Sunday, October 28, 2007

Is Judaism Opposed to Feminism?

[Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique]

Yes, it is.

Within the Orthodox Jewish community, the primary decision makers should be men.

First of all, only men are permitted to attend Talmudic lectures. Since all important decisions in society are based on the Talmud, this effectively excludes women from community decision making.

Second of all, in Judaism, wealth generally is in the hands of men. If someone dies and leaves a son, the son inherits all regardless of the existence of daughters. If a woman marries and owns property, the property is controlled by her husband during their marriage. If a married woman works, her earnings belong to her husband unless she waives her right to spousal support.

The fact is, however, this is little different than in other societies.

In all human societies, even those which claim to endorse the principle of equality of the sexes, men are dominant. In politics, about 85% of all leaders are male. In the business world, there were 78 women from a total of 793 billionaires worldwide in 2006.

Going a step further, among most animals and nearly all mammals, the male is larger and more aggressive on the average than the female.

Gender equality is therefore seemingly not only against human nature, but against biology.

In my humble opinion, Judaism handles male dominance in a very humane and reasonable way. Men are given greater decision making privileges than women. On the other hand, men pay a price for this – they have much heavier religious obligations than women. Secondly, men are obligated to treat women with a level of love and respect equal to that with which they must treat other men. “Love your neighbor as yourself” applies equally to women and to ones wife. Insulting a woman is prohibited. Striking a woman is strictly prohibited. Forced sex is strictly prohibited. A man must financially support any children he has. I am aware of no recorded case of spousal homocide in the Orthodox community.

Other societies seem to have an ideal of sexual equality, while in reality are plagued by rape, wife beating and "dead beat dads".

I suspect that this philosophy, of a humane approach to male dominance, is one main reason why very few Orthodox women choose to leave Orthodoxy, in comparison to the number of male "dropouts". Women know that they are getting the best deal possible.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kefirah Clown #2

[kefirah – Hebrew for "denial", as in denial of Judaism]

As some will remember, on Sunday, April 9, 2006, an ultra-Orthodox young man, Israel Valis was indicted by the Jerusalem District Attorney's Office for abuse of a minor relating to the brain damage of his three-month-old son on April 2. [Passover began April 13 and ended April 20.]

Failed Messiah, a blog published by a former ultra-Orthodox Jew who is now an enemy of anything rabbinical, called Mr. Valis a “Haredi Baby Murderer” on April 23. The blogger, who calls himself "Shmarya Rosenberg", ends the post with the helpful advice “Haredim, wake up! Your rabbis are destroying you!”

I have not been able to find clear documentation, however apparently the charges were dropped about a year ago. The baby was a victim medical malpractice in the hospital, not child abuse and over zealous police investigators tricked the grief stricken father into making self-incriminating remarks.

It is interesting how some "Jewish" bloggers sound little different than bloggers like this one.

[For Clown #1, click here.]

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Where Was God During the Holocaust?

[British bomber over Hamburg]

That’s a fair question, and I can offer one answer. He was about 30,000 feet over Hamburg, Germany.

Between July 27 and August 3, 1943 the appropriately named Operation Gomorrah was launched against Hamburg, Germany. During those days and nights 9,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Hamburg, killing about 50,000 Germans and leaving one million homeless. It was the heaviest aerial assault in history and the most devastating ever non-nuclear bombing.

Most of the victims died during a three hour firestorm early in the morning of July 28. The huge concentration of incendiary bombs created a tornado of fire, a huge outdoor blast furnace, containing winds of up to 240 km/h (150 mph) and reaching temperatures of 800 °C (1,500 °F). It caused asphalt on the streets to burst into flame, cooked people to death in air-raid shelters, sucked pedestrians off the sidewalks like leaves into a vacuum cleaner and incinerated some eight square miles (21 km²) of the city.

