The Talmud and the Constitution

This post is about similarities between the development of Jewish law and American law.

A story is recounted in the Babylonian Talmud, which I am going to paraphrase slightly for clarity:

Rabbi Yehudah said, “Rav (Abba Aricha) said, “When Moses ascended Mount Sinai, up to the heavens, to receive the Biblical law, he found God sitting and adding calligraphic flourishes (crowns) to the letters.

Moses said,”Master of the Universe! Why are you going so slowly? Why aren’t you finished?”

God said to him, “Many generations from now, Akiva the son of Yosef will expound on every calligraphic detail to teach piles and piles of laws.”

Moses said, “Master of the Universe! Show him to me,” so God told him to turn around, and a vision of Rabbi Akiva teaching his students appeared. Moses went and sat in the back row, but the teaching style was so intellectual that he did not understand what they were talking about and got upset.

Then one of the students asked Rabbi Akiva, “Our teacher, where did you learn this law?”

Akiva replied, “It is from a law that was taught to Moses at Sinai.”

So Moses calmed down. He returned and came before the Holy One, Blessed be He, and said before Him, “Master of the Universe! If you have a man like this, why are you are giving the Torah through me?”

But God only replied, “Be silent. This is what I have decided.”””

2,000 years ago, when Yeshua of the house of David still walked the Earth, rabbinic Judaism–the Judaism you’ll find if you walk into any synagogue–did not fully exist.* The Judaism of Roman Judea was a temple cult, centered on the great Temple in Jerusalem (though there were others, in Turkey, Greece, Egypt, and of course, Samaria.) Ordinary Jews went about their business–raising crops, tending goats, building tables, etc–and every so often they visited the Temple, bought or brought an offering, and had the priest sacrifice it.

*Note: See the comments for a discussion of continuity between Pharisaic Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism. I am not arguing that Rabbinic Judaism was invented whole cloth.

69 AD, also known as the Year of the Four Emperors, was particularly bad for the Roman Empire. Galba seized power after Nero‘s suicide, only to be murdered on January 15 in coup led by Otho. Emperor Otho committed suicide on April 16 after losing Battle of Bedriacum to Vitellius. Vitellius was murdered on December 20 by Vespasian‘s troops.

Meanwhile, Judea was in revolt. In 70 AD, Vespasian’s son (and successor) Titus besieged Jerusalem, crushed the rebellion, and razed the Temple.

Without the Temple–and worse, scattered to the winds–what was an ordinary Jew supposed to do? Where could he take his sacrifices? How was he supposed to live in this new land? Could he visit a bath house that had a statue of Aphrodite? Could he eat food that had been sold beside non-kosher meat?

The Bible has 613 laws for Jews to follow, but do you know how many laws you live under?

I once did a research project on the subject. I found that no one knows how many laws there are in the US. We have federal, state, county, and city laws. We have the code of federal regulations, containing thousands of rules created by unelected bureaucrats within dozens of agencies like the EPA, which is enforced exactly like laws. We have thousands of pages of case law handed down by the Supreme Court.

It’s one thing to live in an organic community, following the traditions handed down by your ancestors. Then perhaps 613 laws are enough. But with the destruction of the Temple, Judaism had to adapt. Somehow they had to get a full body of laws out of those measly 613.

Enter the Rabbi Akiva (also spelled Akiba or Aqiba) and his calligraphic flourishes. By examining and re-examining the text, comparing a verse from one section to a similar verse to another, groups of rabbis (teachers) and their students gradually built up a body of laws, first passed down orally (the Oral Torah,) and then written: the Talmud.

For example, the 5th Commandment says to Remember the Sabbath Day, but how, exactly, are you supposed to do it? The Bible says not to “work” (or so we translate it,) but isn’t a rabbi preaching his sermon on Saturday working? To clarify, they look to the next verse, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:11) and declare that “work” here refers to creative work: building, writing, sewing, sowing, reaping, carrying (materials for creative work), building fires, or inversely, putting out fires, knocking down buildings, etc. Merely giving a speech–even if you get paid for it–is not work. (Though you can’t accept the payment on Saturday.)

The word for “work” in the Bible, transliterated as “melachah,” is further interpreted as related to “melekh,” king, relating it back to God (the King)’s work. Melachah is not found very often in the Bible, but shows up again in Exodus 31, during a discussion of the work done to build the Ark of the Covenant [which is not actually a boat] and various related tents–a discussion which is suddenly interrupted for a reminder about the Sabbath. From this, it was reasoned that work specifically mentioned in the first part of the passage was what was prohibited in the second part, and therefore these were among the specific varieties of work forbidden on Shabbat.

If a suitably similar verse could not be found elsewhere in the text to explicate an inadequate passage, rabbis found other ways of decoding God’s “original intent,” including gematria and the aforementioned calligraphic flourishes. Hey, if God wrote it, then God can encode messages in it.

Which gets us back to the story at the beginning of the post. Note how it begins: The Talmud says that Rabbi Yehudah said, “Rav said… ‘Moses said…'” This is a written account of an oral account passed from teacher to student, about a conversation between Moses (recipient of the Torah or first five books of the Bible from God and recipient of the Oral Torah, which was just how everyone lived,) about the transformation from Mosaic Judaism, centered on the Temple and lived tradition, to Rabbinic Judaism, centered on repeated reading and interpretation of the holy text, which contains in it all of the things that used to just be part of everyone’s traditions.

