When the Children of Israel witnessed the Egyptian army drown as waters of the Red Sea closed in, they burst into song and dance in celebration. A Heavenly Voice reprimanded them saying, “My children are dying in the sea and you sing songs?”(Midrash).
This midrash posits that all humankind are children of God. It stresses the value of human life. It teaches civility. Joyousness while others suffer and die is crass.
Two recent items brought the midrash to mind. In commercials now airing on the radio for an upcoming movie about his life, Jesus affirms that he is the son of God. To the Jewish ear there is nothing wrong with Jesus thinking that he was the son of God. To the Jewish ear, Jesus' statement was made during the era of the quoted midrash. As a practicing Jew, he would have accepted that all humankind are considered the sons and daughters of the Almighty, created in the Divine image, and endowed by that act of creation with inalienable rights and responsibilities that are held dear by all good people. It is a belief fundamental to Judaism and to the founders of this great country.
Created in His image, our greatest responsibility is to strive to be as godlike as possible. In another midrash it is explained that God clothes the naked, so people clothe the naked. God heals the ill, so people heal the ill, etc. This concept of imitatio dei is basic to the beliefs of Jews, Christians and Moslems. Nowhere is it posited that because God is described as a warrior and protector that humans are expected to kill or cause mayhem. While religious traditions condone killing to defend life, there has never been license to murder wantonly for the sake of Heaven.
Events last summer in Nigeria were the second item that brought the midrash to mind. For some reason only recently did the murders gain attention in American media. Armed thugs, claiming to promote Islam, set fire to an elementary school and slit the throats of the male students when they tried to escape the flames. Others were burnt alive. For an unknown reason the schoolgirls were spared.
Too often have children been used by evildoers who make a mockery of beliefs. Palestinians take pride in their attack of a school and murder of school children in Maalot, Israel back in 1974. Russian school-children were murdered last year by rebels. No one should care to call it a proclamation of Allah's glory. It was a cowardly provocation. Hitler's hordes were similarly wrong when they exterminated three million children as part of their attack on Europe's Jews and other minority groups.
Islamists seem to specialize in using children as a lynchpin of their villainous actions. They kill children with impunity. Hamas uses hospitals and schools as missile sites. Ambulances become military transport. Children are placed as human shields when they barrage Israeli citizens with rockets. Let no one ignore the youth caught between the sides of battles that have followed the Arab Spring in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Iran.
Perpetrators of this week's travesty claim that they were making a stance against western education . People are entitled to believe what they choose and to challenge others' views. That never permits murder. Western education is modeled on approaches to chemistry, algebra, philosophy, architecture, government and fine literature first set by Arab Moslems during the Middle Ages. These life takers denigrate Moslem heritage both by murdering and by denying gifts that their heritage gave to the world. Their acts are more puzzling when one notes the building of artificial islands and record high skyscrapers in and around Dubai. In the West similar excesses are rare.
As Egyptians died in the Red Sea, God chastised Israelite delight. Those deaths were caused by His own outstretched arm. How sad God must be when the world does not take notice of events in Nigeria? How angry must God be when His Name is desecrated by evil cowards that claim to proclaim His glory.
Ethics of the Fathers teaches that justice is one of the three great pillars upon which the world rests. Those responsible must be held accountable so that all sons and daughters of God can again be safe.