Orthodox Judaism/Talmud

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QUESTION: Hi,

I am writing to you because I have some serious questions about the Talmud and I am concerned about these issues.

I have read Israel Shahak's book, Jewish History, Jewish Religion, The Weight of Three Thousand Years, and from what I read it appears that Talmudic Judaism is a very ethnocentric and bigoted religion. From what I understand Talmudic Judaism teaches that saving the life of a Gentile on the Sabbath is a sin because the life of a Gentile is not worth violating the Sabbath over. The only time a Jew is allowed to save the life of a Gentile on the Sabbath is when it is either his job/profession, and he is paid to do it, or if by not saving the life of the Gentile it would endanger the lives of Jews, due to a potential scandal.

When I first read this I had a hard time believing it, but then in 1998 when a Terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenya caused the IDF to send troops on the Sabbath on a rescue mission to help its ally, the United States, a number of rabbis in Israel protested that the IDF was violating the Sabbath to save the goyim. The chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel defended the mission and said that it is always a mitzva to save the life of a Gentile now-a-days, because the communication systems and media of the modern day are so vast that if they did not do anything then the whole world would know that they did nothing. So its a mitzva to save a Gentile life, but not because the Gentile's life has value, but because if they don't save the Gentile's life everyone would know about it and it might hurt the Jewish community.

Another example is the statement by Rabbi Ovadia Yusef (the former chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel) which he made publicly in Israel, in October of 2010, where he states that G-d created the Gentiles to serve the Jews. So the meaning of life for all the Gentiles I know is just to be servants for the Jewish people.

The list goes on and on and apparently Jews are allowed to treat Gentiles in a manner worse than cattle, and still be able to say they are righteous because Gentiles are dogs.

This is the type of garbage that anti-semites have been accusing the Jewish people of for centuries, and I have come to realize that it's true. I feel that this is the reason people all over the world hate Jews. It is the reason that there is anti-semitism in the world. But Jews are supposed to keep all this information a secret from the Gentiles because otherwise it might endanger the Jewish community. Even if Gentiles don't know this about the Talmud they see it in the way they are treated by Jews and after a while they just put two and two together and begin to hate Jews.

Why would any modern day person believe a piece of literature that is so racist and claim that it comes from G-d?

Please help me understand.

Thank you

ANSWER: I am not worthy to defend our Torah from such attacks.  I would assume your hate for the Talmud is not based solely on what you read.  I think you are predisposed to hate and found fuel in this book you read.  I very much appreciate however the clear manner in which you presented the issues so I will respond the little that I can.

There is no such thing as Talmudic Judaism.  There is only one Judaism that started when G-d gave Moshe the Torah.  The only reason the Talmud even exists is because the keepers of the Torah were forced to record it to preserve it for prosperity.  The laws and teachings of the Talmud is basically what was transmitted from Moshe throughout the generations.  So your issue is not with the Talmud but rather with Moshe and his teaching from G-d.

I will say two things.  

1. The fact that G-d dictated the difference between Jews and gentiles regarding Shabbos is not because Jews don't value gentiles.  It is because Jews are privileged in G-d's eyes.  After all we accepted the yoke of the Torah when all other nations rejected it.  Do we not deserve some credit?  So in this extreme case of violation of the holy Shabbos, the  difference becomes apparent.  In every society there are those with privileges, do not the rich have more opportunity than the poor?  Do the rich deserve to be hated for that?  Are the rich considered racists for taking advantage of their position?

2. Jews most certainly are not allowed to mistreat gentiles in any way.  Just because we have some bad apples who misbehaved does not mean that is accepted behavior.  A gentile would be extremely lucky to have a relationship with a true Talmud observer.  Those leaders in our community that we look up to, treat all people with utmost respect.  This is not only because they are afraid of repercussions.  The Chofetz Chaim ripped up a stamp when a letter that was supposed to be sent via post was instead delivered by hand.  Did you happen to read the story of Onkelos?  Look it up on wiki; how did Onkelos manage to convince the legions to convert?  Were they afraid of being mistreated by Jews?

My main aim in this forum is to resolve Bible study difficulties.  Anti-Semitism has nothing to do with how the Talmud considers gentiles.

Looking forward to your reaction,
David.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi,

Thanks for trying to answer my question. But I do not hate anyone. Please don't put words in my mouth.

When I refer to Talmuic Judaism I obviously mean Orthodox Judaism. I know there are Reformed Jews, and Conservative Jews, and  Reconstructionaist Jews, and Karaites, and Samaritans, and a few other groups here and there and they do not necessarily believe anyting in the Talmud.

And the Talnmud is not the Torah. The Torah was written by Moses over 3000 yearfs ago, while the Talmud was invented during the Middle Ages and there were two versions, the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud, which do not agree with each other. In the Torah it says: Thou shalt not cook a kid in his mother's milk. The people who put the Talmud together extrapolated that one sentence and turned it into large thing that it never meant to be in the first place.

The people who back the Talmud, say that it is the oral law, so you mean to tell me that for over 2000 years people kept an oral law, which never got written down and made sure that when it finally did get written down there were no mistakes? Gimme a break? If that is the case then why do the two different Talmuds differ from each other, and why did the rabbis vote on the decisions made in the Talmud?

And you never told me why it is a sin for a Jew to save the life of a gentile on the Sabbath? Do you mean to tell me that the Jewish people are so important that they cannot be bothered to help a fellow human being on the Sabbath and so they are supposed to let him/her die, and that is supposed to be a commandment from G-d? And how about Rabbi Yusef's statement that the gentiles were created to serve the Jews?

