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1 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 7:49:06am
I was under the impression that most present-day Christians, even Evangelicals, feel that the New Testament abrogates the harsher laws of the Old. Looks like I was wrong—not only do these folks embrace the Old testament, they seem to take every word literally.

One very very important thing to point out is that the "harsher view" of the Old Testament is itself a throughly Christian meme.

The actual practice of Jewish Law is incredibly forward thinking in terms of women, women's rights and the status of women. It is a very safe statement that it was not until the 20th century that women around the world began to enjoy the same rights that Jewish women had enjoyed for thousands of years.

"Old Testement" laws in practice, even the ones that sound harsh (in poor English, translation, without the benefit of the oral law, and pontificated on by people who have their own agendas) are not at all what many bible thumping Christians would have you believe. Not even close.

2 CuriousLurker  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 8:11:54am

re: #1 LudwigVanQuixote

"Old Testement" laws in practice, even the ones that sound harsh (in poor English, translation, without the benefit of the oral law, and pontificated on by people who have their own agendas) are not at all what many bible thumping Christians would have you believe. Not even close.

Yes, that's why I said they take it literally and it sounds familiar. The same thing happens with the hard-line Muslim fanatics. Ick.

3 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 8:12:01am

Consider this:

...with special attention to the historical faith found in the book of Genesis, when God created Eve as a “helper” to Adam

Care to guess what the Hebrew actually says? It says [Bereshith 2:18]:

"Hashem, G-d said 'It is not good that man be alone. I will make him a helper against him."

Helper against him?

What does that mean?

This opens up to a very long discussion about how woman is a man's complimentary or corresponding number in the spiritual realm. You could reasonably translate it as helper corresponding also, but it is corresponding in the sense of two pieces fitting together. You can take it as pragmatically as you like in discussing the different ways that men and women balance each other out, or you can take it as mystically as you like. I can not begin to get into the depth of commentary that exists over this verse without writing pages and pages. The actual Hebrew uses multiple names of G-d and there is a huge discussion even from that.

However the unifying thing is that there is something about men and women where they balance each other out, wear down each other's edges and in a functioning relationship, make each other better, by offering an insight the other lacks, a certain perspective the other needs or a spiritual component the other is missing. If one partner is somehow fundamentally subordinate to, or lesser than, the other, how is it possible that this could even work?

Just a few verses before it is stated clearly that both man and women were created in G-d's image.

So the very short form is that this lowbrow hooligan of a preacher is yet another example of a troglodytic jerk who perverts someone else's book, written by someone else's ancestors, in a language he does not speak, without a clue as to their culture or legal traditions, for his own selfish ends and a desire to justify his own twisted misogyny. As a bonus, other people are convinced by creeps like him that my faith says the same kind of crap.

It doesn't, and I am very sick of the arrogance of those who would tell others from their limited reading of and cherry picking of King James that they know a damn thing about it.

4 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 8:13:15am

re: #2 CuriousLurker

Yes, that's why I said they take it literally and it sounds familiar. The same thing happens with the hard-line Muslim fanatics. Ick.

Ohh I am well aware of that, but it is even worse in this case, because this guy isn't even taking the text literally. He gets it wrong.

5 CuriousLurker  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 8:17:36am

re: #3 LudwigVanQuixote

Good explanation.And I agree with your assessment of the people who do this propagate this type of thinking.

re: #4 LudwigVanQuixote

Ohh I am well aware of that, but it is even worse in this case, because this guy isn't even taking the text literally. He gets it wrong.

Gotcha. Thx.

6 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 8:20:30am

re: #5 CuriousLurker

Good explanation.And I agree with your assessment of the people who do this propagate this type of thinking.

Thank you, but I can't stress enough this is not my explanation. This sort of discussion existed long before (as in thousands of years) before I was born.

7 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 8:21:12am

re: #1 LudwigVanQuixote

"Skeptic of religion" hat on:

Practice of modern Judaism is one thing - as you point out, there is the oral law which interprets the written law, often in surprising ways.

What is plainly written in the Torah (in good English translations) is another issue. Like all ancient traditional religions written in patriarchal societies, Torah is harsh, even misogynistic - because ancient societies were such. E.g. Deut. 22:

20 If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, 21 she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.

Which is basically a "honor killing". Or Lev. 21:9:

If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire.

Or take the horrendous ritual of Num. 5:11ff, which applies only to wives, somehow not to husbands. Or Num. 30, in which a woman's (wife's, daughter's) vow only means something if a male (father, husband) approves.

So the meme of "Old Testament harshness" is fully justified.

8 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 8:39:04am

re: #7 Sergey Romanov

Like scriptures of all ancient traditional religions written in patriarchal societies, Torah is harsh, even misogynistic - because ancient societies were such.

PIMF.

9 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 8:41:18am

re: #7 Sergey Romanov

"Skeptic of religion" hat on:

"Ready to bash the heck out of the smart mouth atheist who knows just enough to lead him completely backwards" hat on.

Practice of modern Judaism is one thing - as you point out, there is the oral law which interprets the written law, often in surprising ways.

OK, provided that if you accept the oral law, that "modern" Judaism you are talking about is at least 2200 years old.

What is plainly written in the Torah (in good English translations) is another issue. Like all ancient traditional religions written in patriarchal societies, Torah is harsh, even misogynistic - because ancient societies were such. E.g. Deut. 22:

Really, you seem to be missing the most important parts of the Law here. What does it take to convict? You will find that it is essentially impossible to do. Such verses are often relegated to a spiritual punishment because the court can't enforce the Law. There are dozens like that.

Which is basically a "honor killing".

If it ever happened, sure. Only the legalities of the situation rendered it moot.

Or Lev. 21:9:

Again, moot point because it is impossible to convict. To give you an idea of what it would take for a conviction, the Cohain's Gadol's daughter would have to be seen to be messing around by two witnesses, warned of the sin and the consequences by the two witnesses, proceeded to do so anyway, while being aware of the consequences and judged mentally fit to comprehend them - and proceeded to boink her lover in front of them - and it would have to be actual boinking, not just kissing or some such, but the witnesses see penetration..

No the Cohain Gadol does not have a cognate in other religions. However his status in terms of respect would be something like the Pope. This is a very special case. However, it is also moot, because no daughter of a Cohain Gadol is going to mess around in front of multiple witnesses.

Or take the horrendous ritual of Num. 5:11ff, which applies only to wives, somehow not to husbands.

Sotah is a long discussion. The idea behind it though is that Hashem Himself is speaking up for the accused wife. Despite legends, in actual practice, I doubt sincerely that any woman ever died from it. Yet she could go home and have the full weight of the Priesthood telling her jealous husband to chill out.

Or Num. 30, in which a woman's (wife's, daughter's) vow only means something if a male (father, husband) approves.

Again, you have no idea of the context and I have already typed a lot.

So the meme of "Old Testament harshness" is fully justified.

Only to one who comes into it with fully formed prejudices.

10 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 8:55:46am

re: #7 Sergey Romanov

And as a continuation of #9

One of the standard Christian criticisms of Judaism was that we took the Law and "made it legalistic." They considered it too intellectual and abstract. Christianity in many ways sought to streamline the legal and philosophical complexities that Judaism delves into with great depth.

One of the standard criticism of Muslims was that those legal complexities and philosophical arguments rendered the harshness of the Law moot in too many cases, and that too many were not punished in harsh ways.

I do not wish to pass a particular judgement on the faiths of others. However, these discussions put Jews at an awful disadvantage. On the one hand, I really don't want to be the jerk that tells someone else that they can not follow their heart and believe as they will. In any case, for those who care about the faiths for real, so much emphasis is placed on basic decency, that I would not want to criticize. On the other hand, I don't want other people's "improvements" on my faith to falsely inform others as to what my faith actually says.

11 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 8:59:31am

Clarification:

One of the standard criticisms of Judaism by Muslims was that those legal complexities and philosophical arguments rendered the harshness of the Law moot in too many cases, and that too many were not punished in harsh ways.

12 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 9:13:40am

Back to the main article:

Compare:

Stay-at-home daughters spend their days learning “advanced homemaking” skills, such as cooking and sewing, and other skills that at one time were a necessity -- knitting, crocheting, soap- and candle-making. A father is considered his daughter’s authority until he transfers control to her husband.

With:

...She considers a field and buys it; from the fruit of her handiwork she plants a vineyard. She girds her loins with might and strengthens her arms

She senses that her enterprise is good, so her lamp is not extinguished at night. She puts her hand to the distaff, and her palms support the spindle

She spreads out her palm to the poor and extends her hands to the destitute. She fears not snow for her household, for her entire household is clothed with scarlet wool...

This psalm is almost 3,000 years old.

In an agrarian society, buying selling and managing fields well - was the equivalent of saying she kicks butt in the boardroom. And what exactly does the reference to her strong arms mean? I've quipped many times before that the actual Jewish description of a perfect woman is essentially, the modern feminist "woman who has it all" - amazing in the outside world, amazing as a mother, happily married, respected by all for her awesome work.

13 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 9:39:36am

re: #9 LudwigVanQuixote

OK, provided that if you accept the oral law, that "modern" Judaism you are talking about is at least 2200 years old.

The interpretation and practice of the oral law also changes with time as they become more liberal in order to fit better with modern realities. In fact it happens in all religions. This, however, is irrelevant to my initial point, which is, rabbinical Judaism is one thing, and the Old Testament/Tanakh is another and they can be dealt with separately. When someone says "Old Testament harsh" - the Judaic oral law is quite irrelevant, because the person means the text itself, not its subsequent interpretations. There is no requirement for someone who is not a religious Jew to look at the written Torah through the perspective of the oral Torah.

Really, you seem to be missing the most important parts of the Law here. What does it take to convict? You will find that it is essentially impossible to do. Such verses are often relegated to a spiritual punishment because the court can't enforce the Law. There are dozens like that.

No, I'm not missing anything. Whether or not it is easy to convict (and it's not hard if there are 2-3 witnesses, see Deut. 17:6) is irrelevant to the point of whether or not the Torah laws are misogynistic. It is only relevant to the question of whether these particular laws were put into practice, and I'm not arguing about this. (This applies to the rest of the comments.)

Only to one who comes into it with fully formed prejudices.

Not really, because the texts are quite plain.

14 CuriousLurker  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 9:49:25am

re: #11 LudwigVanQuixote

Clarification:

One of the standard criticisms of Judaism by Muslims was that those legal complexities and philosophical arguments rendered the harshness of the Law moot in too many cases, and that too many were not punished in harsh ways.

Islamic law is extremely complex as well, that's why most Sunni Muslims choose one of the four madhabs (schools of jurisprudence) to follow, with many issues worked out bu scholars at the local level by scholars based on the communities in which they live. There are also strict witness (as well as other) requirements for serious crimes involving corporal punishment. Do those requirements get followed to the letter? No, they do not. Verses are cherry-picked, interpreted literally, with context and the complexities & requirements of modern life often disregarded.

If some Muslims criticize Judaism's legal complexities & philosophical arguments as being too lenient, then it's probably because they aren't keen on following their own either (sharia is not based solely on the Qur'an). As a matter of fact, there are some who outright reject the four madhabs as "innovation" (which is always a bad thing, according to them). Islamic law is not the monolithic one-size-fits-all thing that it is often portrayed.

I wish I could go into it further, but I'm on a tight deadline with a project this week, so I've got to run for now.

