Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Re’eh 5770: The disgusting pig

Question
Parshas Hashavuah Question: The laws of Kashrut are revised in this weeks parsha- what is it about the pig that makes it be singled out for such revulsion? Other animals are listed- yet it is universally the pig that is seen as the symbol of an unkosher animal.

This weeks Parsha is Re’eh Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:26-16:17

ANSWER

The reason for the especial revulsion felt towards the pig is the manner in which it portrays itself as Kosher on the outside, but is unkosher on the inside. The Meforshim compare this to a perosn who misrepresents themselves, the one who puts themselves forward as being holy while sinning privately. Thus the pig becomes symbolic of the misbehaviour of people- the misleading of others in order to gain an advantage.

It is no coincedence that the rehash of the laws of Kashrus are directly before the Torah repeats forbidding worshipping as the Canaanites did, followed by the warning against the false prophet, meized (the one who entices people to convert secretly) and the city which resorts to idol worship. In essence, here we see the same priniciples as with the laws of Kashrus. First you have the blatant act- the obviously unkosher- worshipping in the same manner as the Canaanites had done, copying their worship.

With Kashrut, next comes the animals that chew the cud but are not kosher- they have a semblance of being kosher, but they display their non-kosher status openly. This is analogous to the false prophet- he appears to be a real prophet, performing signs and wonders, having his prophecies be fulfilled- but he shows his credentials fo being false by calling for a change in the Torah or in the halachah (Jewish law). He is openly showing that he is not Jewish as he tries to abrogate part, or all, of what G-d has commanded.

The laws of Kashrut then go on to discuss the pig, the animal which portrays dishonesty, pretending to be something it is not, trying to join a community to which it does not belong, to get others to accept it. Analogous to this is the meizid, the enticer. The Torah explicitly states that this is someone close to you, someone that to all intents and purposes looks and sounds Jewish. Someone, that because of their closeness, you would inherently trust. Yet this person abuses that relationship, they pretend to be something they are not and to try and get the person close to them to convert and to go after other religions!

Here we see the particular revulsion for the pig and the meizid highlighted even further. Just as the pig has been singled out as a paritcularly devious creature; so too the meizid had been singled out as being particularly devious. While the corpse of any treifah conveys tumah, this is emphasised with the pig where no matter how it dies, its corpse conveys Tumah. Where does the Torah convey its especial dislike and scorn for the meizid? When it tells us how to deal with the meizid it states in Devarim Chapter 13 v9: You shall not desire him, and you shall not hearken to him; neither shall you pity him, have mercy upon him, nor shield him.

This is emphasised in the Talmud where it has the meizid as the only case in which the witnesses may be hidden and no prior warning is give! (For a fuller treatment of this subject, see my post here) It is for this reason that you find Jews have an especial dislike for the antics of the “messianic jews”. They are the classic meizid, posing as a friend, as family, as a member of the community- and then enticing others to leave Judaism. Like the pig, they often appear kosher on the outside, taking on all the trappings of Judaism to pose as being Jewish. In truth, they are as unkosher as the pig, hiding their true nature to entice people.

In the modern era we may not have a Sanhedrin or court that can act against them- but we have the ability to reach out and to communicate in an unprecedented way. Just as the enticer’s can use the internet and other technologies to try and convert the uneducated- so we can use them to educate and innoculate people against the meizid, the dishonest missionaries that pose as Jews to destroy Jewish souls.

Note (added after Shabbos Parshas Re’eh)
After giving this drosha this morning one of the community memebrs asked the question: Haven’t I mixed things around? The laws about the various types of people trying to get us to leave idol worship are in chapter 13, and the laws relating to Kosher animals are in Chapter 14- yet I stated that the revision of the laws of Kashrut come first!

