The Dangers of Metaphysical Scarcity

Psychologist Abraham Maslow was fond of saying, “All pathologies dichotomize; all dichotomies pathologize.” I would add that whenever an ideology dichotomizes or pathologizes, in the end it also lobotomizes!

Whenever we create artificial grouping between people based on an imaginary construct of a “Jewish soul,” or for that matter, a “Christian,” or a “Muslim soul,” we are creating an ontological distinction that threatens our common humanity. Such a bifurcation of the human spirit threatens to create a world where the outsiders are routinely pitted against the insiders. Haven’t we seen this time and time again? People who subscribe to the belief in metaphysical scarcity tend to see blessings as being in short supply. Regardless of the extremist sect, there are always winners and losers–as supposedly preordained by God .

But what is it that inspires a madman like  Baruch Goldstein, or a Hamas terrorist  to go on a shooting rampage? What inspires a person like Yitzchak Shapira or a Manis Friedman to think that killing Palestinians may be considered acceptable behavior–regardless whether it involves the shedding of innocent blood?

Fundamentalists all share a mutual love: they derive their theology from their holy writings.

Modern commentaries sometimes speak about certain disturbing passages in the Tanakh, or the Koran, and even the New Testament as “texts of terror.” Examples of this might be the stories of Scripture that suggest the efficacy of murdering innocents in the Name of God, e.g., the most famous being–the binding of Isaac, or the alleged wars  of genocide that God commanded the Israelites to carry out against the Canaanites or Amalekite peoples. These biblical “texts of terror,” are always disturbing, because they offend our contemporary ethical sensibilities–as they probably should. The Koran is certainly not immune to this type of critical reading either, in its formulation of the jihad–the “holy war,” (what an oxymoron!) where heads or limbs of enemies are routinely chopped off, or cauterized, or when people are enslaved–all in the Name of Allah. [1]


Then again, read what Rabbi Shapira writes in his book, “The King’s Torah” that even babies and children can be killed if they pose a threat to the nation.  Shapira based the majority of his teachings on passages quoted from the book of Deuteronomy,  to which he adds his opinions and beliefs. In one passage he notes,  “It is permissible to kill the Righteous among Nations even if they are not responsible for the threatening situation . . . ” He further explains,  ” Any gentile who fails to observe the seven Noahide laws, potentially forfeits his life. Any Jew who executes such an individual is not guilty of homicide . . . If we kill a Gentile who has sinned or has violated one of the seven commandments–because we care about the commandments – there is nothing wrong with the murder.”

Mark Twain once quipped, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” Yeah, many of us can relate to that truism …  We have a duty to openly discuss the problematical passages  with our faith communities; we need to challenge rabbinic authorities who tacitly endorse vigilantism. We can ill-afford to let rabbinic extremism go unchecked.

Understanding the “texts of terror” and confronting those who preach them to the masses in the name of Halacha, is the best way of preventing future episodes of violence from happening.



[1] Andrew G. Boston and Ibn Warraq, The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (New York: Prometheus Books, 2008).