In an essay on recent anti–Semitic acts, my friend and colleague Rabbi Jeff Salkin wrote, “It is not that people hate us. It is that God loves us so much that God gave us the Torah to share with the world, to do the mitzvot, and to bring the world closer to the ultimate rule of God,” (Martini Judaism).
Rabbi Salkin then goes on to speak about God killing the first born of Egypt. He doesn’t take the story of this homicidal God literally, but still—there is it: God is a murderer. The Bible tells us so.
Of course during our Passover telling of the story of the slaughter of largely innocent Egyptians we diminish our cup of wine so that we take no joy in their murder, but imagine neo–Nazis celebrating the murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust doing the same: spilling a bit of wine before toasting our demise. Would we be moved by their show of compassion?
We create Gods in our own image to affirm the good we do and excuse the evil. Torah is honest in its portrayal of a God who murders the innocent along with the guilty, but we should see these passages as warnings of what not to do and in no way seek to explain them away. (See Abraham’s confrontation with God in Genesis 18.)
While Rabbi Salkin puts the “ultimate rule of God’ off into the future, I suggest we’ve been under the control of this homicidal deity for millennia. It is time and long past time for us to say “no” to the God of our Iron Age imagination that we might learn to imagine better.