I stopped short at the dictum rendered thus by Bachman: "All of Israel (read, "the Jewish people) are responsible for one another". And not for those outside the faith, including those they may injure or oppress? Moreover, in a world of Diaspora Jews, can there really not be a distinction between being part of the Jewish people and being in favor of the policies of all Israeli governments? Or, more precisely, can there not be a distinction between being part of the Jewish people and being in favor of the policies of a Greater Israel government, an expansionist, occupying force, deliberately designed for the long-term annexation of neighboring territory, with all the attendant compromises of forcing an entire people into subjugation? At what point, in other words, is one expelled from the community because one's interpretation of a tradition leads one to oppose its current political manifestation?I wrote Andrew an email (in fact, in re-reading the email, I found a couple typos and fixed them) and here it is.
I read today your own weigh-in on the Benedikt-Goldberg affair and want to add quickly that I fear you may be mis-interpreting the Talmudic phrase, "All of Israel are responsible for one another." It doesn't mean, as you seem to suggest, that in being responsible one is "endorsing" a behavior or a policy that one finds objectionable. Rather, it implies because of one's responsibility to one's own--a core Jewish principle developed in no small part to a history of oppression and anti-Semitism, as well as moral obligation in shared relationship to God--one is obligated to be engaged with that community and, where one finds objectionable behavior, to attempt to change that course of behavior. The key idea of the Talmudic dictum, I believe, is obligatory engagement.
To imply, as you do, that Jews are *not* obligated to care for non-Jews because Jews are uniquely obligated to care for their own is not at all the intention of the Talmud here. Nor would that idea comport with deeply rooted commands in the prophetic tradition, articulated most clearly by Isaiah, for example, that we are both particularly *and* universally obligated. I care for my Jewish community in Brooklyn but for my non-Jewish neighbors as well; I care for my brothers and sisters in the Land of Israel and for Arabs, Druze, Sudanese, and Filipinos living there as well. I also care deeply for those individuals all over the world who are aided, for example, by the incredible work of my friend Ruth Messinger and the American Jewish World Service--aiding non-Jews in lands far removed from any Jewish community. One can be obligated to one's family and one's neighbor. That's the idea.
Your own example about being gay and Catholic is instructive. Are you the Wicked Son for being a gay Catholic? Gevalt! No! Mixing metaphors is generally never good; in this case, it sure don't help. As an aside, I'd imagine that if you ever came to a Seder, you'd hear words from Jews telling you to fight the Church for your rights as a gay man. Applying the Talmudic dictum here, one might say, "All Catholics are responsible for one another," which would imply fighting within the Church for gay rights (or, by implication, women priests, marriage rights, whatever...) Leaving the Church altogether is between you and your conscience. If I were your priest, I'd encourage you to stay and fight for what you think is right. The body Catholic would be the stronger for it. That's how I feel about Jews.
As a rabbi, I find this perceived notion that one can't criticize Israel without fearing ostracization to be a bit overblown. Jews react incredibly strongly and the way we argue can be particularly harsh at times. But in fact we have no power to excommunicate anyone. You know the old joke about the man discovered on a desert island--giving a tour to his rescuers and shows them two synagogues: "Here's the one I won't set foot in." We value diversity of opinion. Those who try to shut it down altogether are often in the historical minority. In fact, the Talmud famously preserves minority opinion precisely because they may one day be revealed to be God's will.
I preach and teach and am active for a two-state solution; I worry about the ongoing occupation of lands won in the 1967 war. I also see with clear eyes the violent actions and dangerous policies of Palestinians to deny Jews the historic right to the Land of Israel. But as despairing as I may ever be about a possible solution, I never stop engaging my fellow Jews, precisely because our moral obligations to one another demand it--even if they'd deny me those same rights (as some current, right-leaning members of the Israeli government would.) Why? Quoting Leviticus, Rabbi Akiva famously said, "Love your neighbor as yourself" -- this is the greatest of all Torah laws.
Anyway, thanks for listening.