Their is an interestng split here- the laws relating to Kashrut actually start in Chapter 12 where the prohibition against the eating of blood is given- but it deviates from there to discussing how we offer some sacrifices while emphasising what we are NOT allowed to emulate- fromt here it goes into the issue of the various people trying to convert us and the city of idol worshippers- returning to the laws of Kashrut. So, yes, the laws relating to the specific animals come after- but the start of the revision of the laws of Kashrut comes first- deviating to highlight the exceptionally important laws relating to rejecting idolatry. Why would you have this sudden veering away only to return to it? Lets ask a question- when dealing with two crimes, one punishable by death and the other only by flogging, which is the ore important one to teach? Obviously the one where death and seperation form G-d is the reult- thus we learn about idolatry and its effects before we learn about the treif animals.

Another question raised on this was why I did not tie the city that converts into the laws of Kashrut. The answer is not that I w s lazy- but rather in the fact that the other categories deal with individuals and individual behaviour- not with a group. Since the follow on drosha to this later was related to Rosh Chodesh Elul that starts this week, I was relating it to individual responsibility and actions rather than that of a group

Advertisements

August 4, 2010 Posted by | Messianic, Parshah, Torah, Weekly Question/Issue | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Who is a Jew?

For those unaware of it, I recently started a blog related to exposing the tactics of “messianics jews” called Messianics Exposed (thus the link amongst those in the frame on the right). I made a post there recently which I have decided is relevant here, though slightly expanded on in terms of making it more universal though it is still very much focussed on what the “messianic jews” try to claim.

So, here is the question: Who is a Jew? On the surface, it would seem that it should be easy- surely a Jew is one who thinks he is a Jew? After all- some argue that if someone chooses to identify with, and take on the behaviours of, a group, they have the right to identify with that group. Others might be more restrictive and say- anyone that is going to be prosecuted for being a part of the group is surely part of the group and thus include anyone the Nazis would have prosecuted. The problem with both these simplistic approaches is that it ignores one very important factor, that of the definition from group itself! So, what is the Jewish definition?

Halachicly, Judaism defines someone as Jewish if their MOTHER (matrilineal descent) is Jewish or if they have a halachicly (according to Jewish law) valid conversion. Reform Judaism in the USA (outside of the USA most congregations follow the law of matrilineality) extends this definition a bit to include patrilineal descent to a limited extent- in other words, they only accept patrilineal descent combined with living a Jewish life and identification with the Jewish community (by Reform definitions, not Orthodox.) Thus the individual should observe life cycle events, be a member of community and such though there is no requirement for kashrut, tzitzit, tefillin etc). Since I am Orthodox, and this is an Orthodox blog, I am going to put aside the Reform in the USA’s recognition of patrilineal descent and just state that it is not accepted by Orthodox and leave it there (and if I have misstated it in anyway, I will welcome clarification from Reform readers and fix what I have stated. I do not pretend to be an expert on Reform or Conservative Judaism).

So, within Orthodox Judaism we have two definitions of a Jew- the one with a Jewish mother and the convert. Where do we learn this from? Matrilineal descent is learned from the Torah and we see it being explictly applied in the Tanakh. We learn it from the Torah in Devarim (Deuterenomy) Chapter 7

. You shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughter to his son, and you shall not take his daughter for your son. ג. וְלֹא תִתְחַתֵּן בָּם בִּתְּךָ לֹא תִתֵּן לִבְנוֹ וּבִתּוֹ לֹא תִקַּח לִבְנֶךָ:
4. For he will turn away your son from following Me, and they will worship the gods of others, and the wrath of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will quickly destroy you. ד. כִּי יָסִיר אֶת בִּנְךָ מֵאַחֲרַי וְעָבְדוּ אֱ־לֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וְחָרָה אַף יְ־הֹוָ־ה בָּכֶם וְהִשְׁמִידְךָ מַהֵר:

Now, verse 3 explictly states that neither Jewish men or women can marry non-Jews. However, in verse 4 there is a concern that the husband of the Jewish woman will entice the children into leaving Judaism, but there is no reciprocal concern that the wife of a Jewish man will entice the children out of Judaism- why not? The children are not Jewish. Rashi addresses this here in his commentary on the Torah and it is discussed in the Talmud in masechta Kiddushin daf 68b.