15 elizajane  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 9:57:21am

re: #12 LudwigVanQuixote

Back to the main article:

Compare:

With:

This psalm is almost 3,000 years old.

In an agrarian society, buying selling and managing fields well - was the equivalent of saying she kicks butt in the boardroom. And what exactly does the reference to her strong arms mean? I've quipped many times before that the actual Jewish description of a perfect woman is essentially, the modern feminist "woman who has it all" - amazing in the outside world, amazing as a mother, happily married, respected by all for her awesome work.

Yes, that psalm got quoted often in the 16th century in debates about women's work as retailers. Of which they did quite a lot.

What this sect is looking at is a very specific timeframe for the "Christian" woman--say, the late 19th century. And a specific class, middle and upper middle. It's lightyears away from anything most Christians (or as you point out Jews) would ever have recognized.

I just read a great novel about this very thing, passive Victorian womanhood: The Life and Death of Harriett Frean by May Sinclair (1922). This short book should be required reading for anybody who wants to return women to a docile, self-sacrificing role.

16 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 10:02:09am

re: #13 Sergey Romanov

The interpretation and practice of the oral law also changes with time as they become more liberal in order to fit better with modern realities. In fact it happens in all religions. This, however, is irrelevant to my initial point, which is, rabbinical Judaism is one thing, and the Old Testament/Tanakh is another and they can be dealt with separately. When someone says "Old Testament harsh" - the Judaic oral law is quite irrelevant, because the person means the text itself, not its subsequent interpretations. There is no requirement for someone who is not a religious Jew to look at the written Torah through the perspective of the oral Torah.

So just out of curiosity and I ask this of my friends Ice and Jimmah as well, when do you think the oral law came into being? While we are at it, how would it be possible to interpret the written law at all -even as written in the Hebrew without vowels, without the oral tradition?

Hint: You could not tell the difference between don't mix milk and meat with don't mix milk and fat, as a rule of kashrut (which if you are correct is also "plainly" stated in the text) without the Oral tradition. The Oral Law is at least as old as the Written law if you are not observant - because it had to be that way, and if you are Observant the two came at the same time. This simple fact that you can not tell the difference between those two "plainly written" laws belies your entire argument. THis is not the only case of such a thing either. You are simply incorrect.

As to later rabbinic developments - again - how "modern" do you think Talmud is, and more importantly, how modern do you think the Mishayot are?

17 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 10:05:33am

re: #13 Sergey Romanov

Oh and the argument about milk and meat vs milk and fat, proving the necessity and validity of the Oral Law since the beginning, is from the Talmud and is itself around 2000 years old. That Gemara also lists other examples.

The fact is that your premise is false from the start as readily shown by the structure of the language itself.

18 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 10:14:38am

re: #13 Sergey Romanov

For the record I love your posts, Ice and Jimmah are dear friends. After reading the last post of mine, it has a tone which is substantially more vitriolic than I intended.

The point about the necessity of the Oral Law is absolutely valid, but I should have expressed it in more even tones. I blame still being pissed at the AGW troll. However, it is really my fault.

19 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 10:18:55am

re: #15 elizajane

Yes, that psalm got quoted often in the 16th century in debates about women's work as retailers. Of which they did quite a lot.

What this sect is looking at is a very specific timeframe for the "Christian" woman--say, the late 19th century. And a specific class, middle and upper middle. It's lightyears away from anything most Christians (or as you point out Jews) would ever have recognized.

I just read a great novel about this very thing, passive Victorian womanhood: The Life and Death of Harriett Frean by May Sinclair (1922). This short book should be required reading for anybody who wants to return women to a docile, self-sacrificing role.

I think you are spot on in your comments.

20 Sheila Broflovski  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 10:44:43am

re: #19 LudwigVanQuixote

Whother thing to keep in mind in all these debates, is that "eye for an eye" which is always cited as proof of the "cruelty" of Torah, appears in the section of the text dealing with tort law, not criminal punishments.

Even if taken literally (which it is not) it means not MORE than one eye for one eye.

21 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 10:59:08am

Ludwig, no problem whatsoever, I didn't notice anything bad about your tone.

I'm not completely sure what you mean when you argue the necessity of the existence of OL from the non-observant POV (from the observant POV it is, obviously, granted). Did there have to be interpretations of text immediately upon the "release" (let's call it thus) of the written Torah? Obviously, even if they only were personal interpretations by each reader. Was there a unified public interpretation almost immediately after the "release"? May be, may be not, but if there was, there is no evidence that it corresponded to the OL as you have it now. As well there could have been competing schools of interpretations for an undefined period of time.

Now, what does that have to do with the initial issue? Interpretations are relevant to the practice - whether one was forbidden to mix this with that, etc. Again, I'm not arguing about the practice. Stonings may or may not have taken place. But the text of the written Torah is there and it is separate from whatever interpretations for practical usage people may have built around it - whether as early as it appeared or thousands of years later. The issue of vowels has only limited relevance unless you will argue that the texts in question cannot be translated except by the reference to the Talmud.

As to your last inquiry about what I meant in regard to rabbinic developments - Talmud itself needs to be interpreted, especially given that the circumstances under which it was written differ markedly from the modern circumstances. For example, see Jacob Katz's Exclusiveness and tolerance, pp. 30ff., he explains it better than I.

22 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 11:15:11am

How about this: obviously, for the observant Jew the Oral Torah was there from the very beginning, so these passages don't make sense without reference to the OL, without the full context. I get that. I don't think it entirely solves the problem for the issue of "why are they there in the first place" remains. But I get that you see this from a different perspective than I. But can we agree that if one doesn't accept the precepts of Judaism in regard to the origin of the Oral Law, for such a person these Torah passage will justifiably look misogynistic?

23 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 11:24:59am

re: #21 Sergey Romanov

'm not completely sure what you mean when you argue the necessity of the existence of OL from the non-observant POV (from the observant POV it is, obviously, granted). Did there have to be interpretations of text immediately upon the "release" (let's call it thus) of the written Torah? Obviously, even if they only were personal interpretations by each reader. Was there a unified public interpretation almost immediately after the "release"? May be, may be not, but if there was, there is no evidence that it corresponded to the OL as you have it now. As well there could have been competing schools of interpretations for an undefined period of time.

Fair enough. Let me please clarify. Because of the voweless structure of written Hebrew, it is impossible in many cases to have any idea what a given written verse is saying without the oral tradition telling you waht words are even there. It could literally be be two different words, like milk or fat, which have the same letters, but not vowels, and without an oral tradition to tell you to fill in the vowels for milk rather than fat, you could not learn a basic law of kashrut.

Your distinction of observant vs. non-observant falls flat on this matter, because there is no way to even get the original text correct in the first place, let alone the commentary without the commentary.

Another example. You have to bind tefillin. OK what are tefillin? There is no description of them in the written law at all. How do you make them? How do you bind them? Yet you have to do this....Without an oral law to tell you, you have nothing.

Another example, don't murder. Great commandment! What constitutes murder? You have soldiers called for, so it can't be don't kill. What is the law?

Another example, women have to bathe in a mikveh. Men bathe in them too, not with the women though. What is a mikveh? How do you build one? When do they bathe?

This is all stuff straight from the written law that would be meaningless without an oral law to tell you about it and no amount of independent searching of the text itself for clues could possibly fill those details in. Yet we Jews are pretty clear what that all means. Everyone knows it is no milk and meat for example.

As a direct logical conclusion, the written law necessitates the Oral law and it is impossible that the two not be taken together to get anything out of it - from the start!

By rejecting the oral law, this is how other faiths based on ours built in a tremendous room for interpretation that simply is not there, even though certain things they took for granted without realizing it.

24 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 11:26:11am

re: #22 Sergey Romanov

Read my 23 you are just flat out not correct. To be correct, you would have to be able to learn the verses of the written law without the Oral law. That is simply not possible for many verses.

25 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 11:41:46am

re: #22 Sergey Romanov

Another example, you have to cease work on Shabbos. What constitutes work? What exactly is prohibited?

Would it surprise you to know that within an eruv I could carry things t the extent of heavy manual labor on Shabbos!

But what is an eruv? How do you build one of those? What constitutes an eruv?

My point is that you could not even understand the basic words themselves without someone telling you what those words even were in many cases, let alone the definitions of them, and then even if armed with the definition, what do you do with them?

So no, you simply can not divorce the written law from the Oral and expect to be doing anything other than making stuff up.

26 Sheila Broflovski  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 12:40:04pm

re: #25 LudwigVanQuixote

The Oral Law is the "Owner's Manual" to the Torah.

27 Sheila Broflovski  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 12:41:14pm

re: #24 LudwigVanQuixote

Read my 23 you are just flat out not correct. To be correct, you would have to be able to learn the verses of the written law without the Oral law. That is simply not possible for many verses.

Even Karaites do not reject the Oral Tradition, even though they reject rabbinic interpretation.

28 CuriousLurker  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 12:52:07pm

re: #22 Sergey Romanov

But can we agree that if one doesn't accept the precepts of Judaism in regard to the origin of the Oral Law, for such a person these Torah passage will justifiably look misogynistic?

I think what Ludwig means—Ludwig, please correct me if I'm wrong—is that if one tries to take verses from the Torah devoid of the accompanying Judaic oral law/tradition, then what one has can no longer really be considered the Torah, since it is by its very nature a Judaic religious text.

We have the same thing Ludwig mentioned with regard to how to do things: The Qur'an says you have to pray, but doesn't tell you exactly how to do it. It says you have to perform Hajj, but doesn't describe all the rituals or state of mind you should be in. There are a bunch of other examples, but I'm sure you get the point.

Ditto for understanding the meaning. I can read a surah of the Qur'an, but if I don't understand its context and don't understand the intended meaning of the words (which can be different when used in the Qur'an, which is written in Classical "Fusha" Arabic), then I'm bound to make incorrect assumptions. This is especially true if I'm reading an English interpretation. The English tafsir (Qur'anic commentary) I have is comprised of no less than 9 volumes. And since the tafsir is itself a translation, I have to study Arabic as well. Then there's the hadith and the sunnah & sirah that make up the rest. And let's not forget the spiritual aspect of Sufism, which has always been a part of Islam (and which the Wahhabi/Salafi types would have everyone believe is another "innovation").

It would be sort of like the laymen trying to interpret the Constitution on their own, divorced from all context, amendments, and SCOTUS interpretations—i.e. it would quickly turn into a free-for-all where everyone is making up his or her own interpretation based on half-assed understanding & personal (or group) agenda rather than the original intent.

(Gawd, this place keep sucking me back in! Must. Get. Back. To. Work.)

29 APox  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 1:18:31pm

So, if all of these written laws are null because of the oral requirements of proof, what is their point? If, because of the impossible burden of proof, they are not actually supposed to be carried out... What is the message to be taken from them?

30 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 1:33:16pm

re: #23 LudwigVanQuixote

Well, I've already written on the matter of the vowels. If there is an ambiguity, one either simply accepts that there is an ambiguity, or uses reason (to glean the meaning from context), textual criticism and/or the Jewish tradition (as one would use a historical source - but not necessarily a sacred source). And certainly acceptance of a certain textual reading does not necessitate the acceptance of what an oral tradition in the form that we have it now has to say about all the details and exceptions of a given Torah law, especially without any guarantee that the said tradition as we have it now is in any way in accordance with the intent of the author of the law's formulation.

