Friday, August 31, 2007

Creating World Peace


One of the greatest problems that plagues mankind is violence.

People seem to be very inclined to attack other people. The world wars in the last century killed a total of about 112 million people. In a relatively peaceful year, an estimated 1.6 million people died from violence. Humans probably have about a 10% chance of dying a violent death, although among poor young men the chance is probably much higher. This is in addition to the huge number of people who are maimed, crippled or traumatized by violence. We are plagued by domestic violence, rape, robbery, terrorism, etc. The quality of our lives is greatly diminished by violence.

And then there is the economic cost. Global military spending is over one trillion dollars a year. That’s equal to about $200 per year for every human on the planet. What could be accomplished with that money if it were used to relieve disease and hunger? How many lives could be saved?

Why can’t we stop this madness? Why can’t we all just get along?

That question goes back to Cain and Abel. In fact, chimpanzees, which are similar to humans, sometimes engage in very similar violent behavior. Violence may be very deeply programmed into human neurology. This is all the more worrisome considering the fact that together with other scientific advances of the past few centuries, our weaponry has become hugely more powerful. A violent maniac with a hydrogen bomb is somewhat more dangerous than a maniac with a sword.

So what are we to do? Law enforcement does great work. The United Nations is doing great work. However clearly much more needs to be done to conquer our wild animal nature.

I think I have a solution: God.

We need to educate people from early childhood to realize that there exists a supreme being who is constantly watching them and who will punish them if they commit a violent act. Furthermore, this punishment is inescapable – it will occur after death, if it does not occur in this life.

These are the essentials:
God
A soul
An afterlife
Inescapable judgment
A prohibition of violence

(This is basically what the Noahide Laws amount to.)

Convince people of this you’ve solved the problem.

And I have proof that this works.

The Orthodox Jewish community includes about two million members and we do educate our children to believe this. The number of Orthodox Jews who are currently serving prison terms for violent crimes can probably be counted on ones fingers. (This is in contrast to Christianity, which seems to teach the paramount importance of belief, rather than behavior, and Islam, which seems to teach that God rewards violence - the precise opposite of the truth.)

So what is the rest of humanity waiting for? Let's at last beat our swords into plowshares (Micah 4:3).

60 comments:

avrum68 said...

" that there exists a supreme being who is constantly watching them and who will punish them if they commit a violent act."

Educate all you want. But a quick sampling of ex-frum/orthoprax blogs would suggest that education alone, without any obvious cause/effect of God's justice, does very little. Worse, it often sounds apologetic and defensive when explaining the seemingly randomness of life.

"this punishment is inescapable – it will occur after death"

Honestly Jacob, I wish this argument moved me, but it doesn't. After-life talk always sounds like an anxiety-buffer, created by men (See Dr. Irving Yalom's ideas about Death Anxiety) who were very concerned about the obvious lack of God's intervention to prevent things like, say, children dying of illness, Holocaust, on and on and on.

"The number of Orthodox Jews who are currently serving prison terms for violent crimes can...)"

On this we agree (though I believe this has more to do with the psychologically sound principles of Orthodox Jewish living).


"So what is the rest of humanity waiting for?"

Sigh. Jacob, our prayers are full of allusions to God's protection/intervention if you do this and that. How can anyone take this idea seriously after perusing even the most basic history text book? The idea that God would intervene in Egypt, when we were slaves, but not in a Holocaust, is , to my modern mind (there's my bias) fertile soil for doubt and, with enough though, atheism.

joshua said...

I'd just like to say a couple of things on this topic and I hope it's not going off on too much of a tangent in either direction. As far as the holocaust is concerned and the terrible things which happen with seemingly no divine intervention, this is not a new issue to theology. Almost the entire Tanach is dedicated to the issue of tzadik vra lo. How is it the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper? Over and over again the prophets come to the same conclusion; it is simply impossible to understand G-d's judgment. The only thing I can say about the holocaust, which is something anyone should approach with trepidation as it is extremely irresponsible to ascribe reasons to such an event, is that in Mitzrayim there was a religious reawakening. More than this there was a known purpose. We know that the Egyptian Galus was to prepare them for the eventual kabalas HaTorah. The holocaust nebach was during a time where much of klal yisroel was no longer frum. Is this why it happened? Chas Vashalom who am I to say this? I have no idea and in this world it would be impossible to know. But we do have the belief that bezras Hashem one day with the coming of moshiach we will understand why this had to happen in the divine plan that we can't comprehend. In the future there will be no bracha of dayan haemes, everything will be hatov vahametiv because we will be able to see how everything which seemingly was bad was in fact ultimately just and for the ultimate purpose.

To an unbeliever I admit this is most likely unconvincing. My point is that to a believer these events are not unreconcilable. The Tanach itself deals with them, Chazal deals with it and we have an entire sefer, that of Iyov, which deals with it. But it is known that there was a certain gadol who said he could not have any taiyna on someone who became an atheist due to the horrors of the holocaust.

That topic being exhausted, I believe it is somewhat flawed to say belief in G-d will stop violence. Jacob, when you say this do you refer to Hashem, the G-d we know of in Tanach or simply the concept of a G-d who judges and what not no matter the method of serving him? If it is the latter definition you choose for this argument how do you explain the Crusades? Terrorists? The war between the sunni's and shiites? The list could go on and on but I don't believe it needs to. Remember, Christianity is the so called religion of love and peace and Islam is supposedly a beautiful religion as well. Even within our own faith we have the concept of killing amalek and killing sinners. Yes, that mitzvah no longer applies today according to the Gemmara since the nations were mixed around after the Babylonia conquests, but the concept and fundamental root is still there. You and I as believers don't see an issue with these mitzvas but to an outsider how can we say this is peace and love? It's just food for thought.

Remember, Christianity condoned the killing of innocents during the Crusades with their concept of pardons. Is atheism any better in regards to violence? Clearly we've seen numerous regimes who were atheist or clearly not concerned with a G-d kill millions. Nebach, it seems with or without G-d the human race just doesn't know how to deal with each other in a loving, compassionate way. I'm not sure if there is any answer or solution. One of the reasons orthodox Judaism appeals to me is because I know that wherever I am, if I need somewhere to eat or sleep, a dollar or two or what not there is a Jew who will assist me and be there to take care of me. How amazing would it be if the entire world was like this?

