Parsha Yitro 5784 — Murder vs Terrorism

Jeffrey Levine
11 min readFeb 1, 2024


Sitting here, thinking about what to write about Pasha Yitro which deals with children of Israel receiving the Ten Commandments, which is the basis of our faith, our faith in one universal God, and commands us to be a better person, and people, and is the basis of the Covenant with God.

I’m reflecting on the events of the last week. And can start with the blood libel of the International Court of Justice, who lectured us about genocide and cast a stain on the world’s moral clarity.

And this is the day before the international holocaust, and in the last few months, I’ve read at least three books on the Holocaust. And the definition of genocide came about because of the Jewish experience in the Holocaust. And we see in those events of the holocaust that no Jew was safe. They were on the run, persecuted, hiding, butchered, killed in cold blood, and sent to camps to eradicate the Jews.

It’s very disturbing when thinking about that, because we, the Jewish people, seek peace. And we have a hostile enemy in our midst. And we have headlines now that the sole purpose of not only Hamas and Gaza, but also UNRWA, is to destroy Israel and by extension, the Jews.

Unfortunately, the solution to post-war is not simple. In the past, there have been population transfers, and population transfers may be necessary. Because one cannot live with enemies in your house who want to kill you. We see a total closure of the border with Egypt, and no desire by any of the countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, for even ever undertaking of refugees and beyond.

We realize that we cannot just kick the problem down the road. The problem is that we are now both in the South and the North, where people have the right to live securely and in peace.

Despite this rhetoric, we want to live in peace. This is our land, we have nowhere else to go to. And God brought us back to this land, just like he led us out of Egypt.

So, the question on my mind, and I don’t have an answer, is why does the world, and the Arabs, and these so-called Palestinians, and UNRWA, want to destroy Israel and the Jewish people?

Why? Is it because of the moral coding of the Ten Commandments? Is it that Jews have succeeded wherever they are? We have a purpose, a purpose to make the world a better place. And that purpose may be complex. With people’s desire, a need for a scapegoat, to protect them from their misery, and suffering. I don’t know.

I’m going to try to search for some positives. I will start with what I wrote in the last few years.

Around this time last year, there was an Earthquake that impacted at least 15.73 million people in Turkey and Syria, with over 55,000 lives lost and nearly 130,000 injured. Millions were displaced from their homes.

And Israel rose to help them..

“Turkish President Erdogan recognizes Israel’s earthquake assistance. Operation “Olive Branch” led by Vach, included 15 planes carrying 230 soldiers and hundreds of tons of aid. The Israeli field hospital operated for 10 days. “

It was a good example of Israeli values, and of unity, with many Israeli volunteer groups working together to help the neighboring country.

And then

Erdogan again likens Israel to Nazi Germany, says it commits ‘cultural genocide’

At Jerusalem conference in Istanbul, Turkish president says it’s not anti-Semitic to call out Israel: ‘No one can stop us from calling a spade a spade’

This was written in 2018…

And after 7 October

Turkey’s Erdogan says Netanyahu no different than Hitler as Gaza is bombed

This was my intro last year..

What an amazing Parsha — God speaking to everyone and giving us the Ten “Commandments” — a basic guide to life. As we ponder the latest tragedy to hit the world — an earthquake- we ask ourselves what life’s secret is. What is the secret of this world?

On Tb Shvat, I meditated on the beauty and consistency of Nature and God’s amazing blueprint for this world. And boom, we have an earthquake? Is my faith in God shattered? Do we really need suffering to bring out concern, amazing lifesaving efforts and kindness? We have “earthquakes”, accidents in our personal life, with the same cause and effect.

In the splitting of the sea, we had a visible miracle of God’s intervention, but a few passages later, we started complaining about life and sank into the saga of the Golden calf.

So, I want to re-look at some of the themes I have explored in the past.

And the one that stands out is the following:

I asked the question, which unfortunately is so prevalent today –

How can one justify murder and terrorism?

I believe the answer lies in next week’s parsha — Mishpatim, where we are introduced to a range of Laws. This will be explored further, but the Torah is trying to teach us skills of sensitivity and empathy for others. When we as individuals and society gain these traits, we will all be in better place.

How can justify murder and terrorism?

