Muffti was not a big fan, no matter how pro-Israel he was and how much Abe Foxman liked him. Here’s an assortment of quotes to remember the Reverend by:

If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made…. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.

I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them.

“Labor unions should study and read the Bible instead of asking for more money. When people get right with God, they are better workers.”

And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, “You helped this [9/11] happen.”

The Bible is the inerrant … word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible,without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history, etc.

He [Teletubby Twinky Winky] is purple – the gay-pride colour; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle – the gay-pride symbol.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a phony.

The (gay-oriented) Metropolitan Community Churches are brute beasts and a vile and Satanic system that will one day be utterly annihilated and there will be a celebration in heaven…

There are about 200,000 evangelical pastors in America, and we’re asking them all through e-mail, faxes, letters, telephone, to go into their pulpits and use their influence in support of the state of Israel and the prime minister.

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  • Another gem:

    “Who will the Antichrist be? I don’t know. Nobody else knows,” said Falwell, whose Sunday morning services at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg are carried by television stations nationwide.

    “Is he alive and here today? Probably. Because when he appears during the Tribulation period he will be a full-grown counterfeit of Christ. Of course he’ll be Jewish. Of course he’ll pretend to be Christ. And if in fact the Lord is coming soon, and he’ll be an adult at the presentation of himself, he must be alive somewhere today.”

    […]`If he’s going to be the counterfeit of Christ, he has to be Jewish,” Falwell said. “The only thing we know is he must be male and Jewish.”

  • I wonder how many Jewlicious worthies agree with Falwell in para. 5 above (minus the New Testament, of course).

    Best of luck to Jerry in the hereafter. I have a feeling he’s going to be surprised by what he finds there, given the quotes above, in which he claims to have figured it all out– making judgments that belong to God alone. I suppose this is why Jesus warned us about judging– it results in a blasphemous substitution of our limited, flawed viewpoint for God’s.

    I feel a bit sorry for his flock. His conflation of religion and politics was bound to lead to disappointment. Religious leaders would do well to err on the side of confining themselves to articulating broad moral principles, avoiding the dirt and grime of mundane politics– which can only sully them.

    We’re told that when Jesus stood before Pilate and was asked, ‘So you are a king?’, He replied, ‘My kingdom is not of this world’ (John 18:33-37). Sadly, Falwell ignored those words in his public career.

  • Tom Morrissey, the plot thickens, because we have three thousand years of thinking, called the Oral Law, that infuses what we think the text means. You guys have another take, a plainer take, which is fine; it works for you. G-d gives meaning to everybody! We are reading the original Hebrew, and Hebrew is like a zipped file, it needs to be unpacked, and interpreted – only by the highly qualified and the authentically holy. And even then there are difficulties! It really is different over here. That’s eternal and that’s ok.

  • the good Rev was a ham on white man with mayo. had we slipped him a pastrami on rye with mustard, he’d be singing the shma.

  • Such an evil evil man. I wouldn´t want him to endorse ANYTHING I believed in and if he claimed to be my staunch “friend” I´d sure as hell wonder just what he really wanted and what I really stood for.
    Some people make the claim that religion is good for people, Jerry is scientific proof that the opposite is true.
    Too bad there isn´t an afterlife so that Jerry could see what a fool he was.
    But his legacy of ignorance, hate, intolerance and evil destruction will roll on.
    Praise the lord and amen.

  • Amen mufti.

    Christian evangelicism is not good for Israel.

    (OTOH, too many Jews, being Jewish means not being Christian. “I’m Jewish. That means I don’t believe in Jesus,” is something I’ve heard too much. — It means much more!)

  • Weird mix of stuff. As Tom points out, you can find some Jewish people who will buy into some of these ideas. For example, how many Israelis would like to see their school system become defined by religious values? Quite a few. How many believe the bible is inerrant? How many stand opposed to homosexuality? How many oppose Desmond Tutu’s views on Israel, if not on apartheid? How many appreciate the strong support of Israel from this quarter of the American public?

    I find that as a secular Jew, it’s easy for me to dismiss Falwell. However, it’s not so easy when I recognize in his devoutness similarities to the views of some devout Jews.

  • Jewish Mother, the mainline Christian take on Falwell and other evangelicals, is quite similar to what you’ve written. He tosses 2000 years of theological discourse out the window for an illusory ‘literal’ reading of biblical text.

    But the real problem I have with Falwell is he ignored many injunctions of Jesus that, yes, can be read quite literally– especially on the need for humility.

    Jews can view him more simply and favorably. He was good for Israel and the Jews.

    Contrast Falwell re Tutu and the Metropolitan Community Church with the following:

    “”[E]verywhere and in every age, the speech of the heart can be heard, because God’s Torah may be heard within ourselves as the call of duty, and thus it is possible for us to transcend what is merely subjective to turn toward each other and God; and that is salvation. Beyond that, what God makes of the poor broken pieces of our attempts at good, at approaching Him, remain His secret, which we ought not to presume to try to work out.”

    Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, ‘Christian Faith and World Religions’ (2003).

  • I have enough to do, being me. So I don’t spend my scarce energy, or presume either, to sweep up the leaves on your side of the fence. But it looks like you have things nicely organized at least at your house. I know nothing at all about Tutu, Metro, or Falwell, and it is going to stay that way, as I am busy, and don’t think it would advance my thinking to find out. I happen to have a visceral distrust of Evangelists at the same time as appreciating their help. I am not sure they are all right with Jews remaining Jews. But I don’t worry about it. I see my assignment as doing a Jewish life, and trusting in G-d. In short, I play my position and stay focused, while having fun with other nice people, such as you, and the folks here, when I can spare the time from making cholent. But I never forget my core assignment. I hope that does not annoy you.

    Being a Jew is not a philosophy thing. It is a life thing.

