Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why Are There So Few Jews?

[The LORD did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people--for ye were the fewest of all peoples--  Deuteronomy 7:7]

If the truth of Judaism is so blindingly obvious, and I'm convinced it is, then one may wonder: why are so few people Orthodox Jews? Out of a human population of about 7 billion, merely about 2 million are Orthodox Jews. (Interestingly, this number has been more or less constant throughout history.)

I think the first answer is that people dislike sacrificing even when they know that doing so will be good for them in the long run. For example only about 3 percent of Americans make serious efforts to have a healthy lifestyle. Judaism requires more effort than being health conscious and the rewards are more abstract.

Secondly,Judaism discourages converts. We certainly don't make all sorts of proselytizing campaigns and holy wars. We are a little like the United States Marine Corp. We want a few really committed people, not a mass movement of half baked individuals who can't handle discipline.

Thirdly, a large segment of humanity, perhaps the majority of mankind does accept Judaism - to some degree, in the forms of Christianity and Islam. All of these people agree that God created the world and that He gave the Torah to Israel at Mount Sinai, however they have distorted Judaism to accommodate their own pre-existing cultures and biases.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I Heart Genocide



Some people have criticized the Torah for being cruel because the Torah commands the extermination of certain ancient peoples, specificially the Canaanites, the Amalekites and the Midianites, including the killing of women and children.

I think that a few things must however be borne in mind.

These commandments were given by God who knows all of people's thoughts and all their future actions and the actions of their potential descendents. God knew that these people were evil, they were "bad to the bone", and the kindest solution was to kill them, for their sakes and the sakes of everyone else. Killing a baby is normally a heinous crime. However if someone would be truly psychic and would have truly been able to see the future, surely he would have done everyone a big favor if he would have strangled Adolf Hitler in his crib.

Additionally, we must bear in mind that these commandments were specifically regarding those nationalities. Orthodox Jews today are basically pacsifists who are almost never kill anyone.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Gays - Where Did They All Come From?

What's somewhat puzzling is that until after the Second World War, homosexuality was unknown in the United States (in Western Europe, it began appearing after the First World War). This type of lifestyle was simply unheard of until quite recently. New York City in 1950 was not such an innocent little town, however a man having sex with another man would have seemed about as normal as a man having sex with a dog would seem now.

Today, however, it seems to be impossible to watch a movie or a television program or to open a magazine or newspaper without some references to sexual perversions - gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.

I believe that at least part of the explanation is: perverts create more perverts.

Homosexuals have a much higher tendency than heterosexuals to molest children and children who have been molested have a high tendency to become homosexuals. Add to that the recent Sexual Revolution which encouraged people to do whatever feels good plus the huge number of single mothers in society today compared to the 1950's (which means that suddenly many boyfriends and stepfathers have full access to children) and it's fairly obvious what's happening here. To begin with there may have been been a small number of people with perverse sexual tendencies, however they nearly always controlled themselves and lived normal lives. In more recent years, not only have they "come out of the closet" however they have traumatized millions of children who then grew to adulthood and molested others. Now all these people are insisting that any sex act is a "human right" and that they are a "racial minority".

This also helps us understand why in a society such as Orthodox Judaism or, to my knowledge, the Old Order Amish there is very little homosexuality. Single mothers and child molestation are much more rare.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Case for Slavery

[Advertisement for Slave Sale, Charleston, South Carolina, 1760]

The Torah permits slavery ( Leviticus 25:44). On the other hand, Proverbs 3:17 states, in reference to wisdom, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” In that case, how can the Torah, the embodiment of divine wisdom, condone the evil of slavery?

I believe the answer is that slavery is not essentially evil.

Generally slavery occurs under certain specific conditions. First of all, there must be a high demand for unskilled labor. Second of all, there must be a large community of primitive people available who can be forced, with minimal supervision, to do that labor.

In ancient Rome, slaves were often German barbarians. In medieval Europe Slavs were often enslaved and the English word “slave” comes from them. In modern times, Europeans enslaved black Africans. I believe that generally, slaves were far more primitive technologically than their masters since otherwise it would be difficult to capture them and perhaps even more difficult to make them work without payment. Educated people tend to find ways to malinger, escape or revolt. They will only work under heavy guard, which is expensive and therefore negates the benefit of using slaves. (This probably was the real reason closing the Soviet labor camps in the 1950’s.)

