Monday, December 04, 2006

Love of God – the essence of Judaism


[Jews, identifiable by their hats, are being killed by Crusaders, from a 1250 French Bible]

When a person wakes up each morning, he should be overwhelmed by the miracles of creation, which confront him on all sides. He is breathing – each breath is a gift from God. He can see, walk and talk. The sun is shining, illuminating and warming the world. Each morsel of food is a miracle of divine wisdom. Every particle of the universe contains infinite beauty. He should be filled with a burning a love for the Creator and a desire to do His will. This is the essence of Judaism – “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” Deut. 6:5. Most of the Jewish rituals – the prayers, the holidays, etc. are directing us to this goal. The Hebrew Bible makes almost no mentions of reward or punishment in the afterlife since to the authentic Jew that is irrelevant – the opportunity to serve our Beloved is its own reward. The Song of Songs is a parable for this love. The curses and blessing listed in Leviticus 26 and elsewhere motivate the Jew because he knows that long life and wealth can enable him to serve his Beloved God more fully. This is the focus of his existence.

With this in mind, we can begin to understand how great the sin of apostasy is: the Jew who, although raised in a home where he was taught all the fundamental principles of Judaism yet afterwards rejects God, denies him and rebels against Him. There cannot be any crime more heinous than this. Rather than deny God, a Jew must give up his life, as many indeed have. It is preferable to be dead rather than to go on living after having committed such an act, even insincerely, even one time.

According to Maimonides (Laws of Murderer and Protection of Soul, 4:10-11):

Heretics, that is, Jews who do not believe in the Torah or in prophecy -- it is a commandment to kill them. If one can kill them with a sword in public he should, and if not -- he should act against them with cunning until he causes them to be killed. How? If he sees one of them fallen into a well and there is a ladder in the well, first he should remove the ladder and say, 'I must take my son down off the roof, I'll bring it back' or something like that.

The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat, 425:5) quotes this.

The Talmudic rabbis instituted, as part of the prayer recited publicly in the synagogue three times daily, a curse against Jewish apostates. In a form uncensored by Christians it reads approximately:

For the apostates let there be no hope, and may the arrogant kingdom soon be rooted out in our days, and the Jewish Christians and the heretics perish as in a moment and be blotted out from the book of life and with the righteous may they not be inscribed. Blessed are you, Lord, who breaks the enemies and humbles the arrogant.

How bizarre it is to read on the Internet articles written by Jews who, although with an observant background and perhaps still observant, have casually rejected God. However angry they may be, however lazy or sex crazed, they should think long and hard before they take a step so outrageously criminal.

42 comments:

Adam Shajnfeld said...

Wow, yet another post about killing people.

jewish philosopher said...

I don't shy from controversy.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

You and fundamentalists don't seem to shy away from murder either.

jewish philosopher said...

Murder means taking an innocent person's life. The apostate is most the guilty person imaginable.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

Yes. Same way Muslim fundamentalists see the world. All the apostates need to be killed.

jewish philosopher said...

Muslims want to kill infidels. Infidel means "An unbeliever with respect to a particular religion". Judaism advocates, in theory however rarely if ever in practice, the killing of apostates which means "One who has abandoned one's religious faith".

Adam Shajnfeld said...

Yes. And I'm failing to see how that is much better.

SearchingForMeaning said...

"...It is preferable to be dead rather than to go on living after having committed such an act, even insincerely, even one time..."

Another statement conjured out of this air. What inspired this one?

"...According to Maimonides..."

That's all nice and good, 3000 years ago. Allow me to quote the Chazon Ish (yoreh deah 2:16) as quoted by Talkreason.com: 'It seems that the law obligating to kill [the secular Jews] is valid only in those times when His supervision is clear, like in the time when miracles were frequent and the Divine Voice was heard... At that time, clearing out the evildoers was considered guarding the world, for everybody knew that leading the generation astray [from the ways of the Torah] brings calamities to the world... But in the time of concealment, when faith has been uprooted from the poor people, pushing [the heretics] down into a pit would be considered not as guarding the world, but as a deterioration... And because our main goal is to fix things, we should not apply this law when it would not lead to improvement, but we have to return them [the heretics] through ties of love and put them in the rays of light as much as we can.'

"...The Talmudic rabbis instituted, as part of the prayer recited publicly in the synagogue three times daily, a curse against Jewish apostates. In a form uncensored by Christians it reads approximately: For the apostates let there be no hope, and may the arrogant kingdom soon be rooted out in our days, and the Jewish Christians and the heretics perish as in a moment and be blotted out from the book of life and with the righteous may they not be inscribed. Blessed are you, Lord, who breaks the enemies and humbles the arrogant..."