Wishing you all a good shabbos,
Josh

Cameron said...

JP: One of the greatest problems that plagues mankind is violence.

CH: A propensity for violence is a natural part of us. As the top predators on the planet (witness how all the other large predators, from sharks to bears have seen their populations crash as ours surges), we are simply the best at killing things. Including each other.

JP: People seem to be very inclined to attack other people.

CH: Typically over scarce resources like; water, food, oil, money, or women.

JP: We are plagued by; domestic violence, rape, robbery, terrorism, etc. The quality of our lives is greatly diminished by violence.

CH: I should note that you have conflated several separate categories of violence that are not necessarily related in their historical trends. Larger scale wars (or World Wars) are a more recent phenomenon, but smaller scale wars between nations are actually on the decline. Likewise, domestic violence - something that was once smiled upon in most societies (ie. you can't beat your wife with a stick thicker than your thumb), is also on the decline but because it is now being more openly reported and talked about could appear to be on the rise. Rape is another category all-together, as it is more about the differential in sex drives between men and women and a function of highly charged young males not having access to sex.

JP: Why can’t we stop this madness? Why can’t we all just get along?

CH: Because it is built into what we are as human beings. I should add that if religion were any kind of barrier to violence we would have seen the success before now. Instead we get crusades, inquisitions, holy wars, internecine conflicts (Sunni vs Shia, Protestants vs Catholics) etc.

JP: In fact, chimpanzees, which are similar to humans, sometimes engage in very similar violent behavior.

CH: I've got news for you, all of our closest genetic relatives have these issues. Infanticide, tribal conflicts, forced sex, etc. are all found in our closer relatives like Chimps, etc.

As Pearl Jam said 'Do the Evolution Baby'.

JP: So what are we to do? Law enforcement does great work. The United Nations is doing great work. However clearly much more needs to be done to conquer our wild animal nature.

CH: And here we really disagree. The history of modern secular nations is a gradual decrease in violence and violent activities as wealth creation and middle class sizes surge. We will probably never breed out our violent genetic heritage, but we might well remove the majority of reasons that lead to violence.

JP: I think I have a solution: God.

CH: Which one? Ares? Thor? the Christian 'God of the Sword'? Zoroaster and his breath of fire? The God of the Jews who insisted on the genocide of neighbouring tribes? None of them sound like all that great a solution to me.

JP: We need to educate people from early childhood to realize that there exists a supreme being who is constantly watching them and who will punish them if they commit a violent act.

CH: Why would we teach them to believe such an obvious lie like Santa Claus?

JP: Furthermore, this punishment is inescapable – it will occur after death, if it does not occur in this life.

CH: The best scam ever. 'The benefits of conforming will be delivered to you after your death'.

JP: These are the essentials:
God
A soul
An afterlife
Inescapable judgment
A prohibition of violence

(This is basically what the Noahide Laws amount to.)

Convince people of this you’ve solved the problem.

CH: But the evidence doesn't support that does it? We've had monotheistic religions making the above claims for nigh on 2000+ years, yet even among the followers violence seems to be just as rampant and just as prolific as among everyone else.

JP: And I have proof that this works.

The Orthodox Jewish community includes about two million members and we do educate our children to believe this. The number of Orthodox Jews who are currently serving prison terms for violent crimes can probably be counted on ones fingers. (This is in contrast to Christianity, which seems to teach the paramount importance of belief, rather than behavior, and Islam, which seems to teach that God rewards violence - the precise opposite of the truth.)

CH: The Amish are likewise low in their incarceration rates. Other than demonstrating that violent crimes within backwards and technophobic cultures are under-reported, you haven't proved anything.

avrum68 said...

"it is simply impossible to

"The war between the sunni's and shiites? The list could go on and on"

Worse, because we were the first monotheistic group to answer God's call to commit genocide:

'[W]e captured and destroyed every town, and put everyone to death, men, women, and children. We took the cattle and plundered the towns' (Deuteronomy 2:34-35).

On the towns of King Og of Bashan: 'We destroyed all the towns and put to death all the men, women, and children, just as we did in the towns that belonged to King Sihon of Heshbon. We took the cattle and plundered the towns' (Deuteronomy 3:6-7).

avrum68 said...

"Other than demonstrating that violent crimes within backwards and technophobic cultures..."

Cameron...

I just finished jamming with my singer yesterday, employing Macbook w/ 2GB of Ram, w/ GuitarRig and Rig Kontrol as a VST in Ableton Live all being used to generate sounds via my Fender Jaguar.

My wife finished medical school (top 4% of her class) and has dedicated a portion of her life studying genes.

Her father, a brilliant math prof, spends his day on chat programs discussing complex math.

Dr Rabbi Abraham Twerski, psychiatrist, a black hat chassid, founded one of the most impressive drug and alcohol treatment centers in North America.

I could go on.

We all follow, to one degree or another, Biblical law and I do believe this contributes to all of the social benefits Jacob alludes to on this blog.

The backward folks you are referring to must be secular folk. Why? Because everyday we read in papers across the world how we're trying to BRING BACK leisure, family, community, marital satisfaction, etc.

As a psychotherapist, I see this everyday. Honestly, I feel for secular folks, who turn to medical professionals and technology to numb their sense of meaningless and loneliness.

jewish philosopher said...

I don't quite understand what all the confusion is regarding my post. I very specifically explained what type of religion would resolve the problem - Sunnis, Crusaders, Satanists, New Guinea cannibals, etc. don't cut it.

Amish are quite similar to Orthodox Jews, and therefore their beliefs have similar benefits.

True, even with religious education there would be some rebels and dropouts. There would still be some violence. However I believe it would be very much diminished.

Cameron - Amish and Orthodox Jewish crime is very under reported? We are just as bad as you but cleverly don't get caught? Wishful thinking of a true bigot.

About the Holocaust, glad you asked! I've got a post!

avrum68 said...

Jacob...

1) Did or did not God permit, what we now call Genocide, the murdering of children, women and men in the Bible?