Where do we learn this from in the Tanakh? In Sefer Ezra (the Book of Ezra) in Ketuvim, we read the following in chapter 10 (see the chapter further for details):

3. And now, let us make a covenant with our God to cast out all the wives and their offspring, by the counsel of the Lord and those who hasten to [perform] the commandment of our God, and according to the Law it shall be done.

AND

10. And Ezra the priest arose and said to them, “You have dealt treacherously, and you have taken in foreign wives to add to Israel’s guilt. י.
11. And now, confess to the Lord, the God of your forefathers, and do His will, and separate from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” יא.
12. Then the entire congregation replied and said in a loud voice: “Yes! We must do as you say!

AND

16. The people of the exile did so. Ezra the priest [and certain] men, heads of the fathers’ houses after the house of their fathers, separated themselves, all of them [known] by name, and they convened on the first day of the tenth month to investigate the matter. טז.
17. And they completed everything concerning the men who had brought in foreign women, until the first day of the first month.

Now, we read that the men put the wives AND their children from those wives aside. The wives it can be easily understood that they were not Jewish- after all, it was only the non-Jewish women they were required to seperate from. The children are not explicitly stated. So why would the men seperate from them? If they were Jewish, they would be obligated to educate them as Jews, something that would be difficult to impossible if the children were put aside! The answer to that, is that these children were not Jewish and thus there was no obligation to educate them, or to bring them up as Jews!

Another less direct source goes even further back- to the time of Avraham! Where do we see that? Avraham had three wives and eight children. Hagar was an Egyptian and idol worshiper- Ishmael is not seen as Jewish. Keturah is not seen as being a complete follower of Avraham’s religious views and her children are not Jewish. Sarah is the only one of the three wives who completely absorbs Avraham’s faith and worships G-d in the same manner as he does- her son Yitzchak IS Jewish. Now, all eight children have the same father – but only one mother is considered Jewish, and only her son and his descendants are considered Jewish! Thus we can see that even in the time of Avraham, the father did not dictate the religion of the child, but the mother. If it had been the father, then all eight would have been amongst the patriarchs of the Jewish faith!

We see this with the two children of Yitzchak as well. Esav marries women that are not acceptable, that are idol worshippers – Ya’akov marries righteous women who takes up his beliefs and worships G-d as a Jewess. None of the children of Esav are considered Jewish- the children of Ya’akov are considered Jewish since his wives had all converted to Judaism! Again- it is the status of the mother that confers Jewishness to the children- not the status of the father!

Thus we have shown the first of these requirements is satisfied from the Torah and Tanakh. How about a convert? From where do we know that the convert is Jewish? Simply put- the Torah frequently includes the convert as a Jew- emphasising that they are part of the community (see below). Probably one of the earliest mentions of the convert as a member of the community is found in Shemot (exodus) Chapter 12

47. The entire community of Israel shall make it. מז. כָּל עֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל יַעֲשׂוּ אֹתוֹ:
48. And should a proselyte reside with you, he shall make a Passover sacrifice to the Lord. All his males shall be circumcised, and then he may approach to make it, and he will be like the native of the land, but no uncircumcised male may partake of it. מח. וְכִי יָגוּר אִתְּךָ גֵּר וְעָשָׂה פֶסַח לַי־הֹוָ־ה הִמּוֹל לוֹ כָל זָכָר וְאָז יִקְרַב לַעֲשֹׂתוֹ וְהָיָה כְּאֶזְרַח הָאָרֶץ וְכָל עָרֵל לֹא יֹאכַל בּוֹ:
49. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who resides in your midst.” מט. תּוֹרָה אַחַת יִהְיֶה לָאֶזְרָח וְלַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּתוֹכְכֶם:

Verse 47 states the entire community of Bnei Yisrael makes the the Korban Pesach (and the prior verses enumerated those excluded). In verse 48 it explictly expands the community to include the convert and verse 48 then again combines the two into a single unit by statiung that the law for a born Jew and a convert are identical- we do not differntiate.