True...but you have totally missed the entire reason for the bracha, which in fact disadvocates negative action against heretics! I will explain, as best I paraphrase, b'shem Rabbi Nathan Lopez Cardozo, who I recently heard speak on just this issue:

The gemara in brachos 28b-29a relates a story: ' R. Gamliel asks, Who can formulate a bracha against heretics?  Shmuel haKatan got up and formulated al hamalshinim.  A year later, he forgot the formulation, and stood at the bimah for 2-3 hours, and the congregation didn't remove him.'

From the gemara, it is interesting to note R. Gamliel's method to attempt to deal with heretics - formulation of a bracha.  Christian crusaders handled heresy with expulsion, torture and death.  The Jewish tradition never did anything like this. The bracha tells HaShem "you deal with it!" - you take care of it, not us.  We don't and won't use violent means to fight heretics.  Inciting violence it is not part of Jewish tradition. Furthermore, why didn't R. Gamliel write the bracha himself? In the Yerushalmi, Shmuel haKatan is said to be a great tzaddik, and when he penned the bracha, he is said to have been 80 years old, and the only person R. Gamliel knew capable of writing it.  R. Kook notes how all blessings in the siddur are full of compassion and love.  Any sage with these virtues could write such brachot.  But this bracha is one with hate and anger. The composition could only be entrusted to one with no natural hate - namely, Shmuel haKatan, a constant proponent of compassion on one's enemies. His composition was only inspired by the desire to help others. One can only say this bracha properly if you are on the level of shmuel hakatan. So when he waited 2 hours, it was to work on himself to rid an animosity before he dared say the bracha. This shows how careful and humble the sages were with issues of apikursus.

Furthermore, R. Cardozo mentioned, the gemara in Sanhedrin 107b relates how R. Yehoshua put "yeshu" in excommunication, subsequent to a perceived offense. Yeshu returned to apologize.  R. Yehoshua, was saying shma at the time, and beckoned to yeshu to approach. Yeshu was misunderstood by Jesus to be shooing him away. The result of a mistaken hand movement?  Christianly.  While its more complicated than that, we are to understand - not drawing in, even the sinner and apikores, causes great damage and hence the care of the sages in this regard. Furthermore, the Torah Temimah, R. Epstien bemoans the fact that in every generation, we seem to make the same mistake - pushing away the sinner [my edit: secularized Jew, apikores, what have you], and that the authentic Jewish way is to reach out. [end of R. Cardozo' paraphrase]

All this goes to show, in my opinion, the attitude you should have towards apikorsim, the attitude most authentic in Jewish philosphy. Your policy of hate and self-righteousness, combined with your narrow, unauthenitc, anti-intellectual,suppressive, fire-and brimstone revision of Orthodox Judaism (which has become popular in the last few decades, especially in New York) serves to only distance people from Torah, make Judaism into a laughing stock in the eyes of others, and will only hurt you in the end. More on this later.

"...How bizarre it is to read on the Internet articles written by Jews who, although with an observant background and perhaps still observant, have casually rejected God. However angry they may be, however lazy or sex crazed, they should think long and hard before they take a step so outrageously criminal..."

More thin air prestodigitation. Casual? how DARE you make such an assumption. Lazy? Sex crazed? I take that as a personal insult, very deeply. Speaking as one who is agnostic/orthodox, you are are speaking about things you have no conception of. My personal trek from theism to agnosticism has been anything but causal nor easy. You have have not the slightest clue of what it is like to lose faith, and follow your intellect, even if that is at the cost of the comfort that comes with belief in god. Believe you me, it is painful and difficult, and takes much time to learn to come to terms with. Many others have had experiences similar to mine. Do not say absurd, presumptuous things about that which you have never experienced.

Your revisionist Orthodoxy may be the new trend in Wesley Hills, Monsey, Lakewood, Flatbush, etc., but it does not represent what our own sages believed in. Furthermore, it's restrictive, extreme outlook tends to distance many, and create new "apikorsim" every day, who may not have rejected Torah had they been shown a more moderate, reasonable approach. This may come to bite you as well, one day. I have seen more than my share of people just like you, fighting hard to justify their own beliefs (to themselves, most of all), and who one day finally realize that the bubble gum can no longer hold the skyscraper together. I would strongly suggest you start reading some publications like Torah Umadah Journal, Challenge, and the like, and read up a bit more on the outlook of people like Rabbi Cardozo. Not doing so is not only rejecting Orthodoxy as it was, but may cost you your faith in the end.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

Searching is right. And he presents the more authentic view of Judaism, not the extremist form you, JP, give.

Anonymous said...

What became of loving thy neighbour? Christians do not have a monopoly on the notion.