2) If all the halachic conditions were met, is it a mitzvah, in 2007, to kill an Amelkite, regardless of gender or age?

Josh said...

Cameron while I agree with the sociology section of your post that violence is something inbred within us, the fighting over scarce resources, the importance of the middle class etc., the last comment about crime being under reported in such societies is baseless. Please provide some sort of primary source for this information before posting it. Otherwise it's just slander.

Technophobic is also a joke. Have you ever visited Flatbush, Five Towns, Monsey, any of the major Jewish Communities? You can't ever see a Jew away from his blackberry, bluetooth, laptop, etc. etc. Somehow I believe you have this impression that Orthadox Jews are rural farmers in the country.

Avrum, you know the answer to both of those questions. If you believe that G-d is the one who gives life then who are we to question when he asks us to take it? Remember what happened when Shaul showed mercy on Agag, he had children and the story of Purim occurred. Regardless, the halachic conditions could never be met in 2007, 2029, or even 2394.

avrum68 said...

"Somehow I believe you have this impression that Orthadox Jews are rural farmers in the country."

To drop this stereotype would require atheists to admit folks as bright and brigther than they are believe in God. This is a very serious problem. Why? Because atheists truly believe the God idea is silly, dumb, irrelevant, and regressive. But if smart people believe, than there's a small chance that they're missing something. And that really, really stings.

Case in point, read the Collins/Dawkins interview in Time. Dawkin's resorts to name calling and sarcasm (emotionally driven defensive measures) while Collins is quite calm throughout. It would seem that Dawkin's atheism isn't a threat to Collins belief in God.

"If you believe that G-d is the one who gives life then who are we to question when he asks us to take it?"

Exactly, we agree. So for once, Dear God for once, let's admit this, and stop pretending that Judaism is more just than any other religion. Our past has contributed to much blood flow.

Cameron said...

CH: "Other than demonstrating that violent crimes within backwards and technophobic cultures..."

Avrum: I just finished jamming with my singer yesterday, employing Macbook w/ 2GB of Ram, w/ GuitarRig and Rig Kontrol as a VST in Ableton Live all being used to generate sounds via my Fender Jaguar.

CH: Sweet.


Avrum: (lots of smart techno-friendly Orthodox Jews)....

I could go on.

CH: I'll concede that 'technophobic' was a poor choice. Backwards? Definitely. Anti-science? Definitely. Jacob is up front in denying the facts of science regarding evolution, and promoting his brand of Creationism.

He then further insists not just that it is consistent with his magic books, but derived from it. So technophobic was a poor choice of words.

Avrum: We all follow, to one degree or another, Biblical law and I do believe this contributes to all of the social benefits Jacob alludes to on this blog.

CH: Really? I think there are maybe three commandments that have anything to do with contributing social benefits;

6 Though shalt not murder

(and notice that we have to wait till #5 before we even get to murder, and that slavery didn't even make the cut ahead of idol worship)
8 Though shalt not steal
9 Though shalt not bear false witness

The rest can all go.

Worth noting as well that 'don't murder', 'don't steal', and 'don't lie' are part of moral codes preceding anything supposedly received from the heavens carved on stone tablets.

I'll grant that Orthodox Jews don't commit violent crimes at anywhere near the same rate as some other ethnicities. But as with my suggestion that perhaps some violent crimes went under-reported, I suggest that the reason for the less violent life-style of the Orthodox Jew lies in circumstances (class, politics, security of lifestyle, etc.) than in the moral purity and righteousness of it's followers.

Avrum: The backward folks you are referring to must be secular folk. Why? Because everyday we read in papers across the world how we're trying to BRING BACK leisure, family, community, marital satisfaction, etc.

CH: First I'd argue that we have more leisure, community, marital satisfaction, etc. than we have ever had before in the history of mankind. What's more, we like it and we want more of it.

Secondly, I'd argue that the notion that some previous generation (typically the 50's) was in any way superior to the current one is an out and out fraud. By any measure the items in our lives to save labour and create more leisure than existed previously are incredible. Pick any area of health care and compare it the 50's. Or even just Polio.
We are in the golden age.

Avrum: As a psychotherapist, I see this everyday. Honestly, I feel for secular folks, who turn to medical professionals and technology to numb their sense of meaningless and loneliness.

CH: Capitalist modernity has been the greatest success story in the history of the world at giving people what they want.

And when we get what we want, we are shocked to discover that our appetites are in fact endless.

Schopenhauer pointed out that we swing from a pendulum from one extreme where we are wracked by our desires and wants (thirst, starvation, etc), to the other extreme end of the pendulum swing where we lapse into boredom, malaise, etc.

Only in the middle somewhere do we find and enjoy a pleasurable satisfaction.

(completely as a side-note, but Schopenhauer, and the German philosophers in general trend toward the pessimistic)

Now Schopenhauer was wrong in saying that ALL our pleasures suffer from this pendulum effect (friendship, it strikes me, does not dull with frequency), but the description is otherwise apt.

As to your patients with their feelings of meaninglessness and loneliness (with the former usually the result of the latter - see: personal life of Nietzsche), they are not suffering any defect of modern societies ability to fill their needs spiritually, they are in fact suffering from the basic condition of being human and being wired to want more than we need.

This endlessness to our wanting powers everything from our economies to our sexual selection habits.

Cameron said...

Josh: Cameron while I agree with the sociology section of your post that violence is something inbred within us, the fighting over scarce resources, the importance of the middle class etc., the last comment about crime being under reported in such societies is baseless. Please provide some sort of primary source for this information before posting it. Otherwise it's just slander.

CH: On the one hand I was going to make an argument that spousal abuse is more likely to occur in strict religions (where it isn't specifically frowned on - or even encouraged, and where the sect is isolated from mainstream systems of support), but I am the other hand still more or less willing to concede that crime rates could be lower for Orthodox Jews than for others.

Slander? Hardly qualifies. Jacob suggests (without sources) that he is certain Orthodox Jew neighbourhoods have lower crime rates, and I concede and that this is possible but then also offer a possible explanation - under-reporting. How is this slanderous to Orthodox Jews?

Josh: Technophobic is also a joke.