You give the example of tefillin - good example. Yes, we don't know what the original author meant by that. Yes, we have an explanation in the OL. No, this explanation is not necessarily what the original author meant and we don't have to accept it. So basically, we still don't know what the original author meant, but as a matter of religious practice some people choose to follow specific instructions. But tefillin (or, rather, totafot) is a specific example - it's an obscure word. There is nothing obscure about the texts I cite.

Then you again bring up the practical matters, i.e. the issue which I have already addressed. Yes, to implement these laws in practice one must make necessary assumptions in regard to details, meanings and exceptions. So? Not only such assumptions can differ among various groups, they're merely a second layer. The primary meaning of the text is not affected by them (unless you happen to accept these assumptions because they're a part of your religion). You go as far as saying "What constitutes murder?", etc. Well, again, if there is an ambiguity we go to the historical sources which help to determine what the concept meant in that age and locality. We don't simply rely on what a tradition of an uncertain provenance tells us (again, unless we accept this tradition as sacred). The same applies to any other ancient text. We don't say "we don't know what Hammurabi meant in his Code". We know it very well without any oral tradition to tell us.

So in the end if the text of the Torah calls for the stoning of a girl who had illicitly lost her virginity, it is quite clear that this is a misogynistic patriarchal law. And yes, it does not necessarily mean that Judaism as it is now interprets it like this. But non-adherents are not required to accept Judaism's interpretation. Torah is not only a sacred text. For the purposes of secular reading and research it's an ancient source like any other and no special interpretation rules above the usual scholarly ones apply to it.

31 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 1:40:35pm

re: #28 CuriousLurker

I think what Ludwig means—Ludwig, please correct me if I'm wrong—is that if one tries to take verses from the Torah devoid of the accompanying Judaic oral law/tradition, then what one has can no longer really be considered the Torah, since it is by its very nature a Judaic religious text.

True from the point of view of an observant Jew. Not true from the point of view of those who do not accept the claims of Judaism in regard to the origin of the texts.

Like Alouette writes above, the Oral Law is considered the Owner's Manual. So far so good. But only an observant Jew considers it as such. From a non-observant standpoint that is a mass of commentary that was authored by people not having a direct relation to the author(s) of the original text (or at least there is no evidence of such a relation). So it's just a religious interpretation of the text. If there was evidence (aside from religious belief) that both Torahs were written by the same person (or groups of persons) that would've changed things.

32 What, me worry?  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 2:18:38pm

I've been wanting to put in my $.2 all day, but have been so busy!

Speaking more to Jewish roles, women's roles are grossly misinterpreted and misunderstood, both in the ancient world and today. Feminism and civil rights have always been an important part of our religion. In fact, many of our feminist leaders of the 20th century, Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, were Jews. It's no coincidence that Jews are heavily drawn to civil rights issues (a Jew was the first president of the NAACP) and Jewish women to feminst causes. It's in our DNA (well maybe not technically, but it feels like it).

In Jewish tradition, women are separate, but equal. Our responsibilities may be different from a man's, they are no less important. In some instances, more important. The Sabbath, the central ritual in Judaism, is distinctly female.

Now you may think separate, but equal isn't good enough. Personally, I am a Reformed Jew where women are rabbis and women and men pray together - not seen in more orthodox practices. However, if you look at other orthodox religions, being seen as equal is something that simply doesn't exist in other religions. Separate? Sure, but equal? No way.

Another major difference from other religions, Gd is genderless; seen as having both masculine and feminine qualities. Gd is referred to as "He" but only because Hebrew has no neutral gender. Man AND women are created in the image of Gd (as Ludwig said). Most Jewish scholars believe man was first created with a dual gender and later separated, i.e. created in His image.

In traditional Judaism, women have a greater degree of binah - intuition or understanding - than men. Seven of the 55 prophets in the bible were women. Miriam is respected as one of the liberators of the Israelites, as important as her brothers, Moses and Aaron. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah were superior to the patriarchs in prophecy. Women did not participate in the idolatry at Mt. Sinai (the golden calf). One of the Judges was a woman, Deborah.

Certain mitzvot (blessings) are particular to women and women alone.
We are "allowed" to have orgasms - to enjoy sex and have sex for pleasure, not just procreation.

Jewish women could inherit their father's property if there were no sons. That wasn't practiced in any other religion in the ancient world.

I could go on and on about the progressive role of women in both traditional and modern Judaism. Of course, the saddest part of this article is that women are meant to believe they are less and not worthy and that has never been part of Jewish life.

33 What, me worry?  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 2:19:02pm

Btw, CL, you find the most stimulating articles!

34 Jeff In Ohio  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 2:52:49pm
The stay-at-home-daughters movement encourages young girls and single women to forgo college and employment in favor of training as "keepers at home."

Screw that. My daughters are having prosperous careers so I can continue to slack off well into my 80's.

35 Sheila Broflovski  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 2:57:34pm

re: #32 marjoriemoon

Certain mitzvot (blessings) are particular to women and women alone.
We are "allowed" to have orgasms - to enjoy sex and have sex for pleasure, not just procreation.

Not just "allowed." Men are required to pleasure their wives.

36 CuriousLurker  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 3:03:17pm

re: #32 marjoriemoon

In Jewish tradition, women are separate, but equal. Our responsibilities may be different from a man's, they are no less important. In some instances, more important.

It's the same in Islam, believe it or not. Spiritually, women in Islam are every bit the equal of men, the differences being in legal matters (inheritance, court testimony, etc.—and even then, there are some modern day scholars who would argue otherwise).

Another major difference from other religions, Gd is genderless; seen as having both masculine and feminine qualities. Gd is referred to as "He" but only because Hebrew has no neutral gender.

This is interesting and something I've never really pondered. Arabic doesn't have a neutral gender either... I'm going to have reach out to a scholar about that as we also see God as having both types of qualities. I'm thinking of the 99 Names (attributes) of God in this case, known in Arabic as the Asma Al-Husna.

Certain mitzvot (blessings) are particular to women and women alone.

Same here.

Jewish women could inherit their father's property if there were no sons.

Islamic inheritance laws are really complicated, and I never bothered to check as neither of my parents were Muslim and I unmarried with one grown son. I'm pretty sure there are some instances where women receive equal shares as men, but I couldn't name them if my life depended on it. If there are, it very well may be the same (no sons). Wikipedia says there are such circumstances, but I don't exactly count on it for verification in matters of Islamic law. ;o)

re: #33 marjoriemoon

Btw, CL, you find the most stimulating articles!

Thanks! I love to see a good discussion get going as I always learn something.

37 CuriousLurker  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 3:04:27pm

re: #35 Alouette

Not just "allowed." Men are required to pleasure their wives.

Same here. We can petition for divorce if they don't.

38 CuriousLurker  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 3:05:01pm

re: #34 Jeff In Ohio

Screw that. My daughters are having prosperous careers so I can continue to slack off well into my 80's.

LOL!

39 Sheila Broflovski  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 3:15:12pm

My family can be described as "haredi" and my three daughters are, by profession: a registered nurse, a graphic designer, an electronics sales executive.

40 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 3:38:18pm

re: #28 CuriousLurker

I am saying that ys, but I am also saying much more basic. You can't even determine what those verses are in some cases unless someone tels you the vowels. I mean forget about commentaries or contexts or any of that for a moment, you literally could not tell which words are used.

41 calochortus  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 3:41:33pm

The saddest part about women whose life mission is marriage and nothing else, is that a certain number just don't end up married. Tends to ruin their lives...

I am always stunned that modern people can't tell the difference between a modern woman making soap because there really isn't anything else to keep them busy domestically, and "good wife" of Proverbs. It argues a deep ignorance of what women did in the 'old days' and why they were absolutely necessary to the household. An argument for better history classes perhaps.

So, can anyone explain to me why Jewish men would thank God they weren't created as women? It has always bothered me in that it doesn't seem to fit well with the rest of Judaism. Unless women are equally happy not to have been created as men, but that's so obvious it doesn't need to be said. ;-)

42 CuriousLurker  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 3:47:06pm

re: #31 Sergey Romanov

From a non-observant standpoint that is a mass of commentary that was authored by people not having a direct relation to the author(s) of the original text (or at least there is no evidence of such a relation). So it's just a religious interpretation of the text. If there was evidence (aside from religious belief) that both Torahs were written by the same person (or groups of persons) that would've changed things.

I guess I just don't understand that for a couple of reasons:

Observant Christians ARE part of the tradition, I mean Jesus (a.s.) was a Jew, so there's a direct relation there. But nowadays some Christians say the Old Testament was abrogated by the New, while others want to use it (or at least parts of it). That confuses me. Were only some parts abrogated? If so, which ones? If not, are Christians following the parts that weren't? This is where my original surprise came from upon reading the article. Maybe a Christian will come along and clarify.

With regard to people who are completely secular/non-observant, it still seems strange to me that they would reject context/interpretation, regardless of the source. How would we ever understand anything about each other if we insisted on some sort of clinical, detached perusal? Humans are emotional, sentient beings—everything we do all day every day is done in some sort of context, and our personalities & beliefs color our views of that context.

For example, I don't believe in the Hindu gods (I realize Hindu beliefs are diverse and can include monotheism), but if I wanted to understand Hindus I would take the time to try and understand the Vedas, the Mahabharata, etc. as they see it, not as some lifeless, detached text/myth with no relationship to humans.

I could never be an atheist. It seems terribly boring to me (no offense). As Margaret Atwood would say, I like the story with the tiger better. It's more human. ;o)

43 CuriousLurker  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 3:54:05pm

re: #41 calochortus

I agree with your first two paragraphs 100%. Obviously, I can't speak to the third from the standpoint of Judaism, but nonetheless I can say I'm pretty darned happy I'm not a man. ;o)

44 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 3:57:11pm

re: #30 Sergey Romanov

Respectfully, you are being purposefully evasive of the points.

All you've said is that you don't have to believe in Judaism. I agree! No one is [putting a gun to your head. However some discussion of how you don't have to believe what the oral law is and you can still reject it in terms of the written law is daft.

If you are interested in what the Written Law is even talking about in the first place, you must have the Oral Law. This is not something abstract. You literally have no clue what much of the written part is saying (forget interpreting, even just saying) without it and no these are not minor ambiguities. Without that framework, you really have very little.

Then you write this. Respectfully, this is shockingly ignorant.

You give the example of tefillin - good example. Yes, we don't know what the original author meant by that. Yes, we have an explanation in the OL. No, this explanation is not necessarily what the original author meant and we don't have to accept it. So basically, we still don't know what the original author meant, but as a matter of religious practice some people choose to follow specific instructions. But tefillin (or, rather, totafot) is a specific example - it's an obscure word. There is nothing obscure about the texts I cite.

Tefillin is a major part of observance. It isn't a little detail. So for that matter is mikveh and all of the other examples I pointed out. These aren't little details. This is day to day observance and meditation of being Jew. You have absolutely no call or cause to minimize these things just because they do not fit your narrative. That little thing with vowels that you are willfully ignoring ends up being a cornerstone of Kashrut.

If you want to actually be Jewish, rather than write about it, you need to know these things. It is utterly wrong of you to say what you are saying.

Finally, what insane chutzpah you have!

You do not tell a group of people who formalized their written and oral tradition thousands of years ago, and stuck by that for those thousands of years that their interpretation of their own books is moot!

Who do you think you are!