The result, of course, was the Talmud–or rather multiple Talmuds, though the Babylonian is the most commonly cited. The Vilna Edition of the Babylonian Tamud runs 37 volumes, and looks like this:

The inner section is a passage from the original Talmud. The inner margin is Rashi (a famous rabbi)’s commentary, the outer margin is additional commentary from other famous rabbis, and around the edges you can see marginalia from even more rabbis.

Like an onion, it is layer upon layer upon layer.

But what authority do the rabbis have to make pronouncements about the law?

The Talmud recounts an amusing argument about whether an oven could be purified:

The Sages taught: On that day, when they discussed this matter, Rabbi Eliezer answered all possible answers in the world to support his opinion, but the Rabbis did not accept his explanations from him.

After failing to convince the Rabbis logically, Rabbi Eliezer said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, this carob tree will prove it. The carob tree was uprooted from its place one hundred cubits, and some say four hundred cubits.

The Rabbis said to him: One does not cite halakhic proof from the carob tree.

Rabbi Eliezer then said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, the stream will prove it. The water in the stream turned backward and began flowing in the opposite direction.

They said to him: One does not cite halakhic proof from a stream.

Rabbi Eliezer then said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, the walls of the study hall will prove it. The walls of the study hall leaned inward and began to fall.

Rabbi Yehoshua scolded the walls and said to them: If Torah scholars are contending with each other in matters of halakha, what is the nature of your involvement in this dispute?

The Gemara relates: The walls did not fall because of the deference due Rabbi Yehoshua, but they did not straighten because of the deference due Rabbi Eliezer, and they still remain leaning.

Rabbi Eliezer then said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, Heaven will prove it.

A Divine Voice emerged from Heaven and said: Why are you differing with Rabbi Eliezer, as the halakha is in accordance with his opinion in every place that he expresses an opinion?

Rabbi Yehoshua stood on his feet and said: It is written: “It is not in heaven” (Deuteronomy 30:12).

The Gemara asks: What is the relevance of the phrase “It is not in heaven” in this context?

Rabbi Yirmeya says: Since the Torah was already given at Mount Sinai, we do not regard a Divine Voice, as You already wrote at Mount Sinai, in the Torah: “After a majority to incline” (Exodus 23:2). Since the majority of Rabbis disagreed with Rabbi Eliezer’s opinion, the halakha is not ruled in accordance with his opinion.

The Gemara relates: Years after, Rabbi Natan encountered Elijah the prophet and said to him: What did the Holy One, Blessed be He, do at that time, when Rabbi Yehoshua issued his declaration?

Elijah said to him: The Holy One, Blessed be He, smiled and said: My children have triumphed over Me; My children have triumphed over Me.

So say the rabbis!

(you might be thinking, “Didn’t Elijah live a long time before the rabbis?” But since Elijah was taken up in whirlwind he never died, and thus may still be encountered.)

The importance of this little bit of Talmudism–in my opinion–is it lets the rabbis modify practice to avoid parts of the Bible that people don’t like anymore, like stoning adulterers. Sure, they do so by legalistically telling God to buzz off, they’re interpreting the law now, but hey, “Israel” means “wrestled with God“:

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. … Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” …

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[a] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” (Genesis 32: 24-28)

Arguing with God. It’s a Jew thing.

The downside to all of this is that the Talmud is SUPER LONG and gets bogged down in boring legal debates about EVERYTHING.

Every so often, a group of Jews decides that all of this Talmud stuff is really too much and tries to sweep it away, starting fresh with just the Laws of Moses. Karaite Jews, for example, reject the Talmud, claiming instead to derive all of their laws directly from the Bible. They have therefore written several hundred books of their own interpreting Biblical law.

Hasidic Judaism was founded by the Baal Shem Tov, a rabbi who (according to his followers) emphasized the importance of having a “spiritual connection” to God (which even poor Jews could do) over legalistic arguing about texts, (which a rich atheist could do but not a poor man.) Today, Hasidic Jews are prominent among the Orthodox Jews who actually care about extensive, strict interpretation and implementation of Jewish law.

It’s not that reform is worthless–it’s just that the Bible doesn’t contain enough details to use as a complete legal code to govern the lives of people who no longer live in the organic, traditional community that originally produced it. When people lived in that community, they didn’t need explicit instructions about how to build a sukkah or honor the Sabbath day, because their parents taught them how. Illiterate shepherds didn’t need a long book of legal opinions to tell them how to treat their guests or what to do with a lost wallet–they already learned those lessons from their community.

It’s only with the destruction of the Temple and the expulsion of the Jews from Judea that there comes a need for a written legal code explaining how, exactly, everything in the culture is supposed to be done.

Okay, but what does all of this have to do with the Constitution?

As legal documents go, the Constitution is pretty short. Since page size can vary, we’ll look at words: including all of the amendments and signatures, the Constitution is 7,591 words long.

The Affordable Care Act, (aka Obamacare,) clocks in at a whopping 363,086 words, of which 234,812 actually have to do with the law; the rest are headers, tables of contents, and the like. (For comparison, The Fellowship of the Ring only has 177,227 words.)

Interestingly, the US Constitution is both the oldest and shortest constitution of any major government in the world. This is not a coincidence. By contrast, the Indian Constitution, passed in 1949, is 145,000 words long–the longest in the world, but still shorter than the ACA.