CH: Agreed, and I take it back. Enjoying the fruits of science don't seem to be the problem for Orthodox Jews. It's grasping the importance of how science is practiced that is - as evidenced by the anti-evolution stance advocated by Jacob and others here.

Jacob feels free to pick and choose his science (computers
A-OK! But Evolution = Conspiracy, etc.) and insists that he does so with support from the Torah.

Isn't that by definition 'Backwards' and 'Primitive'?

A said...

Jacob, you are very wrong comparing Islam with Judaism.

Judaism is the religion who is advocating killing non-jews. and permitting the murder of civilians, women and children in military operations.

a report by the UN committee on the rights of the child, has reported israel has violated the right of life for children in Lebanon.

Rabbi Israel Ariel, said " a Jew who kills a non-Jew is exempt from human judgement. he was quoted in an article by Israel Shahak.

And recently, 14 Rabbis have signed a paper stating, Jewish life takes priority, and permit killing civilians in military operations, they cited in their Judgement Moses war with the Midianites, also Jephathah, the gileadite, Saul, David and all the leaders of the armies of the sons of Israel.

Islam in contrast, does not permit killing civilians, Allah, doesn't reward violence and killing of non competence, or civilians.

Give me one verse in the Qur'an says ( kill civilians and you are rewarded).

Josh said...

a: There's really nothing to gain from factually responding to your claims for several reasons. One, it's completely one sided against Israeli "aggression" and ignores any possible wrong doing by the other side. Two, it equates Israel with Orthadox Judaism. OJ makes up 10% of Israel and holds an insignificant amount of seats in the knesset. They do not have any say over foreign policy nor do they care to, instead being more interested in aquiring more money for their yeshivas. There is no mitzvah in my Torah about anything you're speaking about. Regardless this thread is not the place in my humble opinion for bashing or questioning the foreign policy of a non-religious government filled with many atheists when we are speaking about world peace via religion, the exact opposite of the knesset.

Cameron: There are many, many, rabbis who have no problem with evolution, science etc. The Rav's only issue with evolution was when we look at man as something no longer special or unique. This is something that's qualitative, a normative statement that obviously can't be "measured," or tested and is not at conflict with any science. Creationism and ID only serves to embarass our faith imho. It only makes Hashem seem less impressive when we have to make theories about how he may or may not have acted within the boundaries of nature. To the non-believer, G-d will always be a thesis if you can call it that of, "god of the gaps," to the believer science is just an awe inspiring mechanism with which G-d made the world operate. We should leave it at that rather than try to embarass ourselves with the Christian Fundamentlaists.

As far as the slander goes I think it was merely a misunderstanding by both of us. I agree that Jacob enjoys making broad reaching statements with no factual evidence and he'd be better off either qualifying such statements as his opinion, or even *shock*, perhaps researching some statistical data on the matter. Either way I think the whole discussion of who is moral or not moral based on religion is silly; a person who is religious and steals or beats his wife is obviously not someone who is truly religious, and someone of no religious affiliation who is righteous in business and charitable etc., is considered to be one of the chasidim olam, the righteous ones of the world.

jewish philosopher said...

Wow, this post is getting a far greater response than I expected. Thanks everybody.

I’m not quite sure where to begin.

First of all, I don’t reject science. Evolution is not science, any more than the resurrection of Jesus Christ is history. Evolution is pseudo-science and atheistic propaganda as I have explained in a previous post.

Secondly, no Orthodox Jewish rabbi will allow a Jew to commit an act of violence except in self defense, period. Call the nearest rabbi and ask. The only exception I am aware of is perhaps giving a small child a spanking if nothing else works to control his misbehavior. That’s it. No killing Arabs. No wife beating. No rape. No honor killing. No Amalek hunting. No exceptions. Ever. None. As in zero. And if you do it, God will get you, if not in this world then in the next world. And this is why Orthodox Jews are very rarely violent. It's just that simple.

The commandments to kill Canaanites and Amalekites applied only in ancient times and were never intended as general prototypes for the treatment of non-Jews. That was then. This is now. Case closed. You may a well criticize today's Swedes for what the Vikings did.

The behavior of the Israeli Defense Forces is, sadly, not under the control of Orthodox rabbis and therefore Orthodox Judaism cannot be held responsible for it. As a matter of fact, about half of the Orthodox community, including this author, is anti-Zionist . From age 17 to age 26 I resided in Israel and I am proud to say that I deliberately avoided service in the Israeli Defense Forces. Like the majority of Orthodox Jews, I have never served in any military and I would prefer not to.

Regarding Islam and violence, Ibn Ishaq 462 describes the Muslim killing of all the men of the Banu Qurayzah after they had surrendered. Muhammad approved of this killing as conforming to the judgment of God. This is referred to in the Koran 33:26. Additionally, the Koran 61 promises paradise to those who fight for God.

Agkyra said...

This is in contrast to Christianity, which seems to teach the paramount importance of belief, rather than behavior

That's not fair, Jacob, not least because it's not correct. Christianity emphatically does not teach the importance of belief rather than behavior, as though the two don't go hand in hand. You've set up a false dichotomy. Let's not forget that Jesus and his disciples died for their beliefs, as did thousands of the first generations of Christians. Let's not forget Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the many Christians who died trying to save Jewish people during the Third Reich. That some people who claim the name Christian for themselves are violent doesn't make it the case that Christianity winks at it.

Which brings me to a second problem in your post, which is that you're comparing apples and oranges. Orthodox Judaism is a much narrower class than Christianity. I wonder what the incidence of violence is among Orthodox Jews compared to, say, members of the Presbyterian Church in America (my denomination), for example. Would that be a fair comparison? Probably not, but at least it should get the statistical point across.

You seem to be missing the most important point of all, Jacob, which is that there is something in human nature -- the nature that all of us have -- that has gone terribly wrong. The act of violence is only the visible symptom of a cancer that has been present and growing all along, and even if you don't show the same symptoms, you -- yes, even you and I -- have the same cancer inside us. No amount of prayer or alms-giving will take it away, and it's that that makes us guilty before God. Guilty of the same thing? No. But guilty nonetheless: unclean, unholy, and worthy to be put outside the camp.