You don't debate what tefillin is with a Jew! We tell YOU. You don't debate what the laws of Shabbos are. They are our laws. We tell you. You don't tell us what our language says and what is or is not important for observance, we tell you. What you believe and how you decide you like what we tell you is your business, but don't dare to presume that any opinion you have on the matter outweighs who owns the material and has owned it for 3,000 years.

45 Obdicut  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:00:54pm

re: #44 LudwigVanQuixote

I think what Sergey is getting at is imagine that Jews weren't around, and anthropologists had found the Talmud and the Torah. How would they interpret it?

Also, I had thought Sergey came from a Jewish background, but I might be wrong about that.

46 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:02:58pm

re: #41 calochortus

The saddest part about women whose life mission is marriage and nothing else, is that a certain number just don't end up married. Tends to ruin their lives...

First off look at my 12.


So, can anyone explain to me why Jewish men would thank God they weren't created as women?

Men have more obligations religiously than women. Men are thinking G-d for the chance to do those obligations. Now you can believe that or not. However, that is the standard answer that was created a very long time before me. YOu are supposed to be happy to do your religious duties, so you start your day putting yourself in a mindframe to be so.

Women are not required to do any fixed observances. In otherwords, while you as a man need to be up very early to put on tefillin and pray Shacrit, she is not obligated to at all.

47 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:05:06pm

re: #45 Obdicut

I think what Sergey is getting at is imagine that Jews weren't around, and anthropologists had found the Talmud and the Torah. How would they interpret it?

Also, I had thought Sergey came from a Jewish background, but I might be wrong about that.

Fair enough, and I am saying that anthropologists attempting to do so would be stuck with numerous basic and fundamental questions they could never hope to answer or even hope to answer on matters of central importance. The entire point is that no, the written law, is not so plainly written that you get to ignore the oral law.

48 Obdicut  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:12:10pm

re: #47 LudwigVanQuixote

But Christians really, really do have the old testament available to them, and they really, really do interpret it without looking to the oral law. So in actual practice, what is written there actually does get used in that fashion.

In addition, we do have other historical sources available to us for figuring out what life was like for ancient Israelites, and, as Sergey pointed out, anthropologists could build a picture of how the law was interpreted and used without needing the oral tradition.

The oral tradition shows a particular path that the interpretation took over time; it doesn't show the only possible way for the text to have been interpreted-- of course, given that interpretations have changed over time and not all scholars interpret the laws the same.

49 calochortus  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:12:12pm

re: #43 CuriousLurker

Yeah, I'm pretty happy to be a woman myself.
re: #46 LudwigVanQuixote

Ludwig, I did see your #12 and when I read the original "stay at home daughters" stuff Proverbs 31 immediately leapt to my mind as it obviously did to yours.

And thank you for the explanation-it makes perfect sense to me-even as a non-religious person.
Another mystery in my life is why believers aren't at their place of worship-joyfully-at every opportunity, as opposed to the dragging oneself out of bed Sunday morning to slump off to church when you'd rather be doing something else. If you really believe, wouldn't your religious obligations naturally be a joy? OK, maybe a few things would be less pleasant, but overall it should be a positive.

50 Obdicut  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:15:59pm

re: #49 calochortus

Back before I became an atheist, I was confused by the very same thing. I struggled with a relationship with 'god', and it was a passionate and enthralling thing. I didn't get how it could be just a dull, dull thing. For some of them, I think they've never experienced that thrill, that soul-knotting twist of actually engaging with spirituality. I think they're more atheistic than atheists; they believe in ritual, but they don't really believe in a god, not a god that really moves them, at any rate.

Chesterton put it well in the Ball and the Cross.

51 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:20:38pm

re: #48 Obdicut

But Christians really, really do have the old testament available to them, and they really, really do interpret it without looking to the oral law. So in actual practice, what is written there actually does get used in that fashion.

They have their translation in the absence of the oral law with whatever interpretations on the translated written text they have. They most emphatically do not have a Tanakh.

I am not making a vule judgement here. However, the King James OT should be considered as a totally different work. I see it with the same respect I would give the Koran or the Rig Veda. It is someone else's, entirely different, holy book. As to which holy books you beieve or don't believe it is up to you and I firmly believe that all good poelpe can get along no matter what they believe. However as a point of fact, the differences between King James in translation, or any translation, in the absence of the oral law, fitted with a new interpretation, that fills in all the things the Oral law used to, is a totally different text from the start. The words in it mean totally different things. As such it truly is as far from being the Torah as the Koran is - however much both are descended from Torah.

52 Obdicut  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:22:18pm

re: #51 LudwigVanQuixote

Yes, it is different. That's pretty much the point, really; you start from the same basic text, the translation changes it, just as (though incredibly inferior to) the way the oral tradition changes the text for observant Jews.

53 calochortus  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:24:00pm

re: #50 Obdicut


Chesterton put it well in the Ball and the Cross.

I'm not familiar with that, nor apparently is my local library... Perhaps I'll have to round it up.
I never went through wrestling with faith as I was raised in a non-religious home. My parents just weren't people of faith so there was no pressure to accept a faith and no anti-faith pressure either. I have an interest in faith traditions, but have never felt the pull.

54 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:24:07pm

re: #48 Obdicut

In addition, we do have other historical sources available to us for figuring out what life was like for ancient Israelites, and, as Sergey pointed out, anthropologists could build a picture of how the law was interpreted and used without needing the oral tradition.

So seriously, how would they make Tefillin? How would they bind them or know when to. What about the laws of mikveh or kashrut?

There is no way the could do this, and without understanding these things you are removing core observance.

As to what it was like for people back in the day, any legal code needs an interpretation no matter how "clear" people think it is. There is a reason why the constitution is so short, but the legal theory behind it is so long for example. Without that leagl tradition and an understanding of it, you got nothing.

55 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:27:06pm

re: #52 Obdicut

Yes, it is different. That's pretty much the point, really; you start from the same basic text, the translation changes it, just as (though incredibly inferior to) the way the oral tradition changes the text for observant Jews.

Could you please elucidate your comment so I know how to respond? It doesn't change it for observant Jews just by the title observant. It defines what it is, by the people who wrote it, in their language for their people. I really don't see why this concept is so difficult for people to accept. I am not saying you have to believe it. But don't say that the owners don't know what it is, or don't have primacy in telling others what it is.

You wouldn't lecture CL on what Islam really says would you?

56 Obdicut  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:27:19pm

re: #54 LudwigVanQuixote

So seriously, how would they make Tefillin? How would they bind them or know when to. What about the laws of mikveh or kashrut?

I'm sorry, I'm really not getting your question. Anthropologists wouldn't be binding tefflin, unless they were Thor Heyerdahl. They'd be arguing, from whatever sources available, about how they were bound, and if there wasn't enough to argue about, then they'd just say that they were bindings, the exact nature of they didn't understand.

57 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:27:47pm

Pimf

In addition, we do have other historical sources available to us for figuring out what life was like for ancient Israelites, and, as Sergey pointed out, anthropologists could build a picture of how the law was interpreted and used without needing the oral tradition.

So seriously, how would they make Tefillin? How would they bind them or know when to. What about the laws of mikveh or kashrut?

There is no way the could do this, and without understanding these things you are removing core observance.

As to what it was like for people back in the day, any legal code needs an interpretation no matter how "clear" people think it is. There is a reason why the constitution is so short, but the legal theory behind it is so long for example. Without that leagl tradition and an understanding of it, you got nothing.

58 Obdicut  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:28:02pm

re: #55 LudwigVanQuixote

What are you talking about? I'm not lecturing anyone on what it 'really' says.

Where did you get that from?

59 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:30:24pm

re: #56 Obdicut

I'm sorry, I'm really not getting your question. Anthropologists wouldn't be binding tefflin, unless they were Thor Heyerdahl. They'd be arguing, from whatever sources available, about how they were bound, and if there wasn't enough to argue about, then they'd just say that they were bindings, the exact nature of they didn't understand.

OK,ok... So they would not "get" tefillin. The also would not understand Kashrut, Taharat Mishpacha, what a mezuzzah was or what the definition of murder was in Jewish Law. They would not know what the structure of a Jewish court was, or the rules of evidence. The written Law just commands us to make courts.

In short they would have very very little except vague arguments over the history portions of the text.

In otherwords, they would have nothing.

60 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:32:00pm

re: #58 Obdicut

What are you talking about? I'm not lecturing anyone on what it 'really' says.

Where did you get that from?

I mean you wouldn't argue with CL if she said that x,y, and z were needed to understand the Koran. I mean you wouldn't argue with a hindu about the meaning of the rig veda either.

61 Obdicut  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:33:51pm

re: #59 LudwigVanQuixote

No, they wouldn't have nothing. There is other anthropological evidence-- and hopefully will be more and more-- about life during that time.

I'm sorry, do you think there isn't any existing anthropological evidence of society and life during that time period?

62 Obdicut  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:36:15pm

re: #60 LudwigVanQuixote

I really have no clue what you're talking about. I'm not talking about how to 'understand' the Torah or Talmud, or the Koran, or the Bible.

63 calochortus  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:36:55pm

You guys have fun with this. Being a good wife I have to go work willingly with my hands and feed my household. Of course, at this point that's just my husband and me, but hey...

64 Only The Lurker Knows  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:40:20pm

MZB, Darkover, Renunciants.

My Wife and I would be burned at the stake.

We both expect the other to be able to do anything that needs to be done. If it takes both of us to accomplish a task, then we both do it, to gather.

yes, I can cook and sew (but not to the degree of doing needle point).

She on the other hand can change a tire or (if need be) a basic tune up on the car as well as plumbing. In fact She will not let me near it (plumbing). Why? Because I hate doing it and generally f*ck it up.

One of these days, if she so desires, I will teach her basic electronics and she will teach me whatever I have need to know.

Nuff said.

65 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:40:23pm

re: #62 Obdicut

I really have no clue what you're talking about. I'm not talking about how to 'understand' the Torah or Talmud, or the Koran, or the Bible.

But I have been talking about exactly that this entire time and that is the whole discussion with Sergey. He is positing that the written text is "clear" and that he knows what it means just from reading that.

66 Randall Gross  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:42:26pm

I'm going to jump in here just to make a couple of observations, not as to whether something is harsh or not, but rather to point out that misogyny existed in ancient tribal societies regardless of how their scriptures should be perfectly interpreted.

The first observation is that only men got to interpret the laws in the patriarchal tribes, and only they could read the holy scriptures. The second observation is that all human beings, males not excepted, have some built in bias that is difficult to overcome even for the most rational humans among us.

67 Only The Lurker Knows  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:45:11pm

re: #66 Thanos

I'm going to jump in here just to make a couple of observations, not as to whether something is harsh or not, but rather to point out that misogyny existed in ancient tribal societies regardless of how their scriptures should be perfectly interpreted.

The first observation is that only men got to interpret the laws in the patriarchal tribes, and only they could read the holy scriptures. The second observation is that all human beings, males not excepted, have some built in bias that is difficult to overcome even for the most rational humans among us.

MZB and the Darkover series.

68 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:46:28pm

re: #66 Thanos

I'm going to jump in here just to make a couple of observations, not as to whether something is harsh or not, but rather to point out that misogyny existed in ancient tribal societies regardless of how their scriptures should be perfectly interpreted.

The first observation is that only men got to interpret the laws in the patriarchal tribes, and only they could read the holy scriptures. The second observation is that all human beings, males not excepted, have some built in bias that is difficult to overcome even for the most rational humans among us.

