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Some of the ideas that inspired me to create this blog, and write my book, come from the doctrines of Orthodox religious Jews who reject Zionism in the name of the Torah. The tradition in Orthodox Judaism that takes an anti-Zionist approach is not novel in our world, as is Zionism itself, but stretches back in time to the Oaths taken by the Rabbis, and recorded in the Talmud, around 130 AD according to Jewish tradition. The early advocates of Zionism found staunch resistance from the Orthodox community to say the least. Yosef Salmon tells us that;
It was the Zionist threat that offered the gravest danger, for it sought to rob the traditional community of its very birthright, both in the Diaspora and in Eretz Israel, the object of its messianic hopes. Zionism challenged all the aspects of traditional Judaism: in its proposal of a modern, national Jewish identity; in the subordination of traditional society to new life-styles; and in its attitude to religious concepts of Diaspora and redemption. The Zionist threat reached every Jewish community. It was unrelenting and uncompromising, and therefore it met with uncompromising opposition (cited in Rabkin, 2006, p. 2).
Israeli intellectual, Boaz Evron has stated:
“Zionism is indeed the negation of Judaism” (cited in Rabkin, 2006, p. 56).
Over the last six months, a number of Christian folk, both in support of this blog and against it, have made comments that challenge the more favourable view of Judaism that I hold to in this blog. According to them, Orthodox Judaism is ultimately guided by the Talmud, particularly the Babylonian Talmud, which they say, contains teachings that are reprehensible to all gentiles and Christians in particular. The Talmud’s teachings are held up as near satanic doctrines that all Christians should be made aware of. The Christians who have made these comments are sincere in their position and tell me that their conclusions have come from years of careful study. I have decided to post some comments made by one of the Rabbis of Neturei Karta, Rabbi Beck, concerning these claims about the Talmud. Jewish Rabbis are not naive to these criticisms in any way; having come across them on many occasions. If anyone would like to chase these comments up further, I would refer them to the Neturei Karta website, the link to them can be found under the Links heading down the left hand side of my blog.
I do not claim that criticism of the Talmud is always evidence of anti-Semitism (any more than I think criticism of the New Testament is necessarily evidence of Christaphobia) and I do not think it is so in the case of those fellow Christians who have commented on this blog. Nor do I claim to be an expert on this matter, but I do think the primary way to learn about Judaism is by first listening to its advocates directly.
An Orthodox Rabbi writes in defense of the Talmud.
When G-d gave us the Torah, He also gave us an explanation of its laws, to be transmitted orally from generation to generation. For example, the Torah prohibits work on the Sabbath, but does not say exactly what “work” means. G-d explained to Moses orally that it means carrying objects in the street, lighting fires, tying knots, slaughtering animals and so on. The Torah says to take the fruit of the goodly trees on Succoth, but does not say which fruit. Oral tradition explains that it is the ethrog or citron. If you think about it, most of the laws in the Torah are impossible to observe without more explanation.
These explanations were passed down from teacher to student for about 1500 years, until around the year 200 of the Common Era. At that time the Sages became afraid that the laws would be forgotten, and they decided to write them down. This written work was called the Mishnah, and is the backbone of the Talmud. Even this Mishnah was written in a concise style and left much room for oral explanation, which went on being passed down for another 300 years. At that time it was written down, again out of fear of being forgotten, as the Talmud. All of Jewish law today is based on the Talmud, and is kept by all observant Jews.
Countless passages in the Talmud, its commentaries and legal codes show the ideals of kindness and fairness to all of mankind aspired to and practiced by the Jewish people.
Unfortunately, some individuals in our time have accused the Talmud of advocating racism and unfair treatment of gentiles. They provide short quotations, invariably taken completely out of context, that seem to support their accusations.
In reply to these accusers, we can only remind people that the Talmud contains a vast amount of material; to cover it all takes the brightest scholars a lifetime of study. Although it does contain a small number of statements directed at gentiles, most of the Talmud consists of laws and sharply-stated ethical teachings directed at Jews. For every “anti-gentile” statement the critics can find, there are ten “anti-Jewish” statements. And just as the latter must be studied in context, so too the former.
One brief example: the Babylonian Talmud was written in Babylonia as its name indicates. Yet it contains the statement, “Whoever lives outside the Holy Land is as if he worshipped idols.”
