unwittingly chose the very day on which God first proclaimed “Thou shalt not murder” to carry out his barbaric executions.


The Orlando massacre is the worst shooting massacre in American history and the most horrific act of terrorism on American shores since 9/11.

As America collectively weeps and mourns, Jews cannot help but notice a striking symbolic message in the timing of this ghastly act of carnage.

The day when a laughing killer calmly took the lives of 49 partygoers was for most people just a plain Sunday. But for Jews around the world it was the holiday of Shavuot, commemorating the most important moment in Jewish history, the day on which we received the 10 Commandments to serve as beacons of ethical and moral behavior for all of mankind. Omar Mateen, the Isis sympathizer who announced his allegiance to Islam in the midst of his killing spree, unwittingly chose the very day on which God first proclaimed “Thou shalt not murder” to carry out his barbaric executions.

The Talmud long ago warned us of the profound meaning of the third commandment. It is commonly translated as “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” In the original Hebrew the phrase does not read “in vain” – it says “to that which is vain or false.” It addresses the source of so much of man’s sin: to take God’s name to rationalize evil; to commit atrocities in the guise of serving a holy cause; to desecrate the very meaning of the Almighty’s goodness by distorting it into justification for cruelty and brutality; in short, to commit the ultimate crime of taking innocent human life while at the very same moment reportedly shouting Allah Akbar.

Omar Mateen committed a hate crime. Not only a crime of hate against his fellow man. Not only a crime of hate against gays. A crime of hate against God - a God Who could never countenance Omar’s actions.

And yet, Omar and all too many other Muslim extremists persist in promulgating the delusion that they are acting in a holy cause. In just the first seven days of their holy month of Ramadan, jihadists have carried out attacks in Tel Aviv, Baghdad, Damascus, Idlib, Beirut, Orlando, and Paris.

The number of Omar’s victims is also striking. Jews annually count the days leading up to Shavuot from Passover, the time of their Exodus from Egypt. We need to prepare ourselves spiritually. We need to ascend, every one of us, to the peak of our own Mount Sinais. So we count 49 days, the time it took both for our physical as well as our spiritual journey from slavery to the place where we would receive our instructions for achieving holiness.

The number of victims brutally murdered was 49, another link with the holiday of Shavuot on which the massacre took place.

To me this points to an additional way in which we are meant to reflect on the Shavuot massacre; it is not only a wake-up call for greater gun control or any other political or social cause. The attack was nothing less than a spiritual desecration, a sacrilegious violation of Sinai itself. And just as at Sinai the sound of the shofar was heard, and its blast grew louder and louder, so too we must hear its message and forcefully respond to religious terrorism and to all those who threaten humanity with evil horrifyingly committed in God’s name.

June 14, 2016

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Visitor Comments: 28

(20) Simcha, June 22, 2016 5:20 AM

Not Only a Wakeup For Greater Gun Control?

An excellent Torah-centric column with the exception of that one line. It must be very nice teaching Gemmorah at YU but out here in the real world things are not that simple. Neglecting any constitutional problems with "greater gun control", how exactly would this have stopped the monster? Perhaps we should outlaw pressure cookers (the weapon of choice in Boston), or airplanes, or maybe the common materials that can used to make explosives? It's the person that murders, not the weapon.
And how did gun control work out in Nazi Germany? A Torah Jew should know better.

(19) Ellen, June 20, 2016 4:33 AM

American Jews in a most difficult situation

This incident must be particularly troubling for American Jews. After all, they have tried so hard not to notice that terrorism by Muslims has anything to do with Islam. As we all know, most Jews are good and obedient Democrats who do just what Obama wants them to do -- even when the victims of Muslim terror are Jews or a minority group that has the protection of the Democrat party -- such as the LGBT community. Now, however, American Jews are stuck in a terrible crossroads: do they acknowledge reality -- that Islam is a brutal and intolerant ideology which has declared war on Western values and lifestyle or do they stick with the party line which is that this whole tragedy is the fault of the NRA and the availability of guns and that the solution is the dissolution of the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution. My money says that they go with the latter. As a Jew myself, I have long ago realized that while religiously I may feel closer to Judaism than any other faith and I will never stop identifying myself as a Jew, culturally, I might as well be from another planet - a planet where truth (although hard to face at times) is eminently preferable to sticking one's head in the sand and hoping nobody notices that your butt is completely and ridiculously exposed. Maybe Jews wouldn't be such victims all the time if they pulled their heads out of the sand, straightened their backs and were willing to face reality BEFORE it is too late.

(18) Anonymous, June 19, 2016 3:40 PM

Thank you

That was so beautiful to explain the spiritual correlations to Judiasm, and to all people: the voice of the one speaking to all, for all. We do not understand religions when we persecute each other in the name of God, who has already spoken. You pointed this out very clearly. I believe all religious leaders must unite for a common good. The separations only do harm as history has shown. It is very good to share the best we have with others: only the best... yet we must be protective of society and those who cannot help themselves. we must help each other and we cannot do so without caring. This is no easy solution...I believe that good can triumph if enough are willing to work hard for the common good of all concerned. Thanks again.

Anonymous, June 21, 2016 7:27 PM

Their God is speaking the language of our God

The Muslims are following the word of God in their Quran that preaches to kill infidels, non practicing Muslims and homosexuals. There is a paragraph in the Quran that calls Christians and Jews dogs. America and American Jews better wise up. If we end up with Hillary Clinton, who 2008 campaign called her aide a "Jew" in anger, we won't have a prayer

(17) Yehoshua Sauer, June 17, 2016 4:23 PM

Omar Mateen was just following true Islam

Omar Mateen was just following true Islam, here is ACTUAL Islamic scripture which backs up what he did : al-Tirmidhi, Sunan 1:152 - [Muhammad said] "Whoever is found conducting himself in the manner of the people of Lot, kill the doer and the receiver." , Abu Dawud (4462) - The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, "Whoever you find doing the action of the people of Loot, execute the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.".

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