  • Middle said:

    I find that as a secular Jew, it’s easy for me to dismiss Falwell. However, it’s not so easy when I recognize in his devoutness similarities to the views of some devout Jews.

    Why don’t you dismiss those devout Jews as well? Muffti can’t see why it’s any more ok to say this stuff if you are Falwell than if you are a devout jew.

  • GM, you are buying that the devout Jews are saying the same things as Falwell said. I know nothing about Falwell but just from the few quotes running around right now, because he just died, it ought to be obvious that he is he and we are we.

    Don’t buy that “it’s the same” stuff. That is ignorance speaking. Of both sides, very likely, but certainly of the Jewish viewpoint. The “devout” Jewish viewpoint.

    TM is brilliant, but not about this. He states plainly that he is a secular Jew. So, why is he opining about religious matters? He is secular. He is not religious. He is fixing the sink, without being a plumber.

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Drink deep or not at all from the Pierian (sp?) spring. Alexander Pope, poet.

  • Muffti meant it more as a conditional, JM, like ‘if you’re right, Middle, and devout jews says/think this too, dismiss them!’

    If hte first part isn’t true, well, fine. All bets are off. muffti doens’t care that much anymore htan you do about Metro, Tutu or Falwell…

  • JM, I agree with you about religious faith– it’s something most of us live rather than theorize about. Just keep swimming your lane.

    Middle’s point about Falwell is not so easily dismissed, however. Most of Falwell’s ‘thou shalt nots’ come from the Torah, not the New Testament. Jesus, for example, did not address homosexuality, so Falwell had recourse to Deuteronomy on that subject.

    He was a rules-oriented guy: obey, and you live; disobey, and you’re cast out from the faith community. Many Christians, myself included, find that inconsistent with Jesus’s approach of including the marginalized and, yes, sinners.

    Can we not find echoes of that approach in the more hard-line, exclusory interfaith rhetoric on this site?

    There is a common element to fundamentalist DNA, whether Christian, Jewish, Moslem, whathaveyou.

  • “The Bible is the inerrant … word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible,without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice . . .”

    I’m reading a great little book – very intellectual – about the inaccuracies of the early Christians in copying their own texts. It’s called “Misquoting Jesus” and I picked it up from Costco. It’s very interesting. It is about the early scribes and how they changed the gospels in very drastic ways so to elaborate or emphasize on different areas in which they agreed.

    I keep trying to apply some of the same concepts to the Torah, but I don’t think I can, as the Jews of the time were much more dilligent (and educated) than the early Christians. The sheer number of Torot that are exactly the same seems to indicate such.

    If anyone is looking for a quick (maybe 250 pages) and likes comparative religion, you might want to check it out.

  • No, Tom Morrissey, we cannot.

    This is my big moment to explain how Judaism honors rules and strictness (gevurah) because G-d is not kidding. He means it. They are not the Ten Suggestions.


    He is loving. That is Chesed. Meaning kindness. Which is integral to the world and the origin of everything. You chaps call it Love. We talk a whole lot about G-d’s love for us, his compassion (rachmunes); his rewarding good for a thousand generations and punishing bad only for four generations.

    Gevalt. I am not ready for this. I didn’t study. The dog ate my homework.

    Deep breath.

    Judaism is not absolutism but neither is it do-your-own-thing-just-so-you-are-a-nice person.

    The tension between these to opposites, which are a dynamic, a dialectic, not an inconsistency, is what is going on over here, on our side of the fence.

    That is why we ask so many questions, of our qualified, properly ordained, rabbis. Because we are not just following the text. The most totally, black hat, bearded orthodox do not blindly follow a book – they ask their rabbis how to interpret the book more than ANYBODY.



  • Well, the rules are the rules and should be strictly adhered to, of course. Obviously, not having other gods means exactly that, for example.

    I think you take me to characterize religion itself, when I’m only addressing fundamentalism– best viewed as an approach or mentality to observance and interpretation. Someone like Falwell would reject such a distinction: in his view, biblical literalism means no mediation or interpretation. In fact, however, his approach is indeed an interpretation– one among many.

    Fundamentalism speaks to basic human (not merely Jewish or Christian or Zoroastrian) needs: for clarity, certainty, the assurance that God will punish those who, while defying His rules and laughing about it today, will receive condign punishment later. All the uncomfortable greys of life evaporate, consolingly, like morning dew, and the world becomes a simpler, fairer place for the fundamentalist believer.

    Hence Falwell’s egregious rushing to judgment, consigning homosexuals and others to an eternity of wailing and knashing of teeth.

    We’ve seen similar rhetoric on this site– ‘my take on Jewish life and observance is better than yours– and not just that: yours is so lacking in merit it will lead to the death of the Jewish people as such. If you had your way, Judaism would die.’ Or words to that effect. Does our common scripture require such an outlook?

  • You are talking a little bit like someone who has heard about it, but not lived it.

    What you are describing as “fundamentalist” is just rigidity. Rigidity is a psychological trait, not a religious viewpoint.

    Falwell is your guy, loosely speaking, as you are a Christian. I don’t have to discuss his views. Perhaps you do. Perhaps not. Probably not with us.

    The Jewish partisanship you are citing is just an opinion. We allow each other all kinds of opinions, and we know time will tell who is right. On one memorable occasion, it was “both are the word of the living G-d”.

    Saving your presence, but while you know a lot about a lot, you don’t know anything about this. 1) You are comfortably outside Christian fundamentalism. 2) And you can’t possibly know much, at least in a living personal way, about Judaism. You can study it, but only from the outside. TM, by contrast, has his views of it, but they are from the inside. It is a tribe and a history, not just a philosophical position or a ritual practice. He’s in, and you have a (grand and noble) different history.

    Of course there are excessively rigid people in all groups. In the West, there are social and intellectual gyroscopes that counter -balance them.