I do not hate anyone. I don't know how well you read what I originally wrote. What I do hate is bigotry and racism. The Talmud looks to me like the most racist piece of literature on the planet. I know that during WWII 6 million Jews were murdered, and because of that many Jews speak out againt racism, but the Talmud advocates racism. Isn't that hypocrisy?

I asked you to help me understand, but you have not.

Thank you

Answer
Hi,

I do not believe you do not hate.  You have decided the Talmud is racist and Jews are hypocrites without having bothered to learn about either.  Your questions are based on misinformation or just plain nonsense.

There is a chain of custody on the Oral Law from Moshe all the way to the two authors of the two Talmuds.  Included are all the laws you find so racist.  Great bodies of study and legal authority took great pains (that is an understatement) to preserve the law as it was given by G-d to Moshe throughout the generations and you come and say it was invented and call it racist.  Joshua, Eli, David, Salomon, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezra are just a few.  They all functioned within a system of masters, students, judges and courts that dealt with the authorities and the people.  The Oral Law is the heart of Judaism which we have labored to live by since we left Egypt.

So I will take your statements apart:
there were two versions, the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud - you don't explain what you mean by two versions.  They were written 100 years apart by different Rabbis, each writing what they had learned from previous generations and how they ruled in their court.  If you mean they are two versions of the Oral Law as handed down from Moshe, I would not disagree.

which do not agree with each other - they do agree on cooking kid in milk and on the saving a gentile rule.  They do agree that Moshe received an Oral Law and transmitted it throughout generations.  There are disagreements as one can expect two people to disagree but not on core Judaism.

that one sentence and turned it into large thing that it never meant to be in the first place - how do you know what it was meant?  Were you there?  The chain of custody by great and holy men that functioned under scrutiny of a system of learning that had exposure to authorities and the people says that it was meant how we are taught.

so you mean to tell me that for over 2000 years people kept an oral law - less than 1680 years, which is when Rabbi Yochanan wrote the Jerusalem Talmud.  Remember, before the two Talmuds there was the Mishna (the first public writing of the Oral Law) compiled By Rabbi Yehuda (with participation of all Jewish Rabbis from everywhere).  The Babylonian Talmud was written 100 years later by Rabbi Ashi and Ravina.

and made sure that when it finally did get written down there were no mistakes - what do you mean by that, what mistakes are you referring to?

If that is the case then why do the two different Talmuds differ from each other - again, not on core Judaism.  They differ because they were written by two different Rabbis, in different locations in different times.  What is the question here?

why it is a sin for a Jew to save the life of a gentile on the Sabbath - it is not a sin to save the life of a gentile on the Sabbath.  It is a sin to violate the Sabbath.  A Jew that does so is liable for the death penalty.  So we are not permitted to violate the Sabbath and violate the testimony that G-d created Heaven and Earth even if it is to save the life of a gentile as much as we would want to have his or her life saved, only if it is the life of a fellow Jew.  The next thing you wrote there is vile and will not be addressed.

And how about Rabbi Yusef's statement that the gentiles were created to serve the Jews? - I would have to learn exactly what he said, on what basis and see if anyone agrees with him or not.  I worked at a bank, never did I think the gentiles were my servants.  I work now in a Jewish firm run by strict Orthodox Jews.  There are four gentiles in our subgroup of 10 people, no one treats them like servants, they are equal to us.  Among ourselves no one says one bad word about them.  I think if the gentile world manages to go a few generations without massacring Jews it would help a lot to wash away the deep mistrust that was ingrained by all the persecutions we suffered at their hand.

6 million Jews were murdered, and because of that many Jews speak out againt (sic) racism - we did not have to wait for WWII to be killed by gentiles or to be against racism.  We have been persecuted for 2000 years now.

but the Talmud advocates racism - anything other than the Sabbath rule from earlier?  Again, it is not that gentile life is cheap, it is that the Sabbath is too holy to be violated.  And yes, because Jews are privileged, in that particular case the difference between Jews and gentiles is apparent.  That by no means is a prescription on how Jews are meant to treat gentiles in general.  By Torah law a non-Jewish slave is not to be given work to do on the Sabbath, just like Jews.  Did you happen to read in the Talmud that gentiles have a place in the world of the future, after the coming of the Messiah?  Did you read how Jews suffer G-d's punishments for the sins of gentiles?  The debt the gentiles owe us according to the Talmud can never be repaid.  Despite all that, a true Torah observant Jew would be proud to call a gentile who is a real good person his brother.  Do you know how we feel about people like Oscar Schindler or Phillippe Bernardini?  Or Sophie Scholl?

Finally, do a little Google search and see for yourself how Shahak's stories and opinions are debunked.  Don't waste your time with his writings.  If you truly don't hate us, learn about the Talmud and us before passing judgement.

David.

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David Rosenblum

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I am an ex-student of yeshiva and I like to be presented with Torah study problems. If you have studied the Torah and have questions on the subject matter, I want to hear about it. I am not a Rabbi and not qualified to decide halachic issues. I am still interested in halachic questions for which I can sometimes offer general guidelines or present decisions in halachic works such as Mishna Berurah. I welcome questions from non-Jewish people but I cannot respond to religious references that are not part of Judaism. If you are working on a paper or doing research and want general information on a Jewish subject, I may or may not satisfy your need, depending on how comfortable I am with the question. If you have a personal problem, I am not qualified to help you but I will do what I can to offer you some assistance.

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