Thursday, March 29, 2007
WHAT'S IN THE TALMUD ?
That is a question many Catholics are asking, among them Dr. E. Michael Jones, Editor of "Culture Wars." Jones reported on the Mut zur Ethik conference in last December's issue. In that report he stated:
I was called to do the translating from English into German, and after performing my duties, decided to give a little speech of my own: "It is not a question of individual Jews," I said, but in German. "It is certainly not a question of hating anyone. The issue here is the ugly, brutal, racist ideology that is known as the Talmud. The Talmud is anti-Logos in just about every sense of the word, whether it involves an attack on the moral law or on the person of Jesus Christ. Talmud is anti-Logos, and our weapon against anti-Logos is the truth."
But how do we get the truth?
In the current issue of "Culture Wars" there is an article by Ben Douglass titled "A Catholic Talmud Talmud." In the article he repeatedly cites the Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Talmud, giving quotes and passage locations.
The Institute for Jewish Studies at the C.I.S. tells us that "Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is internationally regarded as one of the leading scholars and rabbis of this century." Wikipedia tells us Rabbi Steinsaltz "is most commonly known for his popular commentary and translation of both Talmuds into Hebrew, French, Russian and Spanish. In 1988, he was awarded the Israel Prize, Israel's highest honor." Random House calls Rabbi Steinsaltz "One of the world's most famous and respected rabbis". The All Experts online encyclopedia says of Rabbi Steinsaltz:
a noted scholar, teacher, scientist, philosopher, mystic, social critic and prolific author who has been hailed by Time magazine as a "once-in-a-millennium scholar." And by Newsweek, "probably none living today can compare in genius and influence to Adin Steinsaltz, whose extraordinary gifts as scholar, teacher, scientist, writer, mystic and social critic have attracted disciples from all factions of Israeli society."
I trust we can agree that this is a leading Jewish scholar.
Ben Douglass' article is online, so anyone who wishes to can double check what I am quoting.
Douglass writes in answer to the question "What is the Talmud?":
The Jews regard it as the codification of the oral Torah, a massive body of oral revelation which was allegedly given to Moses on Mount Sinai alongside the written Torah, and handed down through the centuries through tradition. This tradition furnishes what the Jews, except for a small minority of Karaites, today regard as the authoritive, controlling interpretation of the Bible. The oral Torah was first written down around 200 A.D. by a rabbi named Judah ha-Nasi in a document called the Mishnah, and over the next four centuries various rabbis discussed, debated, and commented upon it, and these debates and commentaries were compiled and edited to create what is now known as the Gemara. The Mishnah and the Gemara together comprise the Talmud. Thus, in essence, the Talmud is a commentary on the Torah, with a commentary on the commentary....
The Jews divide the contents of the Talmud into two main categories: Halakhah [law] and Aggadah [homiletic material, folklore, anecdotes, moral exhortations, and the like].
A long quote from the article:
As a rabbi boldly declares in Sanhedrin 55a concerning a passage in Leviticus, "This verse is written for the sake of new interpretations." ...Often the Talmudic Midrash adapts the biblical text in a fairly innocuous manner. An apposite example comes to us from Sanhedrin 7B, which takes a verse about idolatry and changes it into a condemnation of simony. I will quote from Adin Steinsaltz's expanded translation and commentary:
The verse states (Exodus 20:23): 'You shall not make with Me gods of silver, neither shall you make for yourselves gods of gold.' It may be added: The verse teaches that gods of silver and gold may not be made. But does this mean that gods of wood are permitted? Surely all idols are absolutely forbidden! Rather, Rav Ashi said: The verse means to condemn a judge--as we saw above (2b), the wordeloha can mean 'judge'--who came to his position because of the silver or gold that he paid the authorities in order to receive his appointment.
Of course, this is horrendous exegesis; God is not obliged to enumerate every potential material which could be used to make an idol every time He condemns idolatry, and this passage has nothing to do with simony. But at least the meaning which the Rabbis read into the text as this point is consistent with godly, biblical morality.