    EVERYBODY is a fundamentalist when something seriously dear to them is involved, such as their money or their children. You know, a conservative is a liberal with a daughter in high school.

    We both do and do not have a common scripture. No, it is not absolutist, a word I prefer. G-d forgave us the golden calf thing. It doesn’t get more loving than that, oh boy.

  • Muffti, my point is that as Jews pointing at the evangelical Christian minister and criticizing or mocking, we should be mindful of the fact that many of his views are shared – some with a Jewish slant and some in exactly the same way – by many Jews.

    Do I react to those views differently when they are believed or practiced or espoused by Jews, rather than Christians? No. I may have a deeper understanding of why they believe what they do because I share the fundamental background, but my reaction is the same: there are many things about which I disagree and some with which I agree.

  • I agree that I’m very much an outsider re Judaism, Jewish Mother, and it’s not my purpose to comment on it. But we agree (I think) that fundamentalism, as we’ve discussed it, is a psychological trait and not something inhering in scripture or religion itself.

    Falwell’s not “my guy” (a category consisting of the Pope, Josh Beckett, Chet Baker, Bart Giamatti, Don DeLillo, Franz Schubert, Bill Murray, Heraclitus, Tom Brady and a few other people). He’s just an example of a type. There are many Falwells out there, not all of them evangelical Christians.

    It’s evident that, as you put it, “time will tell who is right.” Sadly, not everyone agrees, including those who (at one extreme) deal out mass death, purportedly in God’s name.

    I don’t think any major faith, at least here in the West, is free of those who would place persons who disagree with them outside the circle of ordinary compassion and concern.

  • The “many Jews” TM means do not read Falwell, or listen to his speeches. It is probable that few of them have heard of him. They get their opinions from their own culture.

    TM, you are trying to harness people’s irritation at Falwell to your own thought of putting down Jewish Orthodoxy. You are having trouble buckling the harness to link them, but you are trying, you are trying.

    This is a little bit dirty pool.

    Is this the “vengeful God of the Old Testament” canard? That was a Pauline error (pace Tom Morrissey).

    You have discerned two figures in the distant mists, and have decided they resemble each other, even though you can see very little about either of them. Please understand that Torah-compliant Judaism is nowhere as rigid as you think. Maybe you have heard of somebody who got out of a stalled car and walked when the sun was setting, and was found dead of fatigue or something. Maybe you have heard some bad stories.

  • Our mutual friend Middle can defend himself, Jewish Mother, but I don’t read him (and all I can do is read him– I wouldn’t recognize him if he bumped into me in the 12-items-or-less line at the local market) to be “putting down” Orthodox Judaism.

  • Actually, he does it all the time, Tom.

    I have always found the insistence by people like Falwell on the “literal interpretation” (how’s that for an oxymoron?) of the Bible to be inconsistent, self-serving and dishonest.

    Falwell thunders against homosexuality, but, as Tom says, Yoshke doesn’t talk about that at all. So if his savior doesn’t discuss it, why should it concern him?

    If I understand things correctly, the New Testament was supposed to replace the “Old Testament”, no? So the spectacle of a ham-eating, Sabbath-violating, non-Pesach-Shavuot-Sukkot-Rosh Hashana-and-Yom Kippur observing goy giving himself an apoplexy over the non-observance of the Torah ban on homosexuality by other goyim would be laughable if it weren’t so downright hypocritical. Talk about cherry-picking. Why that one law and not all the others?

  • Ephraim, your logic is great, but you are practising without a license. You have no credentials as a Christian theologian and you should just leave it alone. It is not your business. They have over-ruled Supercessionism, the doctrine you refer to, thank G-d. Their other inconsistencies, real or perceived, are not your business.

    As for TM, well, he does it his way. Yes, he can take care of himself.

    He has a Jewish child, so he gets every possible respect. He walks the talk.

  • Tom Morrissey, if you did not smoke TM’s strategy there, you are not listening!!!

  • Not sure if Falwell’s ilk believe that the New Testament superceded the older one, Ephraim. I’ll surmise he thought that the Torah’s validity consists in having been supplemented– updated, if you will– by the New Testament.

    (Which is not Catholic theology, btw. The Catholic Catechism states: “The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews ‘belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs . . . for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.'” (quoting Paul).)

    Your point about Jesus is quite interesting. Whatever else one makes of him, I think he has to be read to have stood for a liberalization of practice, a moving-away from literal interpretation of the Torah (e.g. giving a pass to the woman caught in adultery, etc.). This doesn’t suit the Falwell world view; hence, he found it convenient to cast about the Bible for the strongest, most forbidding, most scarifying passages, the better to dispatch one’s foes.

  • My point, again, is to remind everybody not to point fingers. We have our religious leaders and sometimes they say things they shouldn’t and certainly things that I, personally, reject.

    I’m not sure what the issue is in my saying this. Ephraim, what is the standard line in Judaism about homosexuality and how does it differ from Falwell’s? If I searched around, what is the likelihood that I’ll find a rabbi who says the same as Falwell regarding homosexuals?

    JM, what is the mission of Shas in Israel with respect to schooling of children?

    JM and Ephraim, does Falwell’s statement that the bible is inerrant match the beliefs of many Jews? I’m not asking whether we interpret it the same way, but simply whether there are those Jews who, like Falwell, believe that the bible is a holy book given by God and therefore infallible?

    I don’t see what any of this has to do with insulting anybody. There are people of faith who believe these things and some of them are Jewish and some of them are Christian. Before we sit here in judgment of Falwell, a person who was not somebody I particularly liked and most of whose views I disagreed with, let us remember that we, as Jews, have many brothers and sisters whose beliefs are similar to his.

  • Yikes! Tom Morrissey you say “I don’t think any major faith, at least here in the West, is free of those who would place persons who disagree with them outside the circle of ordinary compassion and concern.”

