Does everyone have a right to life?

March 19th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet


Dear Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin,
The Ten Commandments teach us that everyone has a right to exist because they were created by God. But what about the people in ISIS?
Do people have a right to exist when their only purpose is to make sure we cannot exist? 

∼ Pamela Peltonen


Dear Pamela,

It sounds to us like you have listened to our audio CD, The Ten Commandments, which explains that these aren’t actually commandments, but rather five life principles with two examples of each principle. The general principle is on the right side of the two tablets and the application of the principle lies on the left side of the two tablets.

Principle number one is that God exists and is the source of our existence. The matching principle on the second tablet is number six, “Do not murder.” Since God created us, He should determine if we live or die.

However, God does hand this power over to properly constituted judicial courts and in fact demands that some transgressions carry the death penalty. This is one of those areas where a sloppy translation of the Hebrew sometimes leads good people to wrong conclusions. The Hebrew word used in the Sixth Commandment is ‘ReTZaCH’. This is a different word than one used for the killing that sometimes takes place in war or when a court is mandated to pass a death penalty. We may not murder – but sometimes human beings need to kill to defend the innocent or execute the guilty.

Every human being is born with a ‘right to life,’ by virtue of being created and granted that life by God. However, we can choose to relinquish our right to life by our behavior. The Bible is very clear that when someone pursues another person to murder them, the pursued is justified in killing the pursuer. When a people seeks to annihilate another group of people, it is legitimate to act in self-defense by killing all members of the group, even those who may not have done anything yet other than belonging to that group.

So, yes, those who belong to ISIS had the right to life when they were born. Through their actions, they have relinquished that right.

Cherish life,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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