Religion: D’une manière générale, le Talmud est résolument mysogyne (A long history of survival in a world of hostility and persecution)

Christian-Jewish disputationSurvivors' Talmud (US army, 1951) Dieu créa l’homme à son image, il le créa à l’image de Dieu, il créa l’homme et la femme. Genèse 1:27 
Vous ne mangerez point de sang. Lévitique 7: 26
Ma maison sera appelée une maison de prière pour tous les peuples. Esaïe 56:7
Les juifs s’appellent les êtres humains, mais les non-juifs ne sont pas des humains. Ils sont des bêtes. Talmud: Mezia de baba, 114b
Il est autorisé de prendre le corps et la vie d’un Gentil. Ikkarim III C 25 de Sepher –
Chaque juif, qui renverse le sang de l’athée (non-juifs), est comme s’il faisait un sacrifice à Dieu. Talmud: Raba c 21 et Jalkut 772 de Bammidber
D’une manière générale, le Talmud est résolument mysogyne et de nombreux textes affligeants permettent de s’en rendre compte. (…) la femme n’est pas considérée digne de témoigner, pas plus que le fou et l’enfant. Le mariage lui-même est un acte d’achat, et la femme qui se vend elle-même, appartient désormais à son mari, sans pouvoir, contrairement à lui, dissoudre cette union. Il faut que le fiancé voie sa fiançée avant le mariage, de peur qu’elle ne soit pas tout à fait à son goût et qu’il viole le commandement relatif à l’amour du prochain (qui, heureusement, s’applique aussi à la femme …). Par contre, il n’est pas nécessaire que la fiancée voit « son » fiancé, parce que pour une femme, être avec quelqu’un, quel qu’il soit, c’est un bonheur … (…) La femme ne compte pas dans le « minian » (les 10 personnes de la prière collective). Elle n’est là que pour l’homme et pas du tout pour elle-même. Rapahël Cohen (1990)
L’histoire biblique a fait cadeau au monde d’une définitive conception de l’homme libre, et c’est un acquis. Comment se fait-il dans ces conditions que la tradition soit tellement critique vis–à-vis des « peuples » ? Comment le peuple prêtre aime-t-il tellement peu ces êtres dont il est supposé avoir la charge ? La persécution explique beaucoup de choses, avec ce dénuement d’un Israêl sans cesse chassé du monde. Malgré tout, une attitude plus raisonnable et satisfaisante apparaît chez certains sages, ceux pour lesquels la beauté de Japhet (la Grèce, l’Europe) doit habiter ls tentes de Sem (Israël). Rapahël Cohen (1990)
Avec la Shoah, les Juifs avaient été contraints de pratiquer le Talmud à l’envers. Par exemple, durant les jours de Pessah, les Juifs, ne disposant pas de matsot (azymes), furent contraints pour survivre de consommer le peu de pain qu’on leur donnait, c’est-à-dire du hamets (pain à pâte levée), transgression punissable du pire des châtiments célestes. C’est alors que des talmudistes prirent sur eux de formuler de nouvelles formules, de nouvelles prières pour sanctifier en somme leur «sacrilège»; des formules et prières conformes à l’esprit de la Loi, mais qui en renversent l’application pour les besoins de la survie. Pierre-Henry Salfati
En citant de façon sélective divers passages du Talmud et du Midrash, des faiseurs de polémiques ont cherché à démontrer que le judaïsme prône la haine des non-Juifs (et des chrétiens en particulier), et promeut l’obscénité, la perversion sexuelle, et d’autres conduites immorales. Afin de rendre ces passages conformes à leurs buts, ces personnes les traduisent souvent de façon erronée ou les citent hors de leur contexte (la fabrication de passages entiers n’est pas inconnue) […] En déformant les significations normatives des textes rabbiniques, les écrivains anti-Talmud extraient fréquemment les passages de leur contexte textuel et historique. Même lorsqu’ils présentent leurs citations correctement, ils jugent les passages d’après les critères moraux actuels, ‘ignorant’ le fait que ces passages furent en majorité composés il y a près de deux mille ans par des gens vivant dans des cultures radicalement différentes de la nôtre. Ils sont donc capables d’ignorer la longue histoire du judaïsme en matière de progrès social, et la dépeindre comme une religion primitive et bornée. Ceux qui attaquent le Talmud citent fréquemment d’anciennes sources rabbiniques sans tenir compte des développements subséquents de la pensée juive, et sans faire un effort de bonne foi de consulter des autorités juives contemporaines qui pourraient expliquer le rôle de ces sources dans la pensée et la pratique juives normatives. Rapport de l’Anti-Defamation League
Les accusations envers le Talmud ont une longue histoire, datant du XIIIe siècle, lorsque les associés de l’Inquisition tentèrent de diffamer les Juifs et leur religion. Les premiers ouvrages, compilés par des prédicateurs haineux comme Raymond Martini et Nicholas Donin demeurent la base de toutes les accusations subséquentes envers le Talmud. Certaines sont vraies, la plupart sont fausses et basées sur des citations tirées de leur contexte, et certaines sont des fabrications totales. Sur Internet de nos jours, on peut trouver beaucoup de ces vieilles accusations ressassées… Gil Student (rabbin)

«Racisme » envers les non-juifs, antichristianisme, phallocratie, misogynie, acceptation de la pédophilie, prétentions à la suprématie théologique, accentuation de la nécessité de non-divulgation d’une partie de la connaissance judaïque aux non-juifs sous peine de mort …

Qui n’a pas retrouvé régulièrement sur l’internet ces sempiternelles compilations d’accusations anti-talmudiques, souvent sur des sites ou par des copieurs-colleurs qui par ailleurs ne cachent pas leur antisémitisme et les utilisent pour déligitimer un peu plus l’Etat d’Israël ou les juifs en général?

Mais qui n’a pas aussi été frustré des réponses habituelles qui y sont faites, se contentant le plus souvent de les réduire à de pures fictions antisémites ?

Qui n’a pas eu envie d’entendre enfin reconnu qu’au delà d’une longue tradition de diffamation des Juifs et de leur religion, de cas grossiers et notoires de faux, de citations sélectives hors de leur contexte textuel et historique et de traductions délibérément faussées,

le Talmud apparait souvent étroitement particulariste, misogyne et antichrétien, sans parler de tout un fatras de superstitions et d’élucubrations numérologiques ou magiques?

Que, pour des passages souvent « composés il y a près de deux mille ans par des gens vivant dans des cultures radicalement différentes de la nôtre », ayant eu plus que leur lot de persécutions et surtout ayant eu vitalement à se distinguer de ce qui était pour eux une hérésie  aussi mortelle qu’issue de leur propre rang qui finit d’ailleurs par conquérir le monde, le contraire aurait été des plus étonnants?

Et surtout qui n’a pas eu envie, en contraste avec certains de ces passages aujourd’hui embarrassants, de voir ainsi d’autant plus reconnue l’authenticité historique de ces recueils (de vrais faussaires, mais en est-il autrement pour nos propres textes chrétiens des mêmes époques, auraient-ils conservé des choses aussi gênantes?) que la grandeur d’une histoire multimillénaire?

Avec, comme le rappelle le Rapport de l’Anti-Defamation League et à quel prix, tout ce qu’ont apporté au monde en termes de progrès social ou éthique les développements subséquents de la pensée juive »?

D’où l’intérêt des mises au point, trouvées elles aussi sur l’internet mais hélas non traduites en français, sinon quelques extraits sur wikipedia), de l’Anti-Defamation League comme du rabbin Gil Student.

Où, si l’on arrive à dépasser la nouveauté et complexité des termes hébreux l’on perçoit enfin tout le cheminement et l’histoire multimillénaire mais aussi les nécessités d’une pensée, souvent déconcertante pour un esprit moderne avec ses paraboles et allégories comme son goût du paradoxe, de la dialectique et des renversements de perpectives (chaque opinion tendant à contredire la suivante en une sorte de débat permanent où l’ensemble des positions peuvent être envisagées, y compris les plus contradictoires).

A la manière du « Surivors’ Talmud imprimé, on le sait, par l’Armée américaine en 1951 pour les rescapés des camps, la mise par écrit en hébreu (ce qui était jusque-là interdit) de la loi orale juive autour de l’an 200 sous forme d’une compilation d’opinions et de débats légaux sur  la Torah (dite Mishna, littéralement « enseignement par la répétition » et futur noyau dur du Talmud) répond en effet dès le départ à rien de moins que la nécessité de survivre le choc potentiellement fatal de l’expulsion de la ville sainte qui avait suivi l’échec de la Rébellion de Simon Bar Koh’ba et la destruction du Temple par les Romains (mais aussi la menace d’une hérésie chrétienne alors en plein essor).

De même que le développement des diasporas y autour de 500 un ensemble de commentaires complémentaires de ladite Mishna dit Guemara (« complément» en araméen, langue dans laquelle elle est rédigée) mais avec deux sources différentes en Galilée (autour de 350) et à Babylone (autour de 498) produisant à leur tour deux Talmuds différents dits de Jérusalem et de Babylone, avec un contenu majoritairement pratique et normatif (la halaka : cheminement » ou règle de conduite) mais aussi, dans une moindre part, plus analytique et symbolique (Midrach) ou narrative ou historique.

Et toujours la même nécessité de survie et de maintien de son identité pour un petit peuple qui a déjà bien failli disparaitre plusieurs fois que l’on retrouve dans la structure même des textes, regroupés thématiquement en « ordres » vitaux  tels que la subsistance assurée par la terre (« Graines » autour des lois agricoles), le contrôle du temps (« Festivals », centré sur les  lois du Sabbat et fêtes), la maitrise de la reproduction du groupe via la famille (« Femmes » avec les lois du mariage), la gestion de l’économie et du pouvoir (« Dommages » ou les lois civiles et criminelles), leculte (« Choses saintes », d’abord les lois sacrificielles et le Temple, puis surtout, avec sa disparition,  les règles alimentaires) et enfin la régulation de la vie intérieure et intime  (« Puretés » avec les lois de pureté/impureté rituelle et notamment la question du sang menstruel), elles-mêmes subdivisées en   traités, répartis  à leur tour en chapitres et articles.

De même, c’est dans la confrontation à l’opposition croissante du christianisme que se firent ses développements en Europe médiévale (le célèbre rabbin  français de Troyes  Rachi et ses disciples comme bien sûr le non moins célèbre rabbin andalou du XIIe siècle né à Cordoue mais exilé au Maghreb puis en Egypte Moïse Maïmonide), notamment via les fameuses « disputation »s ou disputes publiques avec leur lot habituel d »autodafés, bulles papales et censures ou expurgations, souvent à l’instigation d’anciens juifs convertis (Paris:  1242 avec Nicolas Donin, Barcelone :1263 autour de  Raimond Martin, Pablo Christiani ou Geronimo de Santa FéTortosa:1413-1414).

Jusqu’à, il n’y eut pas que des effets négatifs, l’adoption du système de numérotation et capitation chrétienne de la Bible afin de faciliter les citations et la formulation des principes de foi du judaïsme et même l’impression et la traduction des premiers talmuds.

Ces derniers n’en restant pas moins pour l’essentiel, même si avec la Réforme protestante ils servirent aussi d’inspiration pour la traduction de la Bible en langues européennes, de nouvelles armes pour mieux combattre tout écrit juif, notamment, avant les faux russes au XIXe, pour de nouvelles disputes avec l’Allemand Johannes Pfefferkorn au XVIe siècle ou l’évêque polonais Dembowski sur l’instigation de Jacob Frank au XIIIe.

Dont justement, ignorant ou faisant mine d’ignorer que (comme un certain christianisme!) le judaïsme avait largement changé entretemps, nombre des attaques de nos antisémites contemporains sont justement tirées …

« The Talmud in Anti-Semitic Polemics »

Anti-Defamation league

February 2003

Preface

Recently there has been a renewal of attacks on Judaism and Jews through  recycling of old accusations and distortions about the Talmud. Anti-Talmud tracts were originally developed in the Middle Ages as Christian polemics against Judaism, but today they emanate from a variety of Christian, Moslem and secular sources. Sometimes such « studies » have  blatantly anti-Semitic tones; sometimes they are more subtle. Yet all of them remain as false and pernicious today as they did in the Middle Ages.

Because of their unfortunate frequent reappearance, there is a need to formally rebut these accusations and canards. The Anti-Defamation League developed the following essay that explains in an honest and scholarly way the Talmudic teachings as understood by Jewish religious  authorities.

I. Introduction

Attempts to denigrate Judaism by quoting from classical rabbinic works are on record  from as early as the twelfth century. By selectively citing various passages from the Talmud and Midrash, polemicists have sought to demonstrate that Judaism espouses hatred for non-Jews (and specifically for Christians), and promotes obscenity, sexual perversion, and other immoral behavior. To make these passages serve their purposes, these polemicists frequently mistranslate them or cite them out of context (wholesale fabrication of passages is not unknown). They usually dismiss attempts to correct their misreadings as « hairsplitting » or dishonest attempts to portray Judaism in a favorable light.

In distorting the normative meanings of rabbinic texts, anti-Talmud writers frequently remove passages from their textual and historical contexts. Even when they present their citations accurately, they judge the passages based on contemporary moral standards, ignoring the fact that the majority of these passages were composed close to two thousand years ago by people living in cultures radically different from our own. They are thus able to ignore Judaism’s long history of social progress and paint it instead as a primitive and parochial religion.

Those who attack the Talmud frequently cite ancient rabbinic sources without noting  subsequent developments in Jewish thought, and without making a good-faith effort to  consult with contemporary Jewish authorities who can explain the role of these sources in  normative Jewish thought and practice. Even the more traditional Orthodox stream of  Judaism has developed and changed over two thousand years, and despite the  unquestioned importance that the Talmud and early rabbinic literature continue to play in  contemporary Jewish education, law and thought, the Jewish approach to that literature is  more nuanced than the literalist readings which polemicists portray as the standard  Jewish interpretations.

Are the polemicists anti-Semites? This is a charged term that should not be used lightly, but the answer, by and large, is yes. Now and then a polemicist of this type may himself have been born Jewish, but their systematic distortions of the ancient texts, always in the  direction of portraying Judaism negatively, their lack of interest in good-faith efforts to understand contemporary Judaism from contemporary Jews, and their dismissal of any voices opposing their own, suggests that their goal in reading ancient rabbinic literature is to produce the Frankenstein version of Judaism that they invariably claim to have uncovered. Their tendentious argumentation, participation in extremist groups and espousal of extremist ideologies, when present, tend to support such suspicions; the invocation of classic anti-Semitic stereotypes, nearly universal among the polemicists we

describe, confirms them.

In fact many anti-Talmud polemicists have never studied the Talmud at all. The consistent manner in which the same gross errors (both in citation and analysis) are passed down through successive literary generations of anti-Talmud crusaders suggests that individual writers often merely recycle old attacks. Trying to impress their readers with their purported knowledge of the Talmud, they betray their ignorance.

II. The Charges

A. Non-Jews as Non-Human

Probably the most far-reaching claim made by anti-Talmud polemicists is that Judaism views non-Jews as a subhuman species deserving only hatred and contempt from its Jewish superiors. 1 The visceral hatred that Jews are alleged to bear for non-Jews is proven, they claim, by a variety of statements in the Talmud and by Jewish law itself, which purportedly encourages Jews to exploit their non- Jewish neighbors and engage in criminal activities against them. Many go so far as to claim that Jews are intent on subjugating non- Jews around the world and even on committing genocide against them.

In its long history, Judaism has had its share of bigots, racists and xenophobes, some of whom expressed their prejudices in religious terms. In certain historical periods there have even been Jewish sects whose worldview placed Jews higher than non-Jews in inherent value. But normative Judaism has never diminished the essential humanity — and the concomitant holiness, derived from the doctrine of creation in imago Dei — shared by Jews and non-Jews alike. Based on verses in the biblical verses in Genesis 1 :26-28, the principle that all men and women are created in the image of God is codified in the Mishnah (Avoth 3:14) and Talmud (Avoth 9b):

[Rabbi Akiva] used to say, « Beloved is man, for he was created in God’s image; and the

fact that God made it known that man was created in His image is indicative of an even

greater love. As the verse states (Genesis 9:6), ‘In the image of God, man was created.’) »

This doctrine is echoed by one of the great rabbis of the twentieth century, Rabbi Joseph

B. Soloveitchik (Man of Faith in the Modern World, p. 74):

Even as the Jew is moved by his private Sinaitic Covenant with God to embody and preserve the teachings of the Torah, he is committed to the belief that all mankind, of whatever color or creed, is « in His image » and is possessed of an inherent human dignity and worthiness. Man’s singularity is derived from the breath « He [God] breathed into his nostrils at the moment of creation » (Genesis 2:7). Thus, we do share in the universal historical experience, and God’s providential concern does embrace all of humanity.

In the face of these Jewish doctrines expressing concern for men and women of all religions, the attempts of anti-Semites to portray normative Judaism as bigoted and hateful are revealed as thorough distortions of Jewish ethics. They claim, for example, that the Hebrew term goy (pi. goyim), which refers to non-Jews, means « cow » or « animal. » In fact, however, the term means « a member of a nation » (see e.g. Genesis 35:11, Isaiah 2:4) and has no derogatory connotation. The Bible even refers to the Jewish people as ‘goy ‘ (Exodus 19:6) but through the millennia has become a generic term for « gentile. » Of course, like terms used for any other ethnic group, the context and tone in which it is spoken or written can render it pejorative (think of the history of the word « Jew »), but that should hardly prejudice someone to the appearance of the term in classical Jewish literature.