    No, no! It is true that Orthodox Jews don’t like the way of life of the other streams of Jews, and they would not want close social contact with them either. But, they would not say they are not Jews, if they were, under Jewish religious law, halachically. Their worst insult to them is “biological Jews!” meaning, yes, you are born in, but you aren’t doing a life engaged with religious teaching. The Orthodox insist on a source in the Torah for what one thinks. There can be a lot of twists and turns, but there has to be a thread, back to a specific line in the Torah, somewhere, somehow. That does not include Reform Judaism, or even Conservative, which was a reaction to Reform. Reform is only two hundred years old. It’s not that its ideas are “bad puppy”. It’s that they cannot be shown to derive from any specific line or passage in the Torah.

    There was a rough dust-up between the Chassidim and their oponents in Vilna. Do you mean that? Yes, that got nasty.

    Do you mean the infighting that is plaguing one of the Chasidic sects now? Yes, that is awful. But I don’t worry about it because it is their business and G-d will figure it out.

    Ah! You are referring to the famous ruler-smacking nastiness wrongly attributed to the Orthodox. No, no.

    The Jews are FAMOUS or should be for more or less NEVER writing anybody off.

    That is the big schtick of Chabad, who tell many astonished alienated Jews that they are just fine, and they have never left because you can’t.

    So, a muslim cab driver said to me once, if a guy goes against your religion, you don’t kill him? No, I said quietyly, we cry, but we don’t kill him. He thought that was better but he had to be him. I gave him a normal tip and he drove away, somewhat sad.

  • JM, I respect and admire the aspect of Judaism you refer to– about not writing off any Jew. Though perhaps that’s under a certain strain, as the various streams of Judaism increasingly disagree about defining Jewish identity.

    I’m a little puzzled by your comments on Reform Judaism– I assume Reform views itself as a response to the Torah, not as somehow extrinsic to it, much less a rejection of it– whether one agrees with Reform or not.

  • I meant that the NT was supposed to replace the Torah as a guide for the lives of people entering into the “New Covenant”, not for the Jews.

    Certain Christian churches, after about 2,000 years, may have officially rejected supercessionism as a doctrine. As a Jew I appreciate being “cleared” of the sin of deicide and being told that its OK for us to stick to the Torah. However, I would be astonished if Christians did not view the NT as their “Torah”, so to speak, and did not believe that, for them it replaced the Torah of the Jews.

    Of course, the Torah never applied to gentiles anyway, so why they would feel the need to replace it with anything kind of escapes me. But I digress. I asume it has something to do with the Jewish origins of Christianity. Christianity has always seemed very schizophrenic to me in this sense.

    Yeah, the Torah says that men who publicly engage in homosexual acts in the presence of two kosher witnesses after being duly warned that it is a capital offense and going ahead and doing it anyway are subject to the death penalty, which IIRC, can only be imposed when the Sanhedirn exists.

    So we can safely assume that there will be no executions of male homosexuals (lesbians only get lashes) until the Sanhedrin is re-established which should happen, oh, around the time Moshiach comes and rebuilds the Beit ha Mikdash and ushers in a woreldwide era of peace where there won’t be any capital cases anyway.

  • I don’t know. I really don’t.

    There seems to be an uneasy relationship that tries to engage Torah positively, but without actually believing in anything supernatural. This can get unhappy and twitchy, and when I was engaging Jewish religious life as a beginner, in middle age, I was already unhappy and twitchy enough, and didn’t that. I wanted a RELIGION. So, I went for the RELATIVE certainty of Chassidic-tinged Orthodoxy, and have been ok with it. I have not checked my common sense at the door, however. I don’t think you have to. I also never had to handle being a young married with several children. I have had it easy.

  • I think JM articulated a misunderstanding by stating “There seems to be an uneasy relationship that tries to engage Torah positively, but without actually believing in anything supernatural.”

    I don’t know that this is precisely true. Reform Jews believe in God and so do Conservative Jews. I think many non-Orthodox Jews believe in God and that’s a belief in the supernatural. The question is related more to their beliefs regarding the origins and infallibility of the Torah and whether the traditions prescribed therein and subsequently elaborated upon by rabbinic Judaism are also born from the supernatural.

  • Hashem gives human beings the right and duty to interpret Torah, Middle. You can look it up.

    “Lo bashamayim hi”, right? The Torah is not in heaven.

    You really sound like a Christian, going on about the “supernatural”. The days of direct, supernatural revelation are OVER. It is now our job to take the Torah and work with it. Everybody knows that.

    Oh, yeah, when did you become secular? I thought you were Conservative.

  • Ephraim, JM used the term “supernatural” and she is a devout, practicing, traditional Jew. If you have a problem with the word or would like to tell JM that she sounds like a Christian, that’s fine.

    Second, as for my practice or faith, I don’t think it matters much in this conversation but I’ll address your comments. I don’t fall into any movement’s “system” of faith and practice. As I’ve pointed out previously, I don’t know that there is a God. If there is one, I don’t know that he is the God described in the Torah. One cannot invent faith that one doesn’t have. You either have it or you don’t. What I do have is great respect for our traditions and our history. I raise my son with the same respect and don’t disabuse him of his belief in God. He can make his own choices when he is older.

    As for sounding like a Christian, I hope you won’t be too troubled by this revelation but if you put me in a room with a bunch of Christians, some people might think I also look like one.

  • G-d does not look any less like a Samoan attorney than like anything else.

  • I’ve seen TM in the flesh. He looks about as Christian as I do, meaning not at all.

  • I was specifically addressing the way you used the word “supernatural” in your post, Middle.