Orthodox Jews may be less violent outwardly. Are they any cleaner on the inside? I wish they were!

In all other respects, I completely agree with you!

jewish philosopher said...

Unfortunately, Christianity has been linked to violence even in modern America, and I'm afraid that Christianity is overly forgiving of misbehavior. This can lead to tragedy as well.

badrabbi said...

"As a matter of fact, about half of the Orthodox community, including this author, is anti-Zionist"

With this comment, the ounce or two of respect that I had for you Jacob has vanished.

You are a miserable creature almost without any redeemable character.

jewish philosopher said...

Bad, I'm glad the comments here are staying on a high intellectual level.

badrabbi said...

“No Orthodox Jewish rabbi will allow a Jew to commit an act of violence except in self defense, period. Call the nearest rabbi and ask. No killing Arabs. No wife beating. No rape. No honor killing. No Amalek hunting. No exceptions. Ever. None. As in zero. And if you do it, God will get you, if not in this world then in the next world. And this is why Orthodox Jews are very rarely violent.”

Orthodox Jews in particular and Jews in general are generally less violent as compared to society at large. That they are violent is DESPITE their religion, not BECAUSE of it.

Consider the 613 Mizvahs. These are the so-called commandments that a good Jew must live by.

Mitzvah 596: Destroy the Canaanite Nations.
Mitzvah 597: Not to allow any one of them to live.

Now Jacob can come and say, “But this refers to old nations, ones which did away with many years ago, so we don’t need to kill them any more”. One can argue that the Canaanites still exist and an Orthodox Jew technically has the obligation to kill them.

Consider the following:

Mitzvah 599: To remember what the Amalekites did to the Jewish nation.
Mitzvah 600: Not to forget the ambush of the Amalekites in the Sinai desert.
Mitzvah 598: To wipe out the Amalekites from generation to generation.

So, Jacob, if the Orthodox Jews choose not to find and kill the Amalekites, it is DESPITE a commandment to do so, not BECAUSE of it. In other words, they are ignoring the dictates of their religion.

No one is saying that Jews are blood thirsty people. I am saying, though that there is some ruthlessly bloodthirsty stuff in the Torah. I am sure that those knowledgeable in the books of other religions can find similar passages in others’ holy texts, calling for blood and killing.

The point is that we as humans are good or bad despite our religious dictates. Unfortunately, our sense of religion only heightens both the good and bad in us.

By the way, for the benefit of all the heretics, myself included, who regularly contribute to the comments section:

Mitzvah 549: The court must hang those stoned for blasphemy and idolatry

In other words, for blasphemers like me, I would first get stoned. Then, when I am good and dead, I must be hanged! Do me a favor and read the above quote from Jacob once more!!!

jewish philosopher said...

Bad, I answered that a few comments back:

"The commandments to kill Canaanites and Amalekites applied only in ancient times and were never intended as general prototypes for the treatment of non-Jews. That was then. This is now. Case closed. You may as well criticize today's Swedes for what the Vikings did."

Likewise, the judicial death penalty was abolished (Talmud Avodah Zorah 8b toward the bottom) in 30 CE.

Talking about stoning and Canaanites is like criticizing modern Italians for their bad practice of gladiatorial combat. You’re really grasping straws. I wonder how many nationalities can have that kind "insult" thrown at them “You know, now you’re really good, but three thousand years ago you were such bastards.”

Clearly, Judaism has made Jews peaceful. As far as I know, the more assimilated Jews are they more violent they become like any other non-Jew.

badrabbi said...

The trouble, Jacob, is that according to your ilk, the Torah is a living document, with its commandements being eternal. There is no "Date of Expiration" to the Torah. It does not say "kill the Amalekites until gunpowder is invented"; It says to kill them from generation to generation...

Who provides the expiration date for the Torah? You? The rabbis? On what basis?

Suppose I said that I wish to light fire on Sabbath because lighting fire these days is nothing like lighting fires then - it is super convenient and requires no effort at all. Can I say that "the commandment not to kindle light applied only in ancient time and was never intended as general use?"

badrabbi said...

All Orthodox rebbis continue to say that thre are 613 Mitzvahs. You are telling me some of them are "outdated". If you wish to reduce them, or say that some no longer apply, perhaps you can talk about "New Revised Mitzvahs". Perhaps you can update them and say that we only have 400 mitzvahs left.

Perhaps Judaism is due for a serious update (too many bugs!). Version 1.2, maybe!

jewish philosopher said...

Not only are some commandments not relevant today, some perhaps never were,such as the 'stubborn and rebellious son' and the 'condemned city'.

Obviously, whether Orthodox Judaism is a peaceful or violent religion depends on how we interpret it and practice it, not on how anyone else interprets our sacred texts.

A said...

Jacob, ( allow me to call you by your first name please) .

Ibn Ishaq, is a historian, he wrote history book. and had you really read the story of Banu Qurayzah, you wouldn't' have brought it here.

In brief, a coalition of large army marched to Almadinah, to finish off the Muslims who were very small community then, Muslims dig a trench around the city, and the enemy couldn't infiltrate the city.
Banu Qurayzah live in a castle on one side of the city, and have a peace agreement with the Muslims, they plotted to let the enemy enter the city through their place in violation of their agreement with muslims.

God sent a storm that scattered the enemy, who retreated and left Banu Qurayzah to their fate.
Muslims immediately surrounded Banu Qurayzah who they agree to give up providing Sa'ad Bin Mu'ath, being a Judge and decide their fate.
they hoped they will be ordered to leave the city, but the Judge ordred their excution.

Now, those are not civilians, but combatants, violated the peace agreement and plotted with the enemy at time of war. and the judge they have chosen has ordered their execution for their betrayal.

I don't confuse Israel with Judaism, my point was that Israel is acting upon a Rabbinical judgement, that I quoted above, giving an open mandate for the Army to kill civilians in their operations.

And since you lived in Israel, you must knew that Ultra Orthodox gush emunim is the most violent religious faction in Palestine. their attacks were solely on civilian children, and prayers in Hebron.

With all due respect Jacob, you started the article in a good way but tried to make good behavior a trade mark for Jaws. and that was wrong, no one who read the Torah will agree.

