Re: Helping non-Jews
Welcome! Log In Create A New Profile

Advanced

Re: Helping non-Jews

March 31, 2005 05:00AM
<HTML>Yitzhak Jacobs wrote in response to Menachem Daum:
<<
This is a reminder that we need to be
critical readers ourselves and to train our students to be critical
readers, as well. In the Yeshivot where I studied, no line of Gemara was
learned without examination and analysis. The collection of quotes that
appears in that website (and many, many others, as well) should not be
accepted superficially by any thinking Jew.
>>

Okay, but even looking at extended passages as opposed to snippets, one
comes to some rather disturbing conclusions. I looked at the selections on
talkreason.org, and I was actually impressed at the thoroughness of the
research; they not only used good tools (Bar Ilan and DBS), but they went
back to manuscripts and better editions than were available to the
electronic databases. There is a pdf file that includes most of the
sources in Hebrew, and it is hard to say that the material (from many
generations and many continents) is "exceptional."
Leon Zilberstein, et al., who wrote "Judaic Sources on the Attitude
Towards Gentiles" on that site seems to have a clear agenda. I don't deny
that. And Menachem Daum's final comment about the Holocaust seemed over
the top, but didn't invalidate the larger challenge posed in his posting.

I wonder what Yitzhak Jacobs means by critical reading. I would greatly
appreciate and love to learn how to present the kinds of materials cited
in a way that is not mere apologetics or selective reading.

<<
The Talmud may well include statements that we find do not meet 21st
century standards of moral decency. But do they apply today? Do we live
amongst idol worshippers who value human sacrifice and perverse sexual
rites? Do our non-Jewish neighbors discriminate against us with their laws
and business practices?
>>

Zilberstein states that "the overwhelming majority of accepted views, most
of today's gentiles cannot be considered ger toshav. Christians as a group
are viewed as idolaters..." I don't know how to evaluate that statement:
"accepted" by whom? Clearly Rabbi Jacobs does not accept the
classification of Christians as idolaters, and I don't either. Who has
done the research? And if you were to ask the question, would you ask it
in a way that refers to the punishment for idolaters?

I've just started Menachem Hirschman's book (Torah l'khol ba'ei olam),
which argues that the attitude towards Gentiles is hardly simple, and that
it goes back to basic disputes among Tannaim. I would say (following a
talk from Israel Knohl that I heard at the Hartman Institute) that it goes
back to the Torah itself and differing conceptions in Vayikra and Devarim.
Who is to say that this was ever resolved?

<<
Today we know that we cannot allow our students to be taught in their
Jewish studies classes that the world is literally 5665 years old and then
send them to their science classes to learn that it is millions of years
old, without attempting to reconcile these positions.
>>

Yes, our society is different, and the non-Jews are different, and our
sensibilities are (or may be) different. Nevertheless, once one starts
making historical critiques (and I say this as someone who was raised in
the Conservative movement and did graduate work at JTS!), one has to ask
why some aspects of our morashah are remnants of a bygone historical era
and other aspects are not. Similar critiques of Judaism as misogynous and
homophobic are regularly made; one could also argue that women are
different now, and also that homosexuality is different now. Do we ignore
or dismiss those critiques? Some do, some do not. But it is hard to trot
out the "historic context" argument with respect to non-Jews without
opening the system up to critiques in other contexts. Again, many Jewish
educators, including myself, are willing to re-evaluate tradition honestly
in light of those critiques, and those critiques often require significant
reworking of basic beliefs.

I think your comment that we "reconcile these positions" is admirable, but
does that mean that our contemporary understandings should be read into
the more objectionable materials from earlier generations? I'm just asking
what people really do in this situation. I'm not making a critique.

<<
Similarly I would like to go on record as saying that any Mechanech who
teaches Gemara and is not prepared to explain the statements of Chazal
about non-Jews in a way that is consistent with the reality of the society
in which we live, should be encouraged to find other employment.
>>

So, Rabbi Jacobs, will you grace us with an appropriate teaching model of
some of the more difficult passages? I ask in order to learn.

But my own approach would be to follow Hirschman and Knohl and to say that
we don't have one opinion or the other, but that our tradition has grown
up with the tension between different approaches and we have to learn to
live with that tension. As much as I believe that Christianity is not only
not idolatry but actually has a valuable claim to its own religious truth,
I also have to recognize that Jewish antipathy for non-Jews serves a role
in defining what Judaism is and how it understands its own truths.

That said, I'm very interested in how others respond to these issues.

B'vrakhah,

Jeffrey Spitzer "Take risks to learn, take time to teach"
Chair, Dept. of Talmud and Rabbinics
Gann Academy, The New Jewish High School
333 Forest St
Waltham, MA 02452
781-642-6800
jspitzer@gannacademy.org
www.gannacademy.org</HTML>
Subject Author Posted

Helping non-Jews

Binyamin Rickman March 14, 2005 05:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Barry Kornblau March 22, 2005 05:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Rabbi Yitzchak Jacobs March 17, 2005 05:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Mike Schultz March 23, 2005 05:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Dani Isaacs April 11, 2005 04:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Mike Schultz April 21, 2005 04:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Menachem Daum March 24, 2005 05:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Tzvi Freeman January 01, 1995 05:00AM

Helping Non Jews

Etan Tokayer March 31, 2005 05:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

yitzchak jacobs March 30, 2005 05:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Joel Guberman March 30, 2005 05:00AM

response to 'Helping non-Jews'

natan zeligson March 24, 2005 05:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Hilary Sage March 31, 2005 05:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Grace Keller March 29, 2005 05:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Jeff Spitzer March 31, 2005 05:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Saul Lieberman March 31, 2005 05:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Gidon Rothstein March 31, 2005 05:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Jeff Spitzer April 03, 2005 05:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Shalom Berger April 08, 2005 04:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Dr.Annette Labovitz April 03, 2005 05:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Zvi Grumet April 07, 2005 04:00AM

Re: Helping non-Jews

Binyamin Rickman April 06, 2005 04:00AM



Author:

Your Email:


Subject:


Spam prevention:
Please, enter the code that you see below in the input field. This is for blocking bots that try to post this form automatically. If the code is hard to read, then just try to guess it right. If you enter the wrong code, a new image is created and you get another chance to enter it right.
Message:
This is a moderated forum. Your message will remain hidden until it has been approved by a moderator or administrator