    The belief in G-d may be supernatural. The idea that the process by which halacha is decided must also be supernatural, in the sense that G-d is supernatural, is not Jewish. One could argue that halachic decisors are inspired by G-d to arrive at the correct decisions. However, this absolutely not the same as inferring that such decisions ” are born from the supernatural”, like many Christian religious figures who claim to have a direct line to Jesus.

    Your post seemed to imply that you think Torah-believeing Jews think that for halacha to be valid it must be created “supernaturally”, rather like receiving a direct prophecy. You should know that thtis is not how it works.

  • Desmond Tutu IS indeed a phony. The rest is just nonsense…

  • Ephraim, explain to me how the Oral Law works. Does it not work as follows: Moses goes up mountain; Moses receives Torah from God which includes both written tablets and spoken instructions; Moses comes down from the mountain (let’s ignore Golden Calf) and shares knowledge given by God with elders of respective tribes; elders share this knowledge with their kin; knowledge is passed down orally; knowledge is locked in by R. Judah Ha’Nasi in Mishnah; Mishnah evolves through rabbinic traditions into halachah.

    If I’ve gotten something wrong in the chain, please do let me know. Otherwise, what we have here is a direct link to our supernatural God and this is partly why someone like you who has faith believes in the sanctity of the halachah and reject the notion that it is a man-made construct which can be rejected.

  • Believing in the sanctity of the Oral Law and the fact that it draws its ultimate authority from the Torah is not the same as believing it is itself of supernatural origin, Middle.

    Lo bashamayim hi.

  • Ephraim, you’re a Conservative Jew? I had no idea.

    Tell me from where the oral law comes. Don’t play semantic games like telling me that “it draws its ultimate authority from the Torah,” but rather tell me from where it comes and why it derives its authority from the Torah. You might as well also tell me where the Torah comes from.

  • What is the matter with you, Middle? I’m not playing semantic games. The Torah itself says “lo bashamayim hi”.

    Even if you don’t speak Yiddish, you’ve got a Yiddish kop.

    Figure it out.

  • I already did, Middle. Use your head.

    You might kop, but I guess you don’t chap.

  • Well gee whiz why does it have to be little old me to say that G-d Himself personally gave the Torah to Moshe and to the Jewish people, and that G-d also personally authorized the ordination system, “shmircha”, whereby generation after generation of rabbis are designated by the generation before as qualified to rule how to live a Torah life. The mass of their decisions is compiled as the Talmud, and the process of trying to understand even better, and trying to solve life’s endlessly new circumstances, goes on right now, and will into the future, following the UNBROKEN CHAIN OF ORDINATION from the personal hands of Moshe himself, really, no kidding. We have had our ups and downs, but we have a continuous, unbroken culture descending from the very, very distant past.

    So that’s where the Torah comes from, and that’s where the Oral Law derives its divine authority from.

    Oh, and TM is going straight to Gan Eden later because of his delicacy in not “disabusing him of his belief in God”. That is worth every mitzvah in the world. That means that every morsel of his son’s belief can be counted as TM’s belief, because TM let it be. It exists with his permission, and is therefore his belief, too. That kid has a lifetime of mitzvot ahead of him and they are all going to honor his Dad. In Gan Eden, TM is going to the front of the line, to the First Class Lounge, while the rest of us are standing around clutching our clipboards, waiting for the next available clerk.

  • So, the Jewish afterlife is a bureaucratic meritocracy requiring extensive queuing? Fuck y’all. ‘Ashadu ‘an la ilaha illallah, wa ‘ashadu ‘anna Muhammadan rasulullah.

  • Oh Michael, you didn’t notice where I stopped being serious and decided to be cute. You are being very literal-minded today, for you.

    Don’t worry about that part. Forget that part. I was just keeeding.

  • JM, why did you have to go and ruin it? Middle is not some kid in cheder. I wanted him to figure that out for himself.

    But, I think he knows that and was just being coy. He’s very good at the passive-aggressive thing.

  • I’m so confused now. Is JM being serious or not? Is what she wrote about God giving the Torah to Moses and then Moses passing it on to “rabbis” (elders first) inconsistent with what Orthodox Jews believe? If it is consistent then what exactly hasn’t Ephraim said openly?

    What is this phrase “lo bashamayim hi?”

  • JM is always serious more or less.

    Yes, what I said up there is normal Othrodox thinking, mainstream.

    Ephraim didn’t fell like spelling it out and I did.

    Lo bashamayim hi means “it is not in Heaven” implying it is here, on earth. This is an important anecdote I am too tired to look up and relate. It is interesting. Please ask the nearest Orthodox person you know.

    1) if you don’t know even one, how come, if you’re so tolerant?
    2) How do you like the feeling of not knowing the very first, most basic thing about traditional Judaism? You are brilliant, a father, and a businessman, and so how come you are so totally, utterly ignorant of this stuff? Even I know it, and I am not that terrific by a long shot. Start worrying, and start asking some questions. I mean all that in a nice way.

  • JM, what do you mean that I don’t know this? I know this. I’m challenging Ephraim’s assertions because he challenged the word which you used, “supernatural” and is denying the origins, according to his own beliefs, of both the Torah and Halacha. Go back to comment 35 and start tracking the conversation between us.

  • Frankly, it just didn’t occur to me that Middle would not be familiar with the phrase “lo bashmayim hi”. I’m pretty much of an am ha’aretz on these matters, and even I know what it means.

    As JM said, it means “it (the Torah) is not in heaven”. That is, it was given and now it is here and it is our job to interpret it. The process by which this is done is given in the very first chapter of Pirke Avot:

    “Moses received Instruction—Torah—from Sinai, and passed it on to Joshua; and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets; and the prophets passed it on to the men of the Great Assembly.”

    The correct rules for interpreting what the Torah means were also given to Moshe Rabbeiny by G-d and these rules were also transmitted. Thus, G-d explicitly gave human beings the duty and responsibility of interpreting the Torah for their generation. This is standard, mainstream Orthodox belief.