In this blog, I attempt to peel the layers and look at — Kill vs Murder — is there a difference? How is Murder, Terrorism, and War justified? and then ask the ultimate question — Does religion lead to a greater propensity to commit acts of murder and terrorism than does secularism?

This week’s Torah reading has the 10 “commandments” (sayings). In today’s world, it is interesting that these ten sayings are most under attack.

The first five are the focus of God and man and include — One God, Honour your Parents, and The Sabbath

The next five are interpersonal prohibitions, and the name of God does not appear — these include: Do not Murder, Theft, False Witness, Adultery and Coveting want is not yours

Exodus 20:13

לא תרצח לא תנאף לא תגנב לא־תענה ברעך עד שקר׃

You shall not murder (kill). You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

Today Adultery passes as normal, even Theft is “not a crime”, and this leaves us with murder. Murder cannot be undone. Although Jewish Tradition allows for Teshuva (repentance) of Murder, I have a hard time with this. Murder cannot be undone.

So, I want to explore some issues about murder, the universal recognition of these sayings, whether Islam accepts these 10 sayings, and the relationship of Terrorism and murder.

Even in War, where soldiers give their lives for their country, cause, or religion is an area of concern. Granted, sometimes there is no choice, but when you look at the way and methods and the chances of survival there is an element of murder.

The Holocaust, mass political murders go against the grain of the commandment, not murder.

Even Terror and Murder against Israelis and Jews are not considered Terror and Murder but legitimate actions. The media, the UN and governments endorse this. There is a double standard here. Similarly, Anti-Zionist, Anti-Semitism is not treated as anti-racist.

I am, sic, just writing these words. It is incomprehensible.

So, I looked at the modern library of the Internet do some research.

Murder in human history

It didn’t take long to record the first murder in human history. The Bible’s first death was a homicide. Enraged with resentment, jealousy and anger, Cain attacked his brother and killed him. Since that moment, much of human history has been written in blood.

We are all too familiar with headline news for mass shootings, terrorist attacks and violent conflict worldwide.

From a Moslem source

“The Ten Commandments are the well-known instructions, the essence of the Torah, which Allah revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai, peace and blessings be upon him. The commandments prohibit the major sins of idolatry, impiety, disrespect for parents, murder, theft, adultery, false witness, and envy.

These commandments are among the core teachings of Judaism and Christianity that are taught to children at an early age, and all of them are included in the teachings of Islam. Some believe these commands go back as far as the seven laws of Noah, peace and blessings be upon him.

As such, these commandments can be the basis of interfaith dialogue and mutually-beneficial cooperation between Muslims, Jews, and Christians. They are the “common word” for which we can all come together in agreement.”

Do Muslims accept the 10 commandments?

Muslims don’t believe in the Ten Commandments but DO believe in a majority of the principles prescribed in the Ten Commandments.

6.“You shall not murder.”

In Islam, the value of human life is grave which can be represented in the Quran verse below and murder is haram (forbidden) unless justified by another murder, war, and/or self-defense. This principle is also a common human characteristic, it has always been wrong to murder.

“On that account, We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone slew a person — unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land — it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole humanity. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear (guidance), yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.” (5:32)

Let’s now look at What is The difference between Kill and Murder?

Kill means:

1) Taking any life — whether of a human being or an animal.

2) Taking a human life deliberately or by accident.

3) Taking a human life legally or illegally, morally or immorally.

On the other hand, murder can only mean one thing: The illegal or immoral taking of a human life. That’s why we say, “I killed a mosquito,” not, “I murdered a mosquito.” And that’s why we would say that “the worker was accidentally killed,” not that “the worker was accidentally murdered.”

What about Terrorism that murders?

According to the website:

Domestic terrorism: Perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by or associated with primarily U.S.-based movements that espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.

The site continues with this example: “the June 8, 2014 Las Vegas shooting, during which two police officers inside a restaurant were killed in an ambush-style attack, which was committed by a married couple who held anti-government views and who intended to use the shooting to start a revolution.”

Terrorism isn’t defined by the number of people killed but by the reason for which they were killed. Terrorism is defined by the intent of the perpetrator and the intended purpose behind the violence.

Practically speaking, terrorism is an important and distinguishing label from mass murder because if there is an ideological motive behind the violence, authorities can assess if this violence was an isolated incident or connected to cell groups of other potential violent agents.

Does religion lead to a greater propensity to commit acts of terrorism than does secularism?

