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The Tragedy In Toulouse
Rabbi Benjamin Blech

The Tragedy In Toulouse

To be a Jew is to be a magnet for hatred, no matter how unjustified and irrational.


I can't force the horrifying image out of my mind.

The murderer on the motorcycle dismounted, grabbed the beautiful eight-year-old little girl by her hair. He put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger. When it failed to fire, he switched to another weapon, shot the girl at point-blank range in the temple, calmly retrieved his moped and rode off.

There were three other victims as well at the Jewish religious school in Toulouse, France. One was a Rabbi, two others were his young sons.

"He was calm and determined. In cold blood he assassinated them as if he was killing animals," Nicola Yardeni, the regional president of CRIF, France's Jewish organization, said after viewing CCTV footage of the shootings from surveillance cameras.

"You see a man park his motorcycle, start to shoot, enter the school grounds and chase children to catch one and shoot a bullet into her head. It's unbearable to watch. He was looking to kill."

The carnage exemplifies the crime of the Jewish people’s arch enemy Amalek, who attacked the weak and the helpless.

We struggle to understand, but the level of evil involved surpasses anything we can comprehend.

It is beyond human imagination to fathom how anyone can single out innocent children for assassination. We struggle to understand, but the level of evil involved surpasses anything we can comprehend.

Yet to learn nothing from this gruesome event is to rob it of any meaning and to render it inconsequential. We need to grasp its contemporary relevance and its message.

The killer hated not only Jews but also other ethnic and religious minorities. Hate usually requires more than one outlet. But history has proven beyond a doubt what every civilized society needs to acknowledge: Jews always serve the role for the world that the canary used to play for the coal miners.

In times past, miners would take canaries with them into the mines because the canaries were extremely sensitive to dangerous gases. They responded to danger before the humans did. So if the miners saw the canaries get sick and pass out, they knew that the air was bad and they would escape as fast as they could.

That's what we Jews do for the world. We are the world's early warning system. Where there is evil, where there is hatred, it affects us first. To be a Jew, whether we like it or not, is to be a magnet for hatred, for envy, for resentment no matter how unjustified, no matter how irrational. If there is hatred anywhere in the world, it will find us. If there is evil somewhere in the world, we will become its target. People overflowing with hatred for whatever reason, including self-hatred, make us the objects of their hatred.

Related Blog Post: Toulouse and Us

There is a good reason why evildoers hate the Jew. Maurice Samuels put it memorably when he said, "No man loves his alarm clock." We bother the world because we keep trying to wake it up to the Divine call to moral and ethical behavior. Hitler said it more clearly. He attacked the Jews before he attacked Western civilization and he explained why they were his priority for extinction. “Conscience," he declared, "is a Jewish invention. It is a blemish like circumcision."

The very existence of the Jews is a threat to those whose goal is to cast off any claims for morality.

The very existence of the Jews is a threat to those whose goal is to cast off any claims for morality and civilized behavior. Jews are singled out for annihilation because of their mission to be "a light unto the nations" — and those who worship the forces of darkness and evil can't abide their continued presence on Earth.

That is why anti-Semitism doesn't simply put Jews in peril. Jews are merely the first ones to bear the brunt of attacks from the wicked. Once the Jewish invention of conscience is buried and the Jewish message of biblical ethics is laid to rest, anti-Semitism inevitably makes clear its ultimate intention: the victory of iniquity and the end of civilization.

The real challenge of the kind of terrorism we witnessed in Toulouse is implicit in the famous words of Pastor Martin Niemoller in response to the horrors of the Holocaust:

First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

When will the world understand this simple truth?

As Jews shed bitter tears over the death of the holy, the innocent and the pure at the Ozar HaTorah school, our cries are not simply for the slain of our faith.

We weep because we are witness to a threat to the civilized world that is still mistakenly identified as a Jewish problem — and then conveniently shunted aside as unworthy of global concern.

We cry because the "wise men of Europe" don't yet grasp that the grief of the world’s canaries, the Jews, portends far more serious consequences for all of mankind if not dealt with immediately with serious purpose and conviction.

We are wracked with pain because we view what happened in France as a challenge to the world's resolve to stand firm against terrorism and we've seen too much of the response of acceptance, accommodation and passivity.

Perhaps our prayers and our tears will help the world awaken to the call of our alarm clock’s urgent reminder to preserve the rule of morality and decency.

