Sunday, April 5, 2015

A List of Allegedly Racist Statements in the Talmud, pt 2

Going on with the same list of mainly fabricated Talmud quotes
That the Jewish nation is the only nation selected by God, while all the remaining ones are contemptible and hateful. That all property of other nations belongs to the Jewish nation, which consequently is entitled to seize upon it without any scruples. An orthodox Jew is not bound to observe principles of morality towards people of other tribes. He may act contrary to morality, if profitable to himself or to Jews in general. 
A Jew may rob a Goy, he may cheat him over a bill, which should not be perceived by him, otherwise the name of God would become dishonoured.Schulchan Aruch, Choszen Hamiszpat, 348
For reference, chosen hamishpat 348. No such sentiments expressed whatsoever, but ... I won't go and translate the whole thing for you, although I might at some point later on give an overview of the vocabulary in it.
R. Hanina said: If a heathen smites a Jew, he is worthy of death; for it is written, And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian. [Ex. 2:12] R. Hanina also said: He who smites an Israelite on the jaw, is as though he had thus assaulted the Divine Presence; for it is written, one who smiteth man [i.e. an Israelite] attacketh the Holy One.

Sanhedrin 58b

[In other words, if a non-Jew kills a Jew, the non-Jew can be killed. Punching an Israelite is akin to assaulting God. (But killing a non-Jew is NOT like assaulting God.]

Actually, the phrasing 'worthy of death' does not mean 'can be killed'. Compare:
R. Hiyya b. Abba said in R. Johanan's name: It is a disgrace for a scholar to go out with patched shoes into the market place. But R. Aha b. Hanina did go out [thus]? — Said R. Aha son of R. Nahman: The reference is to patches upon patches. R. Hiyya b. Abba also said in R. Johanan's name: Any scholar upon whose garment a [grease] stain is found is worthy of death,4 for it is said, All they that hate me [mesanne'ai] love [merit] death:5 read not mesanne'ai but masni'ai [that make me hated, i.e., despised].6 Rabina said: This was stated about a thick patch.7 Yet they do not differ: one refers to the upper garment [coat], the other to a shirt. [Shabbath, 114A]
Clearly, the rabbis used 'worthy of death' as a rhetorical device at times! Whenever they discuss actual capital offenses, they are much more technical in terminology used.
If a goy killed a goy or a Jew he is responsible, but if a Jew killed a goy he is not responsible.
Tosefta, Aboda Zara, VIII, 5
I give you Tosefta, Aboda Zara, VIII:5
עובד כוכבים שהיה חייב מעות לישראל אע"פ שמכר יין נסך והביא לו עבודת כוכבים והביא לו מותר אבל אם אמר לו המתן עד שאמכור יין נסך ואביא לך עבודת כוכבים ואביא לך אסור המוכר יינו לעובד כוכבים ופסק עמו אע"פ שעתיד למחות את המחצלאות ואת המדות מותר וחנוני בין כך ובין כך אסור מפני שראשון ראשון זקוף עליו עובד כוכבים ששלח לגינה אצל ישראל ומקצת עכבת יין לתוכו הרי זה ממלא לו הלגין ונועל ונוטל ממנו דמי כולן ואינו חושש.[Tosefta, Aboda Zara, VIII:5]
This is a technical discussion about permissibility of wine under certain circumstances. I am not sure of the exact meaning of all the terms used, because ... technical discussion about permissibility of wine in Hebrew. As I work through some dictionaries I might post a translation later on. However, given that I do have some familiarity with the relevant vocabulary, I can tell that most terms you would expect in something corresponding to "if a goy killed a goy or a Jew he is responsible etc" are missing.