A far more serious accusation than name-calling is made when anti-Semites echo the blood libel and claim that Jewish law enjoins or permits Jews to murder non-Jews whenever feasible. To support this allegation polemicists cite a passage in the Jerusalem Talmud 2 stating in the name of R. Simeon b. Yochai (mid-second century C.E.) that « The best of the non-Jews should be killed. » But Jewish tradition has always understood this statement as referring only to a situation in which Jews are at war; at such times, R. Simeon says, the status of a non- Jewish opponent should not be taken into account, for war cannot be waged with half-measures. That R. Simeon referred to wartime may be gleaned from his life story, for he lived amidst the Hadrianic persecutions of the second century C.E. and participated in the Bar Kochba revolt against Rome. More importantly, however, every subsequent citation of R. Simeon’s statement in Jewish legal literature has appended the words « in times of war. » 3 Yet polemicists continue to cite the unqualified passage from the Jerusalem Talmud in an effort to raise suspicions that contemporary Jews are secretly commanded to murder their non- Jewish neighbors. Such propagandizing is a purposeful misrepresentation.

B. Child Molestation

One of the more horrifying charges leveled at Judaism is that it condones the sexual molestation of young girls. This charge was made in 1892 by the Russian Catholic cleric Reverend LB. Pranaitis in his Latin book, Christianus in Talmade Iudaeorum. Despite Pranaitis’ humiliation at the Beilis blood libel trial in 1913, where as an « expert » witness for the prosecution he demonstrated during cross-examination that he could not answer even simple questions about the Talmud, his book was translated into English in 1939, and the charge has been making the rounds in anti-Semitic circles ever since. 4

The source for the charge that Judaism permits child molestation is a passage from the

Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Ketubot, pg. lib:

Rava [a fourth century Rabbinic authority] said: If an adult has sex with a girl under the age of three, it is ignored, for it is like putting a finger in someone’s eye [i.e., tears may drip from the eye but there will always be more tears to replace them; so too the hymen of a girl so young may break but it will heal].

From this quote, anti-Semites argue that Judaism permits the sexual molestation of young girls. This, however, is not true. In fact, in several places the Talmud makes clear that Judaism possesses its own version of the American law of statutory rape. A formulation of this law may be found in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yevamot, pg. 33b:

One who seduces an underage girl is considered as if he had raped her [i.e. the laws applicable to rapists would apply to the molester].

An honest reading of the passage from Ketubot shows that it is part of a technical discussion regarding the evaluation of a woman’s ketubah – a reverse dowry that Jewish law requires a man to pay his wife in the event of divorce. A major factor in the determination of the ketubah in traditional Jewish law is whether the woman had been a virgin at the time of the marriage; virginity is considered a positive value that would enable the woman to claim a higher ketubah. The quoted passage indicates that if a girl had been molested before the age of three, she is still considered a virgin and is entitled to the higher ketubah. In no way does the passage or the discussion in Ketubot imply that it is permissible for Jewish men to molest young girls.

That anti-Semites have taken the passage from Ketubot out of context and ignored Judaism’s law against statutory rape demonstrates their true agenda: to instill others with hatred for Judaism and Jewish people.

C. Kol Nidrei and Jewish Truthfulness

An equally baseless attack on Jewish tradition is sometimes made regarding « Kol Nidrei » a ritualistic formula which, some polemicists allege, allows those Jews who recite it to lie without moral or religious compunction. (One recent anti-Semite cited Kol Nidrei as proof that Judaism is « more of a crime syndicate than a religion. ») In fact there is a prayer called Kol Nidrei that many Jews recite on the Jewish Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) — though some congregations, sensitive to the fact that the prayer is sometimes misconstrued, have excised it from the prayer book. Far from any « license to lie, » however, Kol Nidrei constitutes only a declaration in advance that any voluntary religious obligations a Jew may take upon himself (while inspired by a sermon, for example), should not be binding if it subsequently becomes clear that those additional obligations were unrealistic or unnecessary. The Code of Jewish Law {Shulhan Arukh), considered authoritative by all traditional Jews, makes clear that the Kol Nidrei prayer’s potency is limited to personal vows of religious obligation (Y.D. 211 :4):

This [prayer] refers to a vow or oath promised to one’s self; if the oath was sworn at the behest of someone else, however, the [Kol Nidrei] nullification does not work at all.

Thus an innocuous prayer that frees Jews from ill-conceived personal religious vows is distorted by haters into a fiendish component of some Jewish conspiracy to deceive others or that Judaism allows Jews to lie at will.

D. Non-Jews and the Study of Torah

To substantiate their depiction of Jews as conspirators and plotters against their non- Jewish neighbors, anti-Semitic polemicists often cite a passage found in several places in the talmudic and midrashic literature stating that non-Jews who study Torah are deserving of death; in their minds, this statement amounts to a secrecy pact among Jews to prevent news of their nefarious creed from reaching the rest of the world. In his autobiography My Awakening, David Duke dramatizes his encounter with this Talmudic statement when he first read selections from the Talmud:

One of the first passages I read really surprised me. It said, « A heathen [Gentile] who pries into the Torah [and other Jewish Scriptures] is condemned to death, for it is written, ‘It is our inheritance, not theirs.' » (Sanhedrin 59a)

If a 16-year-old boy reads something forbidden like that, he is certain to read on. The passage was completely alien to everything I had always understood about religion. Why would theynot want all men to read the holy word the same way Christians want to « spread the good news? » Just what is in these scriptures that would oblige the Jews to kill a Gentile that read them? Why would public knowledge of Jewish scriptures be dangerous to Jews? {My Awakening, p. 241)

Duke apparently did not read on, however, or he would have seen another Talmudic

opinion on the matter. The entire passage reads:

R. Yohanan said, « A non-Jew who studies Torah is worthy of death, as the verse states (Deuteronomy 33:4), ‘Moses commanded us the Torah as an inheritance’ – implying that it is for us but not for them [non-Jews] » . . . R. Meir said, « How do we know that a non- Jew who studies Torah is like a High Priest? From the verse which states (Leviticus 18:5), ‘ . . .that a man shall carry out these laws by which he shall live.’ The verse does not refer to Jews but to the generic ‘Man’ – thereby teaching that even a non-Jew who studies Torah is like a High Priest. »

In its larger context, it is clear that neither R. Yohanan nor R. Meir is speaking literally — a non-Jew who studies Torah would neither be put to death nor be permitted to perform the Temple services of the High Priest (a job which is reserved for descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses). Rather, in the classic style of Talmudic dialectic the two are presenting alternative perspectives on the question of non-Jews learning Torah, both of which are to be respected, and ultimately harmonized by later authorities into a coherent approach to the subject. R. Yohanan’ s forceful statement stresses that in some essential way, the study of Torah is reserved for believers only, those to whom the dictates of the Torah possess binding authority. To treat Torah as the subject of detached, academic study would be akin to studying mysticism without being able to take the mystical journeys of the true practitioner, or to studying medicine while denying the efficacy of the treatments. Indeed, the dispassionate, detached study of Torah, the Word of the Living God, is viewed by R. Yohanan as bordering on blasphemy.

As developed by later rabbinic commentators, R. Meir does not disagree with the point made by R. Yohanan about the sanctity of Torah study. Yet he stresses that Torah has relevance even to the detached, non-Jewish reader. Like the ancient prophets of Israel, whose exhortations on righteousness and belief in God have inspired both Jews and non-Jews throughout history, Torah offers essential truths to Jews and non- Jews alike; indeed, on his or her own level, the non- Jew may also be elevated by the study of Torah to the stature of the High Priest in his or her service of God.

Far from Duke’s depiction of Judaism as being unwilling to « spread the good news, » an essential aspect of Jewish doctrine has been to spread God’s light to the non- Jewish nations of the world. Though R. Yohanan’s exhortations are never discounted, this mission is reflected in the Jewish legal tradition on the teaching of Torah to non- Jews, which is permitted far more often than it is prohibited. 5

E. Jesus and Balaam

To agitate Christian readers, anti-Talmud writers often attempt to portray the Talmud as demeaning the figure of Jesus. In the opinion of most scholars, the Talmud only refers to Jesus in a handful of places, and though these references may not reflect the courteous ecumenicism of the modern world, neither are they particularly inflammatory. 6 But the Talmud bears much harsher animus towards the biblical figure of Balaam, the pagan magician who sought to curse the Jews as they traveled through the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. Rabbinic tradition ascribes other crimes to Balaam as well, and in various places describes some of the punishments he may have suffered after his death. In the nineteenth century, when the field of academic Jewish studies was in its infancy, a small group of Jewish scholars suggested that in some cases the term Balaam in the Talmud may be a codeword for Jesus. Though later scholars showed that this suggestion could not be true (for reasons pertaining to the context of the Balaam references and the lack of manuscript variants substituting Jesus for Balaam), 8 anti-Semites have ever since claimed that the true hatred that Judaism possesses for Christianity is expressed in these coded expressions against Balaam found in the Talmud. 9

This is not to say that historically Jews have historically borne no animus towards Jesus

and the Apostles, or to Christianity as a whole. In the two-thousand year relationship between Judaism and Christianity, many of them marred by anti-Jewish polemic and Christian persecution of Jews, some rabbis have fulminated against the church, and in some places Jews developed a folk literature that demeaned Christianity. But contemporary anti-Semitic polemicists are not interested in learning or reporting about the historical development of Jewish-Christian relations. Their goal is to incite hatred against Judaism and Jews by portraying them as bigoted and hateful. Their use of the long-discredited Balaam hypothesis is another example of this phenomenon.

III. Conclusion

It is impossible in this context to deal with all of the quotes from Jewish literature cited by anti-Semites in their effort to denigrate Judaism and spread their own vile views. The above examples characterize how anti-Semites are able to mangle and distort rabbinic and Talmudic passages. Nearly every other explanation of passages cited by anti-Talmud polemicists contain similar ignorance, distortion or tendentious interpretation.

A more important point needs to be made on role of the Talmud in Judaism in general. The Talmud is more than simply a legal code; it is a twenty-volume compilation of explorations of Jewish history, philosophy, folklore, and theology, as well as law. Its final redaction took place in the fifth century, shortly after the fall of Rome. It was written in a style and within a culture that seem bizarre or alien to contemporary readers. It does indeed contain statements that many today — Jews and non-Jews — would find offensive. But many of the comments we would deem offensive are recorded not as statements of law, but as the suggestions of individual rabbis in their continuing discussions on the myriad of subjects of interest to the Jews of the first centuries of the Common Era. Jews today venerate the Talmud as one of the first great Jewish texts, but it would be wrong to view each statement it contains as expressing the « position » of contemporary Judaism.

A similar point should be made with respect to the Talmud’s legal sections. These sections comprise the foundation of Jewish law, and are consulted today as the starting point for Jewish legal research. But Jewish law has developed significantly — sometimes radically — in the fifteen centuries since the Talmud was redacted, even for Orthodox Jews. Anti-Semites use selective quotes from the Talmud in an attempt to portray contemporary Jews as bigoted, hateful, and conspiratorial, but to anyone who understands the role of the Talmud in contemporary Judaism, their efforts are disingenuous and belie an agenda far removed from genuine historical or ecumenical research. The relevance of the literal Talmudic texts to Jewish practice today is far smaller than anti-Semites would have us believe.

To truly understand contemporary Judaism, one need only consult with a rabbi or scholar, or go to a bookstore or library to peruse any introduction to Judaism. The Talmud itself is available in two English translations. One is the Soncino edition, which was gradually produced by a team of scholars between 1934 and the early 1960s. The other is the Artscroll edition, a contemporary project that is not yet complete. 10 For those who actually consult the Talmud, it is well to remember that it is a historical document rather than a modern code.

IV. Works Cited

Bleich, David J. Contemporary Halakhic Problems vol. 2 (New York: Ktav, 1983).

Lauterbach, Jacob Z. Rabbinic Essays (Cincinnati: HUC Press, 1951; reprinted by Ktav,

1973).

Polemics:

Dilling, Elizabeth. The Plot Against Christianity (Lincoln, Nebraska: The Elizabeth

Dilling Foundation, 1964). Revised and reprinted as The Jewish Religion: Its Influence

Today (Torrance, CA: The Noontide Press, 1983).

Duke, David. My Awakening (Covington, LA: Free Speech Press, 1998).

Hoffman, Michael A. II. Judaism ‘s Strange Gods (Coer d’ Alene, Idaho: The

Independent History and Research Co., 2000).

Shahak, Israel. Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years

(Boulder, Colorado: Pluto Press, 1994).

1 Dillmg (1964) p. 10, 54; Shahak (1994) p. 94; Hoffman (2000) p. 43; Duke (2002) p. 62.

 » There are two editions of the Talmud; one was composed by Babylonian Jews and one by Jews who lived

in ancient Jerusalem. Generally a citation from the Talmud refers to the Babylonian version, which is considered authoritative. The Jerusalem Talmud is not generally taught in even the most Orthodox Jewish schools today, though advanced Talmud scholars sometimes study it.

3 See e.g. Tractate Sofenm 15:7; Machzor Vitn 527; Beit Yosef Y.D. 158:1.

4 For more information on Pranaitis, see: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Cyprus/8815/pranaitis.html .

5  » For an extensive survey of the literature on the subject, see J. David Bleich, Contemporary Halakhic Problems vol. 2 (New York: Ktav, 1983), pp. 31 1-340.

6 For an exhaustive analysis of the references to Jesus in the Talmud, see Jacob Z. Lauterbach, Rabbinic

Essays (Cincinnatti: HUC Press, 1 95 1 ; reprinted by Ktav, 1973), pp. 473-570.

7 See Numbers chapters 22-25.

8 See Lauterbach, p. 509.

9 See Dilling (1983), p. 14; Duke (1998), p. 244-245; Hoffman (2000), p. 48.

10 Those with no knowledge of Hebrew and Aramaic may prefer the Soncino edition; although its English

is sometimes stilted, it takes care to include few Hebrew or Aramaic technical terms in the translation itself

(a difficult task for the legal sections). The Artscroll edition contains a more modern translation, but

assumes that its reader is somewhat comfortable with these two ancient languages.

Voir aussi:

The real truth about the Talmud

Gil Student

Anti-Talmud accusations have a long history dating back to the 13th century when the associates of the Inquisition attempted to defame Jews and their religion [see Yitzchak Baer, A History of Jews in Christian Spain, vol. I pp. 150-185]. The early material compiled by hateful preachers like Raymond Martini and Nicholas Donin remain the basis of all subsequent accusations against the Talmud. Some are true, most are false and based on quotations taken out of context, and some are total fabrications [see Baer, ch. 4 f. 54, 82 that it has been proven that Raymond Martini forged quotations]. On the internet today we can find many of these old accusations being rehashed and this site is an attempt to correct the mistakes and put the true quotes into their proper perspective.

The accusations against the Talmud can be divided into four categories [see Hyam Maccoby, Judaism on Trial, pp. 23-38].

1] The Talmud considers itself holier than the Bible

2] The Talmud contains passages that are blasphemous against Jesus and Mary

The first two accusations are essentially frivolous. What business is it of Christians if the Jewish Talmud is considered holier than the Bible (which it isn’t)? And if Jews do not take the account of the Christian NT to be totally historically accurate, so what? To fundamentalist Christians, EVERY other religion is considered blasphemous. Why should the Talmud be judged within the Christian religious framework? Of course, any Jewish book is blasphemous within that framework because Judaism does not accept Jesus as the messiah. The very accusation that the Jewish Talmud is blasphemous to Christianity is redundant.

3] The Talmud has ridiculous and immoral statements

The third accusation is one that Jews have to work out for themselves. Should a Jew believe in a book that makes foolish and obscene comments? That a Jew does should not be relevant to gentiles. In fact, the allegedly foolish and immoral statements in the Talmud are sometimes non-existent but usually allegorical. The Talmud and associated literature developed an entire genre of parables and allegorical sayings that, when understood, shed light on the mysteries of life. However, when inadequately translated and ripped from their context they seem silly.

Dov Zlotnick, Introduction to Saul Lieberman’s Greek in Jewish Palestine (1994), p. xx

Rabbinic texts that seem bizarre at first blush can become quite ordinary when properly understood. I remember Lieberman once being called by a popular national publication regarding a passage from the Talmud. To the caller, who was researching an article, the passage seemed silly. Its subject was the difference between a roll or a bundle of documents, and how each note of indebtedness was to be placed in relation to the other. After the Professor finished explaining the passage, the caller responded with surprise, « Why, this is reasonable! » « Of course, » the Professor responded.

« Well, in that case, » the caller replied, « I cannot use it. »

4] The Talmud has laws that are racist and anti-gentile

The fourth accusation is the one on which I will be focussing. Because today’s Orthodox Jews still lead their lives based on the laws contained in the Talmud, it is incumbent upon Jews to understand and explain that their religious laws are not racist or derogatory to gentiles. Jewish law, as contained in the Talmud, treats gentiles with the proper respect due to a person created in the image of G-d. Their property and lives are honored and any (mis)quotes from the Talmud indicating otherwise need to be seen in their original language and context.

I will be showing the ENTIRE passages in both their original Hebrew or Aramaic and in translation. I will also be providing a fuller context by bringing other quotations on the topics from other parts of the Talmud. After seeing all of the quotations, a proper judgement can be rendered. I will also be showing how Jewish commentators and legalists have understood these passages throughout history.

Even if a reader would believe that these talmudic quotations are racist, if Jews have always understood them differently then Jews cannot be considered racist. Even if someone can twist the words of the Talmud to be hateful, if Jews have always understood the Talmud in a non-hateful way then the argument is meaningless. The real exercise is to find the (allegedly racist) talmudic influence on Jews and Judaism and by perusing through the post-talmudic literature we can clearly find that this talmudic influence was not racist.

Is the Talmud racist or anti-gentile? No. But neither is it a universalist manifesto. It is a religious document written by those of the Jewish religion for others of the same faith. It favors Judaism over other religions and sets down rules on how to live in both an all-Jewish society and a mixed society. It legislates how to create vibrant Jewish communities while still maintaining respect for the gentile society. Universalists would have everyone be treated exactly equally and live in non-denominational communities. However, the Talmud, which is concerned for the survival of the Jewish religion, must weigh both the respect for humanity and the need for Jewish survival throughout thousands of years of minority-status.

What we will demonstrate is that the consideration for the Jewish community NEVER relegates those outside of this community to an inhuman status. Gentiles are ALWAYS respected and their rights are secured.

