Universal Jurisdiction – who are we trying to bring down?
"I can't remember whether I said it or not. I can't remember every comment I said under my breath."
This is a quote in this week’s Jewish Chronicle by a Jewish MP accused of directing a disturbing Jewish jibe at fellow MP during the debate for universal jurisdiction, itself a hot subject for Israeli diplomats.
In the last few weekly Torah readings we have been hearing about the laws of animals. Which ones are used in the Temple; the birds, fish, animals and insects that are Kosher and those which are not. This week we learn about the laws affecting one’s purity and the different skin diseases (tzaraat) he or she may develop. The Talmud tells us that the skin disease comes from Lashon Hara, saying negative things about another.
There are many interesting commentaries to the Torah’s order of the laws of the animal kingdom before that of man. R’ Yisroel of Salant suggests: sometimes people are so prudent about the animals and food that they consume, while they comfortably swallow another man alive by saying negative things about them.
Spiritually we may not be sensitive enough for our skin to develop the same reactions but we must be equally as careful concerning what we say about other people, whether it is tongue in cheek or in a whisper.
But, just as the diagnosing of the tzaraat skin disease must be done by an (illiterate) Cohen over a (well-studied) non-Cohen, since the Cohen is an ish chessed, man of kindness and he will not be quick to judge the downfall of another human being. We too must be careful before passing judgement on others.
As the MP’s debated the future of universal jurisdiction, a principal in law that would allow a state to claim jurisdiction over crimes done outside of their boundaries “no place should be a safe haven for those who have committed genocide...” - A law that made MK Tzippi Livini cancel a trip to the UK -. The Torah gives us a healthy and balanced principal of law, on the one hand it ensures human dignity, but at the same time makes certain that the very system it was built to protect is not used against those that defend others’ (in our Holy land of Israel) right to live.