While Hamburg became a hell on earth, 465 miles away there was another hell on earth: Auschwitz. The concentration camp was in full gear at that moment, working Jews to death, gassing them and burning them. The Warsaw ghetto had been completely liquidated just three months earlier. The Holocaust was at its height. While Germans were busy burning Jews in Poland, the British and Americans were busy burning Germans in Germany. This was a modern day version of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Perhaps in the Hamburg firestorm there was a little payback for the Warsaw ghetto.

As the great rabbi, Hillel, once said (Pirkei Avot 2:7) when he a saw a human skull floating on the water “Because you drowned someone, you were drowned. And whoever drowned you, will be drowned as well.”

Every small child should be taught about examples like this of divine judgment. Everything has a consequence.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why Do Children Suffer?

[African child]

One question frequently asked is: If God exists, why do children suffer?

Some atheists seem to consider the suffering of children to be the ultimate proof that there is no God. After all, if there exists an all powerful, all knowing Supreme Being who is just, good and kind, how can He allow such things to happen?

Being the father of a child who is quadriplegic, this thought has crossed my mind once or twice too.

There are several possible answers.

First of all, children may die because of a parent’s sins. If a parent is wicked, it would, in some cases be unfair for him to leave children behind since he would then retain some measure of immortality through this children. Children who die for this reason are surely rewarded endlessly in the afterlife for their sacrifice.

Second of all, what is the alternative? If children would never experience the slightest discomfort their entire lives until they reached maturity, suffering later in life would come as an overwhelming shock. By going through teething, diaper rash and numerous other discomforts great and small a person grows accustomed to discomfort. Then, when he reaches maturity, and he begins being punished by God for sin, this does not come as a sudden, unbearable change. Seemingly, some level of discomfort during childhood is actually an example of God’s mercy.

Thirdly, there is the issue of reincarnation. A person may have sinned in a previous life. In order to achieve atonement he may need to revisit this world. This is a common concept among Eastern religions and it has been adopted in recent centuries by most Orthodox Jews. Just as an example, let’s say a person sinned by hitting people. He may be returned to this world in a body, which has no hands so that he will relive his life here, but this time free from the sin he was in the habit of committing. This will be his atonement.

To me, the question “If God exists why do children suffer?” is something like the question “If the earth is round, why don’t people fall off the other side?”. It’s a childish question to begin with and there are perfectly reasonable answers.

For more details, this book should be very informative. The author himself died of cancer in middle age, leaving a large family.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A comment on comments

I enjoy blogging and enjoy hearing other, different points of view. But it is so tiresome to read the same rants again. And again. And again. And again. And again. Why can’t someone intelligent read my blog and actually try to disprove logically what I am saying? For example, in my most recent post, I am saying: Atheists and agnostics adopt whatever moral values are popular in the general society in which they live. Can anyone prove that false? Can anyone demonstrate that atheists consistently base their morality on some higher logic? If not, so why comment on this post?

Please allow me to explain here a few points for the record.

Judaism has never permitted child rape or any forced sex.

Child marriage is permitted by Judaism, as it is in every traditional culture.

Judaism does permit slavery, with certain limitations.

Judaism does mandate a death penalty for adultery, provided that the adulterer is properly convicted by a qualified Jewish court. This has not happened in about 1900 years and rarely before that.

Judaism does mandate a death penalty for apostates, provided that we know the individual is a willful apostate, not merely theologically mistaken or ignorant, and provided that killing him will advance the cause of Judaism, not hinder it. To the best of my knowledge, such an assassination has never taken place.

The Torah is not a “magic book”. It includes no magic lessons. Magic is prohibited by Judaism.

If atheists are naturally so benevolent, then could anyone please explain to me how atheists created and supervised the Stalinist concentration camps and the violence of the Chinese Cultural Revolution?

The strategy employed by many commentators on my blog seems to be: Emphasize to the hilt any injustices, real or imaginary, ever committed by Jews since the world began. Conveniently forget about any atrocities committed by atheists in recent decades. Throw in a few general insults. Declare moral victory for atheism. Isn’t this getting a little old?

