This past Friday, I sent out a community email announcing the Boroughs Sotloff Initiative calling on all local Jews (whose health allows) to fast this Yom Kippur in tribute to Steve Sotloff's courage and heroism. As always, I welcome your thoughts and appreciate your feedback.
After receiving numerous responses, I'd like to clarify several points. In current times of widespread confusion and moral relativism, it is sometimes necessary to state the obvious:
1. My intention was not to skim over or minimize the horrific murder and tragic loss of James Foley. Dismayed and outraged by the atrocity, I mourn his death as do all our fellow Americans and, in fact, all human beings of moral conscience. However, Steve Sotloff's personal story that came to light only after his death captured my imagination. Not only because he was a fellow Jew with a profound connection to Eretz Yisrael, or that he was a grandchild of Holocaust surivors, but because he managed to observe Jewish traditions in the very unthinkably worst of conditions, amidst the most brutal and egregious of villains the world has seen since the Holocaust, at great personal risk.
2. The Hebrew date this past Friday, the day I had read the news report and sent you the email, was the tenth of Elul, exactly one month before Yom Kippur. Our Sages taught that we begin to review the laws of a holy day in preparation thirty days in advance. After it has become known worldwide that Steve Sotloff fasted and prayed toward Jerusalem on Yom Kippur in ISIS captivity eleven months ago, it seems obvious that we all ought to be inspired to prepare for Yom Kippur in a more meaningful and committed way than ever before.
3. The fact that I made no mention of the Islamic identity or jihadi agenda of his barbaric murderers and captors was not intentional. Please do not construe it as failing to identify the enemy, or downplaying the real and present threat of global and local jihad, growing Islamic fanaticism, and the West's self-destructive pacifism, or worse, its tacit complicity. The fact I chose to highlight was Steve's courage and moral conviction, not the enemy's bloodthirsty brutality, or its deranged and immoral ideology. In fact, it was a rather unimportant detail. The real story was the eternal triumph of the Jewish neshama.
It is in fact crucial to understand that ISIS (or what ever it is they call themselves), Al Kaieda, Hamas, their Qatari supporters, Al-Shabab, the Taliban, Muslim Brotherhood, so-called "moderate" groups like Fatah or "Palestinian Authority," and all others of their ilk, including the Shiite Iranians and so-called Hizbollah, are all manifestations of the same underlying prolem. In past blog posts, I have referred to it as Genocidal Islamo-Fascism. This problem is compounded many times over by the deafening silence of Muslim leaders and laymen worldwide and hence, the irrelevance of the self-professed moderates, the shocking distortions of the complicit world media, the EU and UN's antisemitic obsession, our own government's apparent indifference, or "lack of strategy," if you will.
In a broader sense, our own nation's befuddled political correctness is symptomatic of a much greater problem, namely, the lack of moral clarity. True and uncompromising moral clarity can only be based on belief in a Supreme Being, G-d Almighty, Who imparted the Seven Noahide Laws as a universal code of morality for all mankind. As a light unto the nations, it is we, the Jewish People, who are entrusted with the mission of bringing this message to the world and teaching the Noahide Laws to our fellow humans of all creeds, races, and ethnicities.
But again, all this was not the focal point of the email. Rather, it was about the indomitable bond between a Jew and his Creator.
Please join us in our initiative this Yom Kippur.