"Elisha son of Shaphat ... shall you anoint in your stead. But I will allow to remain in Israel seven thousand, all the knees that did not kneel to the Baal idol and every mouth that did not kiss it" I Kings 19:16-18


Monstrous mass killings continue to blight our world. Their disproportionate nature is echoed in the haftarah of Parashat Pinchas when God strips Elijah of his prophetic capacity and demands he appoint Elisha as his successor.

God's punishment comes in response to what He judges to be Elijah's disproportionate zeal in slaughtering, in addition to the prophets of Baal, all those Jews present, even spectators; Elijah's action signifies a gaping missed detail - the indiscriminate inclusion of the particular in the general (Kings 19:10,14).

God's words in the quotation above teach Elijah that as a prophet he neglected to pay attention to the preciousness of each individual and the redemptive distinction between them.

In an awe-inspiring revelation, God tells Elijah that He is not in the wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire, but in a still, thin sound (Kings 19:11-12). This symbolises the quiet, deep, careful, reflective thinking required of all human beings prior to action, in order to check irrational hatred, stop indiscriminate killing and to clarify the blurring of boundaries between protection and destruction.

In regard to human beings in conflict, the 20th-century philosopher Emmanuel Levinas wrote that each one must be prepared to regard the other not just "on the horizon" as a non-specific face in the crowd, where "I have not looked straight at him". To be in a true relationship with the other face to face, Levinas said, "is to be unable to kill".

Rapprochement on the very cusp of fracture. Key to a brave new world.

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