In general, Believers of all faiths are more peaceful, than Non believers, why?

Believers refrain from crime because of:
a) religion
b) the law
c) high morals.

No believers refrain from crime because of
a) law, and
b) high morals.
ONLY

When there is no state, no police; believers know God is watching them.

badrabbi said...

JP your reply comment was not a reply at all. You are a good obfuscator.

jewish philosopher said...

In the time of Muhammad, I don’t believe that there was the distinction that we now have between civilians and combatants. Muslims today consider the incident of Banu Qurayzah to be a precedence for the treatment of enemies even if they are not an immediate threat. After all, the massacre of the Banu Qurayzah prisoners was carried out with the approval of Muhammed himself who is viewed as the most perfect man and his behavior is the prototype for all Muslims.

Regarding the Gush Emunim, you seem to be referring to the Gush Emunim Underground, which was a small group of Jewish extremists who did murder several Arabs before being dissolved by the Israeli Security Services in 1984.

Bad, what you seem to be saying is that according to how you interpret the Torah, Judaism stinks. My response is "So?"

david said...

Honestly JP, you keep claiming that some how the Christian belief in Gods forgiveness is somehow a bad thing. It is the only way we can get near him. You seem to think that it will be a good thing if you are judged according to how well you have obeyed the Torah, this shows you have no idea. You were created to be a perfect being. Can you say that you have never sinned, if so I don't believe you, if no you need forgiveness.
To say that Christians don't have to behave properly as long as they believe, shows that you don't have a real grasp on Christian teaching at all. Please read the Gospels and note that Jesus constantly talks about how we are to behave.

A said...

JP:
At the time of Muhammad, the distinction between civilians and combatants was clear.
Those who don't participate in the fight, are civilians, those who carry the sord and participate in fighting are not, this is what Abu Bakr the first khalifah recommended to the Muslim soldiers.

Muhammad was also the head of the ( islamic state) in Almadinah, when law enforced, who objects? you once said if God ordered you to kill your own son you will do, every believer will have the same stance.?
Even if you wish to get Muhammad involved against any objectivity, compare him with king David who described his clean deeds, Psalms 18:20 to 18:21.

I didn't say Judaism or any faith is bad, at the opposite, the more I read ( I'm reading the Talmud now) the more I find common grounds in it with my islamic belief.

I don't take your response to Gosh Emonim, I suffered personally from them, there are videos and documents available on them on the net. but leave it there you know and I know.

What I said is clear, believers are more observant to their behavior than others, don't exclude Non-Jawish believers from the religion-gurided-good-behaviour if you wish to have objective point of view.
Good night Jacob, looking forward to your next article.

jewish philosopher said...

David, I do feel that an overly lenient religion, like an overly lenient human government, leads to lawlessness. I fault Christianity for that.

Jesus himself was not a Christian. Were he alive today, he would never enter a church since he would consider it to a place of idolatry. He would attend services in an Orthodox synagogue, where he would be viewed as a very bizarre individual due to his messianic delusions.

A, I honestly probably know more about the Irish Republican Army than I do about Gush Emunim.

david said...

Your right he was not a Christian, he was Christ and Christians are his followers. He can only be accused of having messianic delusions if he were not indeed the Messiah, and to say he would view the Church as a place of idolitary is ridiculous. He at many time very explicitly claimed that he was God, so if he thought he was God he would hardly say that worshipinh him is idolitary. I truely find it bewildering that people assume what Jesus would be like without looking at the eyewitness testimony that we have. People always try to say Jesus would be very different from the Biblical account when without the 4 Gospels we have no way of knowing any indepth detail of his life.
The simple truth about religious lawlessness is this. Those who claim to be Christian but stil don't strive to follow it's teachings are not Genuine believers. The fact that you go to so much effort to seperate Orthadox Judaism from other groups shows that it is no different in your religion. You would tell me that if a Jew eats a cheeseburger they are not genuine Jews. Well if somebody goes around killing people they are not real Christians regardless of what they say. You need to learn to recognize that this distinction exists. You also need to realize that just because the Jews live a grnerally good life does not prove they are right!

jewish philosopher said...

"Jew" really means "slave to God", see Leviticus 25:55.

A Jew who eats a cheeseburger is still God's slave, but a rebellious one.

david said...

Ok what about Gay Jews, not once off slips in self control, openly Gay people who claim that they are devout Jews. Can this be reconciled?

badrabbi said...

Bad, what you seem to be saying is that according to how you interpret the Torah, Judaism stinks. My response is "So?"

A few comments:

1. Judaism as is in the Torah does suck. But don't dispair. All religions suck.

2. I am no more interpreting the Torah than you are interpreting the Banu Qurayzah incident. By yout interpretation, Islam sucks. A Muslim reaction, taken from your method of logic, would be so?

3. I quoted you and the reader several "Mitzvahs". You readily admit that these Mitzvahs are taken from Torah. Yet you say they are no longer valid. Yet you are unable to account for how they became invalid.

4. Your brand of Judaism is perhaps superior to the Judaism perscribed by the Torah. But know that your notion of Judaism has little to do with the happenings at Sinai, with Torah and with Moses.

avrum68 said...

" Judaism as is in the Torah does suck. But don't dispair. All religions suck."

No religion does not suck. Prostitutes, all prostitutes, most definitely suck.

" Your brand of Judaism is perhaps superior to the Judaism perscribed by the Torah."

Why? Torah Judaism, sacrifices...it all sounds much more intriguing than prayer. No, I'm not kidding.

badrabbi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
badrabbi said...

"Likewise, the judicial death penalty was abolished (Talmud Avodah Zorah 8b toward the bottom) in 30 CE."

This is a very interesting statement. JP is asserting that capital punishment "was abolished" by the Talmud. He gives as his evidence Avodah Zorah 8b.

Now much can be said regarding capital punishment and Jewish law. Suffice to say, there is ample law that obligates Jews to carry out capital punishment for various transgressions. I happened to mention several wonderful "Mitzvahs" in previous comments. Here are the relevant Mitvah’s for capital punishment:

Mitzvah 545: The courts must carryout the death penalty of stoning.
Mitzvah 546: The courts must carryout the death penalty of burning.
Mitzvah 547: The courts must carryout the death penalty of killing by the aword.
Mitzvah 548: The courts must carryout the death penalty of strangulation.
Mitzvah 552: The courts must not let a sorcerer live.