The anti-talmudic lies are exactly that – lies. The wisdom of the Talmud has sustained Judaism for thousands of years and perhaps its very success is what has engendered so much jealous hatred.

What Is The Talmud?

Written by Gil Student

Summary

Jews believe that the entire Torah (Five Books of Moses) was written by Moses as dictated by G-d. This includes all of the happenings recorded in it from the time of creation. Even Deuteronomy, which is written as the testimony of Moses, was written at the express commandment of G-d. G-d dictated the book as if Moses were addressing the people. [Based on R. Aryeh Kaplan, Handbook of Jewish Thought, vol I 7:22-24]

Along with that written text of the Torah, G-d gave Moses an oral explanation. We can thus speak of two Torahs – the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. They complement each other and a true understanding of each will reveal that they are the same. In many cases the (written) Torah refers to details that are not included in the text, thus alluding to an oral tradition. For example, the Torah states (Deut. 12:21) « You shall slaughter your cattle… as I have commanded you » implying an oral commandment concerning ritual slaughter. Similarly, such commandments as Tefillin (Deut. 6:8) and Tzitzit (Numbers 15:38) are found in the Torah but no details are given and are assumed to be in the Oral Torah. Also, although keeping the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments, no details are given as to how it should be kept, and these are also in the unwritten tradition. G-d thus said (Jer. 17:22) « You shall keep the Sabbath holy, as I have commanded your fathers. » [Kaplan, 9:1-5]

The Oral Torah was originally meant to be transmitted by word of mouth. It was relayed from teacher to student in such a way so that if the student had any questions he would be able to ask and thus avoid ambiguity. A written text, however, no matter how perfect, is always subject to misinterpretation. Furthermore, the Oral Torah was meant to cover the infinitude of cases which would arise in the course of time. It could never have been written in its entirety. G-d therefore gave Moses a set of rules through which the Torah could be applied to every possible case. [Kaplan, 9:8-9]

Besides receiving many explanations and details of laws, Moses also received hermeneutic rules for deriving laws from the written Torah and for interpreting it. In many cases, he was also given the cases in which these rules could be applied. Laws and details involving common everyday occurrences were transmitted directly by Moses. However, laws involving infrequently occurring special cases were given in such a way as to be derivable from scripture by hermeneutic rules. Otherwise, there would be the danger that they would be forgotten. The actual laws that Moses taught directly were carefully preserved and one never finds a dispute concerning them. However, in the case of laws derived from hermeneutic rules or logic, occasional disputes can be found. Both of these types of laws have the same status as biblical laws and are considered of equal importance. Along with actual laws and the rules of derivation, G-d gave Moses many guidelines regarding how and under what conditions to enact new laws. This is the source of permission to enact rabbinical laws. [Kaplan, 9:20-25, 29]

The Oral Torah was handed down by word of mouth from Moses to Joshua, then to the Elders, the Prophets, and the men of the Great Assembly. The Great Assembly was led by Ezra at the beginning of the Second Temple and codified much of the Oral Torah into a form that could be memorized by the students. This codification was known as the Mishnah. This Mishnah was required to be handed down word for word exactly as it had been taught. [Kaplan, 9:31-33]

During the generations following the Great Assembly, the Mishnah was expanded by new legislation and case law. As controversies began to develop, variations in the Mishnah of the various teachers began to appear. At the same time, the order of the Mishnah was improved, especially by Rabbi Akiva. To end the disputes, Rabbi Judah the Prince redacted a final edition of the Mishnah which is what we have today. This was finished in the year 188 CE and was published approximately 30 years later. It systematically divided the Torah into six orders and subdivided these orders into tractates, with a total of 63 tractates among the six orders. [Kaplan, 9:37,39]

In compiling his work, R. Judah made use of the earlier Mishnah, condensing it and deciding among various disputed questions. The sages of his time all concurred with his decisions and ratified his edition. However, even rejected opinions were included in the text so that they would be recognized and not revived in later generations. [Kaplan 9:41]

Besides the Mishnah, other volumes were compiled by the students of R. Judah during this period. These include the Tosefta which follows the order of the Mishnah, as well as the Halachic Midrashim – the Mechilta, a commentary on Exodus, the Sifra on Leviticus, and the Sifri on Numbers and Deuteronomy. Works from outside of R. Judah’s school went by the name of Baraita. [Kaplan 9:46-47]

At this time, the practice was for students to first memorize the basics of the Oral Torah and then to carefully analyze their studies. During the period preceding R. Judah, the memorized laws developed into the Mishnah while the analysis developed into a second discipline known as the Gemara. After the Mishnah was compiled, these discussions continued, becoming very important in clarifying the Mishnah. The Gemara developed orally for some three hundred years following the redaction of the Mishnah. Finally, when it came into danger of being forgotten and lost, Rav Ashi, together with his school in Babylonia, undertook to collect all these discussions and set them in order. It was completed in the year 505 CE. [Kaplan, 9:47-48]

Together, the Mishnah and the Gemara are called the Talmud. They contain both legal rulings and back-and-forth discussions dissecting and clarifying these rulings. The community in Israel compiled a Talmud in the third century called the Jerusalem Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud was compiled over 200 years later and is universally accepted as authoritative. In matters of agreement, both Talmuds are consulted. In matters of dispute, the Babylonian Talmud is given precedence. Thus, the Babylonian Talmud is frequently called simply the Talmud.

Within the Oral Torah there are two components – Halachah and Aggadata. Halachah constitutes about ninety percent of the Talmud and nearly all of the Halachic Midrashim. Aggadata makes up the other ten percent of the Talmud – unevenly distributed among its tractates – and virtually the whole of the other Midrashic works.

Halachah is the easier of these two categories to define. It consists of the definitions, the sources, and the explanations of the laws of the Torah. Aggadata, on the other hand, consists of the world of Jewish ideas. Primarily it deals with the principles of faith, the philosophy, and the ethical ideas of Judaism. In addition, it includes all those interpretations of Biblical verses and stories which are unrelated to Jewish law; expositions of the importance of the laws and the rewards and punishments which they entail; stories from the lives of the righteous; lessons in character training; and even, sometimes, what appears to be practical advice on worldly matters such as business and health.

Aggadata, in contrast to the straight-forward and logical methodology of Halachah, conveys its teachings through less direct means. Aggadata is often intentionally obscure wherein the message – often one of the most basic ideas of Judaism – is garbed in what appears to be parables, riddles, or even practical advice without apparent religious content. Scriptural texts are usually understood exegetically rather than simply, despite the Talmudic dictum that the simple meaning of the verse is always true (Talmud Shabbat 63a). [Based on R. Aharon Feldman, The Juggler and the King, pp. xxi-xxii]

In summary, the Talmud is a complement to the Bible. It fills in the gaps and explains the laws of the Torah. In addition, it includes stories and sayings that both straightforwardly and allegorically offer the philosophy and wisdom of Judaism. However, the Talmud is a difficult text to read because it contains many discussions (that took place over hundreds of years) in the form of proof and disproof. The logical progressions lend itself to out-of-context quotes that represent a soon-to-be toppled assumption.

Talmud and Bible

Gil Student

The Accusation

The Talmud is Judaism’s holiest book (actually a collection of books). Its authority takes precedence over the Old Testament in Judaism. Evidence of this may be found in the Talmud itself, Erubin 21b (Soncino edition): « My son, be more careful in the observance of the words of the Scribes than in the words of the Torah (Old Testament). »

It is indeed interesting that anyone should make this claim about the Talmud. While it is certainly not true that Judaism views the Talmud as being holier than the Bible, what if it were true? How does that in any way show that Judaism is wrong?

However, as with most of these claims, the exact opposite is true. Judaism considers the Bible to be its holiest book and biblical laws are considered most important. Judaism views the Torah (Five Books of Moses) as the literal word of G-d. The Prophets (Joshua, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremeiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve Prophets) are the divinely inspired words of the prophets to the people and the Sacred Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, and Chronicles) are the divinely inspired words of the prophets to be inscribed. The Bible is the holiest book to Judaism and is treated with special respect. The following is taken from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Abridged Code of Jewish Law) in the laws regarding treatment of a Torah scroll.

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 28:3

A person is obligated to treat a Torah scroll with great respect and it is praiseworthy to appoint it a special place and to respect that place and beautify it. One should not spit in front of a Torah scroll and one should not hold it without a cloth [in between the scroll and one’s bare hands]. One who sees someone carrying a Torah scroll must rise before it until the Torah scroll is placed in its position or until one no longer sees it.

Similarly, we treat the Bible with such respect that no books are allowed to be placed on top of a Bible. Even a book of the Prophets or Sacred Writings may not be placed on top of a Torah [Talmud Megillah 27a].

From a legal perspective, biblical laws are more important than rabbinic laws.

Talmud Shabbat 128b

Removing a utensil from its prepared function is a rabbinic prohibition, causing pain to animals is a biblical prohibition. The biblical prohibition comes and overrides the rabbinic prohibition.

We see the same in Talmud Pesachim 9b that we are stricter with biblical laws than with rabbinic laws. In Talmud Pesachim 4b, Eiruvin 30, and Ketuvot 28b children’s testimony is seen as acceptable only for rabbinic laws but not for biblical laws because they have stricter requirements. In Talmud Berachot 21a we see that when in doubt whether a biblical commandment has been fulfilled one must repeat it but when in doubt whether a rabbinic commandment has been fulfilled there is no need to repeat it. A similar idea is repeated in Talmud Avodah Zarah 7a – when there are two opinions about a biblical commandment we follow the stricter opinion but when there are two opinions about a rabbinic commandment we follow the more lenient opinion. Anyone familiar with Talmudic thinking immediately recognizes the ridiculousness of a claim that Judaism considers the Talmud more important than the Bible.

Not only is the Bible important to Jews, but the Talmud tells us that we are obligated to study it.

Talmud Avot 5:21

He [R. Yehudah ben Teima] would say: A five year old to Scriptures, a ten year old to Mishnah, a thirteen year old to commandments, a fifteen year old to Gemara…

However, Bible study may begin at the age of five but the Talmud tells us that it must remain a major part of our daily study routine.

Talmud Kiddushin 30a

A man must always divide his years into three – one third in Scriptures, one third in Mishnah, and one third in Talmud. Who knows how long he will live? Rather his day must be split into thirds.

In fact, Talmud Berachot 8b tells us that a Jew must review a portion of the Torah each week twice and again in translation and finish the Torah each year.

There is no question that the Bible, as the Written Law, is a center-piece of Judaism and while the Talmud may contain discussions of the Oral Law, the Bible has precedence.

(…)

It Is Forbidden To Lie About The Talmud

Written by Gil Student

The Accusation

« To communicate anything to a goy about our religious relations would be equal to the killing of all Jews, for if they knew what we teach about them they would kill us openly. » – Libbre David 37.

« If a Jew be called upon to explain any part of the rabbinic books, he ought to give only a false explanation. Who ever will violate this order shall be put to death. » Libbre David 37.

While it is possible that the book Libbre David existed I have not been able to find it, even with the help of a librarian from Yeshiva University’s Gottesman Library. It was certainly never a mainstream book. In fact, it is strictly prohibited to lie about the contents of the Talmud.

Let us take an extreme example and see the conclusions of some legal authorities. What should a rabbi do if a disgruntled pig farmer came to his house, aimed a gun at the rabbi, and said « I want pigs to be kosher. Tell me, rabbi, are pigs kosher? »

R. Yishayahu HaLevy Horowitz, Shnei Luchot Habrit, Masechet Shevuot p. 33b (Jerusalem:1975)

It is forbidden to change the words of Torah even in times of danger; one must give one’s life over it.

R. Shlomo Luria, Yam Shel Shlomo, Bava Kamma 4:9

Rather we see from here that we are obligated to give ourselves over and sanctify G-d’s name and if one, G-d forbid, changes one law it is as if he denied the Torah of Moses… To [lie and] say that one who is innocent is guilty or vice versa is like denying the Torah of Moses. What is the difference between denying one word and denying the entire Torah?

According to Rabbis Horowitz and Luria it is FORBIDDEN to lie about the Torah or Talmud even if it means losing one’s life. A proof is frequently brought from the Jerusalem Talmud Sanhedrin 2:1 (9b), Horiot 3:1 (11b). Another proof is brought from Talmud Bava Kamma 38a where the story is told of two Roman soldiers who were taught by rabbis the entire Written and Oral Law and found only one point to be offensive. Evidently the rabbis taught the truth about the laws to occupying soldiers even though the soldiers might find them offensive.

There is a dissenting view, however. The Yad Eliyahu (responsa 48) suggests that even though it is forbidden to lie about the Torah or Talmud, when there is a clear and present threat to human life it is better to lie than to have blood shed. According to the Yad Eliyahu, the rabbi would lie to the disgruntled pig farmer until he is calm and disarmed.

However, all agree that barring such extreme circumstances it is forbidden to lie about the contents of the Torah or Talmud.

Gentiles

Written by Gil Student

Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah 3:4 based on Tosefta Sanhedrin 13:1; Talmud Sanhedrin 105a

Righteous gentiles have a place in the world to come.

Jerusalem Talmud Peah 1:1

It says (Job 37:23): « With justice and an abundance of kindness, He does not deal harshly. » G-d does not withhold reward from gentiles who perform His commandments.

In the Jewish worldview all gentiles who are ethical monotheists will achieve salvation. Judaism does not denigrate gentiles and does not see them as condemened to eternal damnation. Rather we see them as fellow human beings, from other nations, searching for G-d and for meaning in life. Judaism wishes them well with their search and celebrates those who succeed in becoming ethical monotheists. Jews are obligated in many rituals and ceremonies and those Jews who fail to fulfill these rituals are considered sinners. Gentiles, however, are not obligated in these commandments and are only obligated to be ethical monotheists. Those who fulfill this obligation receive their full reward in the world-to-come.

There are three main categories of gentiles [see R. Yom Tov ben Avraham Alshevili, Chiddushei HaRitva, Makkot 9a n.]. The first category is the gentile who fulfills his obligations as an ethical monotheist. This person is generally called a Ben Noach (or Noachide) meaning a proud descendant of the biblical Noah. In the Jewish tradition Noah and his sons were commanded to fulfill seven commandments which amount to ethical monotheism [see Aaron Lichtenstein, The Seven Laws of Noah]. Those gentiles who observe these commandments are considered righteous gentiles. They are, however, not Jews and are not considered part of Jewish society. They are righteous people and recognized for their accomplishments. However, they remain part of the human brotherhood but not part of Jewish society.

There are those who go beyond this step and approach a Jewish court and, in exchange for entering Jewish society, they vow to observe their commandments and be ethical monotheists. Such a person is called a Ger Toshav. By pledging that he will fulfill his obligation to be an ethical monotheist he enters Jewish society. He is not a convert and does not become Jewish. In fact, he can worship any monotheistic religion he chooses. He is, however, a righteous gentile and is gladly received into the Jewish community. He is welcome to live in Jewish neighborhoods (should he so choose), is supported by Jewish charities (if he so needs), and is considered part of the fabric of Jewish society in many ways [see Talmud Pesachim 21b; Talmud Avodah Zarah 65b; Nachmanides, Additions to Book of Commandments, 16; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Zechi’ah Umattanah 3:11, Hilchot Melachim 10:12; Ra’avad of Posquieres, Comments to Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Issurei Biah 14:8]. Both the Ben Noach and the Ger Toshav are righteous gentiles. However, the Ben Noach has not entered Jewish society and perhaps does not wish to. Therefore, he is treated like a stranger. He is respected as a righteous human being, one who is fulfilling his divine purpose in the world. However, he is not part of the Jewish community.

It is of these two categories of gentiles that the Talmudic literature states:

Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 8:2

(Psalms 146:8) « G-d loves the righteous. » G-d said: ‘I love those who love Me and so it says (1 Samuel 2:30) « For I honor those who honor Me. » They love Me so I love them in return.’ Why does G-d love the righteous? Because righteousness is not an inheritance or a family trait. You find that priests are from a priestly family and Levites are from a levitical family as it says (Psalms 135:19-20) « O house of Aaron bless G-d! O house of Levi bless G-d! » If someone wants to become a priest [from the family of Aaron] or a Levite he cannot because his father was not a priest or a Levite. However, if someone wants to become righteous even if he is a gentile he can because it is not a family trait as it says (ibid.) « O those who fear G-d bless G-d! » It does not say the house of those who fear G-d but those who fear G-d. It is not a family trait rather on their own they chose to fear and love G-d. Therefore, G-d loves them.

Midrash Sifra, Acharei Mot 9:13

(Leviticus 18:5) « Which man shall carry out and by which he shall live. » Rabbi Yirmiyah would say: We see from here that even a gentile who fulfills his laws is like a [Jewish] high priest. He would also say: (2 Samuel 7:19) « And that would be fitting for priests, Levites, and Israelites » is not what it says rather « and that would be fitting for great men – O Lord G-d. » He would also say: (Isaiah 26:2) « Open the gates so the priests, Levites, and Israelites may enter » is not what it says rather « Open the gates so the righteous nation, keeper of the faith, may enter. » He would also say: (Psalms 118:20) « This is the gate of G-d; priests, Levites, and Israelites » is not what it says rather « This is the gate of G-d; the righteous shall enter through it. » He would also say: (Psalms 33:1) « Sing joyfully, O priests, Levites, and Israelites » is not what it says rather « Sing joyfully, O righteous, because of G-d. » He would also say: (Psalms 125:4) « Do good, G-d, to the priests, Levites, and Israelites » is not what it says rather « Do good, G-d, to good people. » We see from here that even a gentile who follows his commandments is [as righteous as the Jewish] high priest.

The third category is of the gentile who is not an ethical monotheist. He is violating the covenant G-d made with Noah and his descendants and will be punished for those sins. It is with these people that Judaism has a very ambivalent attitude. On the one hand, they are acting contrary to G-d’s purpose in the world. For this reason, Judaism tries to distance Jews from them. On the other hand, they are people created in G-d’s image and must be respected as such. The compromise is that their positive traits, examples of which we will shortly see, are recognized and respected. However, their negative traits are never fully forgotten and full societal integration with such people is discouraged.

