Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Does DovBear subscribe to Principle Number Eight?

Number eight of the Rambams (Maimonides) 13 Principles of Faith unequivocally states that one has got to believe that the Torah (the Bible) is the word of God. Every part of it. No ifs and no buts. Every verse and every word. Period.

This principle is known as ‘Torah Min Hashomayim’ or Torah is From Heaven.

Now I really like DovBear. He is a fantastic blogger and I empathise with his worldview. I am sure he is a really great guy. Today though I pose the following question; does DovBear believe in this important principle of faith? Can DovBear claim to believe in Torah Min Hashomayim? Does DovBear believe that Torah is literally the word of God? The answer to all this is absolutely, absolutely not.

I think DovBear will take umbrage at this; he tries to claim that he does believe in it. But that is patently false. Take a good look at this post, the whole thing but especially point 1. In fact I will quote point 1 verbatim here;

mabulNo idea. It could have been a local flood. It could have been a global flood. It could be moshol. Or it could have been a local myth that found its way into the Torah post-revelation during the period (see the Books of Judges and Kings) when the Jews were almsot all idol worshippers and the book Moshe recieved was largely forgotten and ignored. The burden of proof, incidently, is on those of you who say that it was a global flood. You need to explain the inconsistancies in the story, and you need to explain the absence of physical evidence. Not a slam dunk.

Let me ask you DovBear, how do you understand the principle of Torah Min Hasomayim? It certainly is nothing like the way Maimonides understood it.

Let us take a look and see what the Rambam actually says;

(The relavent Rambam is in Pirush Hamishnayos; I have abridged it. But please look it up. He says what I say. )

The eighth principle is Torah Min Hasomayim. This means that one must believe that all parts of this Torah that we have today is the Torah that was given to Moishe who got it in turn from God himself. It is as if Moishe was a scribe writing verbatim what was being read to him. There is no qualitative difference between any parts of the Torah. Every part of it is literally the word of God. If any person is of the opinion that any anecdote or date is superfluous he disbelieves that Torah is Min Hashomayim. If somebody claims that all of the Torah is the word of God, besides but one verse that is not the word of God except Moishe said it himself, such an individual is a heretic.

I say to DovBear the onus is now on you to come out and explain how you reconcile your enlightened and modern approach to the text of our Torah against that classic article of faith that proclaims that all, every word is literally the word of God.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Yated & Cross Currents Answer Why Chareidim Reject Yom Hashoa

Even when I was a fully paid up member of the Ultra Orthodox camp I felt it odd that a day wasn’t set aside to mourn the great tragedy that was the lot of European Jewry between 1935-1945. After all we belong to a community that has days and rituals to commemorate various events practically all the time. We know how to do it and we do it well. As master bloggers DovBears brother Yitzchock Eyezik notes in his own inimical style we are at this very moment mourning the loss of 24,000 Talmudic students that died some 2000 years ago. We are not listening to music, cutting our hair, wearing new clothes or getting married; and all this for 33 days!! As I say we know how to do it. We have experience. We have very good precedence’s. Within such a context the absence of anything, and I do mean anything, for the Shoa is nothing less than pretty extraordinary.

And so each year as the non-chareidi world prepares to solemnly remember the unspeakable horrors of the holocaust on Yom Hashoa, their embarrassed relative that is the chareidi world is hard at work producing an apologetic which will explain why they cannot, sorry must not, take part.

This year I had the benefit to read two sets of such apologetics. I suggest you read them as well. I can assure you that you will be left with nothing but respect for their position. The first set is on the Yated Neemans website and the second is at Cross Currents.

In case you do not have the time to read them fully I will summarise the main points, as I understand them.

1) The only, and let me reiterate, the only reason why Yom Hashoa was instituted was to commemorate the attempt to fight the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
2) Yom Hashoa is not really concerned with the vast majority of Jews that perished. We would rather forget those that went like sheep to the slaughter.
3) Chareidim are of the opinion that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was a disgrace and a grave sin. The ‘Gedolim’ were against it. (I assume that these are the same ‘Gedolim’ that promised their followers that the war will never happen and that they should certainly not attempt to flee. YS.) It was collective suicide and nothing but scorn should be poured on that whole episode and those wild unthinking Jews that took a part in it. Chareidim therefore eschew Yom Hashoa (see No 1).
4) Chareidim are of the opinion that one should never fight against their enemies. If a nation wants to get rid of Klal Yisroel, then so be it and we should all go like sheep to the slaughter. Chareidim therefore eschew Yom Hashoa (see No 2).
5) Kibutznikim are cowards. They prefer to forget those who did not fight back (as per No 1 & 2) and yet when one went to kibbutzim at night in the immediate post war years one could hear from the huts the screams of survivors as they relived their torments during nigh time nightmares.
6) Chareidim are by their very nature more sensitive than other mortals and mourn more deeply and more painfully than anyone else.

For more of this type of stuff please read the original. As for me I am feeling rather depressed. I wonder why?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Countering the 'Judaism Is Super-Tolerant Brigade' - Part 1

There is out there among many a belief, that Rabbinical Judaism is tolerant of other religions and faiths. That Rabbinical Judaism is not all that elitist. That to be a 'good' gentile is perfectly acceptable.

This notion is all but wishful thinking and has been spun by interested parties. Over the next few posts I am going to counter what is as far as I can see a big myth.

One of the main 'proofs' that the 'Judaism Is Super-Tolerant Brigade' are always more than happy to bring is the halachic principle that Rabbinical Judaism is extremely reluctant to accept geirim (converts). This is indeed true but after examining these halachos within their proper context one sees that far from being an indication of tolerance they are symptomatic of a creed that is intolerant in the extreme. I shall expose this over the next couple of posts; I start here.

Rabbinical Judaism is fully aware of the difficulty of leading a halachic life. The list of laws is endless and creeps into absolutely every area of life. What and when to eat, when and how to pray, if and whom one may marry, when if and how one may have sex with ones own wife, how to go to sleep, how to get up etc, etc, etc, etc. Chazal (the rabbis who thought all this up circa 2000-2500 years ago) had enough problems in insuring the prevailing Jewish population kept all the tens of thousands of halachos; many couldn't keep up and they became an underclass of their own (the Am Haaretz - man of the land/peasant). Chazal were extremely suspicious of anybody wanting to join this sort of system. And right they were. The chances of people really prepared to comply had got to be small.

A major issue Chazal had to contend with when considering conversion and its consequences was the 'once a Jew always a Jew rule'. There is no way according to Rabbinic law for a Jew to lose his/her Jewish status. In fact the last person who managed this was Esau the brother of Jacob. We as the children of Jacob no longer have the right or ability to halchically opt-out. This is equally true for any convert to Rabbinic Judaism. Once the convert crosses that threshold and becomes a halachic Jew there is no way back. The ger is stuck with his/her new status and as importantly we the Jewish people are stuck with this new ger for eternity. When as is more than likely the initial enthusiasm of the ger wanes and the convert slips in his/her compliance of halaocho Rabbinic Judaism will inevitably be a loser. Chazal had no interest at all in recruiting Jews who’s Judaism will lapse sooner rather than later. They had enough as it was. They didn’t want more.

The Gemorrah (Talmud) expresses this argument with the following statement which it repeats often: ‘ Geirim are as irritating to the Jewish nation as is a plague of tzoraas.’

This essay is based on the Rambam Hilchos Issurei Biyah Perek 13. Please check it up before attacking me if you can.