    Here is a good discussion of this passage, what it means, and what its implications are:


    I don’t know who “chiefrabbi” is, but he covers the main bases pretty clearly and explains the Orthodox approach pretty well.

    I found this just by typing “The Torah is not in Heaven” into Google. Seriously, man, the truth is out there.

    It’s not so hard to find it.

  • Huh?

    Orthodox people think G-d gave the Torah and etc. Meaning, G-d as a supernatural Supreme Being who was before all things and will always be, and cannot be weighed or documented like an aspect of nature. Therefore the word, super- natural, or above nature. Not everybody is cool with the existence of Something that cannot be objectively verified.

    This is very personal stuff. Lots of people do a Jewish life with plenty of doubts but so what. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

    Tom Morrissey, we are just having a good time. Rothko is good, isn’t he?

  • No, I’m not, Middle. I am disputing your interpretation of the word as you applied it to the halacha. All I said was that you seem to believe that halacha was “supernatural” in the sense that G-d is “supernatural”. This gives the impression that you seem to believe that halahc was supernaturally revealed to the rabbis of the Talmud, giving the impression that halacha is something like a prophetic supernatural revelation. It isn’t and you know it isn’t.

    The opening of Pirke Avot says specifically how the tradition is passed on:

    “Moses received the Torah from Sinai and passed it on to Joshua; and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets; and the prophets passed it on to the men of the Great Assembly.”

    Read this discussion on what “lo bashamyim hi” (“It [the Torah] is not in heaven”) means:


    This is a pretty good explanation of how the Orthodox view the situation and it covers most of the bases.

    And if you know all of this stuff, how come you don’t know the meaning of “lo bashamayim hi”? Hell, I’m pretty much of an am ha’artez when it comes to these things, and even I know what it means.

  • Are comments 55 and 58 consistent with each other? And what is so terrible about pita triangles?

  • What concerns me a little, Ephraim, is that you claim that I am misrepresenting the perception of halacha among the Orthodox. I decided to explore a bit:

    Here’s Rambam:

    1 All the commandments that were given to Moshe at Sinai were given together with their interpretation, as it is written “and I will give thee the Tables of Stone, and the Law, and the Commandment” (Exodus 24,12). “Law” is the Written Law; and “Commandment” is its interpretation: We were commanded to fulfill the Law, according to the Commandment. And this Commandment is what is called the Oral Law.

    2 The whole of the Law was written down by Moshe Our Teacher before his death, in his own hand. He gave a scroll of the Law to each tribe; and he put another scroll in the Ark for a witness, as it is written “take this book of the Law, and put it by the side of the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee” (Deuteronomy 31,26).

    3 But the Commandment, which is the interpretation of the Law–he did not write it down, but gave orders concerning it to the elders, to Yehoshua, and to all the rest of Israel, as it is written “all this word which I command you, that shall ye observe to do . . .” (Deuteronomy 13,1). For this reason, it is called the Oral Law.

    4 Although the Oral Law was not written down, Moshe Our Teacher taught all of it in his court to the seventy elders; and El`azar, Pinehas, and Yehoshua, all three received it from Moshe. And to his student Yehoshua, Moshe Our Teacher passed on the Oral Law and ordered him concerning it. And so Yehoshua throughout his life taught it orally.

    He proceeds to list how it was handed down…

    You want more recent? How about the spokesperson for Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Avi Shafran, who writes,

    Orthodoxy, by its very definition, cannot consider any system of belief not predicated on the divine and unchanging nature of halacha to be a valid expression of the Judaism of the ages.

    That is not a rejection as much as it is an affirmation — of a 3000-year-old belief-system. And it most certainly does not touch upon the Jewishness of any Jew.

    Unfortunately, the movements that have over past decades presented themselves in America as new “branches” of Judaism either blatantly (e.g. the Reform and Reconstructionist) or subtly (e.g. the Conservative) deny the quintessential Jewish tenet of halacha’s divine and unchanging nature. That is their prerogative, of course, in a free country. But it is Orthodoxy’s prerogative no less — indeed its imperative — to consider those movements, at least qua movements, to have immeasurably distanced themselves from “Judaism as Jewish religious law.”

    You want a modern authoritative source? How about the Jewish Encyclopedia:

    Oral Law

    Term used to denote the laws and statutes which, in addition to the Pentateuch, God gave to Moses. According to the rabbinical interpretation of Ex. xxxiv. 27, the words indicate that besides the written law——God gave orally to Moses other laws and maxims, as well as verbal explanations of the written law, enjoining him not to record these teachings, but to deliver them to the people by word of mouth (Giá¹­. 60b; Yer. Meg. iv. 74a; comp. also IV Ezra [II Esdras] xiv.). The expression “Torah shebe-‘al peh” denotes, therefore, “the law indicated in the word ‘ ‘al peh,'” and hence only the law which was given to Moses orally. But even disregarding that Talmudic interpretation, the expression is equivalent to the Torah, which was given orally (), not in writing. Compare (Soá¹­ah vii. 7), used of a recitation of the Biblical text by rote. In a wider sense, however, “Torah shebe-‘al peh” includes all the interpretations and conclusions which the scribes deduced from the written Torah, as well as the regulations instituted by them (comp. Yoma 28a, b and Rashi ad loc.), and therefore comprises the entire traditional teaching contained in the Mishnah, the Tosefta, and the halakic midrashim, since these were taught only orally and were not committed to writing. In later haggadic statements, however, the complete body of rabbinical doctrine is said to have been revealed to Moses on Sinai; so that R. Joshua b. Levi declared (Yer. Peah ii. 17a) that all the rabbinical teachings, even those which the scholars found and promulgated later, were given to Moses on the mountain (comp. also Ber. 5a).

