From Victim to Victimizer

Excerpts taken from Chapter 3 of Rabbi Brad Hirshfield’s book ‘You Don’t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right‘.

“Because faith is can be irrational and extreme is no reason to think we should evolve beyond it, any more than we might think that we should – or could – evolve beyond our capacity to love. Love can also be terrible and wonderful, creative and life affirming or soul shattering and suicidal.” (Brad Hirschfield, pg 64).

‘A person can be both a perpetrator and a victim…compassion and understanding don’t rule out justice. If we can’t hold that possibility in our minds, then we are doomed to an endless cycle of people claiming they are victims in order to justify victimizing others”. (Hirschfield, pg 66)

“Turning personal or national suffering into a source for healing is never easy, but unless that remains our top priority, we’ll be left with a world in which everybody has a finely honed sense of how his particular past entitles him to undermine someone else’s future” (Hirschfield, pg 66)

“When I recognize that I am victimizing, I need to realize that I should be a little more careful. When she (wife) recognizes that I have been victimized, she needs to me a little gentler…we assume that because our behavior can be explained, it is acceptable.” (Hirschfield, pg 69)

“Religious communities help you go beyond yourself to care for other people. They help sustain relationships through terrible disappointments. As much as religion inspires acts of terror and viciousness, it still inspires you to go beyond yourself because you believe that there’s something beyond you. What causes such ugly behavior, whether in name of religion or of cults, is fear. Fear is always what’s behind trying to preserve what one perceives as the truth in a coercive, threatening way.” (Hirschfield, pg 77)

“Dawkin’s argument is materialistic, akin to Marx’s statement that religion is the opiate of the masses. All the explaining away along those lines doesn’t account for the power of maintaining an intimate relationship with the source of all wisdom and life, whether that is called God, Allah, Adonai, spirit, or source.” (Hirschfield, pg 78)  

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61 thoughts on “From Victim to Victimizer

  1. Truth as coercion: I’ve never figured out why it isn’t enough for something to be ‘truth for me’ and for statements to be made ‘this is one interpretation’ rather than ‘this IS truth’ and ‘this IS what it says’. What purpose is served by all the dogmatism? If there is any merit to what a person perceives as truth, what they see as valid interpretations, others will see the same thing and be attracted.

    Many people counter this by saying that the Bible is dogmatic so they have to be as well, but one of many things I’ve learned in my studies is that Hebrew is not a dogmatic language. The translation into English makes it sound dogmatic at times, but if we just read in Hebrew we would realize there is often much room for interpretation. Rabbi’s comments on holding all truth.

    we are doomed to an endless cycle of people claiming they are victims in order to justify victimizing others”.

    That’s a tough one to let go of. Torah tells us to never forget Amalek, but of course at the same time we don’t use him as an excuse for treating anyone the same way. It just seems like if we forget completely, we’re letting people off the hook where they don’t have to be responsible for anything they’ve done. I guess without reading the book myself I don’t know his definition of ‘victim’ and ‘victimized’. It seems to me too often in the quest for everyone to get along, real hurts get pushed under the rug and the person hurt is hurt even more by the denial of the validity of their pain.

    “Turning personal or national suffering into a source for healing is never easy, but unless that remains our top priority, we’ll be left with a world in which everybody has a finely honed sense of how his particular past entitles him to undermine someone else’s future”

    I’m going to disagree with him on this one. Top priority? No. I don’t see anything in Torah that tells me this is my purpose for living life. ‘A high priority’ perhaps, but certainly not top. If I’m going along living a life of Torah and mitzvot within my community, I’m not going to be so concerned about past wrongs anyway. And in the end, some wrongs should never be forgotten; certainly they can’t be forgiven since only those who were wronged can do the forgiving. Besides, I think it’s good to remain wary. What has been is what will be again, there is nothing new under the sun. And certainly history has shown the truth of that statement from Tanakh.