People often blame the increasing complexity of US law on Talmudic scholars, but I think we’re actually looking at a case of convergent evolution–the process by which two different, not closely related species develop similar traits in response to similar environments or selective pressures. Aardvarks and echidnas, for example, are not closely related–aardvarks are placental mammals while echidnas lay eggs–but both creatures eat ants, and so have evolved similar looking noses. (Echidnas also look a lot like hedgehogs.)

US law has become more complex for the same reasons Jewish law did: because we no longer live in organic communities where tradition serves as a major guide to proper behavior, for both social and technical reasons. Groups of people whose ancestors were separated by thousands of miles of ocean or desert now interact on a daily basis; new technologies our ancestors could have never imagined are now commonplace. Even homeless people can go to the library, enjoy the air conditioning, log onto a computer, and post something on Facebook that can be read, in turn, by a smartphone-toting Afghan shepherd on the other side of the world.

The result is a confused morass. Groups of people who don’t know how to talk to each other have degenerated into toxic “call-out culture” and draconian speech codes. (Need I remind you that some poor sod just lost his job at Google for expressing views backed by mountains of scientific evidence, just because it offended a bunch of SJWs?) Campus speech codes (which infringe on First Amendment rights) are now so draconian that people are discussing ways to use a different set of laws–the Americans with Disabilities Act–to challenge them.

Even the entry of large numbers of women into colleges and the paid workforce (as opposed to unpaid labor women formerly carried out in homes and farms) has simultaneously removed them from the protective company of male relatives while bringing them into constant contact with male strangers. This has forced a massive shift both in social norms and an increase in legal protections afforded to women, whom the state now protects from harassment, “hostile work environments,” rape, assault, discrimination, etc.

Without tradition to guide us, we try to extrapolate from some common, agreed upon principles–such as those codified in the Constitution. But the Constitution is short; it doesn’t even remotely cover all of the cases we are now trying to use it to justify. What would the founding fathers say about machine guns, nuclear missiles, or international copyright law? The responsibilities of universities toward people with medical disabilities? Medications that induce abortions or unionized factory workers?

The Constitution allows Congress to grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal–that is, to officially commission pirates as privateers, a la Sir Francis Drake, private citizens allowed to attack the boats of (certain) foreign nations. But Letters of Marque and Reprisal haven’t actually been granted since 1815, and the practice has been out of favor among European governments since 1856. Like stoning, privateering just isn’t done anymore, even though it is technically still right there in the Constitution.

By contrast, the Supreme Court recently ruled that the Constitution says that the states have to issue gay marriage licenses. Whether you agree with gay marriage or not, this is some Rabbi Yehoshua, “It is not in heaven,” level reasoning. I’m pretty sure if you raised the Founding Fathers or the authors of the 14th Amendment from the dead and ask their ghosts whether the Constitution mandates gay marriage, they’d look at you like you’d just grown a second head and then call you crazy. Gay sex wasn’t just illegal in every state, it was punishable by execution in several and Thomas Jefferson himself wrote a bill for the state of Virginia which penalized it via castration.

But “living constitution” and all that. A majority of modern Americans think gay marriage should be legal and don’t want to execute or dismember homosexuals, so society finds a way.

It’d be more honest to say, “Hey, we don’t really care what people thought about gay marriage 200+ years ago; we’re going to make a new law that suits our modern interests,” but since the legitimacy of the whole legal edifice is built on authority derived from the Constitution, people feel they must find some way to discover legal novelties in the text.

Like a man trying to fix a broken fence by piling up more wood on it, so American law has become an enormous, burdensome pile of regulation after regulation. Where traditions can be flexible–changing depending on human judgment or in response to new conditions–laws, by nature, are inflexible. Changing them requires passing more laws.

The Talmud may be long, but at least I can eat a bacon cheeseburger on leavened bread on a Saturday during Passover with no fear of going to jail. Even Israelis aren’t significantly restricted by Talmudic law unless they want to be.

By contrast, I can be put in prison for violating the endlessly complex US law. I could spend the next ten pages recounting stories of people fined or imprisoned for absurd and trivial things–bakers fined out of business for declining to bake a gay wedding cake, children’s lemonade stands shut down for lack of proper permits, teenagers imprisoned and branded “sex offenders” for life for having consensual sex with each other. Then there’s the corporate side: 42% of multi-million dollar patent litigation suits that actually go to court (instead of the parties just settling) result in the court declaring that the patent involved should have never been granted in the first place! Corporate law is so complex and lawsuits so easy to bring that it now functions primarily as a way for corporations to try to drive their competitors out of business. Lawsuits are no longer a sign that a company has acted badly or unethically, but merely a “cost of doing business.”

How many businesses never get started because the costs of regulation compliance are too high? How many people never get jobs as a result? How many hours of our lives are sucked away while we fill out tax forms or muddle through insurance paperwork?

Eventually we have to stop piling up wood and start tearing out rotten posts.

 

PS: For more information on the development of Rabbinic Judaism, I recommend Visotzky’s Aphrodite and the Rabbis: How the Jews adapted Roman Culture to Create Judaism as we Know it.

