Rabbi Hagai Lundin
Rabbi Hagai LundinCourtesy

Between hearing more and more news broadcasts relating the manifestations of violence in the State of Israel, this Shabbat we will also hear the story of the Torah reading "Ki Tetze". This parasha relates how to deal with a variety of social problems and contains a ground-breaking verse: "If there is in a man a sin with a death sentence and he is put to death, you shall hang him on a tree. His corpse shall not remain overnight upon the tree".

When there is no choice but to get rid of a sinner "on the tree" as a warning for others, his corpse is not left in disgrace for all to see; why? "Because a hanging human body is a disgrace of God". Even when someone fails and there is no choice but to take their life, we will not take the image of God in them away from them. The punishment of the sinner is not done out of personal hatred – it's nothing personal – the criminal will receive full punishment but with composure and maintenance of human dignity.

The reason good people are afraid to get into fights is because of the fear of "getting their hands dirty". The fear that getting involved will stir up the bad sides of our psyche ("I'm not built for this", etc.). True Bnei Torah conduct their public and private struggles altruistically, for the sake of heaven. They do not personally hate – neither the Arabs, nor on the other hand, the anarchists or those who blocked their parking spot. They simply fight the injurious out of respect for the image of God within, and this will be reflected accordingly in their struggle.

This principle is also true for the spiritual work of the month of Elul, in which we "hang" our sins "on a tree". We do not give up on ourselves but are careful "not to complain about our villainy"; we do not pour the baby out with the water and decide that we are fundamentally corrupt and the situation is hopeless. We may have sinned, but the image of God always remains within us, we can always rectify; in this world or the next.