Friday, May 7, 2010

3000 years is a long time

The following is an exchange which has recently occurred on frumsatire.net between yours truly and someone named Aviva Larev. Admittedly, it's not much of an exchange at the moment, but I'm certainly hoping for some feedback.

Aviva Larev May 7, 2010 at 12:21 AM

TRS, that same old argument is dumb. Because 3000 years ago and continuing people were ignorant, racist, cruel and evil. THANK GOD for change, would you rather all Christians still murder Jews because that was their “tradition” for so many thousands of years!? Jeez what backwards logic. “Doesn’t matter if its real, matters that its old” Yea so if we found out some TRUTH say, some revelation that proves some of these pointless rules are garbage you wouldn’t want to change it then?! I really LOVE how so many Jews get stuck on the (seriously) dumbest littlethings and seem to forget the ENTIRE idea behind it. Tradition means nothing if all it does is perpetrate ignorance. No effing thanks.

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TRS May 7, 2010, at 11:15 AM

Wow, what a blast from the past, eh? When is this post originally, from, January 26, 2009? That's nearly a year and a half ago! Remarkable. Anyway, to respond to your harsh accusation... Of course, I'm not entirely sure to what you are referring, because my last comment on this particular forum was so many moons ago, but I seem to get the general gist of your argument. It appears (to me at least) that you are saying something along the lines of, "The times they are a'changing, get with the program."

Obviously, everyone is entitled to do whatever they want to do. I can go on Mivtzoyim and try to get you to light Shabbos candles, but if you're not interested, you're not interested. If you think that the divine pronouncement from Sinai was not eternal, then good for you. Hey, if you don't think there ever was a divine pronouncement from Sinai, then good for you too. We can deal with that.

What you say, "Change we can believe in," is certainly a wonderful thing, but it doesn't quite solve any of your problems. Evidently, you don't like that Judaism is based on a 3000 year old tradition. Evidently you believe that Judaism should be something different. Or else you don't think there should be any Judaism. Holding these opinions is certainly your right, but coupled with your apparent intention, to reform Judaism, they make no sense.

Judaism is nothing without the Torah. I think we can all agree this point. In other words, without the Torah, there is no Judaism. I think we can all agree this point. Changing Judaism means changing Torah. Changing Torah means changing Judaism. Are you still with me here? Excellent.

You say something about Christians still slaughtering Jews. In my mind, there is no problem with this- if Christians believe that killing Jews is what JC would have wanted, then good for them. Evidently they don't have this belief anymore, which is, I suppose, a good thing for the Jews. Obviously, the Christian belief system is not eternal (for more on this topic, see here: http://atheistplanet.blogspot.com/search/label/Stephen%20Fry ). Which is fine. It's the Christian's religion, let them practice it however they see fit.

You may not, and again I repeat, you may not use the same logic regarding Judaism. Judaism is very different from Christianity. Even if it were not very different at all, there would still be the fundamental difference, that of the revelation at Sinai. Those who practice Judaism must base their religion on this revelation. Whether they are Sephardi or Ashkenazi, Chassidic or Misnagdic, they're practices and beliefs are solely based on the Torah as it was presented at Sinai 3000 years ago. They may not do everything, they may not even believe in everything, but if they question the validity of something vis a vis it's being part of the tradition, and they can't prove it, then they are beyond the pale. I can accept that bullet proof stockings are not mandated by the Torah. I can not accept that the Torah does not proscribe homosexuality.

Does this make us a mean religion? Possibly. Probably. But I'm not sure what you'd like us to do about it. Shall we change certain parts of our religion based on the prevailing mores? Shall we change inconvenient laws we do based on the latest fads? If you want to do this, kol hakavod, but it's not orthodox Judaism. So again, I'm not sure what you'd like us to do about this.

Moving along in your argument, you state something along the lines of, "If there's new truth, will you change what you've been doing?" Obviously, there will be no new truth. There was only one revelation at Sinai. When Moshiach comes our understanding of the revelation will be infinitely greater than it currently is, but it will still be the same revelation. So no, I don't think we have to plan for the contingency of a possible "new truth". In general, that seems to be an oxymoron, doesn't it? If something is true, it is always true. Just saying.

Next, we have the charge that Jews get "stuck" on the "dumbest little things" while ignoring "the entire idea behind it." I would be the first to agree that Judaism does appear to be OCD about everything. This is not, of course, a bad thing. I'm not sure that I'd characterize homosexuality as a "dumb little thing," however- after all, if G-d saw fit to prohibit it, then it's probably not a "dumb little thing" but a very major intelligent thing. We are not G-d, and presumably he knows what he's talking about.

Your final point is that traditional Judaism perpetrates (I assume you meant, "perpetuates") ignorance. I wonder what you mean by this. Do you mean that traditional Jews are ignorant? Knowing, as I do, many hundreds of traditional Jews, I find this hard to believe. If we choose not to cover ourselves in the slime of current culture, why, that is hardly ignorance, it is nobility. The fact that we choose to spend our time in the depths of the Talmud and not in the depths of the current moral depravity is hardly ignorance.

51 comments:

A Pseudo-Chossid said...

I have heard it on a good authority that for men to wear bullet-proof stockings is ossur d’oraysa.

The Real Shliach said...

Oh yes? May I ask who this authority is?

A Pseudo-Chossid said...

My lips are sealed.

e said...

by spending your time in the depths of the talmud, you aren't just ignoring the slime of the current moral depravity. You're also ignorant of lots of other nice stuff. For example MLK's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

A Pseudo-Chossid said...