I came across this well-researched article. This is an attempt to address if, and/or to what extent, the question: does religion lead to additional violence and to acts of terrorism? That is to say, does religion lead to a greater propensity to commit acts of terrorism than does secularism?

It is clear that Secular Murder by the Nazis, Communism, Colonialism etc. was and is a stain on humanity, and that we should go back to our traditional teachings and the 10 ‘commandments” for a more balanced and moral approach.

The Hebrew Bible

Within Western culture, one of the great ideological texts is the Hebrew Bible. Ironically,

it is unclear if the Hebrew Bible was ever meant to be an ideological or religious

text. Historically, however, in the modern world it is impossible to talk about morality

and any form of violence without first looking at the Biblical narrative. No matter what

one’s religious faith is (or is not) the Biblical narrative has set the benchmark for western

ethical and moral conceptions and jurisprudence. It is not an exaggeration that this

usually mistranslated, and often misunderstood, book forms the basis of much of Western

law. As the recent gay-marriage debate in the United States demonstrates, even when

secularists reject the Biblical narrative, they still stand over and against that narrative.

The Hebrew Bible, although universally read, is very much a Middle Eastern work. It is

a book that reflects the harshness of war and the role of violence in human history. The

Hebrew Bible does not attempt to sugarcoat reality. Alongside its ethical and moral

teachings, the text also presents us with: pain and death, human suffering and ethical

dilemmas. In this one grand historic anthology we read much of humanity’s loftiest

thoughts and at the same time some of its greatest tragedies. Starting with the murder of

Abel by Cain, the Hebrew Bible recognizes and seeks to understand that violence is a part

of life. The Biblical tale of jealousy and homicide between Cain and Able forces its

reader to ask if humans have a proclivity to hurt or destroy one and other? The antidotal

complement to the Cain and Abel tale is the Ten Commandments. Are the Ten

Commandments’ prohibitions against the act of murder a clear indication that people

murdered their fellow Homo sapiens to the point that a law was needed to stop the

bloodshed? Is the fact that one of the Ten Commandments states: “Lo Tirzach” (Thou

Shalt Not Murder) is proof enough that there was a need for such a statute? It is

important to recognize that the text does not state “lo taharog” (Thou Shalt not Kill).

Rather it distinguishes clearly between acts of killing and acts of murder on a more

sophisticated level than that found in most.

The Koran

As in Hebrew Scripture and the Christian Bible, the Koran exhibits both a peaceful and

violent side. Once again, we can find verses that will justify both acts of violence and acts

of peace. Islam also has the concept of Jihad. This word/concept is not easy to translate

into western parlance. It can mean both a battle against something bad (even overeating)

or it can mean a holy war against infidels. Perhaps the best translation of Jihad is

“struggle” and is similar to the Hebrew word “ma’avak” (such as in the struggle between

Jacob and the “Ish” (man/self/angle) are found in the Book of Genesis.

Jihad reflects both the position of the speaker (writer) and the historical context in which it is used.

I will leave you pondering over this Chart and the apparent contradictions.

The BBC Code of Ethics, using the Geneva Convention as it guide, notes that: “civilians are not to be subject to attack.

This includes direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks against areas in which civilians are present.”

This code has presented modern armies with a number of problems included among these are:

• Who is an innocent non-combatant?

• Who is a combatant?

• What role do military hospitals play?

• What role does a person working in an arms factory play? Is such a person a combatant or a civilian or both?

• Is any form of bombing legitimate?

• How do we deal with armies that place themselves within a civilian population?

In such a case is it the opposing army that is at fault or is the defending army the guilty party as it has now turned the local civilian population into human shields?

• How do we define a person who is fighting? Do guerrilla forces act as offensive personnel?

• Does a citizen of a neutral country helping a nation at war take on the role of a combatant?

From a tourism perspective in the case of the outbreak of war, how does a country handle to enemy visitors from the opposing nation?

Are these tourists and/or visitors held as ransom or merely permitted to leave and return home?

Those who argue that terrorism is just one other legitimate instrument of war, take the position that all citizens of an enemy are combatants and therefore they are legitimate targets.



Jeffrey Levine

Jeffrey Levine provides CFO, Director, ESG Advisory Services through and is a promoter of ideas and trends where Innovation meets ESG