The greatest proof that the Talmud does not advocate unfair treatment of gentiles is that ever since the Talmud was completed, the Jews who follow it have lived in exile among many gentile countries. In every place where they lived, they conducted their business affairs with the local gentiles with the utmost honesty and fairness.
Many of the quotations posted online by anti-Semites are half-true but are translated incorrectly or taken out of context. You can read a good refutation to most of these accusations at:
Below you will find quotations from the major codes of Talmudic law, exemplifying the Talmud’s positions on gentiles. The Code of Jewish Law, written about 500 years ago by a Palestinian rabbi named Rabbi Joseph Caro (1488-1575), is today the universally accepted codification of Talmudic law. Before that, the codes of Maimonides (1135-1204) were prevalent.
Jews are obligated to give charity to poor gentiles as well as poor Jews (Code of Jewish Law, Yoreh Deah 251:1)
Jews must bury the dead of the gentiles, comfort their mourners and visit their sick. (Maimonides, Laws of Mourning 14:12)
The commandment of “visiting the sick” applies to sick gentiles as well as sick Jews. (Code of Jewish Law, Yoreh Deah 335:9)
Anyone who steals even a minor amount violates the prohibition of [Leviticus 19:11] “You shall not steal” and is required to repay [the amount stolen] whether one steals from a Jew or a gentile. (Code of Jewish Law, Choshen Mishpat 348:2)
It is forbidden to rob or to cheat even a minor amount from either a Jew or a gentile. (Code of Jewish Law, Choshen Mishpat 359:1)
It is Biblically forbidden to steal even a minor amount; even a gentile – it is forbidden to steal from him or to cheat him. And if you stole from him or cheated him you must return the stolen money or object. (Maimonides, Laws of Stealing 1:2)
Maimonides of blessed memory wrote that if one lies in his measures and thereby overcharges even to an idolatrous gentile one violates a negative commandment and must return the money. Similarly, it is forbidden to mislead the gentiles in calculating prices as it says [Leviticus 25:50] “he shall make a reckoning with his purchaser” even if he is subjugated to your authority; even more so if the gentile is not subjugated to your authority, and it says [Deuteronomy 25:16] “For an abomination to the Lord, you G-d, are all who do this.” (Sefer HaChinuch, 259)
And similiarly, lies, tricks, subterfuges, cheatings, and circumventions of gentiles are forbidden. They said, “It is forbidden to deceive anyone, even an idolatrous gentile” and even more so when it can lead to the desecration of G-d’s name. For that is a great sin and imbues in a person bad traits. And regarding all these wicked actions, G-d explained that He will be disgusted with them and with those who perform them, as it says: (Deuteronomy 18:12) “For anyone who does these is an abomination of G-d.” (Maimonides, Commentary to the Mishnah, Keilim 12:7)
Returning Lost Objects
R. Chaninah told this story: Some rabbinic scholars bought one pile of wheat from some gentile soldiers. [The scholars] found in it a bundle of money and returned it to [the soldiers]. [The soldiers] said “Blessed is the G-d of the Jews.” (Jerusalem Talmud Bava Metzia 2:5 (7a))
Once, Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach bought a donkey from an Arab. His students went and found a precious stone hanging around [the donkey’s] neck. Rabbi said to him [Proverbs 10:22] “It is the blessing of G-d that enriches.” R. Shimon ben Shetach said to him “I bought a donkey. I did not buy a precious stone.” He went and returned it to the Arab and the Arab said “Blessed is the G-d of Shimon ben Shetach.” (Midrash Devarim Rabbah 3:3)
R. Shmuel ben Sustrai went to Rome when the empress had lost her bracelet and he found it. A decree was proclaimed in the region that anyone who returned it within 30 days would be paid such and such; anyone who returned it after 30 days would be beheaded. He didn’t return it within 30 days but after 30 days. She said to him “Weren’t you in the region?” He replied “Yes.” She said to him “Didn’t you hear the proclamation?” He replied “Yes.” She said to him “What was it?” He replied “Whoever returns it within 30 days will receive such and such; whoever returns it after 30 days will be beheaded.” She said to him “And why didn’t you return it within 30 days?” He replied “So that you wouldn’t say that I did it because of fear of you; rather I did it out of fear of G-d.” She said to him “Blessed is the G-d of the Jews.” (Jerusalem Talmud Bava Metzia 2:5 (7a))
Talmud, Tractate Chullin 94a. Shmuel said: One may not deceive another person, even a non-Jew. This was not said explicitly by Shmuel, but was derived from the following story: Shmuel once crossed the river using a ferryboat. He told his servant to pay the ferryman. The servant gave the ferryman a non-kosher chicken, allowing the ferryman to assume that it was kosher.