This reminds me that I have heard yesterday (again, on a good authority) that Birmingham accent is the most annoying of all British accents (obviously, different B.). Perhaps Dowy can corroborate.

e, that argument is as old in certain circles as perek 8 of Tanya (probably older). Although in certain other circles it is only as old as Norman Lamm's book Torah u'Madda. Is it worthwhile for a Jew to be immersing himself intellectually in the world around? Can the world augment a Jew in his study of Torah (to the degree that traditional sources cannot) or make him a better person (to the degree that Torah alone cannot — at least in the current generation)?

I think these are good questions.

The Real Shliach said...

CA: This is unfortunate.

e: Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work.

CA: These are good questions.

A Pseudo-Chossid said...

What constructive work? (I merely ask.)

e said...

y'know the best part the Letter? That he uses "scintillating" without a hint of sarcasm.

The Real Shliach said...

CA: That's not the point.

e: He was certainly a great orator and writer.

e said...

trs: Listen, I don't get emotional. I am the cold fish heretic mathematician. But I read the Letter yesterday and was moved emotionally. it's hartzig and eloquent at the same time.

The Real Shliach said...

I know this may sound heretical, but lehavdil the style of the letter sounds like something the Rebbe could have written.

A Pseudo-Chossid said...

Is it heretical to compare MLK to, lehavdil, the Rebbe, or is it heretical to assume that there was, throughout the history of the world (or in the modern times) another great orator besides the Rebbe?

The Real Shliach said...

I wasn't necessarily comparing their oratorical powers, but regardless, I was referring to the former scenario.

Menashe said...

Obama's also a great orator. It's a skill - like tennis or accounting or whatever it is biology majors do.

But yes, it's heretical to compare Moshe to a goyishe manhig.

chillax, o closed-minded ones! said...

But yes, it's heretical to compare Moshe to a goyishe manhig.

Gotta love the fundies!

The Real Shliach said...

Menashe: Is it an inborn talent or a learned skill?

Do you have a source for this? Bichlal, I merely compared their writing styles.

e said...

I dunno. I didn't see much similarity. Dude, read the entire letter. it's good shit.

The Real Shliach said...

Well, each to their own. And yes, I agree, it is a well written missive.

e said...

not just the writing! the content!

The Real Shliach said...

Yes, that too.

Menashe said...

I wanted to add that technically what you wrote about everyone being entitled to their opinion is not correct. Al pi Torah there is no room for kefirah. Bzman habayis this stuff makes you chayiv misa. It's just that because we're in golus and the emes is concealed, people are held less accountable for their misguided beliefs and actions.

The Real Shliach said...

Well, you know what they say, it's a free country.

Douie said...

the worst of ALL english eccents? first of all this is completely the wrong direction; all english accents are beautiful.
my mother is from Birmingham.

The Real Shliach said...

Douie?

sarabonne said...

Maybe now we'll pronounce the name correctly.
Interesting post, I hope she responds as that would make for a good read.

The Real Shliach said...

As in the decimal system?

Annoyingly enough, the comment doesn't seem to be showing up on the site.

Douie said...

i felt a need for more vowels in my name

The Real Shliach said...

And who doesn't? Good for you.

A Pseudo-Chossid said...

I don’t. In fact, when I am called to aliyah, I always correct the person who pronounces the last syllable in my name.

The Real Shliach said...

Pray tell, what is the last syllable in your name?

A Pseudo-Chossid said...

It’s a click.

The Real Shliach said...

The last syllable of the name your called up to the Torah with is a click?

A Pseudo-Chossid said...

Indeed. In the standard pronunciation of it. But I don’t like the gabbai to say it, so I always correct him. Also, I make sure he says “ks”, not “z”.

Anonymous said...

they're == they are == does not compute

e said...

They should call you "cocking gun" instead of "crawling axe."

e said...

The above comment was stupid. Sorry. Plus I hadn't read the last few comments, because gmail grouped them as a separate conversation. Sorry y'all. I think I'll just crawl back into my hole and go to sleep.

The Real Shliach said...

CA: can we know what the last name is? Purely for academic reasons, of course.

Anon: huh?

e: why should CA be known as CG?

e said...

cuz there's that "click." Whatever. it was a stupid comment.

A Pseudo-Chossid said...

Last name? Why do you need my last name. I am called to an aliyah by my first name.

The Real Shliach said...

I meant the last syllable of the name you're called up to the Torah with.

A Pseudo-Chossid said...

You want me to spell a click?

The Real Shliach said...

No, the entire name will suffice.

A Pseudo-Chossid said...

Very well: ǃXóõ.

A Pseudo-Chossid said...

Sorry, I misspelled:

ǂHõã,•[ǃɡk͡xʼ]

The Real Shliach said...

Your poor Gabbai.

Doauiey said...

never be scared to add more vowels to ur name

The Real Shliach said...

You should figure out a way to add nekudos.

A Pseudo-Chossid said...

You can also add accent marks and other periphenalia. E.g.:

~Döáùiěy⁸⁴.

Anonymous said...

"Whether they are Sephardi or Ashkenazi, Chassidic or Misnagdic, they're practices and beliefs are ..."

it's wrong because it's wrong O_o

The Real Shliach said...

Look, if I were to spend my life critiquing people's grammar in their comments...

e said...

CA: could you just tell us your name and your dad's name?