Talmud Semachot 1:8

Rabbi Yehudah said: [The euology of a gentile is] Alas! The good, alas! The faithful who eats the fruit of his own labor. [The sages] said to him: What then did you leave for the worthy? He replied: If he [the gentile] was worthy why should he not be lamented in this manner.

Professor Saul Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine, p. 77

The virtues enumerated in this eulogy are purely secular; there is no trace of religion in them. The man was good, faithful and enjoyed the fruits of his labor. The Gentiles spoken of is a heathen; he is neither a semi-proselyte nor a Christian; no mention is made of his fear of G-d… The Rabbis understood the heathen society and credited it with the virtues it was not devoid of.

Talmud Avot 4:3

[Ben Azzai] would say: Do not regard anyone with contempt, and do not reject anything, for there is no man who does not have his hour and nothing that does not have its place.

Talmud Avot 3:10

[Rabbi Chaninah ben Dosa] would say: Whoever is pleasing to his fellow creatures is pleasing to G-d; but whoever is not pleasing to his fellow creatures, G-d is not pleased with him.

Talmud Avot 3:14

[Rabbi Akiva] would say: Beloved is man who was created in the divine image. An extra amount of love is given to him because he was created in the divine image as it says (Genesis 9:6) « For in the image of G-d He made man. »

Those gentiles who have the status of Ger Toshav, who have requested acceptance into Jewish society and have pledged obedience to their commandments, are treated almost like Jews. Those who have the status of Ben Noach because they have not requested acceptance are respected but are not treated like brethren. They receive letter-of-the-law treatment because to treat them beyond that would be to detract from our brothers. What has a Ger Toshav gained if a Ben Noach is treated the same? What extra connection is there between fellow Jews and within the entire Jewish/Ger Toshav society if everyone is treated extra specially?

Consider the case of a family. My brother needs to borrow money and knows that if he asks me I’ll give him the special interest-free family package. This type of family treatment solidifies us as a unit and increases love between us. I don’t hate everyone else because I treat my brother specially but I have an agreement that my family receives special treatment. Now, what if a stranger off the street knocks on my door and I give him also my special interest-free family loan? It loses its specialness and there is no difference between my bond with my brother and my bond with some guy off the street. Should I treat every human being equally or should I treat everyone properly and reserve extra-special treatment for my family?

The same applies within the Jewish/Ger Toshav society. All members, both Jewish and gentile, are joined together as a community united in its single goal of worshipping the one G-d. While we treat all human beings with the respect due to someone created in the divine image, those within the Jewish/Ger Toshav society get slightly better treatment. They are handled above and beyond the letter of common human interaction.

There are those who point out these differences in treatment and wish to demonstrate that Judaism is anti-gentile. Quite the opposite. Judaism is one of the few religions that recognizes that even those outside its faith can be saved and allows them into its community. Righteous gentiles have a place in the world to come and can choose to join Jewish society if they wish. If they decline this invitation then they are given the full respect that these righteous people deserve. We shall show that the differences in treatment are reasonable and that all gentiles are treated honestly and respectfully.

Gentiles Are Human

Written by Gil Student

The Accusation

Non-Jews are Not Human Baba Mezia 114a-114b. Only Jews are human (« Only ye are designated men »).

The idea that only Jews are human and not gentiles runs contrary to a number of fundamental Jewish principles. According to the Talmud, gentiles ARE human and the complicated texts quoted to prove the accusation are misinterpreted, as we shall see.

The Texts

Talmud Bava Metzia 114b

Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai said: The graves of gentiles do not cause ritual impurity in a dwelling as it says (Ezekiel 34:31) « Now, you [Israel] are My sheep , the sheep of My pasture, you are Man (Adam)… » You [Israel, the subject of the verse] are called Man (Adam) and gentiles are not called Man (Adam).

Talmud Keritot 6b

One who uses the official anointing oil [that has been consecrated] to smear on an animal or vessels is innocent of violating the holiness of the oil, to smear on gentiles or corpses is innocent. Certainly an animal and vessels as it say (Exodus 30:32) « It shall not be smeared on flesh of man (Adam)… » and an animal and vessels are not man. One who smears on corpses is also innocent since it is dead it is called a corpse and not a man. However, why is one who smears on gentiles innocent? They are men! No, as it says (Ezekiel 34:31) « Now, you [Israel] are My sheep , the sheep of My pasture, you are Man (Adam)… » You [Israel, the subject of the verse] are called Man (Adam) and gentiles are not called Man (Adam).

The relevance of the first passage is that causing ritual impurity in a dwelling is derived from Numbers 19: 14 « This is the teaching regarding a man (Adam) who would die in a tent… » Since the Talmud learns from Ezekiel that the term for man, Adam, only applies to Jews the verse regarding ritual impurity must also only refer to Jew who are called Adam.

Similarly, the second passage learns from Exodus 30:32 that only one who smears on a man (Adam) is liable. Since only Jews are called Adam, only one who smears on a Jew is liable.

There are those who infer from these passages that the Talmud considers gentiles to be sub-human. After all, if the Talmud says that gentiles are not called man they must be considered sub-human [for some reason the suggestion that they are super-human is never offered].

Here are two other passages which seem to contradict the above passage. After quoting them we will reconcile all of the passages and show that the Talmud does not consider gentiles to be sub-human.

Talmud Gittin 47a

A gentile has the ability to purchase land in Israel in order to dig holes and caves as it says (Psalms 115:16) « As for the heavens, the heavens are the Lord’s; but the earth He has given to mankind (Bnei Adam=sons of Adam). »

Talmud Avodah Zarah 3a

Rabbi Meir would say: How do we know that even a gentile who engages in the study of Torah is like a Jewish high priest? We learn from the verse (Leviticus 18:5) « which man (HaAdam=the man) shall do [i.e. study] and by which he shall live [in the afterlife]. »

We see from Gittin that the Talmud considers the phrase Bnei Adam (sons of man) to refer also to gentiles. We see from Avodah Zarah that the Talmud considers the term HaAdam (the man) to refer also to gentiles. Clearly, gentiles are considered human. Why then does the Talmud in Bava Metzia understand that gentiles are not considered Adam (man)?

The explanation is that these are different terms and only a superficial reading would render the term Adam in Bava Metzia as man. Gentiles are absolutely considered human as biology clearly dictates; there are no physiological differences between Jews and gentiles. All people are ultimately descended from the same ancestors, Noah and Adam.

However, the Jews, as a unified nation, are one organic entity. We are obligated to treat each other as close family members and are responsible for each other’s actions.

When the Talmud sees the Hebrew word Adam it sees an allusion to Adam of Genesis 1-5 who was at one time the only person. The Talmud understands this as referring to the Jewish people who are an organic unit like one person. Gentiles do not have this organic national bond with each other and are therefore excluded from this concept.

Other terms referring to people, Bnei Adam (sons of Adam) or HaAdam (the man), are understood to refer to the species homo sapien of which gentiles are obviously members just as Jews are.

Thus, with regard to ritual impurity and holy oil, which are uniquely Jewish concepts, the Talmud sees an exclusion to all those who are not part of the organic Jewish nation. With regard to practical matters such as the purchase of land or individual matters such as spiritual status, gentiles are included. An understanding of all of the relevant passages in the Talmud shows that Gentiles are considered human but not Jewish and the accusations against the Talmud are false.

See also Tosafot Yevamot 61a s.v. Ve’Ein; Ra’avan #317; R. Israel Lifshitz, Tiferet Yisrael (Boaz), Avot 3:14; R. Tzvi Hirsch Chajes, Hagahot Maharatz Chajes, Yevamot 61a.

Gentiles Are Human

Written by Gil Student

The Accusation

Yebamoth 98a. All gentile children are animals.

Berakoth 58a. In addition to having Elijah float down from heaven to deceive the gentile court, the Talmud teaches that gentiles are actually animals, hence Rabbi Shila (and Elijah) did not really lie at all. It also teaches that anyone (even a Jewish man) who reveals this Talmudic teaching about non-Jews deserves death, since revealing it makes gentiles wrathful and causes the repression of Judaism.

This is a complex issue and the following explanation will fully address the issue in great detail.  What we will demonstrate is that the Talmud does not state anywhere that gentiles are animals.  Both the passage in Yevamot and the story about Elijah are misrepresented by the accusation.

What the passages actually mean is that, due to the biblical prohibition against Jews marrying outside their religion, there is no legal standing to sexual relations between a Jew and a gentile.  While this may seem offensive to some, it is the view of the Talmud.

Talmud Berachot 58a

R. Shila administered lashes to a man who had intercourse with a gentile woman.  The man went and informed on him to the government.  He said: There is a Jewish man who holds court without royal appointment.  The king sent an orderly to him [summoning him to appear].  When he came, they said to him: Why did you flog that man?  [R. Shila] answered: Because he had relations with a donkey.  They said to him: Do you have witnesses?  He replied: Yes.  Elijah came in the form of a man and testified.  They said to him: If so, he is liable for death.  [R. Shila] said: From the day we have been exiled from our land, we do not have permission to put someone to death.  You can do whatever you want with him.

While they were analyzing his case, R. Shila began: (1 Chronicles 29:11) « Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the strength, the splendor,… »  They said to him: What are you saying?  He replied: This is what I am saying: Blessed is G-d who has given an earthly kingship similar to the heavenly Kingship and has given you dominion and made you merciful in judgement.  They said to him: The honor of the government is so dear to you?  They gave him a strap and appointed him as a judge.

When [R. Shila] left, the man [who was punished] said to him: Does G-d perform miracles for lies?  He replied in this way: Wicked one, are they not called donkeys, as it says (Ezekiel 23:20) « whose flesh is the flesh of donkeys »?  He saw that this man was going to inform on him [to the government] that he had called them donkeys.  He said: This man is a pursuerand the Torah says that if someone comes to kill you, rise early and kill him first.  He hit him with the strap and killed him.

There are a number of interesting points to be raised about this passage.  However, first and foremost is the inference that has been drawn by some that this passage states that gentiles are considered donnkeys by the Talmud.  Reading through this passage, that seems like a correct inference.  However, considering another passage that discuss this verse, it becomes clear that this is not the case at all.  In fact, as we shall soon see, the Talmud actually states that possibility and quickly rejects it.

Let us first put this event into its proper historical context.  Aaron Hyman [Toldot Tannaim Ve’amoraim, vol. 3 pp. 1111-1112] places this during the time of R. Shimon ben Gamaliel II which is early second century.  Around fifty years earlier the Temple had been destroyed and large portions of the Jewish population brought to Rome and sold as slaves.  The Jews were still persecuted due to the decrees of the emperor Trajan (reigned 98 to 117) and, when he died and Hadrian became his successor, Hadrian’s early policy of tolerance was changed to one of persecution as well, some say due to Jewish informers who warned against giving Jews too much independence.  In the year 114, the huge Jewish population of Alexandria was almost wiped out by rioting gentiles with the tacit approval of the Roman government.  In the year 123, Hadrian forbade Jews from observing their Sabbath and circumcizing their sons [Mattis Kantor, The Jewish Time Line Encyclopedia, pp. 103-105].  These were dangerous and scary times for Jews.  This difficult situation culminated in a revolt in the year 127.  However, the events in our passage evidently precede the revolt.

The man in our passage had committed a religious offense and was being punished by a Jewish court.  Having relations with anyone other than one’s wife is forbidden under Jewish law, as is marrying a gentile [see Deut. 7:3; Ezra 9; Nehemiah 13:23-28].  This man had sinned and the court tried and convicted him for this offense.  [Courts such as this no longer have the religious or secular authority to punish for such sins.]  However, this court was not recognized by the Romans and had no authority to punish the man for religious crimes.

When R. Shila, who presided over the court of three judges, was summoned before the Roman authorities, he could have been killed for administering Jewish laws.  Therefore, he claimed that the man had violated a Roman law and that the court was merely doing what any Roman court would have done.  When the Romans decided to judge the case themselves, R. Shila realized that this man might be punished more harshly than his crime deserved.  R. Shila then tricked the court to save this man’s life by saying that the man had slept with a donkey.  However, this statement was not an entire lie because there is a biblical verse in which gentiles are compared to donkeys, particularly in respect to relations.  Therefore, R. Shila could claim that he was speaking metaphorically and the court mistakenly understood him literally.  Was he one hundred percent honest?  No.  However, he was dealing with a vicious government that was cruelly persecuting Jews.  This turn of phrase saved a man’s life.  It was not, however, an outright lie.  And that distinction is crucial in determining whether it was permitted or not, even during those dreadfully dangerous times.

Afterwards, this man was lacking in gratitude to R. Shila, although understandably since he had recently been flogged by him, and threatened to inform on him to the Roman government.  This would have meant certain death for R. Shila, and possibly a massacre of thousands of Jews.  Since this man was pursuing R. Shila — he was trying to cause his death by informing on him to the Romans — R. Shila had the right to save himself by killing this man first.

[The descent of Elijah is a fascinating example of the slow decrease in divine revelation that began with G-d speaking directly to man in the early biblical period, descended to G-d only speaking through a prophet, gradually reduced the clarity of prophecy until it was totally ended in Ezra’s time.  There still remained non-prophetic ways of G-d revealing himself to man.  However, over centuries these too diminished until we are currently left with almost no way of knowing G-d’s will except by looking to the past.  R. Shila lived during the end of the last period of divine revelation and he was, therefore, still able to witness Elijah’s descent from heaven.  This, however, takes us well off topic and is best left for another time. Cf. R. Ya’akov Kaminetsky, Emet LeYa’akov Al HaTorah, Exodus 7:22]

While we have made the plausible contention that R. Shila did not mean this equation between gentiles and donkeys literally, and that those who claim he did are guilty of reading an historical episode overly literal, we have yet to prove our claim.  The following passage, however, does that.

Talmud Berachot 25b, Shabbat 150a

R. Yehudah said: It is forbidden to recite the Shema prayer in front of a naked gentile.  Why [does he say] a gentile? [It is] also [forbidden in front of] a Jew.  [In front of a Jew] is obvious that it is forbidden.  However, in front of a gentile one might say that since it says  (Ezekiel 23:20) « whose flesh is the flesh of donkeys » they are like donkeys, he came to teach us that they are also considered nakedness.

What we see here is a talmudic sage addressing exactly this issue.  One might think that this verse teaches us that gentiles are like donkeys.  Contrary to some claims, talmudic rabbis were very familiar with the Bible and knew about this verse in Ezekiel which, while stated regarding Egyptians, is generally understood as referring to all gentiles.  Some might read this verse and understand it to mean that within Jewish law gentiles are considered as animals.  Some might come to the conclusion that this verse means that gentiles are not really human and therefore their standing before us naked is like an animal standing before us naked and the ritual law forbidding prayer before a naked person is not applicable.

However, R. Yehudah teaches, that is not the case at all.  Gentiles are people and not merely animals and the verse in Ezekiel does not mean that gentiles are animals.  To understand the verse literally, the Talmud says, is to misunderstand the verse.  Gentiles are unquestionably human, created in G-d’s image, and Jewish law recognizes this as do the rabbis of the Talmud.

This verse is understood as implying that Jews and gentiles are maritally and sexually incompatible.  The Bible tells us that it is forbidden for Jews to marry gentiles [see Deuteronomy 7:3; Ezra 9; Nehemiah 13:23-28].  While this certainly seems like a logical law since it would be very difficult for one spouse to fully observe the detailed Jewish religious laws while the other does not.  It would also be difficult to raise fully observant children.  The verse in Ezekiel, however, is coming to tell us that a Jew who marries or sleeps with a gentile, while violating a religious law, is not legally accomplishing anything.  The marriage and/or relations has no legal standing and no divorce is necessary.  Normally, when a married woman has an affair, the woman is forbidden both to return to her husband and to marry her lover after divorcing her husband.  However, since relations with a gentile has no legal standing, a woman who has an affair with a gentile can subsequently marry her lover (if he converts to Judaism).  This is not because gentiles are not human or because they cannot have relations.  It is because there is a legal incompatibility which makes marriage or relations with a gentile (while still forbidden) legally ineffective.  [Cf. Tosafot, Ketuvot 3b sv. Velidrosh; R. Betzalel Ashkenazi, Shitah Mekubetzet, ibid. (particularly sv. Mihu)]

This is the message of the verse in Ezekiel.  Just like relations with a donkey has no legal standing (except for the punishment for the act) and cannot cause marriage or separate lovers, so too relations with a gentile [Cf. R. Hershel Schachter, Eretz HaTzvi, p. 114].  Again, it is not because a gentile is considered a donkey.  It is because in this legal dimension they are both in the same category.  In every other dimension, particularly in the arena of interpersonal dynamics, gentiles are compatible with Jews.  However, in the area of marriage, Jews and gentiles can never be married as recognized by Jewish law.

A corrollary of this idea is that a Jew with gentile ancestry is not considered related to the gentile.  Since, in Jewish law, gentile relations has no standing, the biological connection does not create a familial relation.  This is mainly applicable to converts or children of intermarriages.  While there is every reason to express gratitude and friendship with a biological relative, every convert to Judaism knows that he or she is breaking all familial ties by converting.

Yevamot 98a

Rava said: What the rabbis said, « There is no father of a gentile », do not say that it is because [gentiles] are immersed in licentiousness and do not know [who is whose father] but if one knew we would be cautious [and treat him like a father].  Rather, even if we know we are not cautious… we learn that G-d has freed his descendants, as it says (Ezekiel 23:20) « whose flesh is the flesh of donkeys. »

A gentile who converts to Judaism no longer has a father [cf. Rashi, ad. loc., sv. Ha].  It is not, the Talmud is careful to point out, because we assume that gentiles are licentious and his biological father may not really be the man who impregnated his other.  That is not the case.  Rather, a Jew and a gentile are existentially separated by this chasm and the relations of a gentile has no legal standing regarding a Jew.

