Threat to sue writer, newspapers over din rodef

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Sunday Times’ assistant editor, Jeremy Gordin, who broke the story that was the top-trending news story in Israel on Monday, has received letters from attorneys representing Shuvu Banim International, demanding a retraction and an amendment on the newspaper's website, or else… It is understood that both the newspaper and Israeli daily Haaretz have received similar letters.
by ANT KATZ | Feb 03, 2016

What is a a din rodef?

The Sunday Times’ assistant editor, Jeremy Gordin, and the newspaper itself have received letters from attorneys representing Shuvu Banim International demanding a retraction and an amendment to the Sunday Times website story about Rabbi Eliezer Berland, Jewish Report has learnt.

The matter relates to who issued the death threat (now recanted), or din rodef, against Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein.

ST berland - rodefGordin wrote the story that went global for the Sunday Times. A similar story was also carried by Israeli daily Haaretz, which has also, apparently, been threatened with legal action - although there is no connection whatsoever between Sunday Times and Haaretz.

RIGHT: Screenshot from Berland's website. Apparently the representatives of Shuvu Banim International are arguing that Rabbi Berland never actually issued a threat himself and that it was in fact, posted by the rabbi’s followers without the rabbi's knowledge.

This was borne out yesterday by a taped message from Rabbi Berland and the statements made by his followers on their website.

The words were purportedly uttered by Rabbi Yitzchak Chakak last week and posted on the Shuvu Banim International website. Rabbis Chakak and Berland have both recanted and their supporters have also withdrawn all threats.

A din rodef is a little-known rabbinic concept which - unfortunately - was back in the news last week

What is a din rodef?

Followers of Rabbi Berland declared a din rodef against the Chief Rabbi, thought to be only the second time the concept has been invoked in recent times. The last was when it made front pages as partial justification for the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

Din rodef literally means "law of the pursuer", and is a part of traditional Jewish law. It is a status in halacha of a person pursuing another in order to kill him. The origin of this law can be found in the Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin, 73a). However, there are a few restrictions to this law: the allowance to kill the rodef does not apply in a case where lesser means would prevent the innocent's murder.

Whether one reads the headline in Haaretz: “Fugitive Rabbi Accused of Sex Crimes Issues Death Threat Against South Africa's Chief Rabbi” or Arutz Sheva: “Fugitive rabbi threatens South Africa's chief rabbi” - the Sunday Times: “Fugitive rabbi’s death threat to Jewish chief” or even SA Jewish Report Online: “Cops bungle third try to arrest fugitive Rabbi Berland” and “Did mistake lead to unintended death threat?” - the one fact that is common in all of the stories, and the many that have followed, is the invocation of the din rodef.

On Berland’s social media, a recording from the “Gaon” (learned) Rabbi Yitzchak Chakak, one of the leaders of the Sefardi community in Johannesburg, stated that the Chief Rabbi had the halachic status of a rodef.

Rabbi Chakak subsequently recanted on this statement according to Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein who spoke to Jewish Report on Sunday evening.

According to a very relevant article published on J-POST last August, influential conservative Rabbi Shlomo Aviner wrote that anyone who quarrels or harasses the Chief Rabbinate has the status of din rodef.

Yigal Amir, who murdered Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and Dr Baruch Goldstein, who gunned down 29 Palestinians at morning prayer in the cave of the Patriarchs in February 1994, both plead that din rodef had played some part in their actions.
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The Sunday Times' page 5 article last week


  1. 3 Avraham 04 Feb
    "there is no connection whatsoever between Sunday Times and Haaretz" - Only that Jeremy Gordin, one who originated and fabricated the catchy headline happens to be the writer of the story for the Sunday Times and for Ha'aretz where it was first published. 
    Avraham, this last statement is not something we are aware of and we would not want to get either you or ourselves in trouble by publishing something unfounded. Feel free to send any type of evidence of this to [email protected] and we will evaluate it. Thank you  -MODERATOR
  2. 2 Avraham 05 Feb
    Evidence - 
    "Jeremy Gordin, founding editor of Playboy SA, says this will be a game-changer"

    Jeremy Gordin LinkedIn profile - "Editor at Playboy Magazine SA"

    Jeremy Gordin - "the man who launched Playboy SA and wrote a positivist biography of Jacob Zuma"

    Here's evidence. Are you going to publish it?
    Shalom Avraham, This was escalated to me by the moderator on Wednesday - and I did check it and also confirmed it directly with the Gordin. The moderator was, qhite correctly, concerned at the veracity of the comment and did the right thing at the time, as did I and as did you. There was no other reason or motive in not publishing it other than following out own policy guidelines - and it would have been released in any event today having been fact-checked. Thanks Avraham, we really like to have interaction with our users. Ant Katz online editor
  3. 1 Anthony Lange 08 Feb
    Jeremy Gordin is my cousin and I am embarrassed!


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