  2. “There’s nothing more dangerous than a victim” Plantinga in “A Breivity of Sin”

    “Dawkin is short-sighted. All things from a biologist stand point go to zero. everything will eventually die. that’s on the horizontal plain. however from a physicists point of view there is also the vertical plain we must consider. everything might die but matter cannot be destroyed, so all this death will result in something else, even if we can’t define it.” -John Polkinghorne

    rawk out!

  3. “The translation into English makes it sound dogmatic at times, but if we just read in Hebrew we would realize there is often much room for interpretation” (Yael)

    I agree. I think it is dogmaticism that gets in the way of many a seeker’s growth – which was true for me at one time in my life. I was told ‘these are the truths’ and I was to respect them (and I did). Now I re-evaluate what I was told and ask ‘how can we be so sure these are truth’s without their testing?’. I would almost rather not talk about something be true but something being ‘good and valuable’.

    “It seems to me too often in the quest for everyone to get along, real hurts get pushed under the rug and the person hurt is hurt even more by the denial of the validity of their pain” (Yael)

    He actually does address this in this chapter about the delicate balance of forgiveness and justice. I think best case scenario’s are when both sides can contribute to the ‘healing’ and make right their wrongs…this doesn’t happen enough but it is the standard I hold out as exemplery. But I am with you also, hurts need to be dealt with in a manner worthy of their cause…and sometimes cheap forgiveness does not cut it.

    “And in the end, some wrongs should never be forgotten; certainly they can’t be forgiven since only those who were wronged can do the forgiving” (Yael)

    It’s a funny thing, I agree and slightly disagree. Things should not be forgotten (agree) – since we can both learn from the indicent and this help direct our concerns in the future (on some level). For example, I would that not a single person would forget the world wars and the holocaust – cause in that we actually did see the horribleness of humanity and damage we can do. There are plenty of lesson to be learned and people to be honored.

    But forgiveness has a way of turning hurt in something meaningful also (where I kinda disagree)…and to not forgive sometimes makes wears more on us than on others. For example, my mother and I are not very close for many a reason – but right up there is her abandonment of me while I was vulnerable (age 10 or so). Then she did not care for me while I was a teenager (even said she ‘hated me’).

    That kind of stuff scars and changes behavior – not for the better in the victim. I can say ‘I did not love my own mother’…and that’s tragic – being left to the ‘wind’ more or less with no one to care for me. But I learned as I got older some of the struggles she had and the problems she had to face – and for as rough of a job she did – I can understand (have compassion for it). Also the hurt in me effects me on a daily basis – not her. I guess, once I started to forgive her that I could see her as my equal again. Although barriers are as close to being removed as they can be (presently) – I still struggle with this a bit…not forgetting…but not condemning either.

    That all said, I celebrate Mother’s Day for her today – with the rest of my siblings – because healing has brought us both to a place where was can ‘love one another’ again.

  4. Society,
    We can forgive wrongs against us personally but we cannot forgive wrongs done to others. That doesn’t mean we let this wear on us, it just means we realize it’s not our place to grant forgiveness, only the victims. Perhaps this Shoah survivor can explain it better. Her daughter is a friend of mine and if ever you could meet more upbeat people happy with life, those two are it, yet she explains that she will never forgive the Germans. It’s a good piece i think.

  5. “We can forgive wrongs against us personally but we cannot forgive wrongs done to others” (Yael)

    You know, I actually agree here. I can’t forgive someone one the behalf of another – on a personal level. On a national level, I think we can ‘heal’ – and again – we don’t need to forget what has happened (I deal with this in my own personal Aboriginal people’s destruction in Canada)…and I also choose not to forget (so I can learn from it).

    At the same time, I cannot continue on in anger either – because that is not solving the situation (although I think feeling the anger is alright – acting on it just wouldn’t serve a purpose for me). But I can relate to a people’s oppression (almost like slavery) – and what the impacts are. I think not forgetting has helped me to see more solutions to the current woes than to dig myself deeper into emotional or mental problems. I think at some point we have to be able to turn around and heal from past scars – but they are still scars.