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33 thoughts on “The Talmud and the Constitution

  1. My favourite Judaism legal story is the oven of Akhnai

    Defining law by the views of the current majority―one part of the doctrine as it developed was that the law was in accord with the views of the later, hence in the limit still living, authorities―created a tension between law and religion. If a legal scholar disagreed with the majority view on what made food pure or impure, was he obliged to consume offered food that, in his view, God forbade him to eat? To destroy food that, in his view, was entirely kosher? To maintain his own view of the matter while refraining from giving advice based on that view to others? This became a live issue in the disputes between the schools of Hillel and Shammai, two prominent legal scholars who, in the first century B.C., taught different interpretations of the law; their disagreement was continued by their students through several generations.
    For some time the two schools, while debating their views at length―sometimes with one persuading the other, sometimes not―maintained amicable relations. Members of each were willing to eat in the houses of members of the other school and to marry their daughters, despite potential problems with differing views on ritual purity, the law of marriage and divorce, and similar issues.
    Both the final breakdown of toleration and the policy of preferring legal uniformity over religious truth are summed up in the Talmudic account of the debate between Rabbi Eliezer, a leading figure in the school of Shammai, and the sages, led by Rabbi Joshua. The subject was the oven of Akhnai, which the former held to be ritually pure, the latter ritually impure.4
    After R. Eliezer had brought out every possible argument for his position without persuading his opponents, he finally put the question to God. “If the Halakhah is in accord with me, let this carob tree prove it.” The carob tree promptly uprooted itself and was moved 100 cubits away―by some sources 400 cubits. R. Joshua’s reply? “No proof can be brought from a carob tree.”
    The debate continued, and R. Eliezer produced two more miracles in support of his position; R. Joshua remained unconvinced. Finally, Eliezer called out for more direct support, and a heavenly voice responded: “Why do you debate with Rabbi Eliezer, seeing that in all matters the Halakhah is in accord with him.”
    To which R. Joshua replied, “It is not in heaven.” His position was summed up by another Rabbi as “The Torah has already been given at Mt Sinai. We pay no attention to a heavenly voice because You have already written in the Torah at Mt. Sinai, ‘Follow the Majority.'” The law had been entrusted to the care of man, hence it was no longer God’s view that mattered but the view of the human sages, not objective truth but a human decision rule. God’s view might determine what was true, but the view of men, halakhic authorities, determined what was law.5
    The sages, unconvinced by either arguments or miracles, put Eliezer under ban, excommunicated him.6 A second story describes how the conflict between the two schools was finally ended―by a heavenly voice that said “the words of both are the words of the living God, but the law is in accordance with the school of Hillel.”
    Put in less mythic terms, the argument was that the law had been entrusted to the care of man. God’s view might determine what was true, but the view of men, halakhic authorities, determined what was law. A sage as scholar might argue for a position rejected by the majority. But as judge, he was forbidden to treat that position as the law.

    quoted from here:
    http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Academic/Course_Pages/legal_systems_very_different_12/LegalSystemsDraft.html

    Which is an interesting read and provides lots of interesting comparisons.

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      • There are a lot of non jewish lawyers…. yet how much pull do they have? There are 2 Christ killers on the supreme court and they are what? 2% of the nation. How many WASP on the court? As always on the question, do more research. There are a fuck ton of new lawyers in high places doing shitty things to the law and nation.

        Also it seems to be pretty on track that laws and lawyers starting getting out of hand when large number of jews migrated here…. compare that to say NC As a colony where lawyers weren’t allowed to charge for their service, or be catholic or jewish

        Where ever you look, there always seems to be a jewish cadre driving the things that are destroying the West.

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  2. It’s interesting that when you read secular scholars writing on the Talmud, they always assume that the sages are either stupid or dishonest as a basic premise. They never seem to take into account the possibility that the people about whom they are writing may have been intelligent and forthright.

    This may have something to do with the fact that most of the secular scholars who study the Talmud are not objective, but have a massive axe to grind, either because they are secular Jews who don’t want to consider the implications to them, personally, of assuming the sages (and the rabbis in general) as intelligent and forthright, or Protestants who have to justify supercessionism.

    You would certainly never find mainstream academics who study, say, Australian aboriginal folkways, writing with the initial assumption that the aborigines were either idiots or lying to themselves. If they did so, their work would be taken apart, and justly so. But all of a sudden, when it comes to the Jews, OF COURSE they either have no idea what they’re talking about, or do know what they’re talking about, and are so dishonest that they will try to weasel out of it.

    >2,000 years ago, when Yeshua of the house of David still walked the Earth, rabbinic Judaism–the Judaism you’ll find if you walk into any synagogue–did not yet exist.

    Well, this is simply untrue. For instance, Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews, discusses the conflict between the rabbis and the Sadducees. He describes the rabbis as representing authentic Judaism, as practiced by the majority of the people, and the Sadducees as representing wealthy elites’ interests and dishonestly misrepresenting the Bible:

    “What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the laws of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers. And concerning these things it is that great disputes and differences have arisen among them, while the Sadducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and have not the populace obsequious to them, but the Pharisees have the multitude on their side.”

    An example is Josephus’ story of the etrogs. The Torah (the Written Torah) says that during the feast of Sukkot, “on the first day you shall take the fruit of majestic trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.” It does not specify the specific tree from which you take the fruit. The Talmud (the codification of the Oral Torah, the tradition) says that this fruit is the etrog (the citron, in English). There is no other source but the Talmud for this assertion.

    What does Josephus say? ” As to Alexander, his own people were seditious against him; for at a festival which was then celebrated, when he stood upon the altar, and was going to sacrifice, the nation rose upon him, and pelted him with citrons [which they then had in their hands, because] the law of the Jews required that at the feast of tabernacles every one should have branches of the palm tree and citron tree; which thing we have elsewhere related. ”

    The event being related here happened 150 years before the destruction of the Temple.