This is certainly a difficult concept to accept and it is understandable if gentiles might find it perplexing and maybe even offensive.  However, it is not labelling gentiles as animals and that is important to point out.  These passages can and have been misinterpreted as stating that the Talmud considers gentiles to be animals.  That is absolutely false, as has already been demonstrated.

Proof that this is only talking about converts to Judaism and not about all gentiles, can be brought from Talmud Kiddushin 17b where it is stated that a gentile inherits from his father.  If a gentile has no connection to his biological father, how can he inherit from him?  Similarly, Talmud Yevamot 62a tells us that a gentile who has children, and thereby fulfills the blessing/commandment of « be fruitful and multiply », who subsequently converts to Judaism, is not obligated to have more children.  Since he already fulfilled the blessing/commandment when he was a gentile he does not have to fulfill it again as a Jew [cf. Rashi, Yevamot ad. loc, sv. Bnei Noach].  If a gentile has no father, then how can a gentile man ever fulfill the blessing/commandment of « be fruitful and multiply »?  His children will never be considered his.  Rather, the above passages regarding the donkey are not discussing gentiles in general but only the specific cases mentioned above.

Cf. R. Chaim Soloveitchik, Chiddushei R. Chaim HaLevy, Issurei Biah 13:12; R. Elchanan Wasserman, Kovetz He’arot, 51:3.

(…)

Killing Gentiles Is Forbidden

Written by Gil Student

The Accusation

Jews May Rob and Kill Non-Jews, Sanhedrin 57a . When a Jew murders a Gentile (« Cuthean »), there will be no death penalty. What a Jew steals from a Gentile he may keep.

Minor Tractates. Soferim 15, Rule 10. This is the saying of Rabbi Simon ben Yohai: Tob shebe goyyim harog (« Even the best of the gentiles should all be killed »).

Robbing gentiles is absolutely forbidden and is dealt with in a separate section. Here we will demonstrate that in no way does the Talmud permit or encourage killing gentiles. Rather, it strictly forbids killing anyone, Jew or gentile.

The Text

Talmud Sofrim 15:10

R. Shimon ben Yochai taught: Kill [even] the good among the gentiles.

While this passage seems to advocate the genocide of all non-Jews, it must be remembered that this is a single passage extracted from a thorough study. Without seeing it in its original context, a simple reading is both incorrect and unsound scholarship. Let us look at the full original passage as recorded in a number of places.

The original teaching is as part of a study of the book of Exodus. At this point, the Jews have left Egypt but have not yet crossed the Sea of Reeds. The Egyptian people, after suffering through ten long and difficult plagues, have decided to pursue the Jewish people rather than let them go.

Mechilta, Beshalach 2 (on Exodus 14:7)

[Exodus 14:5-7 « It was told to the king of Egypt that the people had fled; and the heart of Pharoah and his servants became transformed regarding the people, and they said, ‘What is this that we have done that we have sent away Israel from serving us?’ He harnessed his chariot and attracted his people with him.] He took six hundred elite chariots [and all the chariots of Egypt, with officers on them all. »]

From whom were the animals that drove the chariots? If you say they were from Egypt, doesn’t it say (Exodus 9:6) « and all the livestock of Egypt died [from the fifth plague] »? If you say they were from Pharoah, doesn’t it say (Exodus 9:3) « [Moses said to Pharoah]: Behold, the hand of G-d is on your livestock that are in the field »? If you say they were from the Jews, doesn’t it say (Exodus 10:26) « And our livestock, as well, will go with us- not a hoof will be left »? Rather from whom were they, from the Egyptians who feared G-d [and were not affected by the plagues]. We now see that the livestock of the G-d-fearers that escaped the plague caused great hardship for the Jews [by being used for chariots to pursue them]. From here R. Shimon [ben Yochai] said: Kill [even] the good among the gentiles.

From the above teaching we see that R. Shimon ben Yochai was discussing a case of war. The G-d-fearers among the Egyptians allowed their animals to be used in battle against the Jews. Presumably, these people went along with their animals and drove the chariots. We now see that the G-d-fearers, the « good » among the gentiles, were doing battle with the Jews. To this R. Shimon ben Yochai said that, when in battle, do not try to spare the lives of those opposing soldiers who are fine, upstanding people. Kill any enemy soldier, regardless of their character. This contextual approach to understanding R. Shimon ben Yochai’s statement is how the post-Talmudic literature has read this statement [see Tosafot, Avodah Zarah 26b sv Velo; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Avodah Zarah 10:1]. Reading R. Shimon ben Yochai’s teaching as a single-sentence imperative to kill all gentiles is simply wrong and is not how Jewish scholars have ever understood it.

Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Rotze’ach 2:11 and the commentary of R. Yosef Karo, Kessef Mishneh

A Jew who killed a righteous gentile is not executed in a court of law as it says (Exodus 21:14) « If a man shall act intentionall against his fellow… » [and a gentile is not considered a fellow] and even more so that he is not executed for killing an unrighteous gentile.

What our teacher Maimonides meant when he wrote that he is not executed in a court of law is that he is nevertheless punished by Heaven.

The above passage in Maimonides shows that there is a discrepancy between the treatment of a murderer of a Jew and a gentile. The Bible says that a murderer is only executed if he kills his « fellow » and by being parts of very different communities a gentile is not the « fellow » of a Jew. Is this murder forbidden? Absolutely. However, biblical fiat declares that this murder is not a capital punishment. However, rather than allowing this murderer to receive a minor punishment, his punishment is left to Divine providence. G-d will punish this sin appropriately because it is out of the court’s hands.

While it is understandable that Jewish literature has been relatively quiet about something as obvious as the prohibition against killing gentiles, the following sources are just some of those who say it explicitly: Tosafot, Avodah Zarah 26b sv. Velo; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Rotze’ach 2:11, Hilchot Avodah Zarah 10:1; R. Yoel Sirkes, Bayit Chadash, Yoreah Deah 158; Taz, Yoreh Deah 158:1; Beit Meir, Even HaEzer 17:3; R. Yosef Babad, Minchat Chinuch, 93:2; R. Avraham Yishayahu Karelitz, Chazon Ish, Bava Kamma 10:16.

Jesus In The Talmud

Introduction

Written by Gil Student

There are many talmudic passages that are alleged to be referring to Jesus.  However, talmudic scholars and historians have long debated whether these passages are actually about Jesus.  The evidence is very unclear.  We will show the passages that are discussed and offer some historical theories to explain them.  Some of the passages we will examine do not even mention a name close to Jesus’.  Others contain stories and names similar to Jesus’.  What we will do is examine these passages, offer different theories to explain them, and point out the problems with these theories.  We hope that we will be able to show to anyone with an open mind that there can be no consensus over whether the Talmud ever mentions Jesus.

One of the reasons that some approach this topic is to prove that the talmudic rabbis were blasphemers of the Christian religion.  In order to avoid this bias, let us stipulate up front that the sages of the talmud were indeed blasphemers of the Christian religion.  None of them believed that Jesus was the messiah or the son of G-d.  In fact, they believed that in claiming so he was a false prophet.  They did not believe that he was born through a virgin birth; he was either the son of his mother and her husband or his mother and someone else.  If they did believe in these concepts then they would be Christians.  But they did not and were not.  If you choose to label all non-Christians as blasphemers that is your prerogative.

We have divided the passages into three categories – those that are alleged to discuss Jesus in general or refer to him in passing, those that give a narrative of Jesus’s life, and those that refer to Christianity.

Jesus In The Talmud

Written by Gil Student

Bastard

Harlot

Died Young

Balaam

Beginning

Conclusion

Historians

Jesus in Hell

The Accusation

Insults Against Blessed Mary, Sanhedrin 106a . Says Jesus’ mother was a whore: « She who was the descendant of princes and governors played the harlot with carpenters. » Also in footnote #2 to Shabbath 104b it is stated that in the « uncensored » text of the Talmud it is written that Jesus mother, « Miriam the hairdresser, » had sex with many men.

« Jesus was a bastard born of adultery. » (Yebamoth 49b, p.324).

« Mary was a whore: Jesus (Balaam) was an evil man. » (Sanhedrin 106a &b, p.725).

« Jesus was a magician and a fool. Mary was an adulteress ». (Shabbath 104b, p.504).

The reference to Shabbat 104b will be taken up in the section on the Jesus narrative.

The Text

Mishnah Yevamot 4:18

R. Shimon ben Azzai said: I found a book of geneologies in Jerusalem and in it is written « The man Plony is a bastard. »

This is claimed to be a reference to Jesus. However, this claim is patently ridiculous.  The Mishnah was most likely referring to a famous person and, due to the lack of any practical ramifications, his name was left out by the compilers of the Mishnah.  Plony is a biblical term used similar to John Doe today (cf. Ruth 4:1).  The keeping of geneological records was very common in talmudic times so that regular Jews did not marry bastards and violate the biblical prohibition (Deuteronomy 23:3).  Investigations into lineage and proclamations of bastardy were not uncommon (cf. Nehemiah 7:5; Talmud Kiddushin 70b-71a).  There is no reason to assume that this refers to Jesus.

Gustaf Dalman rejects the assertion that this Mishnah refers to Jesus [Dalman, Die Worte Jesus (Liepzig: Hinrichs, 1898), p. 4 n. 2].  Similarly, RT Herford calls this suggestion « doubtful and probably unfounded » [Herford, « Jesus in Rabbinical Literature », The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 6 pp. 87-88].  Johann Maier calls it « odd speculation » [Maier, Jesus von Nazareth in der talmudischen Uberlieferung, p. 50].  All of this is cited approvingly by John P. Meier in his highly acclaimed A Marginal Jew, vol. I p. 108 n. 53.  See also Avraham Korman’s discussion in Zeramim Vekitot Beyahadut, pp. 348-349.

The Text

Sanhedrin 106a

R. Yochanan said (regarding Balaam): In the beginning a prophet, in the end a sorcerer.

Rav Papa said: As people say, « She was the descendant of princes and rulers, she played the harlot with carpenters. »

Here we come to the common distortion that references in the talmud to Balaam are really veiled references to Jesus.  As we shall soon see, Balaam is not a talmudic codeword for Jesus.  Therefore, the passage above is referring solely to Balaam and not to Jesus.  Besides this fact, read the passage closely and you will see that Rav Papa is offering a parable that explains R. Yochanan’s statement.  It is impossible to read R. Yochanan’s statement as referring to Jesus and Rav Papa’s as referring to Jesus’ mother.

R. Yochanan is saying that Balaam had tremendous potential and started out as a true prophet of G-d.  However, he turned to evil and in the end of his life became a sorcerer (i.e. user of black magic).  This tradition regarding Balaam’s descent was also recorded in the Tanchuma [Balak, 5] and in Yalkut Shimoni [Numbers, 771].

Rav Papa adds a parable to explain this.  Consider a woman who is married to a powerful ruler who leads their people out into battle. She is used to being the wife of someone strong, whose powerful hands can skillfully manipulate a sword and overcome any opponents. If her husband were to die she would still want to marry someone in a similar position of leadership and strength. Even if this widow is continually passed over by those she wishes to marry, she will still strive for her former glory, and will even marry a carpenter who, while not leading his countrymen out into battle, still must skillfully handle tools. Even when the ability to reach her old glory is obviously absent, she will still try everything possible to reach any position that remotely resembles it.

Similarly, Balaam started out as a man with prophecy (like a prince or ruler). He was capable of seeing the future and even manipulating it through his curses and blessings. However, when he lost that gift when G-d removed his prophecy, Balaam still wanted to see the future, even resorting to such pale comparisons as sorcery and black magic (like a carpenter).

This passage has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus and there is certainly no insult implied towards Mary.

Cf. R. Meir HaLevi Abulafia, Yad Ramah, Sanhedrin ad. loc.; Ephraim Urbach, « Rabbinic Exegesis About Gentile Prophets And The Balaam Passage » (Hebrew), Tarbitz (25:1956), p. 284 n. 56.

The Accusation

Gloats over Jesus Dying Young, A passage from Sanhedrin 106 gloats over the early age at which Jesus died: « Hast thou heard how old Balaam (Jesus) was?–He replied: It is not actually stated but since it is written, Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days it follows that he was thirty-three or thirty-four years old. »

The Passage

Sanhedrin 106b

A sectarian said to R. Chanina: Do you know how old Balaam was?  [R. Chanina] replied: It is not written.  However, since it says (Psalms 55:24) « Men of bloodshed and deceit will not live out half their days… » he was 33 or 34.  [The heretic] said: You said well.  I have seen the chronicle of Balaam and it said « At 33 years Balaam the lame was killed by Pinchas (Phineas) the robber. »

Again we see the assumption that Balaam is a codeword for Jesus.  Here the connection is that Jesus died at the age of 33, and this passage says that Balaam died at that age also.  Also, Pinchas and Pontius Pilate both have the letter « P » in their names.  Even if this passage refers to Jesus, which it does not, I do not see any gloating.

However, historians generally agree that this passage does not refer to Jesus.  The following is taken from Encyclopedia Judaica (« Jesus », vol. 10 p. 16) [transliteration from Hebrew changed for consistency]:

However, it is impossible to imagine that a Christian would ask a Jew how old Jesus was, and call the Gospel Balaam’s Chronicle or that Pontius Pilate, who is not mentioned even once in the whole of rabbinic literature, should be referred to as Pinchas the robber.  The sectarian referred to was merely a member of a Gnostic sect who was testing whether Chanina could answer a question that was not answered in the Torah.  Balaam’s Chronicle was an apocryphal book on Balaam.  These books often adopted an unfavorable attitude to the patriarchs and the prophets and it was possible that Pinchas of the Bible was called in them Pinchas the robber.

Cf. Urbach, ibid., p. 284; W. Bacher, Jewish Quarterly Review O.S. 3, pp. 456-457; Chanoch Zundel Ben Yosef, Eitz Yosef to Ein Ya’akov, Sotah 11a sv Balaam.

To clarify the issue, let us now address the general claim that Balaam is a talmudic codeword for Jesus.

Balaam

Balaam in rabbinic literature is one of the archetype villains.  As we shall see, he was a powerful man whose prophecy and closeness with G-d gave him potential to do much good.  However, he chose to use those gifts towards evil.  Because of his terrific potential that was utterly twisted, his heavenly abilities that were perverted towards wrongdoing, he is considered the prime example of corruption.

Some scholars have suggested that Balaam is a codeword in talmudic literature for Jesus.  However, we will show that Balaam is considered the paragon of evil in passages that cannot refer to Jesus and from these passages we can see that there is no compelling reason to read other similar passages as referring to Jesus.  Indeed, reading these passages as referring to Jesus would be breaking with the established understanding of the talmud.

Sifrei on Deuteronomy 34:10

« Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses » – But in other nations there did arise.  Who? Balaam the son of Beor.  But there is a difference between Moses’s prophecy and Balaam’s prophecy.

Moses did not know who spoke to him but Balaam knew who spoke to him, as it says (Numbers 24:16) « The words of the one who hears the sayings of G-d… »

Moses did not know when G-d would speak to him until he was spoken to but Balaam knew when He would speak, as it says (ibid.) « Who knows the knowledge of the Supreme One… »

With Moses, G-d would not speak to him until he was standing, as it says (Deuteronomy 5:28) « But as for you, stand here with Me… »  But with Balaam, G-d would speak to him even while fallen, as it says (Numbers 24:4) « Who sees the vision of the Almighty, while fallen with uncovered eyes. »

We see here a clear reference to the biblical Balaam.  The descriptions of his awesome prophetic powers, greater than Moses’s, are inferred from verses describing the biblical Balaam.  There is no way that this passage can refer to Jesus or to Yeshu.

Avot DeRabbi Natan 2:5

Why is Job called (Job 1:8) « A perfect and upright man »?  To teach us that he was born circumcised.  Adam was also born circumcised as it says (Genesis 1:27) « So G-d created man in His image… »  Seth was also born circumcised as it says (ibid. 5:2 ) « He begot in his likeness and his image… »  Noah was also born circumcised… Shem was also born circumcised…  Jacob was also born circumcised…  Joseph was also born circumcised…  Moses was also born circumcised…  Even the wicked Balaam was born circumcised…  Samuel was also born circumcised…  David was also born circumcised…  Jeremiah was also born circumcised…  Zerubabel was also born circumcised…

The Talmud here is working with the understanding that circumcision is the final step in the creation of a man.  An uncircucised man is not quite complete and G-d gave it to us to finish the job and complete the creation of man by circumcising him.  However, there were some people born with such potential for greatness and perfection that they were born already circumcised.  They were born destined for perfection.  Among this list of heroes, this list of righteous and holy leaders, is Balaam.  He was born with the potential for greatness which he unfortunately perverted towards evil with his free will.

It is clear, however, based on the chronological order, that this refers to the biblical Balaam and not Jesus or Yeshu.  Both Jesus and Yeshu would have been listed after David, Jeremiah, and Zerubabel.

Talmud Sanhedrin 106a

Numbers (24:14) « Come, I shall advise you… »  Rabbi Abba bar Kahana said:  [Balaam] said to them: Their G-d hates promiscuity and they desire flaxen clothes.  Let me give you this advice.  Make tents and put old prostitutes in front of them and young ones inside…  When the Jews are walking in the market, the old lady offers to sell them clothes at market value and the young one offers it cheaper.  After two or three times she tells him that he is already a comfortable visitor and should choose what he wants, all the while a bottle of Amonite wine sitting beside her.  She offers him a glass of wine.  After he drinks it will burn him up and he will ask for sex.  She will take out her idol and demand that he worship it first.  He will say that he is a Jew and she will say that all she is asking is that he defecate [and he will not know that this is the worship of that idol].  She will also say that she will not sleep with him until he denounces the Torah of Moses.

This passage discusses the surprising transition in the biblical narrative from Balaam’s prophecy (Numbers 24) directly into (Numbers 25:1) « Israel settled in the Shittim and the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moab. »  The talmud’s explanation is that Balaam, the paid advisor of Moab (see Numbers 22), showed the Moabites how and why to entice the Jewish men into harlotry.