  6. I think this is a good dose of refreshing common sense.

    Dawkin’s argument is materialistic, akin to Marx’s statement that religion is the opiate of the masses. All the explaining away along those lines doesn’t account for the power of maintaining an intimate relationship with the source of all wisdom and life, whether that is called God, Allah, Adonai, spirit, or source

    Naturally, Dawkins sees himself as that source of wisdom in his own eyes. When we look out at the world we can either say there is no God and take credit for what we know (this is Dawkins) or we can give thanks to God for what we know. …and be led to more and more wisdom. Sin comes from the great problem that mankind can’t seem to overcome, the concept of the “I”. That’s why love is a two-step process in the Bible. Love God with all your mind, heart, soul and strength, and then you can love others as yourself. But you can’t do #2 if you don’t do #1, that is, love God more than self.

  7. If you can’t love your neighbor as yourself until you love God, then why is it Torah tells us first to love our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18), next to love the stranger (Leviticus 19:34) and only after that are we told to love God (Deuteronomy 6:5)?

    It seems to me it is the opposite of what you say, that our capacity to love is like that of a child where first we love ourselves, then we begin to love those closest to us, then those further away and only then are we able to love God.

    It is only through loving others that we are able to love God, at least that is what the order of Torah at least hints at, if not outright teaches. (It seems to me your text has something similar, about not loving man whom you have seen but then claiming to love God Whom you haven’t seen?)

    And for those who claim God demands to be the big number 1 in our lives, over and above all, I would ask, why then when the world was just God and Adam, the two of them alone, where God was everything in the world to Adam, did God tell Adam, “It isn’t good for man to be alone”? Adam wasn’t alone, Adam was with God, yet God said Adam was alone and that this situation was not good. Why would God say that if God wanted Adam’s total devotion?

    I agree with your assessment of Dawkins, the choices we make in viewing the world around us, but after that, not unexpectedly, you take a very Christian view of mankind perhaps, while I set forth a very Jewish view. 🙂

  8. I think there is some open-ness on the issue of ‘loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself’…room for the view Yael espouses and room for the one Jim espouses. As long as we note that we are asked to love – which is really what is important in all of this.

    I tend to lean towards the idea of ‘loving neighbor as proof of loving God’ – but that’s also a personal thing (which I value). I guess I lean towards Yael in this one – because we have to know we are loving to be loving – and the best proof of that is in regards to those around us.

  9. What is they do in the Hindu tradition. They bow with their hands closed together which is done to represent the God in you. I think our loving of ourselves first is actually the same as Loving God first. Only by loving yourself can you go out in the world to love others.

  10. Yael—It seems to me it is the opposite of what you say, that our capacity to love is like that of a child where first we love ourselves, then we begin to love those closest to us, then those further away and only then are we able to love God.

    There is some truth to this as our love for ourselves shows us that love exists, and I point to the birth of my daughter as a pivot point for me to stop messing around and start thinking about love and God. But I suggest these things [other people, our self-love] points us to God.

    As for Adam, he lacked the feminine side of God. God intended the man-woman relationship from the beginning. The people around us are very important, just not as important as God.

    Society—I tend to lean towards the idea of ‘loving neighbor as proof of loving God’

    Wouldn’t that be predicated on loving God first?

  11. Jim………

    I was reading some of your other stuff, about gays and the Old Testament and such, and a thought came to mind. In regards to the Old Testament doesnt Paul say it best in Hebrews 8:13

    “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

    Doesnt that technically mean Buh byyyy. To the Old Testament that is.

  12. “Wouldn’t that be predicated on loving God first?” (Jim)

    It is interesting – that’s why I make room for both views. Your view (which is good) is that our loving is predicated on the idea we value God (and His teachings) – this is true…no valuing God likely no valuing this teaching. So I agree with you there.