And perhaps the very excess of this horrific act will permit one of our greatest contributions to mankind, the invention of conscience, to engage in and successfully win the war over evil.

March 22, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 62

(43) Boruch, August 21, 2012 4:20 AM

Torah in Memory of These Kedoishim

After the horrifying Toulouse Massacre that shocked the world earlier this year, senior students in Australia decided that they will not sit back and watch the victims slowly be forgotten. Instead, they initiated a project to ensure they will be remembered by the Jewish world forever. These students have decided the they want to donate a Sefer Torah to the Kotel in memory of the victims of the Toulouse shooting. However, writing a Sefer Torah costs a lot of money. That’s, were we need you! By going to our website , you have the ability to donate money to this project by either buying a letter in the Sefer Torah, buying an entire Parsha, or simply donating an amount of money of your choice. The money you donate will directly contribute to the writing of this special Sefer Torah. Click the link below to view a video presentation launching this project.

(42) Yehudith Shraga, July 5, 2012 5:22 PM

Are we really hated just because we are jews?

We are not! We are often hated because half of us fight for Morality, Human rights, independence, freedom of an individual, while the other half suppress them, work for the regims that supress these values, or just do what is comfortable for them to do in politics, businesses and so and simply don't care if it is consistent or not with the Judaism=The Values proclaimed on Mt Sinai or even with the common level of consiousness, the hate is the mirrow for us to know where we ourselves exactly stand within these Values and how we fulfill our responsibility of being choosen to reperesent, fight and struggle for Torah Principles of Human instead of animal attitute and relashionships between the creatures which are created in the Image of the G-d, the more we are up to that Image the less the level of evil will be in other nations and on the contrary, the more we neglect our own values the more evil will dominate in the world, the Choice is up to us,we would better stop to play a humble, pure sheep being tormented by wolf.

(41) Isahiah62, July 4, 2012 8:51 PM

Jews who choose to remain in France are gambling with their lives and their children's lives- Time to admit France is a hostile nation filled with Muslims whose tradition teaches hatred and killing of JEWS. Not Israel- Jews.

(40) peter herring, March 29, 2012 9:56 AM

dreams Rabbi ......dreams

Rabbi Blech if only your dreams could become reality....if only...... Logic simply decrees that this will never happen as long as Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad , Abbas' PA and the myriad of like organisations are allowed to exist...... We speak in hushed and tearful tones as yet another act of premeditated murder is committed against, for the most part, innocent civilians and worse young children - in practice what do our vocal protests achieve...... nothing.......the confessed murderers of the Fogel family members are in prison - the costs of their detention paid for by the Israeli taxpayer - why??- surely it is time for the introduction of the death sentence for all proven terrorist acts - what is the State afraid opinion....from whom? - the UN - an impotent body at best, and heavily biased against Israel - Everyone I know would like to see your visions materialise, but all realise that what is academically sound, will never happen in practice in the middle east as we know it today when Palestinian children as young as 6 are totally indocrinated to hate Israel and the Jewish people they will retain these teachings until they die......and then there is next years intake of 6 year olds...and the next years intake.......... It is time to take a heavy hand against all terrorist activity, with laws being put in place to justify much more severe punishment being handed out for proven - yes proven- cases I know that if one of my family died at terrorist hands I would expect the murderer to receive a death sentence Am I wrong? your thoughts.... The policy of revenge is a frightening one - but what solution is left - all others have failed and the murders continue. Meanwhile in PA areas these criminal acts are cause for celebration in the streets Immediate annexation of key West Bank security areas is essential - the palestinians who chose to stay, and their future offspring,to receive Identity Cards, and never be entitled to Israeli citizenship.

(39) Alain, March 28, 2012 3:33 PM

This is true islam

You can say this man was crazy, yes he was, but he is the result of the terror written in the very words of islam, the coran, the hadith. This man has been brainwashed by some talibans, trained to kill anyone who is not a "pure muslim", he first shot another muslim, a soldier, alledgedly because as a military he (quote) "killed his brothers", then two men, both soldiers, then 4 Jews he never met before, at random, an adult and three children. How can a man kill a child ? Following pilice investigations, his elder brother is prosecuted for participation in the plot. Their father who lives in Algeria wants to file a complaint against the french police "for miurder". According to the media, the father who lived several yeras in France in the past, was once sentenced to five years in jail for drug trafficking, then expelled from France. I wish I'll never have neighbours like that.

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