When it comes to seeing this in the Tanakh, the most famous example is that of Rut, the ancestress of King David. How much more proof do you need than an explicit declaration that the ancestress of the line from which the mashiach will ultimately come is a convert! Even more, the Talmud in masechta Yevamos uses the speech by Rut to Naomi to derive the laws and requirements for a Kosher conversion! And thus the second way of being Jewish is enumerated and proven through the Torah and Tanakh.

Are there any other ways in which a person could be considered Jewish? From the Orthodox POV – NO. Thats it, these are the two only ways and no one else is considered to be Jewish (the recognition of Karaites as Jews is not a contradiction to this- but rather seen from the following angle- the original Karaites were Jews and until very recently did not allow conversion. Thus even though they recignise patrilineal descent, by default all Karaites also had matrilineal descent satisfying the Orthodox requirements. With the recent decision by Karaites to allow conversion, this stance may need to be relooked at since it raises two questions: One the validity of their conversions and the issue of patrilineal descent when the mother is the convert)

One often sees “messianic jews” making the claim that since they were born Jewish, they remain Jewish regardless of what religion they follow. They claim that regardless of what they do, they cannot loose their Jewishness. In essence, they insist Jews are a race, and one cannot loose ones race through converting to a new religion. Of course, the vast majority of people in “messianic jewish” communities have zero connection to Judaism- the estimates of people that are actually halachicly Jewish within their communities ranges from between 1% at the bottom end, to 9% at the top end. As always, there are a few communities with a majority of former Jews in their ranks, and others where no members have any real connection to Judaism. But what about that 1-9% of members that used to be classified as Jews? Are they members of a “Jewish race”?

You have to wonder where they get this idea of a Jewish race from. It is not from the Torah which has many stories of converts- from the time of Avraham where Eleizer his servant had converted, as had the hundreds of men and their families that served as Avraham’s battle with the five kings, to the leaving of Egypt where the eruv rav (“mixed multitude”) left Egypt with the Jews, but they had disappeared by the time the Jews entered Israel 40 years later. Where did they go? They either left the nation during the travels in the desert or converted to Judaism and joined with the tribes of those they converted under. The Tanakh has examples as well; the most famous being the conversion of Ruth (and which is used as the Talmud, in masechta Yevamos, as the template to teach us what a valid conversion entails). We even see that Moshe married a convert- Miriam complains about his Black wife, for which Miriam is punished with tzora’as; but we see that Tziporah had obviously converted and had been taught by Moshe as when G-d came to kill Moshe for not circumcising his sons Tziporah knew what to do (Shemot (Exodus) Chapter 4 v24-27).

The status of converts and their descendants as being the equal of every Jew is probably exemplified by the first verse of Torah that a child learns and which is sung joyfully at his upshiernes (a custom many have of only cutting a boy’s hair for the first time at age 3) from Devarim (Deuteronomy) chapter 33:

4. The Torah that Moshe commanded us is a legacy for the congregation of Ya’akov. ד. תּוֹרָה צִוָּה לָנוּ מֹשֶׁה מוֹרָשָׁה קְהִלַּת יַעֲקֹב

Why does it talk about the “congregation of Ya’akov (Jacob aka Yisrael aka Israel)? Simple- it is an all inclusive term for all that believe in G-d, convert and born Jew alike. It is not Bnei Yisrael that some could argue would be only those descended from Ya’akov! Similarly, we read in Devarim (Deuteronomy) Chapter 6 the most fundamental declaration of the Jewish faith

4. Hear, O Yisrael: The Lord is our God; the Lord is one. ד. שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶחָד:

Again, it is Yisrael, the nation, not Bnei Yisrael, just those descended from Ya’akov. It is all inclusive, the entire nation is addressed; we are all equally required to recognise the uniqueness, indivisibility and singularity that is G-d.

