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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Vengeance is Mine

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson





How far should we go in our pursuit of justice?

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | There are few indicators of popular outlooks and attitudes more accurate than the seasonal television lineup. This year's programming clearly reflects a popular passion for justice. But a closer look reveals that passion to be somewhat more conflicted than it first appears.

Crime shows dominate the firmament of prime time, with long-running shows like Law and Order, NCIS, and CSI extending their tenure, while newer shows like Rookie Blue, Prime Suspect, and Unforgettable vie for equal audience share. True believers in social justice should find it reassuring that so many people look to dramas about good guys catching bad guys as their preferred form of entertainment.

This hasn't always been the case. We have to go all the way back to the 1960s to find that media sensitivities reflected basic values of right and wrong. The classic caper movies of that era almost always ended with the criminals getting caught, no matter how lovable they were or how much the audience identified with them.

Although their real-life counterparts quietly lived out their lives after retiring from armed robbery, the title characters in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were gunned down by the Bolivian army after pulling one-too-many bank jobs; Melina Mercouri and her crew of colorful miscreants defied gravity with their acrobatic antics in Topkapi but didn't escape prison time; Michael Caine was left hanging — literally — with his busload of gold teetering on the edge of a cliff at the end of the original Italian Job; and even though the Rat Pack managed to avoid getting nabbed at the end of the first Ocean's Eleven, they had to sit by and watch helplessly while the loot they had cleverly hidden in a casket was cremated instead of buried.

Back in the day, filmmakers understood intuitively that nobody wanted to go home with the message that crime pays.

THE END OF INNOCENCE
Then came the counterculture of the hippie era, followed by the "Me Generation" of the seventies, and the erosion of confidence in "The System." We wanted the bad guys to win, even though we didn't want the good guys to lose. So Hollywood gave us movies about bad guys stealing from worse guys. At last we could root for the criminals and still feel good about it.


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And so Paul Newman and Robert Redford came back in The Sting to successfully con the crime boss who ordered the murder of their fellow grifter; Mark Wahlberg replaced Michael Caine in The Italian Job and stole back the gold lost to his double-crossing partner; George Clooney resurrected Daniel Ocean and got away with fleecing a ruthless casino owner. Topkapi never did see a remake, but its aerial artistry inspired Tom Cruise's classic wire scene in Mission: Impossible, when he broke into Langley and stole from a dithering CIA the information he needed to expose his renegade boss.

Which brings us to the latest trend in video arts: good guys going rogue as self-appointed agents of justice.

A free-spirited hybrid of Ocean's Eleven and Robin Hood, Leverage portrays a team of repentant criminals who have discovered the joys of scamming the rich and powerful who prey on the weak and poor. Nikita follows the adventures of a superagent dedicated to the destruction of the corrupt agency that trained her to work for them. And in Person of Interest, the creator of a supercomputer that anticipates acts of terrorism recruits yet another superagent to prevent acts of murder that aren't worthy of the government's attention.

But nothing reflects the zeitgeist of the moment better than the not-so-subtly titled primetime soap opera, Revenge, in which the heroine orchestrates pitiless payback against the people who framed her father and stole her childhood.

FOR THE LOVE OF JUSTICE
Modern observers often point to the biblical mandate to exact "an eye for an eye" as the classic endorsement of vengeance in civil society. However, this reasoning fails on two counts.

First, Jewish law restricts such retribution to the context of the courtroom; it is the verdict of jurisprudence alone that sanctions punishment, whether financial or corporeal. Second, and more significantly, the Talmudic analysis of the scriptural passage concludes that "an eye for an eye" refers not to any draconian quid pro quo but to monetary compensation in proportion to the damage done.

By way of proof, the Talmud asks rhetorically what would happen if a one-eyed man gouged out the eye of a two-eyed man. To take the eye of the perpetrator would not be just, since he would be left sightless, whereas his victim has been left with one good eye. But to leave him with his one eye intact would mean that he suffers no punishment at all. Consequently, the verse must be referring to payment of money.

But how can we consider this justice? Surely no monetary value can be placed on an eye or any other form of non-quantifiable damage. Indeed, the judgments awarded by modern courts vary wildly between millions of dollars for trivial damages and inadequate compensation for outrageous harm. The frequent failure of our justice system to do justice leaves us bitter and disillusioned. We contemplate vengeance because we feel abandoned by justice.

But our frustration stems from a basic misconception: the fanciful belief that it is even possible to procure justice in this world.

THE HIDDEN WAYS OF THE WORLD
Is there justice for a baby born with fetal alcohol syndrome? Is there justice for a child whose parents are killed by a drunk driver? Is there justice for a family cheated out of their life savings by an unscrupulous investment advisor? Is there justice for a man exonerated by DNA testing after serving twenty years in prison for a crime he did not commit?

The Hebrew word ha'olam — meaning "the world" — shares its grammatical root with the word he'elam — meaning "hidden." A small child doesn't understand why his father pulls him roughly away when he reaches out to touch a flame. A young student doesn't appreciate why his teacher makes him struggle to do a problem over and over until he gets it right. An exhausted athlete doesn't understand why his coach won't let him stop to rest. So too, we don't understand why we have to endure the apparent injustices of life and witness the suffering of innocents.

If everything were revealed to us, however, if all the contradictions of our lives could be easily resolved, if human society were capable of imposing justice upon every aspect of our lives, then there would be no conflicts to overcome, no opportunity to trust in anything greater than ourselves, and no driving force to make us strive for spiritual and moral greatness by rising above the contradictions of human existence.

Like the child, the student, and the athlete, we can impose order on our world only by recognizing that appearance of chaos is neither random nor unmerciful. Precisely the opposite is true, for the Creator has filled the world with things we cannot understand to teach us humility, to give us the opportunity to learn to trust that the One who keeps the stars in the heavens allows events to unfold according to a plan inscrutable to human eyes. Only with time and experience can we grow increasingly confident that, ultimately, justice will be done.

In our search for understanding, eventually we have to conclude that nothing else makes sense. And so we do the best we can by seeking justice within the limits and boundaries of the law, waiting patiently for the Almighty to fulfill the promise He made concerning the wicked who seem to prosper and flourish without consequence:


Vengeance is Mine, and also retribution at the time when their foot will falter;

For the day of their demise approaches, and future events race toward them.


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JWR contributor Rabbi Yonason Goldson teaches at Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis, MO, where he also writes and lectures. He is author of Dawn to Destiny: Exploring Jewish History and its Hidden Wisdom, an overview of Jewish philosophy and history from Creation through the compilation of the Talmud, now available from Judaica Press. Visit him at http://torahideals.com .






© 2011, Rabbi Yonason Goldson