Now this is a great point. I am certainly not going to deny the awfulness of many folks all through history. I do deny though that scripture demands you be awful.

69 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:47:47pm

re: #26 Alouette

The Oral Law is the "Owner's Manual" to the Torah.

Right on!

70 Obdicut  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 4:48:36pm

re: #65 LudwigVanQuixote

No, he hasn't. You're misreading him. It is very clear, from the ancient text, that there are misogynistic aspects in there, and other unsavory things. Far, far, far, far, far less than other religions and cultures at the time, far less than many religions and cultures have now, and in practice this may have been even further mitigated. But you can't simply say that because the burden of proof was so high that it was 'moot'-- that would be to say that the text itself has no meaning.

If it is really your opinion that the Torah contains no verses that are in any way misogynistic, that it was all obviated at the time by the oral tradition, and there was equality even then, then I don't really know what to say. I've never met anyone who believed that before.

71 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 5:02:28pm

re: #70 Obdicut

No, he hasn't. You're misreading him. It is very clear, from the ancient text, that there are misogynistic aspects in there, and other unsavory things. Far, far, far, far, far less than other religions and cultures at the time, far less than many religions and cultures have now, and in practice this may have been even further mitigated. But you can't simply say that because the burden of proof was so high that it was 'moot'-- that would be to say that the text itself has no meaning.

Actually I can say that the burden of proof was so high that the law was unenforceable. All those rules of evidence come from somewhere (specifically the Oral Law which is as old if not older, if you are not observant than the Written Law). I didn't make them up. As to the meaning of laws which can not be enforced. You should not be surprised that there are entire discussions about that very issue in the Oral Law.

If it is really your opinion that the Torah contains no verses that are in any way misogynistic,

No. I am not saying that there aren't things that are unpleasant in the texts at all. I personally have issues with many things. If you want a real Jewish Law issue that sucks, in modern practice and has its share of misogyny involved (in terms of how it is handled today, ironically it was better in the old days) look into agunot. However, the things that people tend to bring up in these conversations are not the things that are so problematic, because they have no concept of the Oral Law. Most non-Jews and many Jews have never heard of agunot.

that it was all obviated at the time by the oral tradition, and there was equality even then,

There was vastly, vastly more equality than you are giving credit to however.

then I don't really know what to say. I've never met anyone who believed that before.

Welll I don't believe that. I do however ask for a lot more accuracy in these discussions than is usually present.

72 Obdicut  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 5:06:00pm

re: #71 LudwigVanQuixote

Actually I can say that the burden of proof was so high that the law was unenforceable.

I didn't say you couldn't say that. I said that that doesn't make the text moot.

No. I am not saying that there aren't things that are unpleasant in the texts at all.

Good. Than I'm really at a loss as to what you're objecting to.

There was vastly, vastly more equality than you are giving credit to however.

Really? Point out a way that I haven't given it credit for equality, please. In as much as I've talked about it, I've said it was yards better than anything else at the time, and is still better than many places today. How on earth is that not giving it enough credit? What did I say that doesn't give it enough credit?

73 Sheila Broflovski  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 5:08:24pm

re: #44 LudwigVanQuixote

Respectfully, you are being purposefully evasive of the points.

All you've said is that you don't have to believe in Judaism. I agree! No one is [putting a gun to your head. However some discussion of how you don't have to believe what the oral law is and you can still reject it in terms of the written law is daft.

If you are interested in what the Written Law is even talking about in the first place, you must have the Oral Law. This is not something abstract. You literally have no clue what much of the written part is saying (forget interpreting, even just saying) without it and no these are not minor ambiguities. Without that framework, you really have very little.

Then you write this. Respectfully, this is shockingly ignorant.

Tefillin is a major part of observance. It isn't a little detail. So for that matter is mikveh and all of the other examples I pointed out. These aren't little details. This is day to day observance and meditation of being Jew. You have absolutely no call or cause to minimize these things just because they do not fit your narrative. That little thing with vowels that you are willfully ignoring ends up being a cornerstone of Kashrut.

If you want to actually be Jewish, rather than write about it, you need to know these things. It is utterly wrong of you to say what you are saying.

Finally, what insane chutzpah you have!

You do not tell a group of people who formalized their written and oral tradition thousands of years ago, and stuck by that for those thousands of years that their interpretation of their own books is moot!

Who do you think you are!

You don't debate what tefillin is with a Jew! We tell YOU. You don't debate what the laws of Shabbos are. They are our laws. We tell you. You don't tell us what our language says and what is or is not important for observance, we tell you. What you believe and how you decide you like what we tell you is your business, but don't dare to presume that any opinion you have on the matter outweighs who owns the material and has owned it for 3,000 years.

I am constantly amazed by people who insist that Shabbos, mikveh and tefillin are arcane, insignificant little trivia but stoning the "rebellious son" and "the maiden raped in the city" are cornerstones of observance.

74 Obdicut  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 5:11:52pm

re: #73 Alouette

I don't think that Sergey made any sort of assertion like that.

At the very start, he said this:

It is only relevant to the question of whether these particular laws were put into practice, and I'm not arguing about this. (This applies to the rest of the comments.)

This seems to have been largely ignored.

75 Sheila Broflovski  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 5:13:41pm

re: #74 Obdicut

I don't think that Sergey made any sort of assertion like that.

At the very start, he said this:

This seems to have been largely ignored.

I didn't claim that Sergey asserted this, but they are plenty of others who do.

76 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 5:13:53pm

re: #72 Obdicut

I

didn't say you couldn't say that. I said that that doesn't make the text moot.

At which point we are taking the same evidence and drawing a totally different conclusion. The law about the poor Cohain Gadol's daughter is moot in practice. Unenforceable means it would never even get to trial. Game over. I can have all kinds of things on the books that can never be acted on. Since they can't be acted on, it is totally wrong to treat the system as if they were acted on, or if it was somehow clear they were meant to be acted on in the way you might assume from the plain text.

As to whether or not the text still has meaning in a larger sense of framework, those laws still have meaning. However those meanings become matters of philosophy, notions of G-d's justice vs. mans' justice and pure legal theory. That is not meaningless in the absolute sense. Far from it. However They are meaningless in the original context of the discussion as an example of odious and misogynistic laws because they are non starters, as far as actual practice is concerned from the get go.

77 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 5:14:17pm

re: #73 Alouette

I am constantly amazed by people who insist that Shabbos, mikveh and tefillin are arcane, insignificant little trivia but stoning the "rebellious son" and "the maiden raped in the city" are cornerstones of observance.

Yeah seriously!

78 Obdicut  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 5:17:11pm

re: #76 LudwigVanQuixote

The law about the poor Cohain Gadol's daughter is moot in practice.

It is moot in practice, unless someone takes that text and interprets it differently, at which point it would not be moot.

Since they can't be acted on, it is totally wrong to treat the system as if they were acted on, or if it was somehow clear they were meant to be acted on in the way you might assume from the plain text.

Nobody in this thread has done this.

79 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 5:21:04pm

re: #78 Obdicut

It is moot in practice, unless someone takes that text and interprets it differently, at which point it would not be moot.

Yes but those someone's who took it that other way would not be Jews, or members of a Jewish court.

Nobody in this thread has done this.

I think I must have read the original comments quite differently than you did.

80 Obdicut  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 5:34:35pm

re: #79 LudwigVanQuixote

Yes but those someone's who took it that other way would not be Jews, or members of a Jewish court.

I'm not sure what you mean by this. The interpretation may have been different in different subsets of Jews back before . You can argue that they weren't Jews if they didn't interpret the law correctly, but the Jews were not a coherent unit for the entire time before the mishnah.

I think I must have read the original comments quite differently than you did.

Yes, you did.

81 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 5:38:55pm

re: #80 Obdicut

I'm not sure what you mean by this. The interpretation may have been different in different subsets of Jews back before . You can argue that they weren't Jews if they didn't interpret the law correctly, but the Jews were not a coherent unit for the entire time before the mishnah.

Ultimately this becomes a very long discussion of the transmission of the Oral Law and the various splits between Sadducim and Parushim. It is a topic I would love to get into, and I truly do enjoy discussing things with you, but I simply do not have the time to do so tonight. I am going to be heading out shortly.

Can we take a rain check?

82 Obdicut  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 5:45:10pm

re: #81 LudwigVanQuixote

Sure. But for the time being, I hope you understood Sergey's point that the "Old Testament", the text stripped of whatever amelioration is contained in the oral tradition, has many brutal things in it. Even though a reasonable person reading it should realize that it needs interpretation, Christian preachers-- and Jews, for example, some of the weirder sects during the messianic era when Christ was (or wasn't) around-- do 'interpret' it in a way that their followers trust, even though they shouldn't.

83 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 5:56:59pm

re: #82 Obdicut

Sure. But for the time being, I hope you understood Sergey's point that the "Old Testament", the text stripped of whatever amelioration is contained in the oral tradition, has many brutal things in it. Even though a reasonable person reading it should realize that it needs interpretation, Christian preachers-- and Jews, for example, some of the weirder sects during the messianic era when Christ was (or wasn't) around-- do 'interpret' it in a way that their followers trust, even though they shouldn't.

True. But those other groups are not all equal. It would be grossly unfair to judge mainstream Protestant Christianity by the example of the preacher in this post for example. Every religion has its whack jobs. The Oral Law, as transmitted, has been accepted by the majority of Jews for thousands of years.

Talmudic debates and small sectarian differences are not withstanding. You are talking about groups in that period with first order (in the Taylor sense) deviations from the Law. The differences between this Rav and that Rav in the course of rabbinic debates are about comparative minutia (say fifth order or higher in some cases). They all agree on over 99% of what the law is. In fact the smallness of the details wrangled over in Talmud itself should tell you how vastly accepted and largely formalized the Oral Tradition was even back then.

84 Obdicut  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 6:01:32pm

re: #83 LudwigVanQuixote

Sure. The Karaites are the exception, not the norm. But they still exist.

85 APox  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 6:04:42pm

re: #82 Obdicut

Sure. But for the time being, I hope you understood Sergey's point that the "Old Testament", the text stripped of whatever amelioration is contained in the oral tradition, has many brutal things in it. Even though a reasonable person reading it should realize that it needs interpretation, Christian preachers-- and Jews, for example, some of the weirder sects during the messianic era when Christ was (or wasn't) around-- do 'interpret' it in a way that their followers trust, even though they shouldn't.

I guess, where I come from, based on my personal background with Christianity that I get to a point where I see that there are so many different interpretations for every little section of any holy book, that I had been brought up to read everything at face value.

That's really what non-denominational Christian/Evangelicals believe (at least the churches that I was brought up in). Plus, the fact that there can be so many different interpretations leads me to just throw them all out and again just take it at face value.

I just find it kind of hard that you could have those types of messages that are pretty drastic for things such as adultery, etc. and then be able to rationalize them away with the "oral" part of your tradition, just because from my background that doesn't really exist.

Very interesting discussion though, I enjoyed reading all your responses. :)

86 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 6:24:19pm

re: #85 APox

I guess, where I come from, based on my personal background with Christianity that I get to a point where I see that there are so many different interpretations for every little section of any holy book, that I had been brought up to read everything at face value.

One of the main points is that so many different interpretations exist precisely because Christianity rejected the Oral Law. The written text, as I have pointed out in a far from exhaustive list, is utterly open to all sorts of interpretation without it. That does not mean at all that there was not, and has not been, an accepted, traditional understanding of most of these issues for over a thousand years before Christ.