    These passages, on the other hand, are by no means intended to be taken literally, or to be supposed to imply that God imparted to Moses the entire rabbinical teachings as they were developed in the course of time; since the forty days which Moses spent on Sinai would not have been sufficient, and the Midrash itself says (Ex. R. xli.) that the full extent of the rabbinical teachings was revealed to Moses in outline by giving him the rules according to which they might be developed. In conformity with this statement, the substance of these teachings either was deduced from the written law by means of exegetical interpretations and logical conclusions—being therefore contained by implication in the written law and so given to Moses—or it consistedof statutes which the Rabbis promulgated according to their own judgment, as they were justified in doing according to the traditional interpretation of Deut. xvii. 10-11 (comp. Sifre, Deut. 153-154 [ed. Friedmann, pp. 104b-105a]), since Moses had thus provided for such contingencies.

    What are you arguing, Ephraim, that because some rabbis invoke Torah authority to justify their tampering with oral law, that they do not consider it divine? Oral law is considered divine – supernatural, if you will – and halacha is considered its derivation.

  • You sure know your stuff.

    But I want to remark that an Encyclopedia is NOT a religious book. I was bemused by its saying that “forty days would not have been enough time for G-d to impart to Moshe the whole Oral Law.” Wait! How do they know? That is a divine scenario. If G-d can make a bush burn and be consumed, I suppose He can tell Moshe the whole Oral Law in forty days, or forty minutes, if He wants.

    An Encyclopedia is for facts; biographies, geography, battles. Religious thinking must be found somewhere else imho.

    Just because it has nice leather binding, with gold letters, does not mean….

  • JM, that’s why I gave you the Rambam and a modern-day Orthodox rabbi from Agudath Israel. Feel free to reject the encyclopedia as a source and focus on the others.

  • Sigh.

    From the Rambam you linked to, Middle:

    So too, everyone wrote down according to his ability parts of the explanation of the Torah and of its laws he heard, as well as the new matters that developed in each generation, which had not been received by oral tradition, but had been deduced by applying the Thirteen Principles for Interpreting the Torah, and had been agreed upon by the Great Rabbinical Court. Such had always been done, until the time of Our Holy Teacher.

    So: lo bashamayim hi. The entire law as we have it today was NOT revealed at Sinai. The essential structure, the basic laws, and the methoid for deducing the halacha in new situations was revealed. But not every single law. If it had been there would be no need for anyone to interpret anything.

    Besides, use your head: if, as you seem to be implying, Orthodox Jews believe that every single element of halacha, every single shayla that will ever be asked by anyone anywhere and every single tshuva was revelaled to Moshe at Sinai (so Moshe knew, all those thousands of years ago by revelation that it would be assur to turn on an electric light on Shabbat) was supernaturally revealed, what were R. Eleizer and the sages arguing about?

  • You sure are stubborn, Ephraim, even when the proof is right there. It’s kinda like those rabbis in the fairy tale where even when the heavens themselves sided against them, they refused to accept that they were wrong…so they claimed their right to do as they please.

    Of course, the big joke here, Ephraim, is that you are arguing against all the many, many, many discussions we’ve shared on this site where people such as myself have been attacked for essentially creating new traditions instead of sticking to halacha. Now you’re taking the position that you don’t really believe all that stuff, after all, it’s man-made…

    Anyway, you go argue with the Rambam, because I’m simply not knowledgeable enough:

    21 Thus, from Rav Ashe back to Moshe Our Teacher, there were forty [generations of] great men; that is to say: (1) Rav Ashe, (2) from Rava, (3) from Rabbah, (4) from Rav Huna, (5) from Rabbi Yohanan, Rav, and Shemuel, (6) from Our Holy Teacher, (7) from his father Rabban Shim`on, (8) from his father Rabban Gamliel, (9) from his father Rabban Shim`on, (10) from his father Rabban Gamliel the Elder, (11) from his father Rabban Shim`on, (12) from his father Hillel and Shammai, (13) from Shemayah and Avtalyon, (14) from Yehudah and Shim`on, (15) from Yehoshua and Nittai, (16) from Yosef and Yosef, (17) from Antignos, (18) from Shim`on the Righteous, (19) from Ezra, (20) from Baruch, (21) from Yirmiyah, (22) from Tsefanyah, (23) from Havaqquq, (24) from Nahum, (25) from Yoel, (26) from Michah, (27) from Yeshayah, (28) from Amos, (29) from Hosea, (30) from Zecharyah, (31) from Yehoyada, (32) from Elisha, (33) from Eliyahu, (34) from Ahiyah, (35) from David, (36) from Shemuel, (37) from Eli, (38) from Pinehas, (39) from Yehoshua, (40) from Moshe Our Teacher, the greatest of all of the prophets, from the LORD God of Israel

    24 The subject matter of the two Talmuds is the interpretation of the text of the Mishnah and explanation of its profoundest points and the matters that developed in the various courts from the time of Our Holy Teacher until the writing of the Talmud. From the two Talmuds, and from the Tosefta, and from the Sifra and from the Sifre, and from the Toseftot–from them all–are to be found what is forbidden and what is permitted, what is unclean and what is clean, what is punishable and what is not punishable, what is fit for use and what is unfit for use, according to the unbroken oral tradition from Moshe as received from Sinai.

    25 From them are also found the restrictive legislations enacted by the Torah scholars and prophets in each generation, to serve as a protecting fence around the Law as learned from Moshe in the interpretation of “ye shall keep my preventive measure” (Leviticus 18,30), which said take preventive measures to preserve my preventive measure.

    26 From them are found as well the customs and affirmative legislations that were enacted or brought into use during the various generations as the court of each generation saw fit. For it is forbidden to deviate from them, as it is written “thou shalt not turn aside from whatever they shall declare unto thee, neither to the right hand nor to the left” (see Deuteronomy 17,11).