Thus, there are some 5 Mitzvah’s dealing with the obligation to kill people who are convicted of capital offenses. Now JP’s comments enter the picture. His reference of Avodah Zorah 8b is as follows: It seems that the Sanhedrin, the appointed Jewish court was not inclined to execute so many people:

Avohad Zorah 8b: “that capital cases ceased. Why? — Because when the Sanhedrin saw that murderers were so prevalent that they could not be properly dealt with judicially, they said: Rather let us be exiled from place to place than pronounce them guilty [of capital offences] for it is written21 And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the Lord shall choose shall tell thee, which implies that it is the place that matters.22”

In other words, the judges found a loop hole of exiling themselves in order not to pronounce any capital offenses. Think about it: A whole court system perpetually on the move in order not to carry out what God supposedly intended for them to do! Now, dear reader, does not that make you think about things a bit?
1. What kind of judicial laws does Judaism have such that the Jewish judges find themselves having to perpetually exile themselves in order to avoid their own laws?
2. The laws of killing that the judges were avoiding were not meant just for idolaters. They were meant for all capital offenses.
3. What kind of a system would be so inflexible to let obviously bad laws stay in the books? If these laws are so bad, why not just change them?

Say what you want about this, that perhaps the old Jewish judges were pusillanimous and had not the stomach to carry out the law. One thin for sure, though, is that they did not “abolish the death penalty” as JP claims.

jewish philosopher said...

David, a homosexual man cannot be a devout Jew any more than an abortionist can be a devout Catholic.

Bad, you seem to be saying: The Torah is full of commandments to do violence. Therefore, either Judaism is a violent religion or Jews are just not observing their religion.

How about a third option: Jews are interpreting the Torah differently than you are, in a non-violent way. For example, we don't have the appropiate type of courts, so we cannot impose the death penalty. There are no more Canaanites, so we cannot kill them.

badrabbi said...

When the Torah says: "Do X", and you say: "No I will not do X, never, no exceptions, Ever. None", there is a little bit more than "interpretation" going on, don't you think?

jewish philosopher said...

If you consider the Torah itself to be a fabrication, why does it bother you if our interpretation of it is?

Certain Torah laws have never been taken literally. Take for example “an eye for an eye” decreed in Exodus 21:24. No Jewish court in history has ever gouged out someone’s eye. Instead the Talmud Bava Kama 84a interprets this to mean simply that the victim has the right to sue the perpetrator for appropriate damages. The harsh language of the Torah may be intended to impress us with the inherent heinousness of the crime.

Joebaum said...

When you want to analize the core of a think you got to look at it when its unleashed.
the Jews had prophets and god commendments when to be hostile and when not to. Now when we dont have prophets and/or "urim vtumim" what do we see? compleat silence, we dont botter a fly on the wall.
Which is by the other cultures. you see a compleat frenzy of vilence with prophets or without.. which makes you say: that culture aint no ramady for stoping vilence..

avrum68 said...

"f you consider the Torah itself to be a fabrication, why does it bother you if our interpretation of it is? "

Well that's pretty obvious, no? We don't struggle with those things we ACTUALLY find silly, irrelevant, etc.

Interesting side note, almost all the early psychoanalysts from Freud to Kohut, struggled with their Judaism. The issues ranged from anti-Semitism (and the resulting impediment it would cause to publish) to parental figures assimilating to "fit in" to Vienna society. Rarely did they mention these things as the prime motivator to abandon God. No, they all became theologians. Why? Because it causes less psychic pain.

Joebaum said...

a. zoinism and even religios zionism is complitly condemnd by all Jewish rabbis accept by mizrohy who are not that religios altogetter.
Mizrohy was singeld out of the Jewish comunity a long time ago by all jewish rabbis at the time, indeed because they are simulating the gentiles (the worse of them) with their wild reclessnes and brutality wich zoinism brings with it.
So don"'t compare zionists to Jews

badrabbi said...

"f you consider the Torah itself to be a fabrication, why does it bother you if our interpretation of it is? "

I do consider the Torah a product of human manufacture. But, what I have been trying to demonstrate, and JP concentrate now because it is important, is that EVEN if you grant that the Torah came from heavan, many of the dictates imposed on us by rabbinic interpretation are nonsensical.

You can hide behind faith when you talk about the Torah. Not so when it comes to what the rabbis tell you.

That's what I am saying.

badrabbi said...

Joabaum;

I am a zionist Jew. Obviously it is possible to be Jewish and not be a zionist. But it is also possible to be a castrated man.

jewish philosopher said...

I think the Oral Law has a valid claim to legitimacy and it rarely contradicts the written law.

jewish philosopher said...

It's possible to be a brain dead man too.

badrabbi said...

"I think the Oral Law has a valid claim to legitimacy and it rarely contradicts the written law."

That's what I have been talking about, man. In the above posts, I showed you a least 2 situations where the oral law contradicts the written law. Your response, instead of dealing with the issues I raised, was to say "well you think its all a hoax".

There are many many instances when the written and oral law do not at all agree. If you wish, I can begin to enumerate them. Do you?


As for your other comment: "It's possible to be a brain dead man too."

True that. Really true!

jewish philosopher said...

There are probably about 5 places where the Talmud comes along and contradicts the written law. 99.9% of the Talmud either creates new laws or explains the details of Biblical laws.

While we're on the Zionist topic, which section of the IDF did you serve in?

badrabbi said...

Really? The Oral Torah and Written Torah are in agreement 99.9% of the time?

Let's see:

1. Can you tell me where Masshiah is mentioned in the Chumash?

2. Can you tell me where the idea of olam Haba or "next world" is mentioned in the Chumash?

3. Can you tell me where gilgul or reincarnation is mentioned in the Chumash?

4. Can you tell me where the idea of ressurection is mentioned in the Chumash?

These are 4 concepts that play a central role in Judaism. Do me a favor and tell me where they are derived from.