Nothing about killing goyim.
Everyone who sheds the blood of the impious [non-Jews] is as acceptable to God as he who offers a sacrifice to God.
Yalkut 245c

There is no single work by the name 'yalkut'There are, however, works such as Yalkut Shimoni, Yalkut Yoshef, Yalkut Makiri, Yalkut Reuven, Yalkut Chadash. Pray tell, which one of these is it in? Further, even the quote itself admits to 'correcting' - impiety is sometimes attributed to a variety of Jews in Jewish writings, thus the insertion of "[non-Jews]" is not entirely justified.  And finally, what's with the C? There are two folios of any work. Two. To illustrate the ridiculousness of 245c given that there at most could be 245A and 245B, let us observe the following diagram:
A ← 1
B ← 2
C ← ???!?
Sure, that's a worthless diagram. Point is: so is a claim about a page that can't exist.
On to the next claim, which is a bit of a lie by omission as well as a lie by fabrication:

Tob shebbe goyyim harog - Even the best of the Goyim (Gentiles) should be killed.
Soferim 15, Rule 10
The particular article that I am writing this in response to has the following little comment:
NB: Hoffman says, "This passage is not from the Soncino edition but is from the original Hebrew of the Babylonian Talmud as quoted by the 1907 Jewish Encyclopedia, published by Funk and Wagnalls and compiled by Isidore Singer, under the entry, 'Gentile,' (p. 617)." Another source says this passage is at Avodah Zara 26b. We have not been able to verify any of these references. It does not seem to be at Avodah Zara 26b of the Soncino edition.

Tractate Soferim deals with the rules of scribes. Let's repeat this: Tractate Soferim deals with the rules of scribes. That's what a sofer is - a scribe. A very likely ruling to appear in such a book, no?

However, this particular statement does exist in an important book in the talmudic 'genre': Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael [Lauterbach & Stern, p. 135] . However, it leaves out a significant part of the quote. As it is presented here, it seems to be a ruling - especially as it is given in a list where many statements of similar forms pose as rulings. The wider quote is 'On this matter, Rabbi Simon bar Yoḥai said: ...', which does not necessarily qualify as a ruling.

It is thus not a rule - unlike the claim presented ("Soferim 15, rule 10"), but records the rather disturbing statement of one particular rabbi. A further observation is necessary - rabbi Simon bar Yoḥai had seen some pretty disturbing stuff at the hands of the Romans, which probably made him somewhat bitter. Understandable, but not commendable nor right.

Of course, leaving out that this was said by one rabbi and presenting it as a commandment to kill the gentiles - that's neither understandable, commendable nor right.

One or two more installments on this list of claims will be posted during incoming months. Researching these particular types of claims takes quite some time, as Jewish literature isn't exactly all that available and medieval Hebrew is not exactly a thing it's easy to find sources about.


  1. Thank you for this work. I am still reviewing other quotes, and hope that Talmud does not teach hatred toward gentiles or to Yehusha.

    1. The Talmud is a huge work, compiled from things said by rabbis over several centuries (if we count the mishnah and the gemara, three-four centuries, if we count some of the later commentaries that often are included, you can add several centuries to that).

      What does the Talmud teach? It's not like it teaches a unified, codified set of doctrines - it teaches ways to think about the Torah, ways the rabbis have thought and taught about the Torah, and often in a kind of snapshot form: rabbi so-and-so taught so-and-so about such-and-such a topic.

      Of course there's going to be negative opinions about gentiles in there. Of course there's going to be negative opinions of Jesus in there - keep in mind, the rabbis and the early Christians were competing groups, and it's not like you won't find a lot of hatred for judaism in the church fathers' writings either. Those church fathers hated judaism quite vigorously. And with such a starting point, obviously there will be hatred for Jesus in the Talmud as well - both for strawman Jesuses, and for Jesus as the Christians believed in him. But here, one also has to keep in mind that literacy back then was not as common as now, and many who were "literate" were not very good at it, and you'd probably find some of the strawman-Jesuses actually are based on what actual Christians actually believed in those days.

      Finally, it's not like the Jesus-of-the-NT doesn't teach things that Judaism shouldn't have a legitimate gripe with - several things in the NT do skate very close to justifying, from either an OT-biblical or rabbinic point of view, calling him a false prophet.

      The most famous Jewish work criticizing Jesus was in fact not written by a rabbinic Jew, but by a karaite - the karaites are a group of Jews who vigorously reject rabbinic traditions in favour of the Bible; a kind of Jewish protestantism, if you like, even if the analogy is not perfect.

      So, obviously you'll find that kind of thing in the Talmud. Why wouldn't you? Does this make the Talmud worse? Does this make Judaism somehow worse?

      No, the Talmud is a compilation of traditions. Take it as it is.