Sunday, November 19, 2006

Kill the Heretic!

“Heretics, that is, Jews who do not believe in the Torah and in prophecy -- it is a commandment to kill them. If one can kill them with a sword in public -- he should, and if not -- he should act against them with cunning, until he causes them to be killed. How? If he sees one of them fallen into a well and there is a ladder in the well, first he should remove the ladder and say, 'I must take my son down off the roof, I'll bring it back' or something like that.” (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, 425:5)

This statement is directly from Jewish Law. What is amazing about the rabbis is how they make statements like this one and then, when confronted with the sheer cruelty and barbarism of it, backtrack to find innumerable ‘exceptions’ and caveats to the rule. Well, if these exceptions were so obvious or important to understanding how Jews are to regard the heretics among them, then why wasn’t it stated plainly in the first place? Why does everything have to first become controversial and then, and only then, do the rabbis bother to ‘explain’ it?

This reminds me of the typical racist, chauvinist, etc. who makes broad, sweeping comments about a particular group and then, when confronted with possible and notable exceptions, begins to waver a little from his original stance. No doubt our racist will continue to believe that he never really changed his mind, only that he admits that some members of his intended bigotry might not be as bad as he proports them to be. Nevertheless, though we have cornered the racist and caught him with his own logic, we still know that he remains a racist bastard.

This is, in fact, what the rabbis do time and time again. They quickly switch ‘halachic’ gears once caught either contradicting themselves or facing the quizzical and sometimes appauled looks of those who happen to read Jewish law and come across these nasty little bits of information. For the rabbis, their game is a game of opposites where they say one thing yet mean another and so on. It becomes very tiring when you start to notice how often that these ‘brilliant’ sages didn’t possess the basic foresight or straightforward understanding to be clear about their own words or the consequences thereof.

The rabbis also remind me of politicians on the campaign trail, making bold, strong, populist assertions and then, once elected, backpedalling from their original promises. Yet, weren’t the rabbis supposed to be better than politicians? So whom were the rabbis trying to impress by calling for vigilantism? What societal problem was cast at their feet by the Jewish masses that they felt it required such extreme measures? Or, like many issues today, were concocted by the rabbis to garner public support?

To be clear, this is what the abovementioned statement really says:

“Listen Jew. If you know anyone among you who doesn’t believe exactly as we do, it is your job to kill them. If the situation permits you to do it violently and in full public view, then by any means, do so. If not, one should wait for the opportunity to be at indirect cause for his death by some clever ruse.”

Freedom of Religion? Nope.

Freedom of Thought? Nope.

Freedom of Expression? Nope.

Right to a Trial? Nope.

Right to Jury Trial? Nope.

Right to Legal Counsel? Nope.

All you get for disagreeing with the rabbis is death at the hands of an angry mob or a cunning vigilante, with the tacit approval of the rabbinical authorities. Now you make think this is crazy and that Torah would never allow it but in many cases, the Torah commands the quick and painful death of any and all dissenters, even those who don’t question Torah or mitzvos! Even their wives and children, such as those of Korach, Dasan, and Aviram were wiped out with their rebellious fathers. The Torah itself offers us prime examples of summary execution of defendants without trial or proper defense.

Torah laws are really military laws. Moshe divided the Jews into military regiments based upon family and tribal lines, most likely to avoid the natural animosities that existed between them from spilling over were they not kept separate. Moshe instituted many militarisitic rules as far as encampments and latrines. Considering that the Jews were on a military quest to conquer Canaan, this makes perfect sense. Yet, along with the militaristic society came militaristic jurisprudence which, even to this day, remains apart and distinct in many ways from common civilian law. In addition, Moshe’s courts were tribunals in the field; convened in a moment’s notice and sentences carried out forthwith.

I cannot speak for everyone, but I am not one who wishes to live under a military justice system, be it Torah or the USMC. As Groucho Marx once said “Military justice is to justice, what military music is to music.” If we are soldiers, and not citizens, then our act of disagreement is not merely an act of a free thinking human being, it is an act of disobedience to a superior, and therefore, considered a highly treasonous offense.

Perhaps the rabbis spoke in theory and then dealt in reality later on when it became a more practical matter. I don’t know. It remains troublesome that these allegedly wise and ingenious sages seemed to have lacked foresight as to the consequences and controversial nature of their words. Their flip-flopping on both principle and detail leads me to never take them at their word. Once you have 'outed' yourself as a bigot, theocrat, fascist, or nationalist, good luck trying to win back my favor, no matter how many excuses or rationales you offer.

Kol Tuv

2 comments:

seaslipper said...

Some of the wilder statements of the rabbis I am able to neutralize in my mind. This one is really tough.

Shlomo said...

seaslipper,

Me, too.