On the other hand, unfortunately, in other cases the Talmud can quite properly be described as twisting or perverting the text of Scripture. There are many places where the exegesis per se is just as bad, if not worse, and what is more, it is used to teach far less noble doctrines than that simony is wrong. I would go so far as to call some of the Talmud's contents awful, hideous, and blasphemous. ...
Continuing through our Tractate, in folio 37A we meet the first hint that the Talmud regards Jewish lives as worth more than Gentile lives: "Whoever destroys a single soul in Israel, Scripture regards him as if he had destroyed the entire world. And whoever saves a single soul in Israel, Scripture regards him as if he preserved the entire world." It is fairly clear that the Talmud applies this dictum only to Jews. Let us turn to folio 57A. There the Talmudic position towards saving Gentiles is stated in the euphemism: "A non-Jew and shepherds of small cattle--one does not raise up, or cast down." Once again, Steinsaltz informs us of how the Talmudic teaching has been integrated into normative Jewish praxis:
Regarding non-Jews with whom the Jews are not at war--and likewise Jews who shepherd sheep and goats in Eretz Israel and allow their animals to graze in other people's fields...the law is that one should not do anything to cause their death. However, if one sees that they have fallen into mortal danger of their own accord, one should not try to save them. Some authorities maintain that the correct interpretation is as follows: There is no mitzvah to kill them, but it is permissible to do so (Bet Yosef, Darkei Moshe, Shakh). Others maintain that killing them is definitely forbidden (Maharshal, Tza). But it is certainly forbidden to kill a non-Jew who observes the seven Noachide commandments (Meiri). (Shulkhan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah 158; Hoshen Mishpat 425:5).
Or as Maimonides stated the position:
Deaths of non-Jews with whom we are not at war and Jewish shepherds of sheep and goats and similar people should not be caused, although it is forbidden to save them if they are at the point of death. If, for example, one of them is seen falling into the sea, he should not be rescued. As it is written: "Neither shall you stand against the blood of your fellow" (Leviticus 19:16) but he [the non-Jew] is not your fellow.
At this point our tour of Tractate Sanhedrin will make a quick jump out of the frying pan and into the fire (folio 43A), where we will observe the worst of the Talmud's blasphemies against Our Lord Jesus Christ:
But surely it was taught: "On Passover Eve they hanged Jesus of Nazareth. And the herald went out before him for forty days: 'Jesus of Nazareth is going out to be stoned because he practiced sorcery, incited [to idol worship] and led Israel astray. Whoever knows an argument in his favor should come and argue on his behalf.' But they did not find an argument in his favor, and they hanged him on Passover Eve." Ulla said: can you think of this? Was Jesus of Nazareth deserving of a search for an argument in his favor? He was an inciter, and the Torah (lit., "the Merciful") says: "You shall not spare, nor shall you conceal him"! Rather, Jesus was different, because he was close to the government.
I have not yet located Rabbi Steinsaltz's Talmud online. It may not be there. In any case, the passage appears in the Babylonian Talmud as follows:
AND A HERALD PRECEDES HIM etc. This implies, only immediately before [the execution], but not previous thereto.33 [In contradiction to this] it was taught: On the eve of the Passover Yeshu34 was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, 'He is going forth to be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.' But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!35 — Ulla retorted: 'Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defene could be made? Was he not a Mesith [enticer], concerning whom Scripture says, Neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him?36 With Yeshu however it was different, for he was connected with the government [or royalty, i.e., influential].'
You can find the passage easily in Folio 43a by locating footnote 33.
There is much more in Douglass' article, but that's enough for today.
Those who wish to deny material such as this, and who can't find any way to refute it directly, reach for an ad hominem or guilt by association argument against the author. If they do, they will probably point out that he writes for this website, indicating that anything he says must be discredited because of this source. I will not entertain such an argument here. Either the Talmud contains the passages that Douglass cites, or it does not. That is the only basis for discussion.