So where does this idea of a Jewish race originate? It is not an old one, it did not exist in the times of the Temples or even through most of history. In fact, we can trace its origins mainly to the 19th century, and the works of the early proponents of racial theories in which different groups of people had different values due to their “race”. It was developed from here by the Nazi’s, and had the inevitable consequence of the holocaust. Why do I state that it was inevitable? There is an excellent chapter in the book “Hitler’s willing executioner’s” by Daniel Goldenhagen in which he traces the development of anti-Semitism from its early roots where it was based on religion, fear of the unknown and politics to racial anti-Semitism. In his book, Daniel Goldenhagen makes the point that in the past genocide was not the aim of anti-Semitism, the aim was conversion- getting them to be the same, to convert to the religion, to accept the ruling authorities (who frequently claimed divine right to rule). A person was seen as a human being first- their Jewishness something they could change. Racial anti-Semitism altered this equation- one cannot change ones race, thus merely converting the Jews was no longer an option, and if they were an inferior race bringing the entire of humanity down, the inevitable solution had to be genocide. Note: I am NOT calling “messianic jews” Nazis, merely stating that their seeing Judaism as being racial originated with Nazis.

So, if the “messianic jews” do not utilise the Nazi’s justification, what do they use? Here we see how they abuse Jewish sources to try and support their claim. They take a comment in the Talmud masechta Sanhedrin out of context- in reference to a passage in Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah)- the sages state that even when Israel sins, it remains Israel and does not loose its covenant with G-d. Their simplistic understanding of the text, and ignoring context and the rest of the law on this matter, leads them into a serious error here. How so? Yes- they remain Jewish- and if they do not repent they are PUNISHED! We see this clearly- the Jews were punished for their sinning by the Temple being destroyed, so an individual who sins and does not repent is punished. The last chapter of masechta Sanhedrin, Chapter 11 called chapter Chelek, starts with a Mishnah listing those who are punished with kares (in other words, are seperated from the community in this world and from G-d in the world to come, the worst possible punishment). This list includes a Jew who takes on any foreign beliefs as part of his serving G-d! It includes those who read the books of other religions to serve G-d, it includes those who deliberately misuse a knowledge of Torah to lead others into sin. In other words, there are multiple reasons why a member of “messianic judaism” would suffer from kares. The Rishonim (the Rabbis in the generation after the Talmud was sealed until the time the Shuklkhan Aruch was written) vary in how strictly we separate the people from the community. All place them outside of the community and unable to participate in the community in any manner whatsoever- but the ease with which they are allowed to rejoin the community is debated. Some allow them to return with a simple declaration and public acceptance of Judaism, some require mikvah and a declaration before a Beis Din (court) of at least three judges. The Rema in Shulkhan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 268:12) and the Rambam in Hilchos Avodas Kochavim rule the person completely separated from Judaism and thus needing a full conversion including mikvah and Beis Din before the person can return. In the modern era we generally rule according to HaRav Moshe Feinstein that in the modern era the vast majority of converts come from backgrounds devoid of proper Jewish education and thus we treat them as a “captured child” i.e. a child that was captured by non-Jews and grew up with no knowledge of Torah and is thus deemed innocent of transgressions of the law. Some still require mikveh and declaration before a Beis Din (though not a full conversion), but most just allow the person to repent and return to Judaism.

So, here is the crux of the matter- a Jew who converts to ANY other religion ceases to be a part of the Jewish community, ceases to be seen as Jewish and ceases to have any meaningfull connection to Judaism and the Torah. What does the verse in Yirmiyahu and the Talmud in masechta Sanhedrin teach? That the person retains a connection to the fact that they were Jewish- and are thus always JUDGED and PUNISHED as a Jew! Even if their new religion is 100% compliant with the seven laws of Bnei Noach and a non-Jew would be considered a ger tzedek, a former Jew in the other religion would be punished with Kares and not considered Jewish while alive! So, when “messianic jews” try to claim ‘once a Jew, always a Jew’, they neglect to mention the full extent of this law- and that they remain Jews only for the purposes of judgement and punishment!