Regarding my Zionism, I have never served in the IDF. I am an American, and have never lived in Israel. What is your point?

While we are on the Zionist topic, I have never heard a coherent explanation as to why a Jew would be against the concept of Jews living in Israel with a Jewish government. Perhaps you can explain this to me as I am truly curious about this. Perhaps you can blog about it.

jewish philosopher said...

You're funny Bad. Maybe you could tell me where baseball is mentioned in the Chumash. Who said everything has to be in the Chumash?

About Zionism, for one thing, I was thinking about it today, and it's hard to imagine a worse place to create a Jewish state than Palestine. It's probably the most dangerous location possible. That's one small problem.

badrabbi said...

Yes, but baseball is not a central theme of Judaism, JP. You would agree that the 4 themes I mentioned indeed are integral to Judaism.

I agree that Israel is in a bad neighborhood. Any other reason?

jewish philosopher said...

The central concept of Judaism is that we have covenant with God and if we break that covenant we will get zapped. That is made very clear in Chumash.

The entire concept of Zionism seems to be “All over the world, small nations are standing up for the their rights and throwing off foreign domination. We Jews should learn from this and begin to stick up for ourselves. We should demand our rights, create our own state and, obviously, use violence if need be to do so."

The opinion of all eminent Orthodox rabbis, with the exception of Rabbi Avroham Yitzchak Kook, has been negative. The reason has been basically two things as far as I know. Number one, the leadership of this Jewish state would apparently be basically secular which would be spiritually catastrophic. Secondly, even if it would be religious, it is a strategic error at this point in history to use violence. Jews are too weak, we do not enjoy broad enough support or popularity and therefore the demand for sovereignty can only end in a blood bath.

badrabbi said...

I agree with the covenant and god's zapping. But surely that is not the only concept. For example, the zapping supposedly can take place in "the next world". This is an idea alien to the Chumash.

With regards to Zionism, the arguments you put forth are, I must admit, new to me. All this time, I thought that the primary reason some Orthodox Jews were against the State of Israel was that they beleived that Israel's existence should only be harolded with the advent of a Masshiah.

If you would be so kind as to elaborate a bit further on this for me. Why are the Orthodox rabbis' opinions negative? Why would a secular Jewish state be spiritually catastrophic? Why do you beleive that the use of violence to establish and maintain an independent state an absolute pre-requisite? What makes a blood bath inevitable?

I am not challanging you on these yet. I just want an honest explanation of how you see things.

jewish philosopher said...

From an Orthodox Jewish point of view, a secular Jewish anything, even a secular Jewish health club, is a catastrophe. A secular Jewish state and of all places in the Holy Land is a disaster beyond any words.

Regarding Jewish nationalism in general, Orthodox Judaism is basically pacifist. We don’t like armies, we don’t like killing. Violence breeds violence in an endless cycle.

Of course, this was not always true. We look back with pride on warrior kings like Saul and David. We celebrate the Maccabies every Hanukah. But that was only up to 135 CE. In that year the Bar Kokhba revolt collapsed in disaster. That was the end of militarism endorsed by Orthodox authorities. Since then, we have given up. It’s not worth it. This is why Zionism was not created by and largely has not been endorsed by Orthodox authorities. We peacefully, quietly and patiently await a miraculous Messianic redemption.

I think events are showing the rabbis were right.

david said...

Why is today any different from the yime of the Exodus? If God has promised you this Land then why would Jewish people want this place for thir own?
If I am not mistaken didn't the Jews spend 40 years in the desert for the same attitude you are showing. For them it was to dangerour because the Cannanites were to strong, and for you it seems that you just fear the arab world. I just wonder if all Jews have so little faith in their God.

jewish philosopher said...

The Torah is not a suicide pact.

I think that's a different religion ;-).

david said...

Now now, I am not sure if that was aimed at Christians or Muslsims but maybe just a bit of a cheap shot.
I am not saying that the Torah is the instruction of how to die. But most of Israels history is failing to trust Gods promises, such as he will be with his people. Is refusing to enter the promised land for fear of the surrounding Arab nations any different to refusing because the Cannaies looked to strong and dangerous?

badrabbi said...

"I think events are showing the rabbis were right."

Jews have had their blood spilt throughout ages. They suffered at the hand of Assyrians and Romans when a Jewish state was in existence two millennia ago.

Once the Jewish state collapsed, the Jews continued to suffer and have their blood spilt in inquisitions, pogroms, purges, and the holocaust. The blood letting occurred without a Jewish state.

Now that the Jewish state is once again established, the Jews continue to suffer loses at the hand of Arabs.

So, regardless of whether there is or there isn't the Jewish state, the Jews continue to suffer. The difference, I think, is that the Jews have the ability to defend themselves somewhat with the emergence of Israel.

Thus, regarding Israel, to say that "events are showing the rabbis were right” is being simplistic to the point of dishonesty. Spilling Jewish blood is in vogue regardless of the existence of the Jewish state. That Jewish blood is being spilt within the Jewish state hardly vindicates the rabbis!

jewish philosopher said...

David we tried revolting against the gentiles. It just wasn't working. We don't (or at least shouldn't) be doing it anymore.

"Jews have the ability to defend themselves somewhat with the emergence of Israel"

I'm afraid that we just make a more concentrated target.

To date, Zionism seems to have done more harm than good. And unfortunately, the future, with Iranians busy building nuclear missiles and so on, doesn't look really great.

And then consider the demographics. If you crunch the numbers, and look at the entire area which is under Israeli government control including Gaza and the West Bank, there is probably today a non-Jewish majority. In a couple of decades Israel will have to choose to become either a Palestinian state or a true apartheid state, which will alienate everyone.

I wish there was some solution, but I don't see it.

badrabbi said...

For once I agree. The long term outlook is not good. We as Jews have not had it easy for a long long time.

One can second guess our leaders, and say that perhpas if we had hidden in some corner of the world then perhaps they would leave alone. Perhaps if we scatered about like fallen leaves, perhaps they could not kill us in concentrated numbers. But this kind of talk is defeatist and pessimistic. I for one can not live my life this way.

I am proud of Israel and Israeli's who daily defend themselves.