Therefore, we see that slavery tended to introduce primitive people to more advanced societies and thereby to spread civilization. Seemingly, slavery is similar to colonialism and it often existed in connection with colonialism. Colonialism could be brutal, however it could be benign as well. The same may be true of slavery. I would not say that slave traders and slave owners were exactly Peace Corp volunteers, however that may not be so far from the truth.

Witness the results of slavery in modern times. Although I do not condone the unneeded cruelty of some American slave owners, and neither does Judaism, however if not for slavery, millions of blacks would not be enjoying a comfortable life in America. People like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright may be filled with hatred for white Americans, however perhaps they should have a little gratitude also. What type life style do their never enslaved cousins in Africa have? The life expectancy of blacks in America is  73 years, for blacks in Africa it's 46 years.

Within Judaism, slavery meant that the slave had a semi-Jewish status (he would be circumcised if male, observe the Sabbath, but not attend synagogue) and and upon being freed, which inevitably happened eventually to the slave or his descendants, he became a full-fledged Jew. There can be little doubt that the ancestors of many modern Jews were at one time slaves owned by Jews. Slavery therefore was a means to spiritually enlighten primitive gentiles. Apparently because of this, the Catholic Church fought repeatedly against the Jewish ownership  of gentile slaves.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Uniqueness of Judaism

[Moses with the Ten Commandments by Rembrandt, 1659]

For ask now of the days past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and from the one end of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it? Did ever a people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? (Deuteronomy 4:32-33)

This remarkable Biblical statement points out one of the unique facts about Judaism: Judaism is based on a mass revelation, not a private revelation, therefore making it far more credible than any other religion. Furthermore, the author of the Bible somehow knew that never again anywhere else would such a claim be made. This was a one time event in world history.

Some people have claimed that the Aztecs had a similar myth, however this is incorrect. The Aztecs did not claim that our Creator spoke to millions of people.

The Aztec myth concerns Huitzilopochtli, who was a god of war, sun and human sacrifice. He sometimes appeared in human form. According to the Aubin Codex, the Aztecs originally came from a place called Aztlan. They lived under the ruling of a powerful elite called the "Azteca Chicomoztoca". Huitzilopochtli ordered them to abandon Aztlan to find a new home. Huitzilopochtli guided them through a long journey.

The story basically describes the public appearance of a superhero of some sort, not the public revelation of the Almighty Creator.

Also, the Aubin Codex is one book currently in the British Museum Library. It was written by an unknown author in the Aztec language in 1576. We don't know how many Aztecs actually knew of this story or believed it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Someone's Going to Pay

The Canadian film 7 Days describes a fictional story in which a Quebec surgeon's eight year old daughter, a lovely and beloved only child, is raped and murdered in a park. Upon learning that the police have apprehended the perpetrator, the grief stricken father decides to take revenge. He abducts the suspect while the suspect is being brought to his trial. Over the course of seven days, the father uses his surgical skills and equipment to brutally torture his daughter's killer. I am not going to spoil the movie, however suffice to say, by the time the father is interrupted by the police, the killer is no longer in good health.

Frankly, I was shaken by this movie on many levels, not the least because I am the father of two small daughters.

However, as Jews, this story should fill us with an immense fear of God. This story can help us comprehend the potentially incomprehensible and inescapable punishment for sin.

The Ramban wrote in Shaar haGemul that one moment of suffering in hell is worse than suffering like Job for seventy years in this world. Whatever horrific suffering a person can imagine enduring in this world, for seven days or even for seventy years, it is nevertheless not comparable to a moment in hell.

God's Infinite Wisdom

I recently watched a movie called Limitless, which basically is about a fictional pill which temporarily endows anyone who takes it with virtually limitless mental abilities. At the end of the movie (1:35 point), a powerful CEO offers the chemically enhanced hero a job as his assistant. He answers "I see everything. I'm fifty moves ahead of you and everybody else. If I would work for you, you would end up as my b----."

It occurred to me that this may give us a glimpse into how ridiculous it is for mere mortals to attempt to understand God's motives - why did He design the world or the Torah this way and not that way and so on. It makes the well known quote of Richard Dawkins even more humorous: "The God of the Old Testament has got to be the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it, petty, vindictive, unjust, unforgiving, an ethnic cleanser urging his people on to acts of genocide." God is not fifty moves ahead us, He is millions of moves ahead. How can any human, with the brain of an over-sized hamster, claim to even begin to understand, let alone critique, the wisdom of God which is obviously Limitless?