    Jesus, speaking almost half a century before the destruction of the Temple, complains about the rabbis “enlarging their phylacteries”, which are tefillin, which we only know from the Oral Torah. Note that he doesn’t claim that phylacteries are not from the Torah. Not only that, he doesn’t claim that the rabbis distort the Torah-just the opposite! “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do”.

    >Every so often, a group of Jews decides that all of this Talmud stuff is really too much and tries to sweep it away, starting fresh with just the Laws of Moses

    Yes-typically, these groups of Jews and their descendants either repent or disappear from the face of the earth. Where are the Hellenistic Jews, the Sadducees and the Boethians today? There are several hundred Karaites, and there used to be hundreds of thousands. Not to mention the dishonest nature of the enterprise-there’s always an ulterior motive, some part of the Oral Torah which is inconvenient and keeps one from doing whatever he really wishes to do (usually, assimilate into the gentile nations.)

    >Hasidic Judaism was founded by the Baal Shem Tov, a rabbi who emphasized the importance of having a “spiritual connection” to God (which even poor Jews could do) over legalistic arguing about texts

    Where did the Baal Shem Tov suggest that the Talmud was not legitimate, or that its requirements were optional, or made up? I take Litvak accusations of Hasidic antinomianism about as seriously as I take Hasidic accusations of Litvak soullessness.

    >The importance of this little bit of Talmudism is it lets the rabbis get around annoying bits of the Bible that people don’t like anymore, like stoning adulterers.

    Again, untrue. The same Bible that says you should execute adulterers (it does not say to stone them-the specific punishment, strangulation, is only specified in the Oral Torah) also specifies that to put someone to death, you need two witnesses (and the Oral Torah specifies who counts as a witness, and what witnessing actually involves.) And it also specifies that to put people to death, you need a court (and the Oral Torah specifies how that court must be constituted.) By the nature of these Biblical commandments, it would be very rare for anyone to be put to death by adultery.

    The larger point is that this presumes that the rabbis of the Talmudic times were just intellectually weak or dishonest, to which, see above.

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    • When dealing with jews it is never wise to assume they are stupid; wise to always assume they are lying

      What little of the talmud I have read leads me to believe it is every bit as evil as the koran

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      • LOL common sense goes a long and there is a reason jews have been driven out of a lot of places. jews like to blame everyone but themselevs but we all know if a man has bankrupted 10 businesses it’s probaly because he sucks running one and if a man has been kicked out of every hotel he stayed in its probaly becuase of his actions

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      • Thanks for your insight. Did you come up with that line of reasoning all by yourself?

        Perhaps you can explain to me why it is that Christians have been persecuted/killed/driven out in every Muslim country they’ve lived in? Others, too-Japan, for instance. You know, if a man’s bankrupted ten businesses, etcetera.

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      • Islam is islam and that’s what they do. To just about everyone

        Japan didn’t want to loose it’s culture. Can’t blame them there

        Look I know the superior I am smarter then you jew act, and no doubt your iq and formal education is higher then mine.

        Doesn’t change the fact jews make up the hard core cadre that is actively destroying what my forefathers built and what is left of the places and culture I love.

        If you want to play the not all jews are like that card get out there and publicly take jews to task instead of trying to spin things into Christians were driven from places to.

        Words not deeds.

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      • By the way, I took a look at your blog.

        Lots of posturing about your rank, your SOF background, your Harley, your pitbulls…I’m going to bet, based on the combination of rank, arrogance, insecurity and poor writing skills, that you did some time in Bat and then moved to the Big Army, probably the 82nd, without time in Group or SMUs. Maybe a little bit of contractor time, doing dummy work (security details and stuff like that.)

        Good guess?

        Now, riddle me this, Batman. Before the American military developed its SOF fetish, it could actually win wars. Big wars, little wars, counterinsurgencies like in the Philippines, Nicaragua and Haiti, whatever. Since it started worshiping at the SOF altar, it has not won a single war (not counting dog and pony shows like Panama, Grenada, Kosovo, or beating up Saddam’s “army” which was made up of inbred illiterates who could barely handle an AK without breaking it.) According to your logic, one was caused by the other?

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      • LOL what a womanish approach but if you read up more you would know I take the SOF community to task all the time and regaulry discuss various short comings, over reliance on us and miss use of SOF capacities

        Try again jew.

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      • >Islam is islam and that’s what they do. To just about everyone

        Christians are Christians, and that’s what they do too, to just about everyone.

        Notice any non-Christian Europeans around? It didn’t get that way by chance.

        By the way, the Muslims, as bad as they are, left Hindus, Yezidis, Mandeans etc. around. Even in places like Afghanistan. No such thing in Christian Europe-we are the only non-Christian group that survived.

        As for your complaints that there are prominent Jews in your country’s leadership-your country’s leadership employs assimilated Jews because they are smart and do a good job (on average.) If your leadership hates the people it rules, that’s been the case for a long time: being a Southerner, I’m sure you know all about it. Or did the Jews cause the Civil War, too? Who destroyed what your forefathers built up there, and why?

        Anyway, it’s not that I’m smarter than you are-it’s that your argument is basically “I hate Jews.” Which is dumb. It’s not hard to beat that.

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      • LOL the self declared winner? Gotcha

        Nor did you even get my complaint correct. Typical way to avoid what was laid out and make it about something else

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      • “…When dealing with jews it is never wise to assume they are stupid; wise to always assume they are lying…”

        Agree.

        Jews have been driven out of every single country that they’ve gone to in any significant numbers. Not Christians.