July 5, 2010 Posted by | Current affairs, Messianic, Other Torah, Talmud, Torah | , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Channukah- an ancient story but a modern battle

In just over a week (On Friday night the 11 December corresponding with the 25 Kislev) we start lighting the Channukah candles.  For those unaware of the story it goes as follows:

The Greeks are ruling Israel.  As part of trying to assimilate the Jews into the Greek Empire (well, the Mecedonian Seleucid Empire to be 100% accurate, but for simplicity we will just use the common terminology of the Greeks) the Greek Emperor orders a statue of Zeus placed in the Temple and for a pig to be slaughtered on the Temple alter in his honour.  Matisyahu, the Kohen Gadol, refuses and his children, led by Yehuda haMaccabi (literaly Yehudah the Hammer) lead a revolt against the Greeks- succeeding in expelling them from Israel and retaking the Temple.  The Temple is rededicated and they come to relight the Temple menorah, but there is a problem.  The menorah can only be lit with the specially consecrated oil, stored in flasks bearing the Kohen Gadol’s (High Priests) seal.  The vials have been broken open, smashed or just had their seals broken rendering it unfit for the holy use of lighting the menorah.  Eventually one small jug is found, containing enough oil for one day.  There is a lack of surety over what to do, but after discussion the decision is made in accordance to halachah (Jewish law): you perform a mitzvah that comes to hand and do not postphone it.  Thus the menorah is lit with this one days worth of oil- and miraculously it stays lit for the eight days it takes for new oil to be made.   Why do we celebrate Channukah?  Our sages quote a dictum that we must commemorate a poublic miracle from Hashem for Bnei Yisrael (Talmud masechta Shabbos daf 21) and thus we publicise the miracle of Channukah.

On the surface it appears to be a simple story, the attempted integration of a conquered people into the conqueror’s way of life- a common and oft repeated tactic in the ancient era.  On a deeper level we see another battle- that of the hellenised Jews, the ones that admired Greek culture and attempted to combine it with Judaism, and those like the Maccabees who fought to keep Judaism pure and free of foreign influences.  This has always been the battle in judaism- the prophets and judges continuously had to call the Jews back from idol worship and foreign practices; the lure of being just like everyone else, of being accepted is amazingly strong.  It is not  a single sided battle though, while people within Judaism may be attracted to the foreign and different, there are those in those foreign religions that call out to the Jews, that seek to entice them into idoltary and foreign religions and ways.

Today, the most stark examples of this are those Christian missionary sects that pretend to be Jewish in order to convert the uneducated.  “mesisanic judaism”, “jews for jesus”, “completed jews” etc- all Christian missionary sects, all with but a minute number of Jews in them, all propounding a religion with no resemblance to Judaism- yet all promoting themselves as Judaism.  Like the Hellenised Jews in the time of the Greeks, the “messianic jews” and others seek to incorporate foreign practices into Judaism.  They wish to insert Pagan beliefs and ideas into Judaism, making it no longer Judaism but yet another Christian sect.  Like the Greeks, the aim is the eventual destruction of the Jews- destroy their spirituality and convert them ito something they are not.

This year, as we light the Menorah, let us remember the miracle of Channukah the miracle of Jews keeping the light of the Torah through 2000 years of oppression.  As we watch the lights of  the candles, let us think of the light of the Torah, how it illuminates life and elevates us from the mundane to the holy- and how we need to continuously work against those who would seek to dim and hide that light behind a Pagan message while pretending it is Judaism!

November 30, 2009 Posted by | Chagim, Messianic, Torah | , , , , , , | 1 Comment