I just find it kind of hard that you could have those types of messages that are pretty drastic for things such as adultery, etc. and then be able to rationalize them away with the "oral" part of your tradition, just because from my background that doesn't really exist.

Three is no rationalization. Either something is enforceable or it is not. I will be completely honest and say that some of the laws brought up in this discussion have always made me feel queasy. I don't get them. I don't understand how the G-d I believe in could order them. However, the fact that that same G-d rendered them moot - if you believe He is the source of the system - also needs to be taken into account. You can't blame Him for being this harsh thing if He then goes and tells you can't enforce those Laws yourself.

87 Michael Orion Powell  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 6:32:00pm

These guys are drinking the exact same juice that has given the Middle East intellectual diarrhea.

88 elizajane  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 6:40:40pm

A lot of very smart, thoughtful (and impassioned) lizards crawling around on this thread. I stand in awe of all of us.

89 Only The Lurker Knows  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 8:33:04pm

G,night Lizards

90 CuriousLurker  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 9:10:41pm

re: #87 OrionXP

These guys are drinking the exact same juice that has given the Middle East intellectual diarrhea.

Yeah, they're not handling social change very well.

91 CuriousLurker  Tue, Nov 30, 2010 9:22:42pm

Many thanks to everyone who participated. I learned a lot and that's mostly what I come here for. I hope you all lurkers enjoyed the show. ;o)

Sergey: Even if we don't agree on everything, it's clear that you're very intelligent and well-intentioned—you've been a great addition to LGF so far.

I hope you all have a pleasant night. I'm outta here...

92 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 9:41:28am

Just as an end note, I came up with an example in English about what I mean with the vowels.

Consider:

The cat was on the hat table,

vs.

The cat was on the hot table,

vs.

The cot was on the hat table. (Maybe, someone folded it up and put it there.)

vs.

The cot was on the hot table.

The written Hebrew in the written Torah would look like:

The "ct" was on the "ht" table.

Without some tradition or context to tell you which of those four totally different sentences was what the actual phrase is, you would be at an utter loss. The deal with do not cook a kid in its mother's milk vs. do not cook a kid in its mother's fat is exactly, a case like this.

You might ask why the written Torah doesn't have those vowels in it. The answer is so that you have to get the Oral Tradition when you learn it in the first place! This was to prevent against the entire issue of people making what they will out of the verses in the first place!

Once someone goes and makes a translation though, that has all of the vowels, you remove the entire process of teacher and student, and allow someone to read that translation as whatever the words they see are.

93 lostlakehiker  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 11:20:54am

What a wonderful and educational thread! The article that sparked it was a discussion of a "Christian Patriarchy" movement. The link mentions a fact that didn't make it into this discussion: the movement has a following numbered in the mere tens of thousands.

Now it's a pity it has even that many, because it's essentially a westernized version of binding women's feet. The good news is that for the most part, even fundamentalist Christians understand their own Holy Writ [taking into account whatever can be learned about context, and that will include Jewish oral law] well enough to see that the point of verse after verse is that in a Biblical traditional marriage, the woman is a partner, not a subordinate. She works, not just at secondary or make-work tasks, but on high-stakes matters. She makes decisions. She advises---and what is advice good for, unless there is the real potential that upon reflection, the person getting the advice will recognize that his own understanding has been flawed and must be tempered and modified, if not reversed?

94 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 12:59:13pm

re: #42 CuriousLurker

With regard to people who are completely secular/non-observant, it still seems strange to me that they would reject context/interpretation, regardless of the source.

But nobody rejects context, CL. The context of the Torah is that it was written in a patriarchal society for the use of the same society, thus in contains such laws.

For example, I don't believe in the Hindu gods (I realize Hindu beliefs are diverse and can include monotheism), but if I wanted to understand Hindus I would take the time to try and understand the Vedas, the Mahabharata, etc. as they see it, not as some lifeless, detached text/myth with no relationship to humans.

But we're not talking about understanding some religion here (certainly not Judaism). We're talking about understanding an ancient text. Ludwig insists that it should be understood through the prism of later commentary/expansion, i.e. as Judaism understands it (for him, of course, that is not a "later" expansion). But this understanding is not binding upon anyone but followers of Judaism. If I wanted to talk about Judaism's attitude to women, I would have to address the Oral Law (as it is now) because for Judaism the written text of the Torah is not sufficient. But, to repeat, I'm not discussing this at all.

I could never be an atheist. It seems terribly boring to me (no offense).

That is a separate issue. It will suffice to say that I don't choose my views cafeteria-style - whatever tastes better ;-)

95 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 1:12:02pm

re: #94 Sergey Romanov

But we're not talking about understanding some religion here (certainly not Judaism). We're talking about understanding an ancient text. Ludwig insists that it should be understood through the prism of later commentary/expansion, i.e. as Judaism understands it (for him, of course, that is not a "later" expansion). But this understanding is not binding upon anyone but followers of Judaism.

No, I am not saying that at all. Look at my 92. I am proving to you that the oral law must be at least as old as the written in many parts.

The very structure of the written law was to demand the oral law.

The whole point about milk and fat is just one of many examples. Why that one stick out though is that everyone knows it is milk that you don't mix with meat and not fat. There is absolutely no way from context in the text though to say that.

The entire system was set up the way it was and Torah scrolls written without vowels in the first place to insure that the the oral tradition got handed down with studying the text.

Yes, it is true that the Oral Law gets pontificated on and delved into in great depths in the Talmud. However that Oral Law was around much before that time to do so, and the fat that there really aren't any disagreements as to the major features of the Oral Law in the Talmud shows how universally accepted it was even back in Talmudic times. I am not arguing that Jewish law as a whole never evolved. However, you are discounting vast amounts of clear evidence that the Oral law is much much older than you give it credit for.

96 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 1:28:30pm

re: #94 Sergey Romanov

But this understanding is not binding upon anyone but followers of Judaism.

The supreme court's understanding of the US constitution might not be be binding to a person from Tibet. However, if you want to understand the US constitution, you don't ask the Tibetans what it all means.

Further, unlike the US Constitution, the written law came with a built in commentary in the Oral Law and it was written in a way that Demanded the Law.

From the evidence there are really only two consistent approaches.

1. You can believe that both the Oral and Written Law came at the same time on Sinai (observant Judaism).

2. You can look at the textual analysis and the archeological records, at which point, you must conclude that the majority of the Oral Law is OLDER than the written law.

97 CuriousLurker  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 1:44:28pm

re: #94 Sergey Romanov

But we're not talking about understanding some religion here (certainly not Judaism). We're talking about understanding an ancient text.

I guess I have to give up then because I just don't see how someone can study an ancient religious text without understanding the religion (or an ancient medical text without understanding medicine, or an ancient map without understanding geography, etc.)

That is a separate issue. It will suffice to say that I don't choose my views cafeteria-style - whatever tastes better ;-)

Diversity is the spice of life. Being dispassionate or very rational all the time would take all the mystery & excitement out of life for me. But, hey, to each his own, right? ;o)

98 CuriousLurker  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 1:49:08pm

re: #97 CuriousLurker

I guess I have to give up then because I just don't see how someone can study an ancient religious text without understanding the religion (or an ancient medical text without understanding medicine, or an ancient map without understanding geography, etc.)

Clarification: I see how they can or might be forced to study these things without understanding (i.e. if the info simply wasn't available), but I can't see how they would get much out of it.

99 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 1:53:49pm

Part 1:

If you are interested in what the Written Law is even talking about in the first place, you must have the Oral Law. This is not something abstract. You literally have no clue what much of the written part is saying (forget interpreting, even just saying) without it and no these are not minor ambiguities. Without that framework, you really have very little.

This is simply not true - the text is available and readily translated, just like numerous other ancient texts - without vocalizations, I must add. Your assertion that we somehow cannot understand the text without a helper in the form of the current Oral Law is prima facie absurd - yes we can.

Whatever ambiguities there may be in the text either stay ambiguous or can be discussed and analyzed. Moreover, you haven't shown any ambiguities in the cited verses.

Tefillin is a major part of observance. It isn't a little detail. So for that matter is mikveh and all of the other examples I pointed out. These aren't little details. This is day to day observance and meditation of being Jew. You have absolutely no call or cause to minimize these things just because they do not fit your narrative. That little thing with vowels that you are willfully ignoring ends up being a cornerstone of Kashrut.

You're purposefully mixing together separate issues. Today neither the details of tefillin, nor of Kashrut are little details. From this you assume that this has always been so - starting from the Torah's "release". But you have no idea what the mode of observance of the earliest followers of Torah was (you may have religious beliefs on that point and I have no quarrel with that - but don't state them as proven fact).

You're repeatedly projecting the practices of rabbinic Judaism on the period of the Torah's appearance.

100 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 1:55:39pm

Part 2:

You do not tell a group of people who formalized their written and oral tradition thousands of years ago, and stuck by that for those thousands of years that their interpretation of their own books is moot!

Of course it's not moot - for them (you)! But it's moot for any secular, historical reading of the Tanakh. Christians also have their own interpretations of the Tanakh - and it would be a height of chutzpah, indeed, to call them moot - obviously they're sacred to them. But this does not tell us anything about the correctness of these interpretations. You may object - Christians objectively came after the Jews. But rabbinic Judaism also came long after the Torah was written. If the direct link between the "authors" of the Oral Law and the intent of the Torah's author(s) can be shown, then from a non-observant point of view it's just one of many later interpretations, even if the earliest known one.

As far as secular history knows, Mishnah was formed from the oral traditions much, much later than the Torah's text was written. From the historical point of view this mass of oral traditions does not necessarily correspond to the intent of the Torah's author(s). The Torah's author(s) wrote about totafot (tefillin) and there is no secular evidence that black boxes with Torah verses were meant. In fact the verses calling for tying of the tefillin could be purely metaphorical/poetic, and maybe only later thought to have been the literal commandment, and thus became a very important part of the ritual. Religions evolve, that's a simple fact. That the oral traditions - that later formed the Oral Law - prescribed the form of the tefillin is important from the religious point of view (and in this sense in no way moot), but tells us nothing about the origin of these traditions (unlesss you a priori assume divine origin).

Who do you think you are!

You don't debate what tefillin is with a Jew! We tell YOU. You don't debate what the laws of Shabbos are. They are our laws. We tell you.

I don't debate on what the laws of tefillin, Shabbos etc. are in current Judaism. How many times do I have to repeat that?

You don't tell us what our language says and what is or is not important for observance, we tell you. What you believe and how you decide you like what we tell you is your business, but don't dare to presume that any opinion you have on the matter outweighs who owns the material and has owned it for 3,000 years.

That's a purely religious view. I don't have to assume anything about rabbinic Judaism to read and understand the Torah which predates it. Note: rabbinic Judaism doesn't "own" the Torah from the secular POV. The text is there for anyone to read and interpret, like any other ancient source.

101 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 1:57:46pm

re: #98 CuriousLurker

I guess I have to give up then because I just don't see how someone can study an ancient religious text without understanding the religion (or an ancient medical text without understanding medicine, or an ancient map without understanding geography, etc.)

Clarification: I see how they can or might be forced to study these things without understanding (i.e. if the info simply wasn't available), but I can't see how they would get much out of it.

Here is the thing: you have to study the religion. You just have to study it as it was at the time of the text's writing, NOT the religion as it is now.