This passage is clearly about Balaam and it describes both his cleverness and his despicability.  There are many more passages that show that Balaam is considered by the talmud to be both a powerful and utterly wicked man who earned the title of most hated villain.

Mishnah Avot 5:19

Whosoever possesses these three qualities belongs to the disciples of Abraham our father: a generous eye, a humble spirit, and a meek soul.  But he who possesses the three opposite qualities — an evil eye, a proud spirit, and a haughty soul — is of the disciples of Balaam the wicked.

How do the disciples of Abraham differ from the disciples of Balaam? The disciples of Abraham enjoy this world and inherit the world to come, as it is written (Proverbs 8:21) « Endowing with wealth those who love me, and filling their treasuries. » The disciples of Balaam inherit Gehenna and go down to the pit of destruction, as it is written (Psalm 55:23) « But you, O G-d, will cast them down into the lowest pit; the bloodthirsty and treacherous shall not live out half their days. But I will trust in you. »

Here again, we see that Balaam is the paragon of evil.  Using strictly Old Testament examples, the Mishnah tries to demonstrate the proper  attitudes one should take in life.

The point of all these examples is to show that Balaam is viewed in rabbinic literature as the ultimate villain.  Through indisputable proofs we have shown that the biblical Balaam, not Jesus or Yeshu, is consistently painted as someone destined for greatness who instead misused his talents for evil.  In contemporary terms, he is the Darth Vader of the Bible.  It is therefore no surprise that historians can find many passages that denigrate Balaam.  However, there is every reason to believe that these passages refer to the actual Balaam and not to Jesus or Yeshu.

There are some historians who believe that Balaam is a talmudic codeword for Jesus.  However, this theory has not stood up to the scrutiny of academic talmudic scholarship and has fallen out of favor with historians.

Professor Louis Ginzberg, « Some Observations on the Attitude of the Synagogue Towards the Apocalyptic-Eschatological Writings », Journal of Biblical Literature (1922), p. 121 n. 18

One may therefore state with absolute certainty that the entire Talmudic-Midrashic literature does not know of any nicknames for Jesus or his disciples.

John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew (1991), vol. 1 p. 95

For instance, a radical position is represented by Johann Maier, who maintains that not only the Mishna but also both Talmuds lack any authentic, direct mention of Jesus of Nazareth41…

In my opinion, Maier’s arguments are especially convincing for the Mishna and other early rabbinic material: no text cited from that period really refers to Jesus.  He thus confirms the view I defend in this section.

41 See Johann Maier, Jesus von Nazareth in der talmudischen Uberlieferung (Ertrage der Forschung 82; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1978).  His position, which is argued in minute detail throughout the volume, is summarized on pp. 263-75.

The noted historian of rabbinics, Ephraim E. Urbach, dedicated an article to explaining the rabbinic view of Balaam and debunking the theory that Balaam is a talmudic codeword for Jesus.  See Ephraim Urbach, « Rabbinic Exegesis About Gentile Prophets And The Balaam Passage » (Hebrew), Tarbitz (25:1956), pp. 272-289.

The Accusation

Gittin 57a. Says Jesus is in hell, being boiled in « hot excrement. »

The Text

Talmud Gittin 56b-57a

[Onkelos Bar Kalonikus] called up Balaam from the dead.  [Onkelos] asked: Who is honored in that world?  [Balaam] replied: Israel. [Onkelos asked:] What about joining them?  [Balaam] replied: (Deut. 23:7) « You shall not seek their peace or welfare all your days. »  [Onkelos] asked: What is your punishment?  [Balaam answered]: In boiling semen.

[Onkelos] called up Yeshu from the dead.  [Onkelos] asked: Who is honored in that world?  [Yeshu] replied: Israel.  [Onkelos asked:] What about joining them?  [Yeshu] replied: Seek their good.  Do not seek their bad.  Whoever touches them is as if he touched the pupil of his eye.  [Onkelos] asked: What is your punishment?  [Yeshu answered]: In boiling excrement.  As the mast said: Whoever mocks the words of the sages in punished in boiling excrement.

Here we see a story of the famous convert Onkelos who, prior to converting, used black magic to bring up famous villains of history and ask them whether their wickedness saved them in the world to come.  In both cases (there is a third case of Onkelos calling up Titus as well) the sinner is being terribly punished in the afterlife while Israel is being rewarded.  Presumably, this helped convince Onkelos to convert to Judaism.

As we have explained elsewhere, Yeshu is not Jesus of the New Testament.  He is most likely a prominent sectarian of the early first century BCE who deviated from rabbinic tradition and created his own religion combining Hellenistic paganism with Judaism.  While Yeshu may be the proto-Jesus some scholars point to as inspiring the early Christians, he is definitely not the man who was crucified in Jerusalem in the year 33 CE.

Interestingly, if someone were to claim that Yeshu in the passage above is Jesus, then Balaam cannot also refer to Jesus because both Balaam and Yeshu are in the passage together.  In other words, it is self-contradicting to claim that the passages above about Balaam’s mother being a harlot or dying young refer to Jesus and to claim that the passage above about Yeshu being punished also refers to Jesus.  You can’t have it both ways.

The Jesus Narrative In The Talmud

Written by Gil Student

Introduction

There are four main passages in the Talmud that are alleged by some to discuss the story of Jesus’ life and death.  What we will do here is to analyze closely these passages and see the reasons one may or may not attribute these stories to the life of Jesus.  We will also look at another two passages that help us identify our protagonist(s).  We will quickly realize that there are great difficulties in stating that any of these texts refer to Jesus.  We will see that a large number of historians and talmudists have addressed these issues and have concluded that either none of these passages refer to Jesus or that they refer to a proto-Jesus, whose life was later obfuscated by the theologically motivated rewriting of history.

Introduction

Jesus In The Talmud

Christianity In The Talmud

Passages

Ben Stada

Yeshu

Trial

Execution

Disciples

The Student

Theories

Hazy History

Two Yeshus

Early Jesus

Conclusion

Passages

It is important to keep in mind that there are many people in the Talmud with the same names.  R. Aaron Hyman in his biographical work on the sages of the Talmud, Toldot Tannaim VeAmoraim, lists 14 Hillels,  61 Elazars, and 71 Hunas.  Josephus lists approximately twenty different men named Jesus, at least ten of whom lived in the same time as the famous Jesus [cf. John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, p. 206 n. 6].  The name Panthera was also a common name in the first two centuries [cf. L. Patterson, « Origin of the Name Panthera », JTS 19 (1917-18), p. 79-80, cited in Meier, p. 107 n. 48].  When dealing with first names, it is very common to come across different people in the Talmud with the same name and the same applies today.  When I refer to Bill, am I talking about the President of the United States, the billionaire founder of Microsoft, or a local celebrity?  In one place I could mean one Bill and in another place a different Bill.  It is therefore almost impossible to identify someone based on their first name alone.  Second names, which in the Talmud means the name of the father, enable us to identify people with much better accuracy, but not entirely.  It is very possible for both two men and their father’s to have the same names.  This makes history much harder but ignoring this fact is distorting history.

Note that the word « ben » means « son of » in Hebrew.  Therefore, the name « Shimon Ben Gamaliel » means Shimon the son of Gamaliel.

Passage #1: Ben Stada

Talmud Shabbat 104b, Sanhedrin 67a

It is taught: R. Eliezer told the sages: Did not Ben Stada bring witchcraft with him from Egypt in a cut that was on his skin?  They said to him: He was a fool and you cannot bring proof from a fool.

Ben Stada is Ben Pandira.

R. Chisda said: The husband was Stada and the lover was Pandira.

[No,] the husband was Pappos Ben Yehudah and the mother was Stada.

[No,] the mother was Miriam the women’s hairdresser [and was called Stada].  As we say in Pumbedita: She has turned away [Stat Da] from her husband.

Summary

What we see from here is that there was a man named Ben Stada who was considered to be a practicer of black magic.  His mother was named Miriam and also called Stada.  His father was named Pappos Ben Yehudah.  Miriam (Stada) had an affair with Pandira from which Ben Stada was born.

Proof

Some historians claim that Ben Stada, also known as Ben Pandira, was Jesus.  His mother’s name was Miriam which is similar to Mary.  Additionally, Miriam was called a women’s hairdresser, « megadla nashaia » [for this translation, see R. Meir Halevi Abulafia, Yad Rama, Sanhedrin ad. loc.].  The phrase « Miriam megadla nashaia » sounds similar to Mary Magdalene, a well-known New Testament figure.

Problems

1. Mary Magdalene was not Jesus’ mother.  Neither was Mary a hairdresser.

2. Jesus’ step-father was Joseph.  Ben Stada’s step-father was Pappos Ben Yehudah.

3. Pappos Ben Yehudah is a known figure from other places in talmudic literature.  The Mechilta Beshalach (Vayehi ch. 6) has him discussing Torah with Rabbi Akiva and Talmud Berachot 61b has Pappos Ben Yehudah being captured and killed by Romans along with Rabbi Akiva.  Rabbi Akiva lived during the second half of the first century and the first half of the second century.  He died in the year 134.  If Pappos Ben Yehudah was a contemporary of Rabbi Akiva’s, he must have been born well after Jesus’ death and certainly could not be his father.

Passage #2: Yeshu

Talmud Sanhedrin 107b, Sotah 47a

What of R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah?

When John [Hyrcanus] the king killed the rabbis, R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah [and Yeshu] went to Alexandria of Egypt.  When there was peace, Shimon Ben Shetach sent to him « From me [Jerusalem] the holy city to you Alexandria of Egypt.  My husband remains in your midst and I sit forsaken. »

[R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah] left and arrived at a particular inn and they showed him great respect.  He said: How beautiful is this inn [Achsania, which also means innkeeper].

[Yeshu] said: Rabbi, she has narrow eyes.

[R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah] said to him: Wicked one, this is how you engage yourself?

[R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah] sent out four hundred trumpets and excommunicated him.

[Yeshu] came before [R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah] many times and said: Accept me.  But [R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah] paid him no attention.

One day [R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah] was reciting Shema [during which one may not be interrupted].  [Yeshu] came before him.  He was going to accept [Yeshu] and signalled to [Yeshu] with his hand.  [Yeshu]  thought that [R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah] was repelling him.  He went, hung a brick, and bowed down to it.

[Yeshu] said to [R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah]: You taught me that anyone who sins and causes others to sin is not given the opportunity to repent.

And the master said: Yeshu {the Notzri} practiced magic and deceive and led Israel astray.

Background and Summary

Note that historians differ on the exact years of these events.  For simplicity, we will assume the latest possible dates as suggested by Gershon Tannenbaum [Jewish Time Line Encyclopedia, p. 87].

John Hyrcanus was a successful king and soldier.  During a banquet celebrating his victories in 93 BCE, some Pharisee rabbis offended him and he was convinced by Sadducee leaders to try to kill every Pharisee rabbi [Hyman, vol. II pp. 691-692, 766].  Some rabbis, such as R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah and his student Yeshu, fled to Alexandria outside of John Hyrcanus’s reach [Hyman vol. II pp. 647, 692].  Shimon Ben Shetach, however, was hidden in Jerusalem by his sister, Salome Alexandra, who was John Hyrcanus’s daughter-in-law [Hyman, vol. II pp. 647, 692, 766, vol. III pp. 1212-1213].  The extremely diverse religious population of Palestine, full of sects such as the Essenes, Kumrans, and numerous other groups, was temporarily devoid of any public Pharisee leaders.

By the year 91 BCE, John Hyrcanus and his sons Antigonus and Aristobulos had died and his third son Alexander Janneus became king.  Even though Alexander Janneus was an ardent Sadducee, his wife convinced him to appoint his Pharisaic brother-in-law, Shimon Ben Shetach, to the Sanhedrin, then dominated by Sadducees.  Slowly, over the course of a number of years, Shimon Ben Shetach outshone his Sadducee opponents in the Sanhedrin and appointed his Pharisaic students as members [Hyman, vol. II pp. 766-767, vol. III pp. 1213-1214].

By the year 80 BCE it was finally safe for the Pharisee rabbis to quietly return and Shimon Ben Shetach sent a cryptic note to his mentor, R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah, encouraging him to return [Hyman, vol. II pp. 647-648, vol. III pp. 1213-1214].

Some 50 to 60 years after the great Pharisaic victory of the Hasmoneans, in which Pharisees rebelled against the Greek-Syrians and gained the monarchy, these Pharisee rabbis returned to a country full of heretical sects that had either integrated aspects of Hellenist paganism into their religion or had, in an attempt to repel all unproven influence, rejected the traditions of the rabbis.  The Pharisees who remembered the prominence in which they had so recently been held were now witnesses to the disintegration of their religious society.

While returning, Yeshu misunderstood one of his teacher’s remarks and said something that demonstrated that he was interested in and looking at married women.  As sexual promiscuity was a sign of many of the Hellenist sects, R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah suspected his student of being yet another leader influenced by Hellenism and had him excommunicated [this hasty conclusion was condemned by the Talmud a few lines before our passage].  After many attempts by Yeshu to reconcile with his mentor, R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah was finally ready.  However, Yeshu approached him while he was reciting Shema, the most important part of the morning prayer during which he could not stop to speak.  He motioned to Yeshu with his hand which was misinterpreted as a signal to go away.  Yeshu finally gave up and fulfilled his teacher’s suspicion.  He adopted a pagan religion and went on to create his own sect of Judaism and lead many Jews astray.

Proof

Some historians note some similarities here between Yeshu and Jesus.  Most notably, in one manuscript of the Talmud he is called Yeshu the Notzri which could be rendered (with only a little difficulty) Jesus the Nazarene.

Problems

1. Yeshu lived about a century before Jesus.

2. Only one of the approximately four distinct manuscripts available have the title HaNotzri (possibly, the Nazarene).  None of the other manuscripts contain that title which make it suspect as a later interpolation, as medieval commentators suggest [cf. Menachem HaMeiri, Beit Habechirah, Sotah ad. loc.].

3. Notzri does not necessarily mean Nazarene.  It is actually a biblical term (Jeremiah 4:16).  While centuries later it was undoubtedly used to refer to Christians in the form of Notzrim or Netzarim, it could have been a term used to refer to many strong communities.  The name « Ben Netzar » was used by the Talmud to refer to the famous chief of robbers Odenathus of Palmyra [see Marcus Jastrow’s Dictionary p. 930]

4. The name Yeshu alone could have been common.  We know that the name Jesus was common [see Collossians 4:11 and above].

5. Other than the name, nothing in the story fits anything we know about Jesus.

Passage #3: Trial

Talmud Sanhedrin 67a

It is taught: For all others liable for the death penalty [except for the enticer to idolatry] we do not hide witnesses.  How do they deal with [the enticer]?  They light a lamp for him in the inner chamber and place witnesses in the outer chamber so that they can see and hear him while he cannot see or hear them.  One says to him « Tell me again what you said to me in private » and he tells him.  He says « How can we forsake our G-d in heaven and worship idolatry? »  If he repents, good.  If he says « This is our obligation and what we must do » the witnesses who hear him from outside bring him to the court and stone him.  And so they did to Ben Stada in Lud and hung him on the eve of Passover.

Summary

This passage discusses how an enticer to idolatry, one of the worst religious criminals (see Deuteronomy 13:7-12), was caught.  The Talmud then continues and says that this was the method used to catch the notorious Ben Stada.

Proof

Again we see Ben Stada.  Above we were told that he performed witchcraft and we are now told that he was an idolater as well.  The connection to Jesus is that Ben Stada is connected to Jesus in the passage above and that he was executed on the eve of Passover.  The Gospel of John (19:14) has Jesus being executed on the eve of Passover.

Problems

1. The same problems above connecting Ben Stada to Jesus apply here as well, including his living almost a century after Jesus.

2. Ben Stada was stoned by a Jewish court and not crucified by the Roman government like Jesus.

3. The Synoptic Gospels say that Jesus was executed on Passover itself (Matthew 26:18-20; Mark 14:16-18; Luke 22:13-15) and not the eve of Passover.

4. Jesus was not crucified in Lud.

Passage #4: Execution

Talmud Sanhedrin 43a

It is taught: On the eve of Passover they hung Yeshu and the crier went forth for forty days beforehand declaring that « [Yeshu] is going to be stoned for practicing witchcraft, for enticing and leading Israel astray.  Anyone who knows something to clear him should come forth and exonerate him. »  But no one had anything exonerating for him and they hung him on the eve of Passover.

Ulla said: Would one think that we should look for exonerating evidence for him?  He was an enticer and G-d said (Deuteronomy 13:9) « Show him no pity or compassion, and do not shield him. »

Yeshu was different because he was close to the government.

Summary

Here we have the story of the execution of Yeshu.  Like Ben Stada, he was also executed on the eve of Passover.  Before executing him, the court searched for any witnesses who could clear his name, as was normally done before any execution.  Ulla, however, questioned this practice.  An enticer, due to the biblical mandate not to be merciful, should not be afforded this normal consideration.  The Talmud answers that Yeshu was different.  Because of his government connections, the court tried to search for any reason not to execute him and upset the government.

Proof

Again we see Yeshu.  All of the proofs from above connecting Yeshu to Jesus apply here as well.  Additionally, the execution on the eve of Passover is another connection to Jesus as above with Ben Stada.

Problems

1. As mentioned above with Ben Stada, the Synoptic Gospels have Jesus being executed on Passover itself and not the eve of Passover.

2. As above, Yeshu lived a century before Jesus.

3. Yeshu was executed by a Jewish court and not by the Romans.  During Yeshu’s time, the reign of Alexander Janneus, the Jewish courts had the power to execute but had to be careful because the courts were ruled by the Pharisees while the king was a Sadducee.  It seems clear why the courts would not want to unneccesarily upset the monarch by executing a friend of his.  During the Roman occupation of Jesus’ time, there is no indication that the Jewish courts had the right to execute criminals.