And you would do well to heed "searchingformeaning". Your version of Judaism is more like a rigorous 16th century Protestant fundamentalism. Personally I just try to follow the Pope's teaching, which isn't all that easy but at least you know where you stand, and I am grateful we have Benedict XVI.

jewish philosopher said...

So in your opinion, Searching and Adam, the Talmudic rabbis considered apostasy, the abandonment of Jewish beliefs by someone raised in an observant home, to be no big deal; a minor character flaw or a small error perhaps, but nothing more.

Some sources please?

By the way, Jesus’ rabbi did not excommunicate Jesus for heresy. He was excommunicated for making a comment that his rabbi considered to be slightly disrespectful. According to the Talmud, Jesus was later, without remorse, put to death by the rabbis after he deteriorated further. In the afterlife, he was found immersed in boiling excrement. That sounds pretty hard line to me.

Henry, the love of God supercedes all other loves. Although I love my children dearly, if they would deviate from Judaism I would disown them in a moment.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

Searching actually posted a number of references in his post.

jewish philosopher said...

None which proved this point. As I explained, Jesus was hardly tolerated.

Anonymous said...

Your children may come to deviate from Judaism. If you disowned them they would never ever come back. If on the other hand you were to support them, they might come to return.

Cameron said...

JP Quoted: "For the apostates let there be no hope, and may the arrogant kingdom soon be rooted out in our days, and the Jewish Christians and the heretics perish as in a moment and be blotted out from the book of life and with the righteous may they not be inscribed. Blessed are you, Lord, who breaks the enemies and humbles the arrogant."

JP: How bizarre it is to read on the Internet articles written by Jews who, although with an observant background and perhaps still observant, have casually rejected God. However angry they may be, however lazy or sex crazed, they should think long and hard before they take a step so outrageously criminal.

CH: Could it be that however sex-crazed the apostates are they simply have the innate good moreal sense to eschew a homocidal theology?

Correct me where I go wrong, but if your posts are to be taken seriously you favour;

- Death for apostasy
- Death for homosexuals (should I add stoning for adultery? C'mon, you know we deserve it) - though I should point out it isn't yet clear if that penalty extends to all sodomites or just those of the same sex.
- Rejecting/ingoring/misunderstanding virtually all modern science through the lens of how its conformity to scripture
- Teaching intelligent design theory (despite the fact its nowhere I can find in the scriptures)
- Slavery (as per Leviticus, etc. - or at the least, I haven't seen you repudiate it's practice after being asked directly about it)

Gosh, now that's a religion anyone can get behind! What's not to like?

I do have some questions for you though;

- Does the Earth revolve around the sun like the heathens say? Or can we take faith in Psalm 93:1. "The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is established, that it cannot be moved."?

- A lot of my friends (ok, all of them) insist on defying the evidence of their eyes and persist in blathering on with this clearly unbiblical helocentric delusion. Can I have them publicly stoned? Who do I talk to about arranging this?

- Per Leviticus, I live in Canada and can take slaves from outside my nation. I have one all picked out, and the good news is that she's 14 (which I checked and is no problem biblically) and Jewish (which is also no problem). The sort of bad news is her parents have objected, but thats no big deal, they are apostates so I'm having them killed in accordance with the faith. Once the public stoning is finished I can take my little girl home! My question though is this, my wife still is putting up some resistance to this plan, can I beat her with a stick that is thicker than my thumb?

Anonymous said...

Wackenhut Corporation are the experts in imprisonment and the like so should be able to implement his projects.

Is there something in the air in the USA which makes people nutty like this?

jewish philosopher said...

Cameron, I actually have only one quarrel with modern science: the doctrine of descent from a universal common ancestor. This concept contradicts all available evidence as well as contradicting the Bible, Genesis 1.

And what is this sudden squeamishness about killing? In their short 200 year history, atheists have killed more innocent people than all other religions in history combined – North Korea, the most militantly atheistic state today, continues to have a man made famine. We Jews will never begin to catch up to you.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

I'm not sure what atheists having killed people has to do with anything. All the people here seem to have a lot more respect for human life than you. You, not them, are the one talking about killing gays and poeple who disagree with your religious views.

Why the sudden squeamishness about killing? Hmm, I don't know, something about killing people that just doesn't sit well with me.

jewish philosopher said...

Someone who believes in a religion which consistently practices mass murder can hardly complain about the alleged brutality of Judaism.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

I don't believe in any religion that consistently practices mass murder. I don't believe in mass murder. And I am not criticizing you for what others in your religion believe, I am criticizing you for what you believe. So, stick to criticizing my beliefs, not someone elses.

