Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Now Quentin Tarantino Gives His "Jewish Fantasy"

In Uncategorized on August 23, 2009 at 9:56 pm

I can’t see his movies. Once my brother took me to see Reservoir Dogs, and I spent too much time avoiding eye contact with the screen. I guess it was only a matter of time until, he reckoned with the ultimate horror of the twentieth century, and, of course, Jews are weighing in on whether he should or shouldn’t have.

Tom Segev, in his history, 1949, The First Israelis, speculated that whatever Tarantino had in mind, there were Jews who would have and tried to do much worse. According to Segev, the well regarded Hebrew writer and poet, Abba Kovner had plotted to poison the water supply of Germany in 1945 to avenge the murder of the six million. Other accounts say that his plot was only directed at German POW’s. Either way, the British were on to him and deported him to Egypt.
Kovner was unrepentant, and held the entire German people accountable for the murder of his people. In 1945, he wouldn’t have shed a tear over the death of a German child. This was a visceral response rooted in a particular time under what were extaordinary circumstances. To revisit the moral implications of these actions from the comfort of our air conditioned homes would be obscene if it weren’t so damn silly. The question isn’t who are we to judge, but rather, who are we to have an opinion in the first place? And if we deign to have an opinion, who cares?
The Sages when offering triumphant Jewish stories under Roman occupation rarely speak in terms of physical triumphs, but moral triumphalism is the preferred medium for exacting vengeance. Hanina Ben Tradyon’s executioner jumps in the fire with him, convinced of Rabbi Hanina’s spiritual superiority. The materialists rejected this view as hollow and mourned the fact that Jews had become so passive thereby making Jewish blood such a cheap commodity.
Neither the spiritualists, nor the materialists had the whole story. While it is true, “That not with valor nor with might, but rather with My spirit…” (Zecharia 4:6) will we ultimately triumph. It is also true that when “someone actively pursues another to kill him, he should get up early and kill him first.” (Sanhedrin 72a) For Kovner, the question was what to do if you failed to pre-empt the tragic consequence.
It’s a question of balance.
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