3. There is no indication from the New Testament that Jesus had friends in the government.

Passage #5: Disciples

Talmud Sanhedrin 43a

It is taught: Yeshu had five disciples – Matai, Nekai, Netzer, Buni, and Todah.

They brought Matai [before the judges].  He said to them: Will Matai be killed?  It is written (Psalm 42:2) « When [=Matai] shall (I) come and appear before G-d. »

They said to him: Yes, Matai will be killed as it is written (Psalm 41:5) « When [=Matai] shall (he) die and his name perish. »

They brought Nekai.  He said to them: Will Nekai be killed?  It is written (Exodus 23:7) « The innocent [=Naki] and the righteous you shall not slay. »

They said to him: Yes, Nekai will be killed as it is written (Psalm 10:8) « In secret places he slay the innocent [=Naki]. »

They brought Netzer.  He said to them: Will Netzer be killed?  It is written (Isaiah 11:1) « A branch [=Netzer] shall spring up from his roots. »

They said to him:  Yes, Netzer will be killed as  it is written (Isaiah 14:19) « You are cast forth out of your grave like an abominable branch [=Netzer]. »

They brought Buni.  He said to them: Will Buni be killed?  It is written (Exodus 4:22) « My son [=Beni], my firstborn, Israel. »

They said to him:  Yes, Buni will be killed as it is written (Exodus 4:23) « Behold, I slay your son [=Bincha] your firstborn. »

They brought Todah.  He said to them: Will Todah be killed?  It is written (Psalm 100:1) « A Psalm for thanksgiving [=Todah]. »

They said to him:  Yes, Todah will be killed as it is written (Psalm 50:23) « Whoever sacrifices thanksgiving [=Todah] honors me. »

Summary

Five of Yeshu’s disciples were brought before a court, tried for the crime against G-d and society of idolatry, and executed according to biblical law.  This passages presents each disciple cleverly bringing a biblical verse in an attempt to exonerate himself and the court responding likewise.

Proof

The name Yeshu is used as above.  The additional proof this passage provides is that Matai is the Hebrew equivalent of Matthew, one of Jesus’ disciples.

Problems

1. The same problems above connecting Yeshu to Jesus apply here.

2. Of the five disciples, only one is recognized.  What of the other four?

3. The name Matai seems like a nickname or Aramaic equivalent of Matityahu, which was a known Jewish name in that time period.  It was probably a common name, considering the high esteem in which the patriarch of the Hasmonean dynasty, Matityahu, was held by the common people.  Some manuscripts have the name of R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah’s famous colleague as Matai from Arbel [cf. R. Shimon Ben Tzemach Duran, Magen Avot, ed. Zeini (Jerusalem:2000) p. 31].

Passage #6: The Student

Tosefta Chullin 2:23

It once happened that R. Elazar ben Damah was bitten by a snake and Ya’akov of the village Sechania came to heal him in the name of Yeshu ben Pandira, but R. Yishmael did not allow him.

Proof

Here we see the only place in which the names Yeshu and Ben Pandira are connected.

Theories

Hazy History

Some historians consider all of the above passages to refer to Jesus.  Granted, there are many difficulties in tying all of the details together, particulary the historical timeframes.  However, these historians claim « that chronology was not a science in which the rabbis excelled, or one in which they laid stress upon accuracy » [RT Herford, Chritianity in Talmud & Midrash, p. 347].  The rabbis of the talmud had a hazy memory of Jesus and embellished upon it in order to villainize him.  The inconsistencies among the various stories are of no consequence because the rabbis did not care.  Thus, Jesus is Yeshu is Ben Stada is Ben Pandira.  Mary Magdalene is called Jesus’ mother due to some vague familiarity with the gospel story.  Jesus’ execution was recalled but only some details remembered.  In fact, these historians found many more references to Jesus in the talmud that did not use his name [discussed here].  Herford lists about twenty different passages that he claims refer to Jesus and still concludes that « it is remarkable how very little the talmud does say about Jesus » [ibid.].

This was at one time the standard approach of historians.  However, the obvious bias against talmudic rabbis and the wanton attribution of nameless passages has since given way to a more balanced approach among academics.

Goldstein, in his highly respected doctoral dissertation Jesus in the Jewish Tradition, argues against the attribution to Jesus of various references in the talmud, such as Balaam and « a certain person ».  In his view, this is finding in the texts what one was a priori looking for [Cf. Goldstein, pp. 57-81].  Joseph Klausner does not consider the Ben Stada passages as referring to Jesus [Joseph Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth, pp. 20-23].  Johann Maier concurs and adds that Ben Pandira had no connection to Jesus either [Johann Maier, Jesus von Nazareth in der talmudischen Uberlieferung, p. 237, cited in John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, vol. I p. 106 n. 45].  Maier further denies that the passage in Sanhedrin 43a about the execution and disciples of Yeshu has anything to do with Jesus [Maier, p. 229, cited in Meier vol. I p. 107 n. 51].  John P. Meier, a Catholic priest and author of the most recent and highly acclaimed scholarly analysis of the evidence of Jesus’ life, A Marginal Jew, which has even been added to the Anchor Bible Reference Library, takes a middle ground and says « While not accepting the full, radical approach of Maier, I think we can agree with him on one basic point: in the earliest rabbinic sources, there is no clear or even probable reference to Jesus of Nazareth » [Meier, vol. I p. 98].

Meier also adds what seems to be a direct answer to Herford’s remark quoted above.  Meier says « Hence, apart from Josephus, Jewish literature of the early Christian period offers no independent source for inquiry into the historical Jesus.  Indeed, why should it?  Engaged in a fierce struggle for its own survival and definition, early rabbinic Judaism had other matters on its mind — matters that, from its own perspective, were much more important » [Meier, ibid.].

Many modern historians detect different strata of texts from different ages within the talmudic period.  The passages originally referred to different people named Yeshu, Ben Stada, and Ben Pandira, none of whom were Jesus.  Over time, different generations of talmudic rabbis melded the passages together with added phrases and details.  However, according to Johann Maier, none of these passages ever related to Jesus.  Some scholars, such as Joseph Klausner and John P. Meier, believe that some of the later additions were meant to refer to Jesus, while the original basic text did not.  It is therefore very difficult to determine what, if anything, the talmud actually says about Jesus.

These attempts at literary analysis of the talmud, while not quite heretical to traditional Jews, are certainly anathema.  We will therefore try to use the literature of more traditional historical views of the talmudic passages along with some classic rabbinic commentaries to understand the subjects of these texts.

Two Yeshus

The standard rabbinic understanding of these passages is that these passages refer to at least two different people [cf. Tosafot HaRosh, Sotah 47a sv Yeshu, Shabbat 104b sv Ben Stada; Tosafot (uncensored) Shabbat 104b sv Ben Stada; R. Abraham Zacuto, Sefer Hayuchasin 5:6, R. Natan David Rabinowitz, Binu Shenot Dor Vador, pp. 422-425] .  The first lived in the first half of the first century BCE during the reign of Alexander Janneus.  The second lived in the first half of the second century CE, during the time of the Roman persecution that led to Rabbi Akiva’s tragic death.

The first, Yeshu Ben Pandira, started his own sect and had many followers.  His heretical and idolatrous teachings lasted centuries after his life but, like so many Jewish sects, slowly died out after the destruction of the Temple.

The second, Ben Stada, was simply a public idolater from an illustrious family who was caught and punished.

The only connections between the two are their fathers’ names, that they were executed on the day before Passover, and that they both spent time in Egypt.  The first is probably a mere coincidence because, as pointed out above, Panthera (which in Hebrew and Aramaic is equivalent of Pandira) was a common name.

Ben Stada may have been executed on the day before Passover in Lud out of deference for his illustrious step-father.  On that day, most people were gathered in Jerusalem preparing their Passover sacrifices and very few people would have witnessed the execution in Lud.  Yeshu Ben Pandira may have been executed on the day before Passover in Jerusalem for the exact opposite reason.  Since he was the leader of a heretical sect, the court may have wished that the crowd in Jerusalem would see his execution and learn that his sect was a deviation from the true Judaism.

Their both having spent time in Egypt is similar to two American Jews today both visiting New York City at some time in their lives.  From the year 307 BCE to the year 113 CE, Alexandria had one of the largest and most illustrious Jewish communities in the world.  Its hundreds of thousands of Jews had a very large and active Jewish community, which is probably why R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah and Yeshu were able to hide there .  The Alexandrian community was also noted for its affinity to Hellenistic culture.  Its most famous product, Philo, wrote exclusively in Greek and propounded a very Hellenistic philosophy which some consider to be heretical to Judaism [see Samuel Belkin’s introduction to Midreshei Philon].  It is certainly not surprising that the young Ben Pandira’s visit to this thriving Jewish center led him to accept a hybrid Jewish-Hellenist religion that was considered idolatry by traditional Jews.

The following chart shows which details refer to each person.

Yeshu Ben Pandira

Passage 2

Lived appr. 80 BCE

Student of R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah

Escaped persecution by fleeing to Egypt and, upon return, became an idolater

Passage 4

Executed on the day before Passover

Had close contact with government officials

Passage 5

Had five disciples who were also executed.

Passage 6

His legacy remained for centuries, even until the time of R. Yishmael (died 133)

Ben Stada

Passage 1

Lived appr. 100 CE

Sometimes called Ben Pandira but mainly Ben Stada, possibly to differentiate him from Yeshu Ben Pandira

Brought witchcraft from Egypt

Mother was Miriam the hairdresser, also known as Stada

Father was Pandira

Step-father was Pappos Ben Yehudah

Passage 3

Executed on the day before Passover in Lud for idolatry

Early Jesus

Some historians go further.  It is well known, and long a matter of controversy, that beginning in the early 19th century some historians disputed the existence of an historical Jesus at all.  According to this theory, Jesus never existed and the early church fathers created him as a figure for their religion.  The gospels are compilations of various legends that were attributed to this mythical character Jesus.  Much ink has been spilled debating this theory, but there are some historians who accept this and go one step further.  They identify the basis of the New Testament Jesus in the story of Yeshu Ben Pandira.  This legendary figure, who was branded a heretic by Jewish leaders, founded a Jewish sect that inspired and influenced the early Christians.  These early Christians then adopted the story of Yeshu Ben Pandira and modified it to fit into a later historical period and their own eclectic religious beliefs.  [cf. R. Avraham Ibn Daud, Sefer Hakabbalah, 53; Sefer Hayuchasin, ibid.; Avraham Korman, Zeramim Vekitot Beyahadut, pp. 354-364].

Some daring scholars have even identified the original Jesus or proto-Jesus, Yeshu Ben Pandira, as the Teacher of Righteousness who led the sect in Qumran [cf. Alvar Ellegård, Jesus One Hundred Years Before Christ; G.R.S. Mead, Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?; G. A. Wells, The Jesus Myth].

While these theories are highly speculative and certainly not mainstream, researchers have amassed a large amount of evidence, from archaelogical finds to medieval references, that point to either this or a similar conclusion.

Conclusion

It seems clear by now that there is no consensus whether Jesus is mentioned at all in the Talmud. Most of the supposed « blasphemies » of Jesus and Mary in the Talmud do not refer to them at all. However, there can be no denying, and no rabbi would deny this, that the authors of the Talmud did not believe in Jesus’ messiahship or his divinity. If you are looking for Christian fellowship then Jewish literature is not the place to look. However, there is no basis at all to state unequivocably that the Talmud calls Jesus a bastard or that Mary was a prostitute who had sex with many men. As has been shown, those passages definitely do not refer to Jesus.

Note: The wording of the texts was taken from Chisronot Hashas, originally printed in Koenigsberg in 1860 and reprinted in Tel Aviv in 1989.  The text of the Tosefta was taken from the standard Vilna edition and slightly modified based on Saul Lieberman’s Tosefet Rishonim.

Refuting the Blood Libel

Written by Gil Student

There is an often repeated accusation against Jews that they kidnap and kill Christian children around Passover time to use their innocent Christian blood in the baking of matzah that will be eaten on Passover. This lie is so ludicrous that it would be hilarious if it had not had such tragic consequences. Despite its obvious untruth to anyone familiar with Judaism, thousands of Jews have been murdered due to anger aroused by this lie.

We have already shown that it is absolutely forbidden for a Jew to kill a gentile. What we will show here is that Jews are forbidden to eat ANY blood and take great pains to avoid eating it. We show great respect for an animal’s blood by burying it and we carefully remove all blood from our meat by washing and salting it while raw. If anything, gentiles who do not salt their meat eat more blood than an observant Jew.

Leviticus 7:26-27

You shall not consume any blood, in any of your dwelling places, whether from fowl or from animals. Any person who consumes any blood – that soul will be cut off from its people.

Leviticus 17:10-14

Any man of the House of Israel and of the proselyte who dwells among them who will consume any blood – I shall concentrate My attention upon the soul consuming the blood, and I will cut it off from its people. For the soul of the flesh is in the blood and I have assigned it for you upon the Altar to provide atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that atones for the soul. Therefore I have said to the Children of Israel: « Any person among you may not consume blood; and the proselyte who dwells among may not consume blood. » Any man of the Children of Israel and of the proselyte who dwells among them who will trap a beast or bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. For the life of any creatures – its blood represents its life, so I say to the Children of Israel, « You shall not consume the blood of any creature; for the life of any creature is its blood, whoever consumes it will be cut off. »

Deuteronomy 12:16, 23-25

But you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it onto the earth, like water… Only be strong not to eat the blood – for the blood, it is the life – and you shall not eat the life with the meat. You shall not eat it, you shall pour it onto the ground like water. You shall not eat it, in order that it be well with you and your children after you, when you do what is right in the eyes of G-d.

The biblical prohibition against eating blood is taken very seriously by Jews. It is repeated throughout the Talmudic and post-Talmudic literature and various methods of avoiding eating blood has played a prominent part of Jewish literature.

The Sefer HaChinuch offers an explanation of this prohibition.

Sefer HaChinuch, 148

It is possible to say regarding blood, in addition to the bad temperament that it contains, its consumption involves acquiring wicked traits – when a man consumes from an animal physically similar to him the very thing upon which his life depends and to which his soul is connected.

A reiteration of the prohibition against consuming blood can be found at every historical stage of Jewish law.

Tosefta Keritot 2:12

One who eats an olive’s worth of blood from a wild animal, domesticated animal, or from kosher birds brings a sin-offering… The blood of those who walk on two feet, the blood of eggs, and the blood of insects is forbidden but one is not obligated to bring a sin-offering.

This Tosefta is reaffirmed in the Talmud itself in Keritot 21b-22a and is quoted in the medieval legal works by R. Yitzchak Alfasi (Chullin 39a) and R. Asher (Chullin 8:28).

Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Ma’achalot Assurot 6:1

One who eats an olive’s worth of blood intentionally is cut off from his people. One who eats it accidentally brings a sin-offering.

This is also echoed in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 64:1. The Talmud tells us that for an animal’s heart to be eaten it must first be split up crosswise and have all the blood removed from it (Talmud Chullin 109a). For a liver, which is full of blood, to be eaten it must be broiled so that the blood comes out during cooking (Talmud Chullin 110b-111a). Not only eating, but drinking blood is also forbidden (Jerusalem Talmud Yoma 8:3).

When an animal is ritually slaughtered, i.e. slaughtered for consumption according to Jewish law, the animal’s blood must be covered as a form of burial (Midrash Tanchuma Bereishit 10) as we saw above in Leviticus 17:13-14. The Talmud devotes an entire chapter, Chullin chapter 6, to the subject of covering the blood. It is still practiced to this day by Jewish Shochtim, ritual slaughterers, when they slaughter animals for consumption.

Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shechitah 14:1

It is a positive commandment to cover the blood of a slaughtered kosher animal or kosher bird.

This is echoed in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 28:1 and there is a whole literature on the details of exactly how in each circumstance to respectfully cover the animal’s blood.

Have you ever seen Kosher Salt before? I use it to spread on ice on winter days but it also has a holier purpose. Kosher Salt is used to spread on raw meat to absorb the blood. While today it is generally done in factories, until a generation ago every Jewish mother knew exactly how to rinse and salt meat.

The Talmud (Talmud Chullin 113a) describes the process of first washing the blood off of raw meat, then spreading salt on it to absorb the remaining blood, and then washing the meat again to rinse off the blood-soaked salt. It is only through this process that meat can become kosher. Any meat that is not rinsed-salted-rinsed properly within three days of its slaughter is not kosher and is prohibited to be eaten by Jews. This is duly recorded by Maimonides in Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Ma’achalot Assurot 6:10 and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 69:1. In fact, the Shulchan Aruch reserves 10 chapters to discuss the details of salting meat (chapters 69-78).

It is these precautions and the almost obsessive avoidance of eating blood by Jews that makes the blood libel charges against them so ludicrous. Christians, who don’t salt their meat or broil their livers, accuse Jews of eating the blood from Christian children when that could not be farther from the truth. However, truth has never stood in the way of a resentful and angry mob searching for any excuse to kill Jews.

The Passover Haggadah Is Not Racist

Written by Gil Student

The Accusation

« We beg Thee, O Lord, inflict Thy wrath on the nations not believing in Thee. Take away, O Lord all hope from them. Destroy all foes of Thy nation. »–Synagoga Judaica, p. 212. Minhagen, p. 23. Crach Chaim, 480 Hagah

This is partially accurate. Towards the end of the Passover Seder, the religious service of the first two evenings of Passover, a similar passage is recited. However, the passage is not at all as ominous as the accusers would have one believe. This is a direct quote from the Bible and is a request that G-d destroy those who destroyed the Temple and exiled the Jewish people. It was first said by a mournful Jeremiah and then included in Psalms. In the messianic hope of the end of the Seder we ask G-d to avenge the destruction of His Temple and rebuild it. One source of this custom is Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 480:1 (Hagah). The exact verses read differ based on custom [see R. Menachem Mendel Kasher, Haggadah Sheleimah, pp. 177-178] however all start with Psalms 79:6-7. I include below the parallel verse in Jeremiah. In no way is this an anti-gentile prayer. It is an anti-destroyer prayer.