    However, if we are to prove this is true – we cannot just say it is because ‘God said so and I read it’. No…we have to go and live it – in connection with our neighbor (be a loving person to another – even a stranger). In some sense, this is to be our focus – since this is the tangible thing God is asking of us.

    John also raises a good point – the 3rd aspect of that teaching – love ourselves. I would say this is also an aspect of developing that loving personality – just as important as loving God and neighbor.

    It’s a literal ‘which comes first, the chicken or the egg?’.

  13. Hello John T.
    JT—Doesnt that technically mean Buh byyyy. To the Old Testament that is.

    Hebrews 8:13—In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away

    He is referring specifically to the relationship with God which now is offered through Christ. Christ nullifies the need for sacrifices and punishments for sin; he was the sacrifice for us and took the punishment for our sin. It is dubious to believe that somehow homosexuality is completely redeemed as was the eating of previously considered “unclean” animals, for example. Don’t forget Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 is in the NT to name two salient warnings about homosexuality.

    Last, dismissing the OT with all its lessons and wisdom equals rejecting God’s inspired Word. Not a wise thing for a theophile to do. Cheers.

  14. Jason—No…we have to go and live it

    Exactly. As you would have read on my corresponding post [Problem with the Flesh] over at my blog, I was a classic people hater. As a young manager I was nicknamed the “terminator”. The other managers would talk to me when they wanted to fire someone. They’d get me to do it because I didn’t care whether the employee needed help or had simply had a bad day. I lost count after 60. That person is long dead. Thank God.

    About loving ourselves. We can also do that with a God-centered approach. Without God a love of self can be corrupted into a Machiavellian self-love. No bueno. Cheers

  15. As for Adam, he lacked the feminine side of God. God intended the man-woman relationship from the beginning. The people around us are very important, just not as important as God.

    Genesis 1 speaks of God making them male and female all at the same time and calling them Adam. So, did Adam really lack a feminine side? We’ll ever disagree about the priorities. You didn’t like the example of Adam, so how about Micah 6:8 where God is again in last place….It has been told you, O man, what is good, and what Adonai requires of you: only to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

    John T., Tanakh certainly isn’t done away with by any means. One religion cannot come along and tell another that the prior religion’s texts are now obsolete. Whatever a new religion thinks of these texts? Who cares! These weren’t their texts to begin with! Anyway, when I pointed this out before, that people are only too happy to claim that they are free from the law but then turn around and condemn others by the same law, I was told that the NT condemns homosexuality so it didn’t matter what Tanakh says or doesn’t say. But, if you’re interested in a Jewish view of Tanakh and homosexuality, check out Keshet. Not all is as it seems.

  16. Hi Jim

    Some Christian interpretations actually say just that. We are all redeemed regardless. Now I know thats not a popular view, as some people just need some good ol’ damnation to keep them in line. Mind you Im not so sure that works either, just look at the average Hell mandated Christian. Still a really good sinner. I like my view of God, He lets me punish myself with my actions here, but will lovingly help me see the error of my ways later. Just like a good parent should 😉

  17. Yael

    The more I read about the language translations and context of the Old and New Testament about Homosexuality, the more I realize they werent talking about a genuine Loving same sex relationship. They were talking about Idolatry, Pedophiles, Prostitution, Lust. Its DEFINATELY not that clear they were talking about Gay men and there is NO mention of Gay women. Go figure.

  18. “But, if you’re interested in a Jewish view of Tanakh and homosexuality, check out Keshet. Not all is as it seems” (Yael)

    Do you have a link for this – I am interested also.

    “About loving ourselves. We can also do that with a God-centered approach. Without God a love of self can be corrupted into a Machiavellian self-love” (Jim)

    I tend to agree – but not all have to. My love found a home because I realized God loved humanity a lot (the value of myself and others went way up at that time – for me). But some do not even need this – they see an inherent value in humanity – even outside of God. Can they not be also right? Since Loving God and Loving your neighbor are actually seperate commandments.