How about we do this:

If you want to comment on my blog, fine. However stay focused on the topic. Bring logical arguments demonstrating why I am wrong, not just trying to prove that Jews are evil. And not just comments like “JP, this is garbage”. Let’s try to limit the abuse, please.

If you want to discuss the crimes of Jews, fine. However limit yourself to crimes committed by Orthodox Jews within living memory which have either been proven in a court of law or which are accepted as fact by the majority of historians. The Israelite invasion of Canaan has as much to do with modern day Jews as the Gallic Wars have to do with modern Italians.

Thank you.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Morality Evolves

There are basically two type of morality: Secular morality and religious morality.

Secular morality is based on whatever most people in society consider to be moral. Religious morality is based on what God considers to be moral.

As society changes, secular morality changes.

Fifty years ago, homosexuality was considered to be a crime and a mental illness in the United States. Today it is legal and more or less socially acceptable. (In fact, 50 years ago, any extramarital sex was strongly frowned upon and considered to be immoral.)

What’s next? What will be accepted 50 years from now? Does this video clip give us a hint?

(I am suggesting that secular people are usually cultural moral relativists, compared to Orthodox Jews who are religious moral absolutists.)

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Biblical Deluge

[Noah's Ark]

This week, Jews will read in the synagogue the story of the Deluge, Genesis 6 to 8. This story describes how God wished to destroy all of mankind except for one righteous family. To do this, He caused water to pour out of the sky and from within the earth and to cover the entire globe for a period of several months. In the meantime, Noah and his family took refuge within a boat Noah had built. A sample of every land animal and bird likewise took refuge in the ark. The water then disappeared and Noah, his family and the animals were able to disembark from the ark and repopulate the earth. According to Talmudic tradition, the Deluge occurred in 2106 BCE.

Questions often asked about the Deluge are: Where did all the water come from? Where did it all go? How did the animals find the ark? How did they, together with their food, all fit into the ark? How did they return to their original habitats afterwards? How did plants survive?

The answer is: God did it. In other words, these events cannot be explained according to the laws of physics, chemistry, biology etc. They can only be explained by miraculous divine intervention.

Atheists take it for granted that the Deluge did not happen, since to believe it did happen would mean believing in miracles, which would mean believing in God, which would mean believing in God’s commandments, which would disturb their selfish and self-indulgent lifestyle.

However, putting aside self-serving narrow-mindedness, is there any proof outside the Bible that the Deluge did in fact happen?

First of all, the Deluge is recorded in the oral histories of most ancient nations. Considering the fact that natural floods are never extensive enough to leave the survivors believing that they are the only humans remaining alive, apparently these Deluge legends are based on a miraculous global flood.

In addition to that, the only civilizations in existence in 2106 BCE were Egypt, Sumer and the Indus Valley Civilization. Egyptian civilization changed radically at the time of the Deluge. The Old Kingdom, along with its unique massive building programs, ended at this time. (I have previously written a post regarding Egypt.) Sumer fell at this time as well. The Indus Valley Civilization is believed to have ended approximately 1700 BCE, however I am uncertain how precise that date is. We have no written records from that civilization. Seemingly uncalibrated radiocarbon dating from that era could be inaccurate by several hundred years. Problems within that range are found in Egyptian archeology.

Therefore I would suggest that although our knowledge of that era is very limited, archeology does hint at the possibility of a global catastrophe about 4,000 years ago.

There is no geological evidence of the Biblical Deluge, however when one considers the miraculous nature of the Deluge, this is hardly surprising. Surely no one would argue that the lack of scorch marks on Mount Sinai proves that the Ten Commandments were never given there.

[Interestingly, Bruce Masse, an environmental archeologist at the Los Alamo National Laboratory, believes that a global flood did indeed happen in historic times. He believes, however that it occurred in 2807 BCE, killed 80% of mankind and was caused by a comet strike. See Discover magazine, 11/2007, page 66 for details.]