Israel News | Zionism Israel Center | Zionism History | Zionism Definitions | ZioNation | Forum | Zionism FAQ | Maps| Edit

Monday, August 20, 2007

A venerable accusation

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2007/08/venerable-accusation.html

This article would not be needed were it not for anti-Semitism. It is not necessary for other peoples to explain at length that they do not have horns or tails or eat people, that there is no international conspiracy of their nation or religion and so on. The French for example, take it for granted that they are better than everyone else, yet this does not arouse  intense anti-gallicism usually. 
 
The question examined below, is whether Jews treat gentiles as equals. The debate is necessitated by a venerable accusation: That Jews consider gentiles to be sub-human.  Considering that most of the world did nothing to save Jews in the Holocaust, whereas they would have tried to save people of their own kind.
 
Anti-Semites are generally humorless people. They miss the subtle irony in their protestations that "You filthy no-good Jews do not treat us superior people as equals."
 
Ami Isseroff
 
Can a Jew rescue a non-Jew on Shabbat?
Shmuley Boteach,
THE JERUSALEM POST  Aug. 19, 2007
My friend Noah Feldman, in his much-discussed article in The New York Times, quoted the talmudic debate on whether a Jew is allowed to desecrate Shabbat to save a non-Jewish life, with the Talmud concluding that yes, one is allowed to do so for the sake of peaceful relations with non-Jewish neighbors. This, of course, gave the impression that Judaism does not value non-Jewish life for its own sake.

In his response to Prof. Feldman, Yeshiva University chancellor Norman Lamm wrote, "Surely you, as a distinguished academic lawyer, must have come across instances in which a precedent that was once valid has, in the course of time, proved morally objectionable, as a result of which it was amended, so that the law remains on the books as a juridical foundation, while it becomes effectively inoperative through legal analysis and moral argument."

This highly learned response is characteristic of Rabbi Lamm, whose brilliant writings I have enjoyed since my youth. But its obtuseness escapes simple laymen like me.

A proper understanding of this famous talmudic pronouncement is essential, especially to those of us who believe in the universality of Judaism and the moral excellence of its teachings. The light of Judaism is meant to illuminate the earth and it cannot do so if it teaches reprehensible racism, something which is and should forever be an abomination to our faith.

IS THE JEWISH religion really so heartless as to give a Jew pause before rescuing a non-Jewish life on the Sabbath? Could it be possible that a religion that so courageously declares, at the very beginning of its Bible, that all humans are equally created in the image of God suddenly reverses itself and declares a non-Jewish life to be not only inferior to that of a Jew, but scarcely worth saving? Of course not.

The Talmud was written at the time of the vicious Roman occupation of the Holy Land. The unbearable cruelty of the Romans led to two Jewish rebellions that were quashed so mercilessly by Rome's mighty legions that millions of Jews were slaughtered in cold blood. Indeed, the utter ruthlessness of the Romans is something clearly evident to any non-Jew through the horrible and gruesome death by crucifixion they inflicted upon an innocent Jesus and approximately 250,000 other Jews.

The Talmud's discussion, therefore, centered on whether brutal, gentile oppressors like Roman centurions, who were the principal non-Jews with whom the Jews had contact at the time, ought to be saved on the Sabbath. It is in the context of the fate of deadly, sworn enemies of the Jewish people that the Talmud's debate must be considered.

If the rabbis alive at the time of the Holocaust had debated whether Germans - who democratically elected Hitler into power and then remained silent while he exterminated millions of innocent people - ought to have the Sabbath violated for their physical salvation, we would perhaps be forgiving of their slight feelings of contempt for their German neighbors.

While this has always been my understanding of this talmudic pronouncement, it was Rabbi Menahem Genack, one of American Orthodoxy's leading lights, who recently shared with me something very similar said by the great talmudic exegete Rabbi Menahem Meiri (1249-1310): that the Talmud's reference is to a pagan defiler of the faith.

DURING WORLD War II, great and moral men like Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, who saved the world from Nazi tyranny, decided that it was moral to bomb German cities, especially Berlin, Hamburg and Dresden, in raids that killed hundreds of thousands of civilian non-combatants. Harry Truman then authorized the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thereby killing hundreds of thousands more.

Now, few would construe these actions as proof that these great Western leaders believed that a German or a Japanese life was inferior to an American or British life. Rather, these decisions were made in the context of Germany and Japan being the sworn enemies of the West, who were dedicated to democracy's destruction. The same is true of why the Talmud questioned whether the Romans, who were similarly committed to the enslavement of the earth, were worth saving.

But when it came to everyday non-Jews, the Talmud was emphatic about their equal place before God and the equality and sanctity of every human life. Indeed, talmudic pronouncements on non-Jewish life are a model of universalism and egalitarian thinking that preceded Western ideas of equality of all races by nearly two millennia.

