Thou shall not murder – by Michael T. Pullen

As I drove home, I was thinking of the passover story. I was struggling with this.

The story begins in Egypt with Moses the prince of Egypt. Moses is living a pretty good life as far as we can tell then he murders some one. He murders a person who is beating on a slave.

Moses banishes himself and then is picked by G-d to save his Israelite kin. Why would G-d pick a murderer? Why does Moses become our greatest prophet? Why do we not hear of this again even after Moses walks down Sinai with the words of G-d?

Thou shalt not murder. לֹא תִרְצָח -Exodus 20:12

So does this mean that it is sometimes ok to murder? You can murder and become the prophet of a people. Or is there something different because Moses had not learned about this law yet?

mTp – With Intention


4 thoughts on “Thou shall not murder – by Michael T. Pullen

Add yours

  1. So interesting you see an inconsistency here. I don’t. It is obvious to me that this world is not a perfect place and that sometimes we must do certain things that in one context would be terribly wrong but in another are truly the best thing possible. And the person that will lead us will be the person who can differentiate, take action, and not be so “rightous” that he stands by while an innocent person suffers just so he himself won’t have blood on his hands.

    It is the hardest thing to take action ever and even more so when it is more confusing than the simple good deeds like getting up for someone on the bus.

  2. mTp-

    I don’t see inconsistency here either. To me it is so consistent and is so representative of the way Judaism works. Thou shall not murder. But yes it is sometimes okay to murder. There are laws and these laws are strict. But at the end of the day, we are empowered as individuals to do the right thing. Moshe’s murdering of the slave-bearer and the fact that there is no mention of this later and no repercussions, etc., reflects the Torah’s (God’s) view that people should develop sound moral judgement in themselves, and that we should develop our sense of discretion and judgment, beyond the list of ten commandment. Not to specifically violate the laws, but to heed them with discretion. It may sound wierd and trivializing but just as desecrating shabbat is (was once?) punishable by stoning/death (do I have my facts straight? Not sure- I ain’t got the knowledge base that either of you do!), if you MUST break it for the sake of saving a life, this violation is not seen as a desecration but rather (in the event of saving a life) an act of righteousness. To me, Moses murdering a slave-beater symbolizes a supreme act of justice. Moses synthesized and transcended the list of ten rules to understand that it all amounts to behaving as decent, caring, faithful, and just human beings. The fact that he murders a person who is purposely inflicting deep pain and humilation onto another person reflects a confirmation of his deeper understanding of God’s words. I don’t think it means that in general we have the right to kill people who are cruel, I think that it means we should heed the laws with our own refined sense of judgement and go come down heavy on injustice. It makes sense to me that this event goes unmentioned thereafter and that he goes on to be the prophet of a people. I find this to be one of the most powerful episodes amongst the Torah stories. It really resonated with me when I learned it growing up.

    Excuse me there if any of the facts are off… Just my gut response. I learn much from you both- you are both wells of knowledge.

    More thoughts?

  3. @passionatejewess
    I love your screen name. Thank you for responding. (We are all here to learn. Do not worry if you get your facts mixed up. I am sure someone will help clarify.)

    So does this mean if I see someone beating their slave or their child that if I killed him it would be alright? What if this was happening next door to your neighbors child? Is this a lesson for us or just a mechanism for staging the story?

  4. mTp, if anything I think that I have more of an issue with God’s killing than Moshe’s. Moshe was doing what seemed best in that given situation. The Torah is not known to give much detail but if you fill in the details (these Egyptians were beyond horrible with their treatment towards the Israelites), I do not really doubt that he killed an obviously very evil man.

    On the other hand, the words used around God’s actions of hardening Pharoh’s heart, making sure He could create the 10 plagues… those things seem much more problematic to me.

    As for your question about how we should behave today, well, yes, if we’re in a situation where someone’s life is in danger, we are supposed to remedy that, aren’t we? See, I guess it really depends how you picture the scene with Moshe. I picture the Egyptian not just giving a little beating, but whipping with the intent of seriously injuring, or killing the Israelite.

    P.S. I say Israelite because my dad told us over and over again that there was no such thing as Jews until… I think after Mount Sinai. :)

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