102 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 2:00:02pm

re: #100 Sergey Romanov

If the direct link between the "authors" of the Oral Law and the intent of the Torah's author(s) cannot be shown, then from a non-observant point of view it's just one of many later interpretations, even if the earliest known one.


Correction.

103 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 2:06:45pm

re: #99 Sergey Romanov

This is simply not true - the text is available and readily translated, just like numerous other ancient texts - without vocalizations, I must add. Your assertion that we somehow cannot understand the text without a helper in the form of the current Oral Law is prima facie absurd - yes we can.

Utterly wrong! Any translation that gets the milk and meat part correct, already has some of the oral tradition built in.

Why is looking at an obvious linguistic clue so difficult for you to acknowledge? Further, if it is utterly clear that the Oral law goes back a very very long time - because it must, not just because of the linguistic issues, but because of the simple fact that you simply can not define the basic terms once you have them after using the Oral law to even get those words in the first place.

As to yes you can interpret it as you want... Well that is fine, up to a point.

A lot of people can half learn Quantum Mechanics. They read about wave functions and uncertainty principles and the observer problem, and they come out with endless New Age nonsense about electrons having "consciousness."

The fact that no where is that in the original text of QM does not penetrate to them. If they learned enough math and physics to "get the commentary" they would not make such errors.

Your argument started out by trying to claim that the text was somehow odious and you mentioned certain passages. When confronted by the realities of the Tradition, you have shifted to a stance of "well I don't need to look at the realities of the Tradition."

If you wish to say anything accurate about that Tradition, you certainly do.

As to this being some ancient text. It is. However it is not just that. It is OUR ancient text. Don't tell me that you can tell us what it says.

104 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 2:07:30pm

re: #96 LudwigVanQuixote

The supreme court's understanding of the US constitution might not be be binding to a person from Tibet. However, if you want to understand the US constitution, you don't ask the Tibetans what it all means.

The US constitution is a poor analogy. We have enough contemporary documents explicating in detail as to the framers' intent. The situation with the Torah could not have been more different. It would be like the Federalist/anti-Federalist papers and other primary documents did not survive, and a bunch of leaders (political, religious, legal - whatever) gathered centuries after the Constitution had been written, and compiled and structured all the oral traditions about the Constitution as they were present at their time. The corresponding "oral constitutional law" would not necessarily have anything to do with the famed "original intent".

Further, unlike the US Constitution, the written law came with a built in commentary in the Oral Law and it was written in a way that Demanded the Law.

That's your religious assumption, that the Oral Law was somehow built-in, probably given on the Sinai even. There is no historical data to support this.

2. You can look at the textual analysis and the archeological records, at which point, you must conclude that the majority of the Oral Law is OLDER than the written law.

Now you're talking! Let's see some sources supporting this.

105 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 2:08:17pm

re: #100 Sergey Romanov

I don't debate on what the laws of tefillin, Shabbos etc. are in current Judaism. How many times do I have to repeat that?

You missed the point entirely. You are commanded about all of these things explicitly in the written text, yet without the oral tradition telling you what they are, you could not do any of them.

106 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 2:14:01pm

re: #104 Sergey Romanov

2. You can look at the textual analysis and the archeological records, at which point, you must conclude that the majority of the Oral Law is OLDER than the written law.

Now you're talking! Let's see some sources supporting this.

Well

The fact that the people knew it was don't cook meat in milk rather than meat in fat, without being told by the text, might be start! Or the dozens of other cases like that!

Or the fact that the Written Law says you have to bind tefillin and the people reading that knew what tefillin even are in the first place - without a definition from the written law - might be a start!

Or what a mikveh is...

Or what exactly is prohibited on Shabbos...

Jeesh.

107 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 2:21:35pm

re: #100 Sergey Romanov

But rabbinic Judaism also came long after the Torah was written.

But still centuries before Christ none the less. Rabbinic Judaism starts with the return to the land and the rebuilding of the Temple.

If the direct link between the "authors" of the Oral Law and the intent of the Torah's author(s) can be shown, then from a non-observant point of view it's just one of many later interpretations, even if the earliest known one.

Well it is funny you mention that. Look at the entire first chapter of Pirkei Avot. Seriously go look it up!

It gives the chain of transmission - of the oral law itself(!) - through the generations.

Now you might not believe that Moses taught the elders and that the elders taught the judges and the prophets. OK fine...

However, once it starts naming master to student, you really have no reason to doubt it at all. Because all of those masters and students show up in the Mishna and the Talmud.

Also remember that Mishna is a long time before Talmud.

108 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 2:34:19pm

re: #103 LudwigVanQuixote

Utterly wrong! Any translation that gets the milk and meat part correct, already has some of the oral tradition built in.

1. Suppose this is so for this place, and for some other select places. It doesn't follow we can't understand the rest of the text.
2. Suppose it is so for this and several other places. This still does not force upon us the Oral Law in its current form. This is not the acceptance of the Oral Law, this is the acceptance of a specific vocalization tradition. Note that there are several such traditions.
3. Suppose it is so and suppose that it can be argued that the translators are thus inconsistent, and thus either one has to reject such an unambiguous translation of this text or accept the Oral Law's interpretations. In such a case one can simply go back to ambiguity in this and several other places.

Why is looking at an obvious linguistic clue so difficult for you to acknowledge? Further, if it is utterly clear that the Oral law goes back a very very long time - because it must, not just because of the linguistic issues, but because of the simple fact that you simply can not define the basic terms once you have them after using the Oral law to even get those words in the first place.

It is utterly clear that oral traditions go back a long time. Oral traditions by themselves do not constitute the Oral Law (which is a structured compilation and judgment of these traditions), and neither do they necessarily correspond to the original text's intent. Even supposing you are correct in regard to the difficulties with the basic terms and such, this again does not show that the oral traditions got the basic terms and such correctly, i.e. in accordance to the intent of the original text. It would only mean that these traditions would exist, which is neither here nor there. And there is no evidence that these traditions would not evolve with time as they're expected to.

A lot of people can half learn Quantum Mechanics. They read about wave functions and uncertainty principles and the observer problem, and they come out with endless New Age nonsense about electrons having "consciousness."

The fact that no where is that in the original text of QM does not penetrate to them. If they learned enough math and physics to "get the commentary" they would not make such errors.

Bad analogy is bad. Science is verifiable, so let's not mix it into this discussion.


Your argument started out by trying to claim that the text was somehow odious

The text calling for stoning of a young girl is not only "somehow" odious and misogynistic (whether or not such a rule was applied in practice).

and you mentioned certain passages. When confronted by the realities of the Tradition, you have shifted to a stance of "well I don't need to look at the realities of the Tradition."

Yes, because there is no evidence that this tradition is not as isolated from the original intent as we are now.

As to this being some ancient text. It is. However it is not just that. It is OUR ancient text. Don't tell me that you can tell us what it says.

You again insist on mixing the religious and the secular.

109 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 2:37:44pm

re: #105 LudwigVanQuixote

You missed the point entirely. You are commanded about all of these things explicitly in the written text, yet without the oral tradition telling you what they are, you could not do any of them.

I didn't miss this point and I have addressed it. Repeatedly. In this passage I merely respond to your outraged sentence.

110 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 2:40:38pm

re: #108 Sergey Romanov

A lot of people can half learn Quantum Mechanics. They read about wave functions and uncertainty principles and the observer problem, and they come out with endless New Age nonsense about electrons having "consciousness."

The fact that no where is that in the original text of QM does not penetrate to them. If they learned enough math and physics to "get the commentary" they would not make such errors.

Bad analogy is bad. Science is verifiable, so let's not mix it into this discussion.

You are missing my point. Bad scholarship is bad. Refusal to get details and the understanding of the context of any concept is bad scholarship.

QM is not only verifiable science, but its interpretation requires a great deal of mathematical and physical sophistication. Attempting to take a popular book on QM and from that in the absence of the math, is what allows people to come up with stuff that was never there in exactly the same way that just taking a translation of the written text, in the absence of the supporting law, leads one astray.

As to what is provable, I have proven to you ten times over that the written law, as understood by Jews - who were the only ones using that text for centuries before anyone else - demanded the Oral Law to even function.

111 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 2:43:59pm

re: #109 Sergey Romanov

I didn't miss this point and I have addressed it. Repeatedly. In this passage I merely respond to your outraged sentence.

Where have you addressed it beyond saying that someone could disagree with it? So what? People think the Earth is flat and that evolution didn't happen also. So what! That does not make them legitimate.

The fact that you can always find some whack job to disagree with anything, does not change the fact that the culture that wrote the text, agreed a very long time ago what it means. That also does not mean that those other novel interpretations of the text are a representation of the text at all. It is only other's takes on it. And no, before you say it, it is not as valid as the take of the culture that wrote the text in the first place.

112 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 2:45:06pm

re: #106 LudwigVanQuixote

The fact that the people knew it was don't cook meat in milk rather than meat in fat, without being told by the text, might be start! Or the dozens of other cases like that!


I asked for sources in regard to your claim that the objective data shows that most of the Oral Law is even older than the Written Law ("You can look at the textual analysis and the archeological records, at which point, you must conclude that the majority of the Oral Law is OLDER than the written law."). How does the above satisfy this? Is this claim about the people living before the Torah was written? What is the source for this claim?

Or the fact that the Written Law says you have to bind tefillin and the people reading that knew what tefillin even are in the first place - without a definition from the written law - might be a start!

Or what a mikveh is...

Or what exactly is prohibited on Shabbos...

Jeesh.

Again, are these sources supposedly proving that "the majority of the Oral Law is OLDER than the written law"? Or are these claims about post-Torah oral traditions, which did not necessarily correspond to the original intent?

113 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 2:55:08pm

re: #110 LudwigVanQuixote

Bad scholarship is bad. Refusal to get details and the understanding of the context of any concept is bad scholarship.

Agreed. How is this relevant to our discussion? You haven't show that any of my claims are wrong and you refuse to show that the oral traditions correspond to the original intent of the Torah. You also didn't explain how the fact of the rarity of stoning according to these oral traditions mitigates against the misogyny of the passage in question, which kind of renders the whole discussion about the Oral Law moot.

Attempting to take a popular book on QM and from that in the absence of the math, is what allows people to come up with stuff that was never there in exactly the same way that just taking a translation of the written text, in the absence of the supporting law, leads one astray.

And again there is no analogy, since there is no evidence that the Torah laws weren't self-contained at first, with expansions for practical usage created later. As I have pointed out, you don't know the mode of observance in these ancient times.

As to what is provable, I have proven to you ten times over that the written law, as understood by Jews - who were the only ones using that text for centuries before anyone else - demanded the Oral Law to even function.

It only depends on what you mean by "function". See above about the mode of observance. People would not necessarily observe each and every law, they would not necessarily think about each and every exception, they would apply common sense to commandments like "do not murder" - and yes, they would also disagree with each other as to what to do in regard to specific commandments. You can't show it has been otherwise.

114 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 2:59:37pm

re: #111 LudwigVanQuixote

Where have you addressed it beyond saying that someone could disagree with it? So what? People think the Earth is flat and that evolution didn't happen also. So what! That does not make them legitimate.

The fact that you can always find some whack job to disagree with anything, does not change the fact that the culture that wrote the text, agreed a very long time ago what it means. That also does not mean that those other novel interpretations of the text are a representation of the text at all. It is only other's takes on it. And no, before you say it, it is not as valid as the take of the culture that wrote the text in the first place.