The sages of the Talmud declared in their most important ethical tract, Ethics of the Fathers, "Do not despise any man" (4:3). They went further. In a pronouncement that is as astonishing as it is inspiring, they declared, "Even a gentile who studies God's law is equal to a high priest." Incredible.

At a time when ecumenical thinking was absolutely unheard of and nearly every religion declared that only members of its own faith would go to heaven, the greatest rabbis were declaring that a righteous non-Jew is as holy as the Jewish high priest. The rabbis of the Talmud further declared that any righteous individual - Jew or gentile - is guaranteed a place in eternity just so long as he has led an ethical life: "The righteous of all nations have a share in the world to come" (Tosefta Sanhedrin 13).

THE SAME thing applied to the question of proximity with God. It was righteousness, rather than Jewishness, that granted us a relationship with the creator: "I call heaven and earth as witnesses: Any individual, whether gentile of Jew, man or woman, servant or maid, can bring the Divine Presence upon himself in accordance with his deeds" (Tanna Devei Eliahu Rabba 9).

Witness the fact that Judaism is the only religion that does not actively proselytize people outside the faith, because we do not believe that a non-Jew upgrades his existence by becoming a Jew.

That this attitude is true not only in a legal sense but a practical one is demonstrated in how the tiny State of Israel, with its extremely limited resources, is always at the forefront of sending doctors and medical personnel to regions hit by natural disasters, most notably the December 2004 tsunami. This commitment to the welfare of non-Jews is the direct result of Judaism's advocacy of the equal sanctity of every human life, notwithstanding race, color or creed.

The writer's upcoming book is The Broken American Male, to be published shortly by St. Martin's Press. www.shmuley.com
 

This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1187502417008&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2007/08/venerable-accusation.html. Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment



<< Home


FREE EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION
Subscribe to
ZNN
email newsletter for this site and others

Powered by groups.yahoo.com


Feedblitz subcription
To this Blog only

You can receive our articles by e-mail. For a free subscription, please enter your e-mail address:


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Web Logs & Sites

This Site

Zionism & Israel
Zionation Web Log
IMO Web Log (Dutch)

ZI Group
Zionism-Israel Pages
Israël-Palestina.Info (Dutch & English)
Israƫl in de Media
MidEastWeb Middle East News and Views
MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log

Brave Zionism
Israel: Like this, as if
Israel & Palestijnen Nieuws Blog

Friends and Partners
EinNews Israel
Israel Facts
Israel Proud Adam Holland
Middle East Analysis
Irene Lancaster's Diary
Middle East Analysis
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Israpundit
Israel Facts (NL)
Cynthia's Israel Adventure
Jeff Weintraub Commentaries and controversies
Meretz USA Weblog
Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers
Simply Jews
Fresno Zionism
Anti-Racist Blog
Sharona's Week
Z-Word Blog
Z-Word
Jewish State
Take A Pen - Israel Advocacy
Zionism on the Web
UN-Biased
ZOTW's Zionism and Israel News
Zionism On The Web News
ZOTW's Blogs
Christian Attitudes
Dr Ginosar Recalls
Zionism
Questions: Zionism anti-Zionism Israel & Palestine
Southern Wolf
Peace With Realism
Sanda's Place
Liberal for Israel
Realistic Dove
Blue Truth
Point of no Return
Christians Standing With Israel
Christians Standing With Israel - Blog
Liberticracia
CNPublications
SEO

Reference
Zionism
Anti-Semitism
Anti-Zionism
Encylopedic Dictionary of Zionism and Israel
Middle East Encyclopedia
Bible
Zionism and its Impact
Zionism & the creation of Israel
Zionism - Issues & answers
Maps of Israel
Christian Zionism Resources
Christian Zionism
Albert Einstein
Gaza & the Qassam Victims of Sderot
Islamism
Jihad
Zionist Quotes
Six Day War
Jew Hatred
Israel
Jew
Learn Hebrew
Arab-Israeli Conflict
International Zionism
Russian

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Israel Boycott
Boycott Israel?
Amnesty International Report on Gaza War
Boycott Israel?
Dutch Newspaper Reporting: A Study of NRC Handelsblad
Hamas (Dutch)
Dries van Agt (Dutch)
Experimental
Isfake lobby
Mysterology

At Zionism On the Web
Articles on Zionism
Anti-Zionism Information Center
Academic boycott of Israel Resource Center
The anti-Israel Hackers
Antisemitism Information Center
Zionism Israel and Apartheid
Middle East, Peace and War
The Palestine state
ZOTW Expert Search
ZOTW Forum

Judaica & Israel Gifts
Jewish Gifts: Judaica:
Ahava Products
Mezuzah

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]


RSS V 1.0

International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory