Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Finally something new… And some ranting about a recent incedent

So, finally all the posts I want to keep are transferred (so sue me for not transferring the ones I didn’t like!) Now to post something new, and hopefully interesting (and undoubtedly controversial)!

Life in forums/newsgroups is interesting. You get all kinds, and all kinds of accusations being thrown about. Recently I have been accused of being “anti-gentile” and anti the Catholic Church in particular. What brought this about- somebody posting distortions of the Jewish law in order to create hatred took offense at me 1) showing how he was lying and distorting Judaism 2) pointing out that this has been a tactic of anti-Semites for centuries and 3) that anti-Semitism is rife in the Catholic Church- from the writings of the early Church Fathers (particularly those of John Chrysostom – especially his eight sermons aimed at the Judaizers where he calls shuls whorehouse, places of devil worship and worse) right through to the modern era (last year the most senior Catholic clergyman in the USA repeated the standard anti-Semitic charge that the Talmud attacks Jesus even though Jesus is not actually mentioned in the Talmud at all!)

The response of the other poster: to start ranting about how I support racism, hate Christianity and the Catholic Church, and then went on to compare the Talmud to Nazi literature. So, after his little tirades, I pointed out his anti-Semitism and then got the standard response that Jews accuse everyone who says things they don’t like of being an anti-Semite. And here I was thinking that anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews and their works- and attacking the Talmud by lying about it and comparing it to Nazi literature pretty much fits that definition! Ah well, guess some people miss the good ol’ days when Jews could be shut up by burning them alive or expelling them if they got too uppity.

So, am I anti-Gentile or the Catholic church? Nope, why would I be? The vast majority of non-Jews, of all persuasions and religions, are decent people who live their lives and just get on with living it. Why should I hate people who have never done anything to me or acted against me? On the contrary, I enjoy interacting with people from different backgrounds and discussing different ideas and understanding of things. What/whom do I hate? Well, at the top of the list are those who hate me and attack me because of my religion. It makes no difference if it is a Cardinal in the Catholic Church, an Imam in the Gaza strip or an apostate Jew lying about Judaism to ingratiate himself to those he wants to get in with. You attack me and mine, you get the same back.

June 24, 2008 Posted by | Random, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Theft, How serious is it? Originally posted June 12, 2008

This is from what I learnt during Tikun Leil on Shavuous- the bulk of this comes from Rabbi Hirsh Rosenblum, of the Emmarentia community in Johannesburg. The paraphrasing, and the addition of information regarding the redemption of the Maaser sheni is my own.

Oen issue that is often overlooked by people is theft.  Yes, people see it as bad, but they kinda see it as languishing down in the lost of “do nots” without realising just how wrong that impressions is.  We all condemn it, but we don’t see it as bad as many other types of crime and sin.

For starters on showing how serious it is, lets look at the reason for the flood in the time of Noach. There was rampant idoltary and sexual immorality yet why does God bring the flood? The Torah is explicit “ki maleh haerezt chamas”- “and the land was filled with dishonesty”. Yep- the world was wiped clean not because of idolatry or sexual immorality, but because of dishonesty!

How do we explain this? Most theft is not life shattering, theft against a large corporate may even have very little to no noticeable effect- yet for this the world was destroyed? It can be explained like this: God is the ultimate Judge, adjudicator and dispensor of all our needs in the world.  On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we pray to God to give us wealth and comfort.  The meforshim point out that the Bircas Kohenim is also understood in materialistic terms, that we ask God to bless ue with parnasah (our livelihood).  Yes- we have to do our bit, to work in order to receive our parnassa- but the amount available is determined by God.

So how does this relate to God?  If everything comes ftom God, if every cent we earn is a gift from God- then there is an inherent sanctity to every cent we have that is earned by honest means (the same does not apply to money earned through dishonest means).  Now, we know from the laws of Maaser Sheni, that we can transfer the sanctity of money onto an item bought (the case is that Maaser sheni has to be eaten in Jerusalem but would go off if we had to wait to take it there. Instead, we redeem the Maaser Sheni with money- transferring the sanctity to the money; and then buy food to eat in Jerusalem with the money- once again transferring the sanctity to the food).  So- here, the inherent sanctity of the money is transferred to everything we buy! (No, it is not actually considered sanctified, but it is seen as coming from God and thus connected to sanctity).  When a thief steals something- they are not just stealing the physical object (or money), they are denying the sanctity of God, essentially saying that God does not rule the world and he has a right to take things that God has given to others!  For this reason it states that Geneivah (theft) stands against, and exceeds, idoltary, sexual immorality and murder as it is a fundamental denial and abrogation of God and God’s role in the world!

June 24, 2008 Posted by | Chagim, Other Torah, Torah | , , , | Leave a comment

Sotah and Nazir Originally posted June 3, 2008

This weeks parsha is Naso, and it starts off with discussing the sotah. The question is asked by the meforshim: Why does the Torah discuss the Sotah, the adulterous wife, and the suspected Sotah, straight after the Nazir- somebody who took an oath to abstain from all grape products, tumat meit (impurity from the dead) and cutting their hair. Essentially the Sotah and Nazir are polar opposites- one abstains to achieve holiness and the other immerses themselves in physicality (partaking in a forbidden sexual relationship) and degrades their spirituality completely.

One thing stated in the Talmud in both Masechta Sotah and Masechta Nazir is the idea that someone, on seeing a woman going through the process of drinking the bitter waters to determine if she was adulterous or not, should take a vow to be a Nazir.

So, how do you relate this to the modern era? Its simple- how much wallowing in pure physicality do we see on a daily basis? How much physicality is promoted in TV, movies, adverts, our daily lives? But the question is- what action do we take in our lives to counter this immersion in physicality? Do we just accept the modern era, accept that the world is not ideal? Or do we work on improving ourselves- accepting that though it is hard, we should find ways to increase our immersion in the spiritual, rather than accept that we have to accept what the world around us would have us accept as normal?

Perhaps the sotah teaches us this as well. if she was guilty- if she had sequestered with a man after her husband had told her not to, if she had engaged in an adulterous liaison, then both her and the man died painfully from the bitter waters (don’t forget, at any point in the process she could admit her guilt and walk away- divorced but with no other repercussions). if she was innocent- then the waters had served their purpose- peace was restored between husband and wife and she was blessed. So – here we see it- if we are mired in physicality, then we die- either literally or spiritually. If we reject the lure of the world around us- remain true to the Torah and its desire to enhance us spiritually, then we are blessed.

June 24, 2008 Posted by | Other Torah, Parshah, Torah | , | Leave a comment