Torah for this Hour | May 23, 2024

“The Eternal said to Moses…. ‘None shall defile himself for any [dead] person among his kin’.… You shall not profane My holy name’” (Lev. 21:1, 22:32).

The shocking experiences we have undergone and continue to undergo this year contain a double danger. Of the first danger, the physical danger of war, none of us needs to be reminded. The second danger is a result of the first, and the Torah and Jewish history warn us about it: “None shall defile himself for any [dead] person among his kin.” This is a warning against the chauvinist nationalism that arises in times of crisis. “The defilement of the nation” is the kind of sweeping jingoism that is a false balm, oil thrown on the “tower aflame” in any case. The person who serves the blessed Eternal One cannot also bow down to the idol of chauvinism. One must choose.

And another warning: “You shall not profane My holy name.” You must never sanctify death through the misuse of My name by making use of those who have died in battle. Do not encourage an impure cult around war.

May all the hostages, the displaced, and the refugees return to their homes in peace.