I remember where I was on Saturday, November 4, 1995 when Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated. To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote about the first shot of the American Revolutionary War, the bullet that killed Rabin was a shot that Jews heard around the world. I was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was shabbat afternoon for me, evening in Israel. The shock and sadness that I felt then are still vivid in my mind and heart.
Former Prime Minister Rabin was in Tel Aviv with 100,000 Israelis celebrating peace. The assassin was a 25 year old Jewish law student. This was a low point in the history of the Jewish people. It was matched only by the assassination of the Judean Governor Gedalia by a fellow Jew in the 6th century BCE when he, too, sought to reconcile with the Babylonians.
Some Jews believe Rabin was misguided. Others view him as a visionary of peace. The merits of his politics are subject to debate, but one thing is clear: the assassin believed with 100% certainty that he, an observant Jew wielding a gun, was fulfilling the will of God.
We witnessed how dangerous it can be when someone believes only he knows the will of God–better than even God knows it. The assassin came from a place of political, moral, and religious arrogance that claimed that he had a monopoly on love of Israel, love of the land, a commitment to its security. Rabin’s assassination shows us what can happen when someone thinks he is the be-all and end-all of knowledge.
Truth transcends any single perception of the truth. When we see a distinguished scholar, we recite a blessing that affirms that God has given this individual part (שחלק מחכמתו) of God’s wisdom. The key is that even the wisest person possesses only a portion of God’s wisdom. One person has one fragment and someone else has another fragment of God’s wisdom.
As we commemorate a fallen Israeli soldier, killed by a fellow citizen, we should add one more act of memory. Namely, that we remember that regardless of our politics, no one of us has a monopoly on love of Israel, love of the land, a commitment to its security, or the truth. Only if we act with humility will we actually gain wisdom. Only when we listen to each other and recognize we can learn from each other will we acquire more wisdom.