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Prominent Israeli Jewish rabbi has said that burning churches is commanded by God and suggested the fire that demolished Notre Dame Cathedral was divine retribution for mass-burning of Talmud in 1200s.

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, the rabbi of the illegal Beit El settlement and head of the Ateret Yerushalayim yeshiva, said that Jews should not commit arson against churches, but also that there was no duty to be saddened by the fire, which gutted the famed 12th-century cathedral.

He made the comments to the religious-Zionist website Srugim as part of a question-and-answer column in Hebrew.

After initially balking at the assertion that the Notre Dame fire was divine vengeance, as “we don’t know the secrets of God,” Aviner went on to say it was “possible to say so.”

He suggested the Notre Dame fire may be divine retribution for the mass-burning of Talmud manuscripts near the cathedral in 1242, following a Talmudic disputation.

“The first great Talmud burning happened in Paris, right there at the Notre Dame Cathedral square,” Aviner wrote. “It was the result of the Paris trial in which Jewish sages were forced to debate Christian sages, and the result was the burning of the Talmud.”

He continued: “Volumes of Talmud were brought in 20 carts and burned there, 1,200 Talmud volumes. So [the fire demonstrates] ‘there is justice and there is a Judge,’” he wrote, the quote a reference in Jewish religious literature to divine justice. Read more

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