The Talmudic commentator Rashi explains: Shmuel’s law explains why the Mishnah says that one may not give a non-Jew a piece of meat from which the sciatic nerve (forbidden to Jews) was not removed. The non-Jew might not notice this and may assume that the Jew is giving him valuable kosher meat. He will then feel gratitude toward the Jew, a gratitude based on a false premise.
This law is codified by Maimonides (Laws of Sale 18:3) and by the Code of Jewish Law (Choshen Mishpat 228:6).
In summary, Judaism exhorts Jews to give non-Jews fair treatment, and thereby to sanctify the name of G-d in the world by showing mankind that those who follow His laws are just and compassionate.
Rabbi E. Beck
The Biblical Understanding of the Relationship of the Jewish People to the Land of Canaan.
Although I have already posted articles on this blog about the relationship of the Jewish people to the land of Israel-Palestine, from a Biblical perspective, I feel it is necessary to revisit this issue once more (and probably not for the last time).
Let me say emphatically what I believe is the black and white teaching on this subject from a Biblical perspective.
The Jewish people do not own the land of Israel-Palestine. They have no entitlement to it by virtue of their Jewishness alone according to the promises made by God to Abraham and the Patriarchs in the Old Testament of the Bible.
Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, Gary M. Burge, sums up the issue quite accurately:
“God’s remarkable interest in this land can be explained by one undergirding theme. In a profound sense, Israel never “owns” the land of promise. God owns this land. Leviticus uses this idea to explain why the land cannot be sold permanently to others, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants.” (Lev 25:23). Israel here is viewed as a tenant in this land, an alien, a renter. The recipient of a gift for use. But not a landlord. Israel must hold this land loosely, because God will determine the tenure of its occupants.” (2010, p. 4)
Burge’s work has been endorsed by Walter Brueggemann, of Columbia Theological Seminary, perhaps the worlds leading Christian authority on the Old Testament.
The term “tenants” in the Leviticus quote above is not there by accident. Tenants do not own the land they live on. Outside of the conditions of their tenancy agreement with the lands owner (in this case, God), the tenants do not have any legitimate claim to the land.
“So let not the land spew you out for defiling it, as it spewed out the nation that came before you.” (Lev 18:28).
“You shall faithfully observe all My laws and all My regulations, lest the land to which I bring you to settle in spew you out.” (Lev 20:22).
The “rent” that the Israelites had to pay for occupation of the land was faithfulness to God via obedience to the ethical and religious traditions of the Law of Moses. Traditions that demanded that Israel treat all its inhabitants with justice and mercy.
“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” (Ex 22:21-24)
“When an alien (non-Jew) lives with you in your land, do not mistreat or oppress him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native born. Love him as yourself for you were an alien in Egypt. I am the Lord your God “(Lev 20:33, 34. Emphasis added).
Right from the Exodus narrative itself we see that the descendants of Abraham did not have unconditional title to the land God had promised them. Implicit in the promise was that the Jewish people must live up to their end of the bargain or face exile, or, as in the case of Moses and the generation that was delivered from Egypt, not be allowed to enter the land at all. While God promised that they would one day have the land as an everlasting possession, this did not abrogate God’s demand that Israel can only occupy the land while they are living up to their covenantal responsibilities. The Holy land was not simply a homeland. Just as the High Priest had an entitlement once a year to enter the inner most sanctum or the temple (the Holy of Holies) this did not mean he had license to do what ever he wanted while there. He had a strict mandate that carried dire consequences if ignored. God was not “playing around or joking” about the severity of His demands for Israel as they were soon to find out. Nowhere in scripture has God’s demand that Israel can only have legitimate access to Israel-Palestine as a consequence of obedience to the Torah been revoked.