Psalms 79:6-7

Pour out Your wrath upon the nations that do not recognize You, and upon the kingdoms that do not invoke Your Name. For they have devoured Jacob, and destroyed His habitation.

Jeremiah 10:25

Pour out Your wrath upon the nations that know You not and upon the families that do not call out in Your Name, for they have consumed Jacob – they have consumed him and annihilated him – and have devastated his abode.

Explaining Kol Nidrei

Written by Gil Student

Mishnah Bava Metzia 4:2

They said: He who exacted punishment from the generation of the Flood [Gen. 7] and the generation of the Dispersion [Gen. 11] will exact punishment from he who does not stand by his word.

Accusation and Text

Oaths and Vows

Annulment Of Vows

Pre-Existing Clause

Kol Nidrei

The Accusation

Lying to Gentiles is institutionalized within the Jewish religion in the Kol Nidre rite, when all oaths that were broken in the preceding year, are rendered null and void.

The Kol Nidrei service is the first part of the Yom Kippur services and has a long history of being misunderstood. A simple reading of the text without any Talmudic or legal knowledge would lead one to believe that it is license to lie and deceive. However, even a little knowledge shows that this perception is totally incorrect. What we will show is that Kol Nidrei’s effect is legally very small and is, in fact, either an annulment for strictly personal vows or a clause for a limited number of future personal vows. Either way, it absolutely DOES NOT undermine the effectiveness of vows taken for others.

The Text

Kol Nidrei [Artscroll Yom Kippur Machzor translation – different textual versions will be discussed later]

All vows, prohibitions, oaths, consecrations, konam-vows, konas-vows, or equivalent terms that we may vow, swear, consecrate, or prohibit upon ourselves – [from the last Yom Kippur until this Yom Kippur, and] from this Yom Kippur until the next Yom Kippur, may it come upon us for good – regarding them all, we regret them henceforth. They all will be permitted, abandoned, cancelled, null and void, without power and without standing. Our vows shall not be valid vows; our prohibitions shall not be valid prohibitions; and our oaths shall not be valid oaths.

Oaths and Vows

Judaism takes vows and oaths very seriously. While the Bible has many passages discussing vows about sacrifices, the only passage in the Pentateuch regarding personal vows is in Numbers 30.

Numbers 30:3

If a man takes a vow to G-d or swears an oath to establish a prohibition upon himself, he shall not desecrate his word; according to whatever comes from his mouth he shall do.

This prohibition against violating one’s oaths is considered so strong that the Talmud [Shevuot 39a] states that the whole world shakes over this prohibition. The Talmud [Bava Metzia 5b] says that even Jewish thieves (yes, there are thieves in every society) are more careful about keeping their word than respecting other’s property.

Annulment Of Vows

As part of the Oral Law we have a tradition that oaths can be nullified by a court [Talmud Chagigah 10a; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shevuot 6:1]. When a person regrets having ever taken an oath a court can declare his oath to be null and void. However, and this is crucial, there are severe limitations regarding which oaths a court is empowered to nullify.

A somewhat similar notion to the above can be found regarding a woman’s oath in Numbers 30:4-10 although there are very big differences between that and a court’s nullification. Anyone who is a biblical literalist will reject the concept of annulment of oaths. However, Jews accept this tradition as having been given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Taking oaths is a worthy way of inducing oneself to act properly. Because of the power of an oath, it is an extremely useful psychological motivator. While Ecclesiastes (5:4) tells us « Better that you not vow at all than that you vow and not pay », there are times when vowing is beneficial in enducing proper behavior [see Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Nedarim 13:23; Talmud Chullin 2a-b].

Only these oaths can be nullified. Oaths involving more than one person require both to be present and to agree to the annulment.

Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 211:4

All this [about annulling oaths] is said only about a vow or oath that was vowed or sworn for oneself. However, if someone else induced one to vow or swear this annulment does not help at all.

Think about it. The Talmud dedicates one sixth of itself to detailing the Jewish court system which adjudicates based on the sworn testimony of witnesses. What good is their testimony if they can have a different court nullify it in the future? For that reason Jewish courts specifically include in the language of the oath that the witnesses are swearing with the court in mind so that the oath cannot be nullified [Talmud Shevuot 29a; Nedarim 25a].

Any oath taken with others in mind cannot be nullified without their presence and approval. This is affirmed in the following quote and by Nachmanides, Teshuvot HaRamban, 248, 280; Rabbi Yerucham, Toldot Adam VeChavah, 7, 12; Tur, Orach Chaim 619; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 211:4.

Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shevuot 6:7

Reuven who induces Shimon to swear and answers « Amen » or accepted the oath and Shimon subsequently regrets the oath and requests an annulment, the court does not annul it except before Reuven who induced the oath… Even if the inducer is a child or a gentile the court does not annul it except before him so that he will know that the oath was annulled.

Pre-Existing Clause

Like a contract, whatever clauses one includes in one’s vow are binding. If one were to vow to « never eat hamburgers except on weekdays » then one would be allowed to eat hamburgers five days a week. If one were to vow to « never eat hamburgers but this vow is null and void » then the vow would not have any effect. Because one included within the vow a clause that nullified the vow, the vow did not have any obligatory effect. With this in mind, let us address the following passage from the Talmud.

Talmud Nedarim 23b

One who wishes that none of his vows should have effect all year should stand at the beginning of the year and say « All vows that I will make this year will be null »… as long as one does not remember at the time of the vow.

By making this clause ahead of time one is establishing a standard clause that is automatically included in all vows for the rest of the year. However, there is an interesting and important conclusion to this passage – « as long as one does not remember at the time of the vow. » If one remembers this clause at the time of the vow one must repeat it out loud. If not, one is, by omission, disavowing the original clause. However, if one forgets then one is not disavowing the original clause and it is still in effect. In other words, this clause from the beginning of the year only works if one forgets it. Otherwise one has to say it again at the time of the vow.

Another important point is that this pre-existing clause does not work if someone else is inducing the vow. When the vow concerns others it must be fully vocalized at the time of the vow in front of these others. Anything that is not said at the time is null and void including this pre-existing clause.

Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shevuot 2:16

One who takes an oath and says « I vow not to eat today and on your intentions I swear » cannot say « I had such-and-such in mind » because he did not vow on his intentions but on the intentions of others.

This is also affirmed by Rabbi Nissim from Gerona, Ran, Nedarim 23b; Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel, Rosh, ad loc.; Rabbeinu Tam, Tosafot, ad loc.; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 210:1, Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer, Biur HaGra, Yoreh Deah 210:3.

Kol Nidrei

Kol Nidrei dates back to at least the ninth century where it was included in the first comprehensive prayer books, Seder Rav Amram Gaon. In the twelfth century, a debate within the Jewish community ensued regarding the intent of Kol Nidrei.

The clear intent of this service as it was originally written was to be an annulment of previous vows that, immediately prior to the day of judgement (Yom Kippur), would free a person from being liable from violating personal vows. Since, as we saw above, only personal vows can be annulled, Kol Nidrei sought to remove from people the possible stigma of violating their personal vows.

In the twelfth century, Rabbeinu Tam objected to this application of the annulment of vows due to a number of technical reasons, particularly its lack of individuality. How can you annul an individual’s vows in a group ceremony which does not even list the vows, asked Rabbeinu Tam? Therefore, Rabbeinu Tam insisted on changing the text of Kol Nidrei to use a future tense so it would serve as a pre-existing clause in future vows (assuming that individuals read along quietly with the service) [Tosafot, Nedarim 23b]. This change was opposed and the original text was defended by some scholars, such as R. Asher ben Yechiel [Rosh, Yoma 8:28]. The prevailing custom is to either follow Rabbeinu Tam’s modified text or to use a compromise version that includes both past and future vows.

However, and this is crucial, NO ONE claims that Kol Nidrei exempts individuals from either past or future vows that involve others. Kol Nidrei is ONLY for personal vows, as demonstrated above. Whether in business deals or in interpersonal interaction, Kol Nidrei does not in any way provide license for Jews to be deceiptful or lying.

The Talmud Does Not Permit Sex With A Three Year Old

Written by Gil Student

The Accusation

Yebhamot 11b: « Sexual intercourse with a little girl is permitted if she is three years of age. »

The accusation here is quite nefarious. It implies that Judaism permits pedophilia, has no respect for women, and generally advocates loose sexual morals. To those familiar with the Talmud, this claim is patently ridiculous. However, the majority of people — particularly those making this claim — know little to nothing about the Talmud, its contents, or its methodology. On our website The Real Truth About The Talmud, we elaborate on these issues. However, for now, we will focus on the accusation at hand. It is, in fact, easily verified as being incorrect.

The Text

Talmud Ketuvot 11b (The citation mentioned is evidently in error. Talmud Yevamot 11b has no relevant passage)

Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: A male child who has relations with a female adult causes her to be like one who was injured with a stick… Rava said: This is what was meant – an adult male who has relations with a female child has not done anything because less than this [three years old] is like sticking a finger into an eyeball.

While those unused to these Talmudic discussions might be taken aback by the use of euphemisms, the discussion here relates to the dowry for virgins and non-virgins. It has nothing to do with what acts are allowed, encouraged, forbidden, or discouraged. It is, indeed, ironic that this passage has been manipulated from its original context of a financial discussion into one of a religious discussion. While there are numerous talmudic passages of a religious nature, this one discusses dowries and not forbidden and permitted relations!

The Talmud relates that a virgin is entitled a higher dowry. While the tell-tale sign of virginity is the release of blood due to the breaking of the hymen on the wedding night, there are occasions when the hymen has already been broken such as when the woman suffered an injury. The Talmud here quotes Rav Yehuda in the name of Rav that a sexual act with a male minor is not considered to be a loss of virginity because one of the participants is not fully active. While the female’s hymen may have been broken, she has not engaged in what can be classified as a sexual act (although it is certainly child abuse).

The Talmud continues and quotes Rava as saying that a sexual act between a male adult and a female under the age of three is also not considered a loss of virginity (although it is child abuse). Since the girl is too young for her hymen to be broken, she is still considered a virgin.

Nowhere is the Talmud permitting such behavior. Sex outside of a marriage is strictly forbidden (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Ishut 1:4, Hilchot Na’arah Betulah 2:17; Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 26:1, 177:5) as is this obvious case of child abuse. The Talmud is only discussing ex post facto what would happen if such a case arose.

That non-marital sexual relations is prohibited is stated explicitly by Maimonides in the following passage from his ground-breaking legal code Mishneh Torah:

Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Ishut 1:4

Whoever has licentious relations with a woman without marriage bonds is lashed by biblical mandate.

The claim that the Talmud, or normative Judaism, permits sexual relations with a minor is almost entirely incorrect. The slight truth in it is that, in certain societies in history, people were sometimes married as young as ten. While this was most recently done in Czarist Russia in order to avoid being drafted into the Czar’s army (which was made especially difficult for Jews), it is not currently done. However, even in that case, marriage is required before having sexual relations. Judaism as a religion prohibits sexual relations, indeed even minor touching such as holding hands, outside of marriage.

It is certainly true that there are individual Jews who do not follow the teaching of the Talmud. That is their personal choice, just like many Catholics choose to use birth control and have premarital relations despite their religion’s teaching against it. This does not mean that Catholicism permits premarital relations and it does not mean that Judaism (and the Talmud) does either. The personal choices of people whether to follow completely their religion does not reflect on what their religion teaches. Similarly, the fact that certain Muslims drink alcohol and frequent prostitutes does not mean that their religion permits it. It means that these individuals choose to defy their religion.

We leave it to others to deduce why some people would make baseless accusations against the Talmud and, by implication, Judaism and Jews.

The Real Story About Rabbi Eleazar

Written by Gil Student

The Accusation

Abodah Zarah 17a. States that there is not a whore in the world that the Talmudic sage Rabbi Eleazar has not had sex with.

By concisely summarizing the story told by the Talmud and slightly modifying the name, the accusation has changed a moving story about one man’s return to G-d into a tale about a Talmud sage’s sexual impropriety. We will present the whole story which has a very different message.

There are two things that are important to note. First, as is obvious, the story begins with Eleazar ben Durdia as patronizing prostitutes but concludes with his sorrowful repentance and acceptance into the world-to-come. Also, in most manuscripts he is not called Rabbi until the very end of the story, after his repentance. Clearly, he was not a scholar at all but merely an average (or below average) man who had a spiritual awakening that can be a lesson to us all about the power to change oneself.

Talmud Avodah Zarah 17a

They said about Eleazar ben Durdia that there was no prostitute in the world with whom he did not have intercourse at least once. He heard that there was one particular prostitute in a town near the sea who would receive a purse full of dinars for her services. He took a purse full of dinars and went to her, crossing over seven rivers. During intercourse she passed gas. She said: Just like this gas will never return to its place so too Eleazar ben Durdia will never have his repentance accepted (literally – will never return).

He went and sat between two mountains and hills. He said: Mountains and hills, request mercy for me. They said: Before we request mercy for you we have to request mercy for ourselves, at is says (Isaiah 54:10) « For the mountains will be moved and the hills will falter… »

He said: Heavens and earth, request mercy for me. They said: Before we request mercy for you we have to request mercy for ourselves, at is says (Isaiah 51:6) « For the heavens will dissipate like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a garment… »

He said: Sun and moon, request mercy for me. They said: Before we request mercy for you we have to request mercy for ourselves, at is says (Isaiah 24:23) « The moon will be humiliated and the sun will be shamed… »

He said: Stars and constellations, request mercy for me. They said: Before we request mercy for you we have to request mercy for ourselves, at is says (Isaiah 34:4) « All the host of the heavens will dissolve… »

He said: This matter depends solely on me. He put his head between his knees and began to tremble from crying until he died. A heavenly voice declared: R. Eleazar ben Durdia is ready for the world-to-come.

While the Talmud has certainly taken liberties with the details of the story, mountains and stars do not talk (see Tosafot ad. loc.), the message is clear. A prostitute made a snide remark to Eleazar about how far gone he was from his religion and, as a believing albeit unobservant man, he wished for divine mercy. He went around looking for ways to find mercy or, as some read it, looking for scapegoats on whom to blame his behavior (see R. Yonatan Eyebeshitz, Ye’arot Devash, sermon 3 p. 56a). His conclusion, however, was that he alone was to blame for his behavior and his deep-felt remorse led to his tearful death. This repentance was sufficient for him to earn a place in the world-to-come (see R. Shlomo Eidels, Chiddushei Maharsha, ad. loc.)

An honest reading of the full talmudic passage shows that the accusation was totally misleading and unfounded.

3 commentaires pour Religion: D’une manière générale, le Talmud est résolument mysogyne (A long history of survival in a world of hostility and persecution)

  1. Sami Khoudir dit :

    Le Talmud, la Torah et les autres livres dits sacrés des chrétiens et des juifs sont des cumulas de légendes, de mensonges et de calomnies sur Dieu et sur les prophètes. Comment un homme du 21ème siècle peut-t-il accepter qu’un humain (Jésus Christ), avec ses faiblesses et ses défauts, soit associé à Dieu en plus du Saint esprit. C’est tout à fait irrationnel d’accepter une telle foutaise. Un homme ne peut pas être Dieu et Dieu ne doit pas avoir ni de femme, ni d’enfants. Dieu est unique et tout puissant. Vous n’avez qu’à regarder vos églises vides et tristes. Et c’est pareil pour l’ancien testament, car certains juifs disent que Ozair et le fils de Dieu, Quelle foutaise.Je vous raconte une histoire qui m’aie arrivée avec un type des témoins de Jéhovah (de race noire). En essayant de me convaincre de me reconvertir, il a parlé du prophète Abraham en parlant de lui qu’il était juif. J’ai protesté en lui disant qu’Abraham est Hébreux mais sa religion n’était pas le Judaisme, et que les arabes et les juifs (en tant que race) sont des cousins (les premiers sont les descendants d’Ismael et les juifs les descendants d’Isaac. Il m’a dit non! les arabes ne sont pas de vrais cousins des juifs (ils sont d’après lui inférieurs aux juifs)car leur mère Hager était une esclave alors que Sarah était une femme libre. Je lui fit remarquer que sa pensée et raciste (lui le pauvre noir que ses ancêtres avaient tant souffert du racisme et de l’esclavagisme. Quant au fait qu’Abraham était, d’après lui, de religion judaïque, je lui dit que la Torah fut révélée à Moise des siècles après Abraham. Je ne comprends pas comment des gens puissent accepter des conneries pareils.

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  2. Sami Khoudir dit :

    J’ajoute autre chose concernant les juifs. Ils ne forment pas un bloc unique derrière les idées du sionisme. Il y en a qui sont contre l’établissement de l’état d’Israël car, selon eux, c’est interdit pas la Torah elle-même. D’autres sont pour former un état démocratique unique avec les arabes. Mais les sionistes veulent chasser tout les arabes de la terre de Palestine (regarder la discrimination que subit les arabes de 1948 : pas de permis construire d’une maison, interdit de rénover leur maison ni d’agrandir, des milliers de maisons détruites, interdit de beaucoup de types de métiers .etc..). Avec cette politique raciste aveugle, les israéliens (le régime) vont susciter la haine, pas seulement des arabes et des musulmans, mais aussi de l’opinion publique international et des juifs aussi(mais oui ils sont aussi des être humains). Attention l’histoire peut refaire un autre cycle désastreux pour les juifs (de Babylone à Hitler en passant par le Pharaon d’Égypte) et cette fois-ci sera la pire de toute. Les alliés ont aidé les juifs à migrer en Palestine, pas par compassion, mais par racisme. Ils se sont débarrassés des juifs et en même temps, ils font chié les arabes. Mais en fin de compte, les juifs ne trouveront pas la paie qu’avec les arabes, il suffit de lire l’histoire des juifs en Andalousie en présence et en absence des arabes. Bonne soirée

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  3. […] 1Religion: D’une manière générale, le Talmud est résolument mysogyne (A long history of surviva… SUBMIT […]

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