You're missing the point again. Of course the culture agreed. But I'm not addressing the understanding of this culture. I'm addressing the text that predates this understanding by centuries, so your point about the "same" culture creating the text is incorrect - cultures change, so do their understandings.

115 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 2:59:44pm

re: #112 Sergey Romanov

I don't understand why this is not obvious to you. I just don't get how you fail to see the obvious logic here.

Suppose you believe that any written text is holy and that G-d wants you to do what it tells you to do.

Just suppose that.

The text reads:

Pt ths tnjrbb n th thr dmrtsh.

Now you really want to obey this Law because you believe G-d is telling you to do it right?

OK step one. You need to go to the oral tradition to find that it even says in the first place:

Put this tanjirbob on the other demyrtosh.

OK great! Seems simple enough if I know what a tanjirbob and a demyrtosh is (and I know what the other demyrtosh refers to!

If I don't already know these things, it could not possibly make any sense. Since the written law is written assuming you already know, it presumes that you had to learn that somehow before the written law was even written - or at the very least, someone needs to explain it to you.

Now to the real case. Archeologically, we have tefillin from the first Temple period which is hundred of years before the rabbinic period. There is no definition of them in the Torah. Yet people were using them long before the rabbis codified all the rules from the oral Tradition.

116 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 3:00:56pm

re: #114 Sergey Romanov

You're missing the point again. Of course the culture agreed. But I'm not addressing the understanding of this culture. I'm addressing the text that predates this understanding by centuries, so your point about the "same" culture creating the text is incorrect - cultures change, so do their understandings.

NO! You have it backwards. See my 115!

117 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 3:16:58pm

re: #107 LudwigVanQuixote

But still centuries before Christ none the less. Rabbinic Judaism starts with the return to the land and the rebuilding of the Temple.

Well it is funny you mention that. Look at the entire first chapter of Pirkei Avot. Seriously go look it up!

It gives the chain of transmission - of the oral law itself(!) - through the generations.

Now you might not believe that Moses taught the elders and that the elders taught the judges and the prophets. OK fine...

However, once it starts naming master to student, you really have no reason to doubt it at all. Because all of those masters and students show up in the Mishna and the Talmud.

PA:

Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua; Joshua to the elders; the elders to the prophets; and the prophets handed it down to the men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence around the Torah.

Of course I have a reason to doubt this. Talmud mentions historical figures but it's not a historical book per se, so the presence of real people tells us nothing about the correctness of the claims of PA. The existence of the chain of transmission of oral information does not guarantee the correctness of the transmission. And most important, even here is this crucial break between the supposed author and Shimon, who lived merely in the 3rd century BC. Which still leaves a huge time period since the Torah creation time.

Also remember that Mishna is a long time before Talmud.


Of course.

118 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 3:30:26pm

re: #117 Sergey Romanov

Why would a chain of advisor to graduate student - where the words of those graduate students with references to their teachers show up all over the place in other writings by the "central university system" be in doubt?

Why would you particularly doubt this when these people are all part of the same "university system."

I am bringing a point about how the Sanhedrin operated. It went from teacher to student and very much was like a graduate school.

Now, as a physicist, I might wish to lie to people, and falsely claim that Feynman was my advisor in an attempt to falsely build my credentials. If I tried that though in a physics dept, it wouldn't fly for a nanosecond (for one thing, he died when I was still a kid).

As to when the oral law was codified, yes yes indeed it was finally all codified with the Mishna and then expanded on in Talmud. But the fact remains that long, long, long before any of that (think six hundred years or so), the same oral law which tells you what tefillin were, was employed by people using tefillin, in accordance with their understanding of the written law. We know because we found those tefillin from the first Temple period, and there are a LOT of laws about them and how to make them, that these old teffillin obeyed.

The written law was written in a way that assumed the reader knew what tefillin are and the user of them centuries before the oral law was codified, had certainly earned the oral law and followed it. Teffillin are really complicated things. The four chambers and the hairs doing the internal binding, and dozens of other details involved, are not added details that you would stumble on randomly.

The oral tradition HAD to have been in place for him to have them.

119 Kruk  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 3:35:26pm

re: #93 lostlakehiker

What a wonderful and educational thread! The article that sparked it was a discussion of a "Christian Patriarchy" movement.

I realise the thread has moved on from the original topic, but I couldn't resist posting this link:

Why women avoid their fathers while fertile:

[Link: io9.com...]

Oy vey.

120 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 3:52:47pm

re: #115 LudwigVanQuixote

I don't understand why this is not obvious to you. I just don't get how you fail to see the obvious logic here.

Suppose you believe that any written text is holy and that G-d wants you to do what it tells you to do.

Just suppose that.

The text reads:

Pt ths tnjrbb n th thr dmrtsh.

Now you really want to obey this Law because you believe G-d is telling you to do it right?

OK step one. You need to go to the oral tradition to find that it even says in the first place:

Put this tanjirbob on the other demyrtosh.

OK great! Seems simple enough if I know what a tanjirbob and a demyrtosh is (and I know what the other demyrtosh refers to!

If I don't already know these things, it could not possibly make any sense. Since the written law is written assuming you already know, it presumes that you had to learn that somehow before the written law was even written - or at the very least, someone needs to explain it to you.

Now to the real case. Archeologically, we have tefillin from the first Temple period which is hundred of years before the rabbinic period. There is no definition of them in the Torah. Yet people were using them long before the rabbis codified all the rules from the oral Tradition.

Haven't I addressed the reading part in #108? Haven't I addressed the understanding (and its correctness) part in every second posting or so? And I addressed the tefillin at least twice. (I guess when you wrote "the majority of the Oral Law is OLDER than the written law" by the written law you meant the oral law written down in the form of Talmud).

As for archeology, here's a scholarly source. Yehudah Cohn in Tangled up in text: tefillin and the ancient world (2008; p.) writes on p.55:

In light of argument presented in the previous chapter, it does not seem particularly likely that tefillin practice originated during or before the Persian period (although the possibility can certainly not be ruled out). The earliest archaeological evidence for tefillin, as will be discussed below, has provided a terminus ante quem for the practice in the second or first century B.C.E. Accordingly, it is within the Hellenistic period, which commenced in the late fourth century B.C.E., that the origins of the ritual will be sought. I will argue that tefillin were an invented tradition of the late-Second Temple era, functioning as a long-life amulet that arose from a literalist interpretation of scripture, and informed by knowledge of parallel Greek practices.

(The author goes on to describe the earliest tefillin - from the Qumran era.)

121 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 3:52:56pm

And whaddaya know, without knowing about this book I proposed the exact same (more general) hypothesis. Indeed, in the previous chapter the author writes (p.45):

That Exod 13:9 and 16 were ultimately associated with the practice of tefillin undoubtedly calls for explanation, which I will endeavor to provide in chapter 3, but this is not to be confused with evidence for their initial reception, which simply does not exist. There seems to be no good reason for understanding these two verses as calling for any physical act whatsoever, and, consequently, no basis for imagining that their earliest readers might have seen things differently. While the two Deuteronomy verses might have been viewed early on as calling for a physical practice, it is worth noting that the first part of Deut 11:18, which talks of placing "the words" on the heart, is most simply understood as a figure of speech, and the rest of that verse may well have been taken figuratively - so too for the parallel passage in Deut 6:6-8.

Which was exactly my thought, esp. in regard to heart.

P.34:

This chapter will investigate whether the practice of wearing tefillin was already in existence during the late-monarchic, exilic, and/or Persian periods. It should be stated at the outset that there is no archaeological evidence that would date the ritual to this era, or an earlier one. Nor does the literature covered in this chapter depict any individual as wearing tefillin (excluded here is any midrashic understanding of biblical passages as containing a depiction of this kind).

So much for your example. This is evidence that important things like tefillin originated much later than the Torah, and I leave you to make your own conclusions as to what that makes of your argument in regard to the Oral Law.

I must leave now, till tomorrow.

PS: in regard to Cohn's book, see this review:

[Link: www.bookreviews.org...]

Parts of the book are available at Google Books. Note, I'm not saying this is the absolute truth. But this is the scholarly view.

122 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Wed, Dec 1, 2010 7:01:01pm

re: #120 Sergey Romanov

No you didn't. Not at all. You keep implying that the linguistic issues are isolated to a few small cases. They are not at all. The whole written text is written without vowels. I will address older teffillin that what your source describes in a future post. I need to find the links. Since I was told that the oldest known tefillin were from the first temple period, by a rabbi/archeologist in Israel that I trust, I frankly doubt your source.

I can say as another equal example that I have seen a first temple period mikveh personally - and there are just as many laws for a mikveh that could not have been random and are much older than the codified oral law.

123 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Fri, Dec 3, 2010 5:21:00am
The whole written text is written without vowels.

I know that. I know enough about the textual history of the Hebrew Bible because I do read scholarly books, like, e.g. Emanuel Tov's authoritative study Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible who deals at length with the consonantal framework, systems of vocalizations and whatnot. By the way, here's the quote directly relevant to our discussion (2nd revised edition, p.41):

The authors of the biblical texts intended a certain reading of the consonantal framework, but since this reading was not recorded, traditions of reading the biblical texts developed which were not necessarily identical with the "original intention" of the texts. It is not clear whether one or more different reading traditions were in vogue from the very beginning.

The scholars of the Hebrew text do NOT assume that the Tiberian system, which is most widely used now, is always correct. They know that it is partially a result of exegesis. They don't even assume that the Masoretic consonantal readings are always correct. All kinds of sources are used in the reconstruction of the original text, including the Septuagint and even the very flawed Samaritan Pentateuch. The black-and-white naive argument that somehow one must accept "the Oral Law" (if one accepts one of the many vocalization systems) to even understand the text is pure nonsense.

As for tefillin, your response shows that we can as well and this discussion. I have presented to you the top-notch peer-reviewed study by an Oxford professor and a specialist on the Jewish history of the Talmudic period. You present to me your memory of a private, unverifiable, unreferenced claim of an anonymous archeologist, the claim not supported by any published sources.

Besides, as I have already pointed out, the discussion about the Oral Law is a moot one. Even if the Oral Law makes the laws under discussion rarely applicable, it does not magically make them non-misogynistic.

124 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Fri, Dec 3, 2010 6:01:27am

re: #45 Obdicut

Also, I had thought Sergey came from a Jewish background, but I might be wrong about that.

I've seen both Jews and antisemites thinking of me as Jewish. I guess it has to do with dealing with the Holocaust denial, antisemitism and (for some) from my liberal views. But I would think these are above-national things. I also deal with Katyn denial and I'm not Polish. I could argue with Mormons about fine points of their religious history, and I'm not Mormon. Et cetera. Yes, I'm ethnically Russian.

125 wrenchwench  Fri, Dec 3, 2010 8:40:57am

re: #124 Sergey Romanov

I've seen both Jews and antisemites thinking of me as Jewish. I guess it has to do with dealing with the Holocaust denial, antisemitism and (for some) from my liberal views. But I would think these are above-national things. I also deal with Katyn denial and I'm not Polish. I could argue with Mormons about fine points of their religious history, and I'm not Mormon. Et cetera. Yes, I'm ethnically Russian.

I watched the movie Katyn a couple of weeks after that plane crash in April. Wow.

126 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Fri, Dec 3, 2010 8:42:35am

re: #125 wrenchwench

I watched the movie Katyn a couple of weeks after that plane crash in April. Wow.

A great movie, indeed.


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