Nowhere in scripture are the Jewish people given license to mistreat non-Jews in the land in order to simply increase Jewish holdings in the land of promise. The inhabitants of Canaan previous to Joshua were not expelled simply because they were in the way of Jewish occupation of the land. Rather God had waited 400 years before expelling them for their own sins. Implicit in these scriptures is that it would have been wrong for God to expell the Canaanites just to make way for the Jewish people (regardless of the promises He made to Abraham) if they had not piled their own sins up to the heavens first.God would not dispossess anyone just for the sake of making way for the descendants of Abraham.
After the exile of Israel in 586 BC, the “second Exodus” occurred only when acknowledged prophets of God let it be known that it was OK to return. Laws about the treatment of non-Jews who had moved into the land while they were in exile are of profound importance to this discussion:
“You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance,” declares the Sovereign LORD.” (Ezek 47:21-23)
The Jewish people are a people in Exile. No theologically Orthodox Jew anywhere in the world believes that the Exile is over regardless of the status of Zionist Israel. In a personal letter from an Orthodox Rabbi, he said, in response to my claim that Orthodox Jews believe the exile to be still on:
” … you said that “Virtually every Orthodox Jew on earth agrees to the fact that the exile of the Jewish people has not ended. The exile is a spiritual problem and cannot be solved by nuclear arsenals or secular European colonialist ideologies” is absolutely true and I don’t see why any Jew had a problem with it. Every Orthodox Jew, even the Zionist settlers, fasts on Tisha B’av, the Jewish day of mourning for the Temple and the exile, which will be abolished when our redemption comes. Every Orthodox Jew recites the prayers that say, “Because of our sins we were exiled from our land.” (personal communication with Rabbi E. Beck)
Zionist ideology stands outside the covenental responsibilities of the Jewish People while in the land. As such the Jewish people are facing sanctions by God if they do not repent. Rather than egging the Zionist state on in its Godless treatment of Palestinians, we should be reminding them of their responsibilities to God and the dire consequences they face if they continue to ignore them.
The purpose of God’s promises was to “Bless all families of the Earth”, not give legitimization to secular nationalism. God’s desire was that Israel not be “as the nations.”, exactly the opposite of Zionist aspirations for their state today. Christians do not support an ethic that states that “the ends justify the means”, regardless of God’s plans for the Israeli state today, God never calls us to unconditionally support and endorse a regime that is in specific rebellion to His mandates.
Jesus said,“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) and a century earlier Rabbi Hillel (1st century BC) said:
“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. That is the whole Torah.”
As is in complete accord with the voices of the prophetic, the sum of the Law and the Prophets is a statement of ethical responsibility. Not the ravings of a Judaic version of Nostradamus. A wise mans once told me…if your eschatology (end times theology) leads you to a view that rejects or even diminishes the ethical demands of God, then your eschatology is the problem, not the ethical demands of God for you towards those who are oppressed and vulnerable in your world.
The minimum requirement of Jewish people to re-enter the land was repentance. There simply is no precedent in scripture for God endorsing a non-repentant Jewish people to take the land legitimately. The Jewish tradition as given by the Three Oaths of the Talmud, also upholds this scriptural legacy as well, if not, even more so. This is why all those of the Christian persuasion who believed in the restoration of Israel in pre-Zionist times demanded that the restoration of Israel could only come after a mass conversion of Jews to Christianity. When the embarrassment of the fact that it was a secular Zionist movement that was charging ahead to colonize Palestine, a quick about face was required by the forerunners of today’s Christian Zionists.
One of Darby’s disciples, W.E. Blackstone, makes an interesting point about the Zionists:
“The Zionists have seized the reins and eschewing the help of Abraham’s God they have accepted agnostics as leaders and are plunging madly into this scheme for the erection of a Godless state. But the Bible student will surely say, this godless national gathering of Israel is not the fulfilment of all the glorious restoration, so glowingly described by the prophets. No indeed! ” (Blackstone, 1916, p. 240)
Suddenly those prophets that were telling us that a restoration of Israel was about to occur were now telling us that the Bible predicted the Zionists all along! But the fact is that the Bible will accord no such fantasy. This type of about face has been a regular fixture for the prophets of Christian Zionism. You may have heard of examples of this yourself.
ACTION FOR PALESTINE