A year ago a lieutenant colonel in the IDF was praised in the media, after he and his men in the Jordan Valley brigade helped a Palestinian mother give birth, resuscitated the baby boy, and then evacuated both mother and child by helicopter to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. It was a beautiful demonstration of the universal value of a human life.
Tonight the same lieutenant colonel is back in the news, after a video camera caught him smashing an unsuspecting peace activist in the face with an M-16.
How do we explain these conflicting accounts?
A small clue may be found in another video online, in which the officer thanks donors to his search and rescue unit by quoting in Hebrew the well-known Talmudic expression, “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” But rather than quoting this universal axiom as it appears once in the Talmud and three times elsewhere in rabbinic literature, he quotes the more particular version which also appears in the Talmud, “Whoever saves a life from Israel, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”
Therein lies the potential difficulty, not just for this officer but for us all. We are ever tempted to divide the world between the good guys (who agree with us) and deserve to be saved, and the bad guys who should be resented and vilified. We religious types are especially vulnerable to this, and the way we relate to others can be inconsistent in ways we don’t even realize.
How I thank God that Israel gave birth to Yeshua (Jesus), who showed us more clearly than anyone else that the righteous man will love even his enemy.