Even if I did believe in murder, which I don't, that doesn't mean I can't criticize you. That's like a saying a parent who is a smoker cannot tell his child smoking is bad. It's the kind of argument children use. One is allowed to make moral judgments even if he does not feel he himself lives up to them. Again, as I said, I don't believe in any religion that condones murder, so your points are way off.

seaslipper said...

You are too extreme. I know you think that's Torah but it isn't. You sound like a Medieval Christian Crusader. The execution of athiests isn't done in our times. Rav Chaim Soloveitchik forced people in his town to violate Yom Kippur to gather funds to rescue a Jewish athiest from execution by the secular authorities.

jewish philosopher said...

The point I'm making, that Judaism takes apostasy extremely seriously, is absolutely correct.

Anonymous said...

Is your belief that God can look after Himself so shaky that you feel the need to act as God's Policeman, Judge, Jury and Executioner?

jewish philosopher said...

Not a bit shaky Henry. Solid as a rock. But God wants us to do good. Exterminating bad is good.

Anonymous said...

So you do believe that God needs a policeman and you have appointed yourself to the role?

jewish philosopher said...

I think that society needs policemen and someone needs to do it. My brother actually is a police officer, by the way.

jewish philosopher said...

I think that society needs policemen and someone needs to do it. My brother actually is a police officer, by the way.

SearchingForMeaning said...

Where does all this hate and anger come from? The Torah isn't about death and disowning your children. It's about being a light to the nations and loving your neighbor. Torah is a living, breathing thing that each generation must use, anew, to make the world a better place. All the rest is just details.

By the way, here's a question for you. Lets say, theoretically, that someone showed you a video of you committing idol worship, perhaps back in your non-religious days, perhaps after a good round of acid and 'ludes. You don't remember the incident, but it is clearly you. Would you stay true to your word - put a gun to your head, and pull the trigger, since you no longer deserve to live, as you yourself stated?

Anonymous said...

Society needs policeman but surely God is powerful enough to take care of himself?

Besides, who appointed you? If the master is as stern and rock-faced as you keep telling us, the penalty for getting a foot wrong in the position of responsibility you have taken on for yourself could be very severe. Take early retirement and relax - it is safer.

jewish philosopher said...

Searching, I would just repent, that's all, if I already haven't.

jewish philosopher said...

Henry, surely you understand that part of doing good is fighting evil.

SearchingForMeaning said...

"It is preferable to be dead rather than to go on living after having committed such an act, even insincerely, even one time"

Repentance wouldnt work. Bullet seems to be what you are advocating.

SearchingForMeaning said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jewish philosopher said...

Maybe so, but suicide will not change what has happened. What's done is done.

SearchingForMeaning said...

Sounds like your "rules" break down when it comes to first person.

"It is preferable to be dead rather than to go on living after having committed such an act, even insincerely, even one time"

All these sky-high standards are nice in theory, but much in the way halacha l'maaseh works, when it comes to actual humans, things change. Shades of grey. With your own words, you demonstrate this.

jewish philosopher said...

Let's take another example. Let's say my family is hiding from the Nazi's. The Gestapo is interrigating me. I tell them, sincerely, "I would rather die than go on living having betrayed my family". They somehow drug me and I betray them. What should I do now? Will shooting myself accomplish something?

SearchingForMeaning said...

Again, your statment didn't say it is better to die that to commit the sin. It said it is better to die than go on living after the sin. Big difference.

joebaum said...

actually what maimonides is talking abaut is for those who sin with a intention to anger god, not for those who sin for lust itself.
with thanks
joe

seaslipper said...

Judaism takes apostasy seriously but 1) apostasy is relative to a person's background. An apostate from the times of the Mishnah is very different from an apostate raised under communism. 2) Most of that seriousness is between God and man not between man and man. It's essentially impossible to judge what's going on in a man's heart. In halacha, a great percentage, most, of legal enforcement is done by God. Jewish society historically didn't have a prison system, certainly nothing like that in the US (two million in jail). Unless the halacha requires you (and be careful about conclusing that), you let God handle the justice.

We live in an era of massive secularity. Be careful before judging people. The primary act in dealing with those who are far is to try to bring them close by setting a good example and by loving them. This is especially true with one's children.

yitz.. said...

btw, the Tanya goes through love of God and comes down like this:
If you truly love God, you will love what he loves, namely the Jewish people. (It follows that if you really care about someone and that someone cares about something more than themselves, if you really loved them, you would care about that thing as well)

Not only that, but that loving the Jewish people is the fullest expression of loving God.

jewish philosopher said...

People who have left Orthodox Judaism are not Jews.

Anonymous said...

I always motivated by you, your views and attitude, again, thanks for this nice post.

- Murk