        “…Now, riddle me this, Batman. Before the American military developed its SOF fetish, it could actually win wars…”

        Two reasons.
        1. It’s not acceptable to slaughter everyone. Too much press and it’s contrary to a general stated principle that we’re trying to bring in Democracy.
        2. The nature of power is changing. Read James Dale Davidson and Sir William Rees-Mogg

        “The efficiency of Defense vs the efficiency of offense”. James Dale Davidson and Sir William Rees-Mogg called this Meta Politics.

        “Blood in the Streets: Investment Profits in a World Gone Mad” (1987)
        “The Great Reckoning: How the World Will Change in the Depression of the 1990’s” (1994)
        “The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age” (1999)

        When offense is stronger you get large entities. Nation States like we have today. This was brought in by gunpowder which needed large States to buy cannon. A good cannon could blast a feudal strong hold into dust in a few days. Before gunpowder you needed years long sieges to take a castle. Gun powder favored offense. Before it favored defense. Offense preference promotes consolidation of power. Defense promotes splitting of power.

        They say that the microprocessor is attacking the centuries long power of offense vs defense equation and defense is on the rise. This doesn’t just include offensive smart missiles. It also includes weapons that can be designed better with computers. 3D printing is in it’s infancy. It’s rapidly increasing as it’s a tool that can be used to make better copies of itself. Another good example is Israel’s war with Hezbollah is Lebanon. Israel was able to stand back and bomb but could NOT take territory. Shoulder fired anti-tank weapons combined with machine guns to keep troops back wiped them out. They were even driven out of the Gaza strip. Special forces went into to Gaza, their APC was blasted and then they were machine gunned when they tried to leave. They had to back up and use artillery.

        Jews power is based on:
        1. Owning the FED and most other reserve banks in the West providing capital in a preferential manner to their people first.
        2. This was used to buy the media, newspapers, TV, the whole propaganda package.
        3. The money was used to buy the legislature.
        4. They use blackmail of sex with under-aged boys and girls.
        5. They use FED money to buy up companies without debt and transfer production overseas.(Financialization of all business to their benefit. They get capital for next to zero interest and in whatever quantity they want.).
        6. If buying a Representative didn’t work they use these steps. They run against you in the primaries with lots of money and a hostile press. Next they redistrict you. Next if all else fails they jail and\or kill you like U.S. Representative James Traficant (D-Ohio).

        This is where we are today but it’s breaking down due to the a fore mentioned Meta-Politics of violence and the microprocessor.

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      • LOL no need to address his questions as they weren’t meant to be answered,

        Pure misdirection on his part, as he didn’t address Any questions purposed to him

        Typical tactics from that side

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    • Hi, Baruch, nice to have you weighing in.

      >It’s interesting that when you read secular scholars writing on the Talmud…
      I don’t think I’ve read any secular scholars on the Talmud, excepting a few bits here and there. Most of the information in this post is from Visotzky, and he’s a rabbi. (I know I’m secular, but I don’t remotely consider myself a scholar.)

      That said, any secular scholar of course tend to write from a secular point of view; I’m fairly familiar with some of the varieties of Biblical scholarship. I am not personally of the opinion that the Talmudists were stupid or (nefariously) dishonest–they had to cope with and try to figure out how to preserve their traditions in a radically changing world. To that end they succeeded, (and don’t seem any more nefarious or self-interested than anyone else in this world.)

      Now I don’t have Visotzky’s book in front of me anymore, but it was his claim that Rabbinic Judaism as we now know it basically did not exist in the Temple-era, though this doesn’t mean it sprang whole cloth from nothing.
      To cite a different source, Wikipedia states, “After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Pharisaic beliefs became the foundational, liturgical and ritualistic basis for Rabbinic Judaism.” And the page on Rabbinic Judaism states, “Rabbinic Judaism or Rabbinism… has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century CE, after the codification of the Babylonian Talmud. Growing out of Pharisaic Judaism, Rabbinic Judaism is based on the belief that at Mount Sinai, Moses received from God the Written Torah (Pentateuch) in addition to an oral explanation, known as the “Oral Torah,” that Moses transmitted to the people.”

      So on Pharises, I agree.

      I can think of a source besides the Talmud (or rabbis) for the belief that etrogs were the proper fruit: etrogs were the proper fruit. Everyone used etrogs. Everyone knew you were supposed to use etrogs. They’re carved all over the place.

      My point: people probably knew they were supposed to use etrogs even before it got written down in the Talmud. Talmudists weren’t inventing the ritual; they were just writing down what (perhaps formerly) everyone just already knew because it was an organic part of their culture.

      >Where did the Baal Shem Tov suggest that the Talmud was not legitimate, or that its requirements were optional, or made up?

      Ooch, I didn’t say that. I said he emphasized the importance of having a “spiritual connection” to God (which even poor Jews could do) over legalistic arguing about texts. To quote Chabad’s page on the Besht:

      “The Baal Shem Tov was a leader who revolutionized Jewish thought and breathed new life into a fainting nation. …
      After the pogroms, many families were left without a livelihood and the vast majority of children were forced to abandon their Torah study at a very young age, sometimes as young as five or six years old, to help provide for their families. Only the wealthy – far and few in between – could afford a proper Torah education for their children. This resulted in a generation of largely ignorant, yet pious and devoted Jews who were, for the most part, neglected and scorned by the learned elite—the Talmudists. A rift developed between the learned and unlearned Jews, to the point that in many towns the two groups prayed at separate synagogues…
      On Yisrael’s sixteenth birthday, Elijah the Prophet appeared to him and described to him the great effects the prayers of simple folk had in heaven. Their pure intent and the unwavering faith with which they uttered the words of prayer, Elijah explained, resonated in the “higher worlds” more than the scholarly achievements of great sages. Inspired by his conversation with the prophet, Yisrael made it his personal mission to engage simple Jews in conversation about mundane matters. By inquiring as to their wellbeing and their families’ health or livelihood, Yisrael was able to elicit responses rich in words of praise to G‑d. To read a story of one such conversation, visit G‑d’s Nourishment….
      In the Besht’s view, the simple blessing of the unlettered Jew was as holy as advanced Torah study, purity of intent was valued over dry achievement, joy and humility were to be admired, and even the simplest peasant could serve G‑d through passionate prayer.”