    Now listen: the Rambam is clearly articulating a position, accepted by most Orthodox Jews, that Moses gave both the written Torah and the oral law to the leaders of Israel. He is stating this in a manner that leaves no question as to the provenance of the oral law. It is divine. It is supernatural.

    In fact, he maintains that the mishnah is a direct descendant of the oral law given by Moses and tells us that the talmuds are as well.

    According to Rambam, the only reason we even need to discuss the question of customs and answers to questions like why turning lights on during shabbat is forbidden is that the dispersal of the Jewish people led to collective forgetfulness that was rectified through new religious leaders. These new leaders were knowledgeable but some of the links had been broken over time and now they needed to address the questions that could not be answered. Furthermore, since communications weren’t what they are now, distance created a problem because you had these leaders living in different communities. As a result, it is reasonable, says Rambam, to honor local traditions. However, note that he is very clear that when there is a conflict between a current assertion about a question and a previous assertion, the earlier always wins out. Why? Because that assertion is closer to the original and therefore closer to that divine time and event when we received the Torah and oral law.

    It’s all right there, Ephraim.

    I never thought I’d see the day when an Orthodox guest of ours actually used MY argument that there’s no way they could have written or known 2000 years ago about turning on light switches. You’ve actually taken my position on this, Ephraim. Be careful cuz next thing you know, you’ll be sitting in a Conservative shul thinking about how it all makes so much sense…

  • Ephraim is becoming conservative? Great! Muffti likes to think that its the first step towards his becoming one of Muffti’s atheist pals!

  • Ephraim’s let the cat out of the bag.

    “Whoever hath an absolute authority to interpret any written or spoken laws, it is he who is truly lawgiver, to all intents and purposes, and not the person who first spoke or wrote them.”

    –Bishop Benjamin Hoadly, in a sermon preached before the King on the text, “My kingdom is not of this world” (1717).

  • Hey Tom, did you read the article about Ratzinger and Islam in the New Yorker? It was in the April 2 issue. The writer was Jane Kramer. Interesting stuff.

  • Middle, saw Kramer’s piece. She’s a bit phobic about the RC Church, but that’s OK. Nothing wrong with skeptical coverage.

    The pope will likely be known for his contribution to the proverbial ‘clash of civilizations.’ I suspect this was largely unintentional, that he blundered into polemics with Islam. Still, someone has to be prepared to call Islamic radicals to account, even if the short-term results are Moslem outrage and, sadly, the deaths of innocent people.

  • I thought she was sympathetic to the Muslim extremists and a bit harsh on the Old Man. It’s interesting that you think it was an unintentional blunder on his part. I’m not so sure. As Kramer points out, there is a disconnect between the manner in which Western countries have accepted Muslims and their faith when compared to how Muslim countries have treated their Christian citizens or new arrivals (if any are permitted to arrive at all).

    There’s no question that Christianity is facing a crisis of faith when compared to Islam and this must be very troubling to the RC Church’s leadership. The fact is that secularism doesn’t have a focus that is anywhere near as deep as religious devotion and this puts Europe’s Christians at a disadvantage in this civilizational clash.

  • The term ‘reciprocity’ is a good one, a good theme for the pope (and other folks) to advance in dialogue with with Islamic world.

    You’re right that the battle is uphill, especially in Europe. From my distance in the USA, I wonder whether strategies like opposing Turkish admission to the EU are the way to go. Meanwhile, Islam has the advantage in the medieval, unquestioning faith of its adherents. It would be a bitter irony if the Church’s accommodation of the Enlightenment, secularism, separation of church and state etc. proved its undoing.

    I suppose we can simply wait for Moslems to live out their own version of the Enlightenment, but as events in Iraq and Gaza remind us, that’s a long, long way off.

  • You can’t simply “wait for Muslims to live out their own version” because quite a few have moved to the West and not all of them assimilate and not all of them have children who want to be assimilated. If a Muslim refugee from a country torn with sectarian strife arrives in England or the US, do they not bring that strife with them? Many don’t but some do. The 10-15% figure seems consistent among those who do, although surveys keep showing larger numbers seeking sha’ariah law in their lives. The fact is that the West is now going to feel the sting of any such process in the Muslim world, and in fact probably is already.

  • All the more reason that we in the US insist that any immigrant, Muslim or otherwise, embrace the principles of liberty and tolerance that keep those Old World conflicts safely over there and not here. America seems to have had more success with this than France, Germany or the UK.

  • I’m not becoming Conservative, and I’m not becoming an atheist. My only point was that not every single halacha we have now was revealed. If that wasn’t clear, sorry.

    That is, I don’t believe, nor do I think any Orthodox rabbi I have spoken to believes, that 1) it was revealed to Moshe at Sinai that far in the future Moshe Feinstein was going to pasken that chalav stam in the US in the 20th century is kosher or 2) Moshe Feinstein received a prophetic revelation that told him that chalav stam in the US in the 20th century is kosher. Same thing with, say, electric light switches on Shabbat. These laws were drashed out by the rabbis based on the laws given at Sinai and the rules for interpreting those laws, which were also given at Sinai.

    If one wants to argue on that basis that the source of every single halacha is revealed, fine. That’s just a matter of deciding the parameters of discussion.

    Orthodox practice also provides for chiddush, that is, radically new interpretations that are discovered and propounded by truly visionary thinkers which then come to be accepted.

    This doesn’t mean that people can just change it the way they want to to fit a political agenda, like with the Consevative and Reform, who start from the result and then interpret to fit that result.

    Anyway, thre Rambam clearly states that there are new matters in each generation (e.g., light switches on Shabbat) that were not received by oral tradition, that is, not revealed, but which are figured out in each generation based on the revelaed principles of exegesis. So even if the bulk of the laws are revealed, not all of them are. That was my only point.