      Ah, but I did include the Besht in the same paragraph with the folks trying to do away with the law. Not my intention to imply that he wanted to get rid of it. But clearly there are frequently complaints that Talmudic study is open more to the rich than the poor, the ability to have, say, two sets of cooking utensils favors the rich over the poor, the ability to give large donations to the temple favors the rich over the poor, etc.

      Again, I don’t think they were being dishonest; I think they just didn’t want to do too many executions (whether they involved stoning or not.) Personally, I’d rather have some convoluted justification for why we should be careful about executions than have a bunch of unjust executions.

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      • >Most of the information in this post is from Visotzky, and he’s a rabbi.

        A “Conservative” “rabbi.” And Conservative Judaism doesn’t believe in the Torah per se-it’s basically a marketing segmentation exercise to reach those Jews who didn’t want to cleave to God in America when it made assimilation inconvenient, weren’t principled enough to stop being religious completely, and had some sort of emotional attachment to the vestiges of Judaism. A compromise solution. So of course Visotzky, whose movement is based on making things up as you go along for convenience’s sake, is going to say that the rabbis made it up as they went along for convenience’s sake. What else would he say? Listening to him is like listening to a tattooed lesbian “pastor” discoursing on the Church Fathers-no surprise, turns out everyone was gay, and Jesus was just a really nice, tolerant guy, like Rachel Maddow but with longer hair.

        > I am not personally of the opinion that the Talmudists were stupid or (nefariously) dishonest–they had to cope with and try to figure out how to preserve their traditions in a radically changing world.

        During the time period under discussion, the Jews had already had one exile and destruction of the Temple under their belt. It’s not as though the Roman exile was unprecedented. They knew quite well how to cope with change and preserve their traditions despite massive trauma-they’d done it before, quite successfully. Further, the majority of the Jews lived outside Roman rule, in Babylon/Persia/Yemen.

        > Growing out of Pharisaic Judaism, Rabbinic Judaism is based on the belief that at Mount Sinai, Moses received from God the Written Torah (Pentateuch) in addition to an oral explanation, known as the “Oral Torah,” that Moses transmitted to the people.”

        All Judaism (worth the name) is based on that belief, just like Islam is based on the belief that Muhammad was a prophet (God forbid,) etc. There is no difference between “Pharisaic Judaism,” “Rabbinic Judaism” or the Judaism of Ezra the Scribe (“scribe” was one of the names for the rabbis, and still is-we mention it in our daily prayers.)

        >I can think of a source besides the Talmud (or rabbis) for the belief that etrogs were the proper fruit: etrogs were the proper fruit. Everyone used etrogs. Everyone knew you were supposed to use etrogs. They’re carved all over the place.

        Yes-but the Sadducees did not, for instance, believe in parts of the Temple service which are from the Oral Torah. For instance, pouring water on the altar, or properly washing one’s hands. There’s a mishna where the crowd of worshipers in the Temple pelted a Sadducee priest who didn’t wash properly but rather demonstratively poured water on his feet, with etrogs. So apparently there were always people willing to throw out the tradition, whether written or oral.

        >Talmudists weren’t inventing the ritual; they were just writing down what (perhaps formerly) everyone just already knew because it was an organic part of their culture.

        Yes, absolutely. But much of what they wrote down did not depend on the Temple’s existence. For instance, the definition of keeping Shabbat, the laws of kashrut, etc.

        There were also differences in opinion. If you learn the Talmud, it’s amazing-it’s a conversation going across centuries, and people agree on the big stuff, but you can learn a lot from what they disagree on. Even during their day, there were significant differences in what people did. Nobody in the Talmud, for instance, is of the opinion that you can eat meat and milk together, or cook them in the same vessel, but there is one sage who has the custom to eat dairy and fowl together (everyone else disagrees.) They record the minority opinions and reasoning just as faithfully as the majority opinions.

        Again, this is stuff that does not depend on the existence of a Temple.

        > I said he emphasized the importance of having a “spiritual connection” to God (which even poor Jews could do) over legalistic arguing about texts. To quote Chabad’s page on the Besht:

        Well, of course Chabad is going to say that-what do you expect? That’s like asking libertarians about socialists, or vice versa. I recommend reading the actual works of the Litvaks and their predecessors, instead of Chabad propaganda. For instance, the Vilna Gaon, the Ramchal, the classics of Mussar…you will find that a spiritual connection to God is much more discussed than legalistic arguing. And similarly, none of the Hasidim claimed that you can cook meat and milk in the same vessel.

        >Again, I don’t think they were being dishonest; I think they just didn’t want to do too many executions (whether they involved stoning or not.)

        This is a separate issue. When they didn’t want to execute people (because false witnesses became prevalent,) they didn’t reinvent any laws-they just picked up the court and moved it to another place, since the Sanhedrin specifically is empowered to execute people according to the written Torah when it sits in the Chamber of Hewed Stone. This happened 40 years before the destruction of the Temple!

        That’s very different from “they do so by legalistically telling God to buzz off, they’re interpreting the law now”, and also very different from the standard secular version of “well, after the destruction of the Temple, they had to do something, so they just made some stuff up.”

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      • >A “Conservative” “rabbi.”
        I’m in no position to wade into a dispute between Conservative and Orthodox Jews and start declaring “this side is the real Jews.” Not my place.
        Likewise, I’m not doing that to Chabad, either. Sure, they’re self-interested on the Besht; Christians are self-interested about Jesus; Muslims are self-interested about Mohammad; Americans are self-interested about George Washington. Sure, I guess you could read “secular” sources on all of them (would Wikipedia be better?) But if you want to know what his followers think of him or what his movement means to them, Chabad.org seems like a good source. Plus they have a very nice website and I’d hate to see it tossed as a source.

        Suppose by reading historical documents and the like I came up with the conclusion that the Besht actually wasn’t at all like Chabad portrays him–he really liked hanging out with rich rabbis and Talmudists and disdained the common folk. What then? Do I say, “Hey Chabad, your movement doesn’t exist?” How would that make me different from someone who just says, “Hey, your whole religion is fake and your documents are forgeries?”

        I’m not saying all of these people are correct. I’m saying these debates are beyond my level.

        (That said, I’m obviously not taking anything from Reform or “Messianic” groups and reporting it at face value because I know well enough that there’s controversy there.)

        >During the time period under discussion, the Jews had already had one exile and destruction of the Temple under their belt.
        I think you are expecting them to remember the previous experience a little too well. My ancestors crossed the ocean in a boat hundreds of years ago, but does that mean I know how to? Humans move around. Everyone’s ancestors have migrated here or there or been driven out of somewhere, but that doesn’t necessarily make it less traumatic the next time around.

        The rest I agree on and appreciate your explanations.

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    • I will leave this here for anyone interested in the historical clades of Mosaic religion:

      https://quaslacrimas.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/religious-phylogeny-and-the-kike-on-a-stick/

      (And EvoX is entirely correct: the Talmudic religion couldn’t have existed 800 years before the Talmud was written. The parent form – the religion of the Judaeans – naturally included within it the seeds of the daughter form, but the fact that _words_ like “teacher” were used in both forms does not establish anything at all.)

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  3. Please help me with a naïve question. How many of the laws in the Bible are directly from G_d to a person (e.g., the Ten Commandments) and how many are subsequent interpretations thereon? Is there some reference material that would summarize that so that I may begin getting a handle on the topic?

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    • Speaking as a Catholic (and not an Orthodox Jew), I’d say that the 10 commandments are directly from God to people, as well as Deuteronomy and Numbers (and maybe I’m missing a few in a couple of other early books? I can’t remember right now if it starts in Exodus or continues in Judges).

      However, the writing of them that we have received (speaking purely of some subset of the Hebrew/Aramaic/sorry-for-my-ignorance-of-correct-terminology texts, along with the Vulgate and its bases) is clearly done by people, albeit in most (all?) cases under the influence of Divine inspiration.

      That said, as Christians (and more specifically, as Gentiles) the exact Law laid down for the Jews doesn’t strictly apply to us – cf Acts 10 9:47 – since we are not people of the Covenant. It is, of course, as an example of Divine law, a cherished source of moral and legal precedent. I’m not entirely clear on the Messianic Jews and where they stand in relation to the Law, so you’d have to ask one of them. Wikipedia claims they believe the Torah is still in full force, which I can hardly fault.

      It appears that Catholicism’s relation with Messianic Judaism is complicated, which again is hardly surprising, though as a Catholic I would suspect that most of the friction is political and cultural, rather than theological. I might be mistaken on that; I haven’t studied the subtleties of Messianic Judaism.

      After writing this, I have once again realized my abominable ignorance on the subject.

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      • The “613 laws” are contained in the Torah or first five books of the Bible–Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Those are traditionally believed to have been written down by Moses but more or less dictated by God.

        The later books, like Jeremiah, have other authors, but these are not the “law.”

        You are correct that most of these laws only apply to Jews (unless you’re a Christian who wants to follow them.) Some of them also only apply to men or women and some only apply inside the state of Israel.

        In general, I believe the laws given specifically to Moses on Sinai are part of the Covenant with the Jews. Covenants made before Moses, such as the seven laws of Noah, are believed to apply to everyone (since in the Bible, everyone is descended from Noah.)

        I confess that I don’t understand why Christians follow the Ten Commandments but not the other laws, other than perhaps deciding that the Ten sounded reasonable. (I urge everyone to also follow the hand-washing laws and the not sacrificing your children to Moloch laws.)

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  4. Great post. One thought: you seem to imply legalism is an attempt to make cultural homogeneity unnecessary to the successful implementation of the law, by specifying all the unspoken assumptions and borderline cases. But instead legal training might be an attempt to create a new homogenous culture of lawyers, theocrats, or whatever: a group that amongst themselves share the same conformity and stubborn certainty about the law as an organic community would. It isn’t disputes between rival interpretations that are revealing, but the mechanisms that produce the conformity that guarantees nearly all will support the majority opinion on most issues, even when the law in question is unintelligible and unintuitive to the laity.

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