    But for the record, Paul, Jesus, and James (in the NT) all quote the idea ‘loving your neighbor’ is tantamount to loving God (fulfilling the commandments) – or the ideas are synonamous. Here is some scriptures:

    “for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8 )

    “and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ” YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” (Romans 13:9)

    “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” (Galatians 5:14)

    “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” you are doing well” (James 2:8 )

    “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12)

    So there is backing in this century’s theology that ‘loving neighbor’ was equal to ‘loving God’…something I tend to believe. And that whoever is doing this – no matter what we label them – is doing the will of God (the commandments). I am not sure we need to make hoops of fire for people to jump through to be following God – if they can love their neighbor – it is well with them (according to James). Therefore it is also well with me – so I shake their hands and congratulate them (from believers to non-believers).

    Maybe we dislike simple faith systems? Nothing can be that easy?

  19. Jason

    Mind over matter…………If you dont mind it dont matter…….pretty easy eh.

    By the way do you golf?

  20. I actually like golf – but I have only played on par 3’s – I am small time in th golf world. Unless Tiger Woods counts – then I am one of the best.

  21. Well Ive never been to Sask. yet, so maybe I will make a Golf Trip this summer and take you out for a pint and a round 🙂

  22. Society,
    Hate to interrupt you guys, but….the word Keshet in my previous post is a link, it just didn’t show up a different color so unless you mouse over it you won’t know. And now, back to the golf. 🙂

  23. And perhaps I’m closer to Jim’s view than I think. I’m reading a book on the Shoah written by a survivor from my shul. In it is a picture of a synagogue laid waste and Torah scrolls ripped apart and thrown on the floor. I have seen many pictures of Jews in concentration camps, I even visited Dachau myself, but I find this picture of abused Torah scrolls to be the most distrubing, to the point of making me feel like I’m going to throw up. How can it be that I find the abuse of a scroll more upsetting than the abuse of a person, yet I do.

    A Torah scroll is so sacred; to be in its presence is to be in the presence of the Holy. The first time I had an aliyah, I trembled to be so close to the scroll, not out of nervousness but out of a sense of being close to Holiness in a way I’d never been before. Others have expressed this same feeling so I know I’m not alone. This morning in shul I was a gabbaifor the first time. Standing there by the scroll as it was chanted, reading along to make sure not one mistake was made by the reader, again gave me that feeling of being in the presense of complete Holiness.

    So, perhaps I would like to think that I consider people first and God next, but in reality God does come first, just not in the way God does for Jim. With me, it is the Torah, the Words, that sacredness rolled up on parchment. How anyone could tear one up and trample it underfoot? Such a person would truly be the most evil, to so disdain the very words passed down from generation to generation, of what God would have us to know. We had to have known we were doomed from the moment we saw what was done to our sefrei Torah. If someone would treat the Torah that way, they will only treat humans worse.

  24. I tend to have a similar view myself Yael – the teachings are from God – and those teachings we implement/observe – and they contain the ideas of ‘loving my neighbor’ – which in essence – is because I love God (teachings and all). I am not as devout about the words as you are – but I really share the same sentiment.

    Jim, I think you may be on the money with your observation – loving God does lead to loving neighbor (at least the teachings command it – and I value those teachings). I left the idea open (and still do) – but I actually do agree with you here…my bad for not saying it earlier.

  25. If someone would treat the Torah that way, they will only treat humans worse.

    Indeed, their hate was a hate for God!
    If you hate people you hate God. What then can be said for hating God’s Word? Or hating God’s chosen people, the Jews? Interesting how Adolf Hitler is singled out as the most evil man of the last century even though Mao and Stalin killed more.

    Thanks for seeing the common ground.

  26. I have to surprise you once in awhile, Jim. I’m usually pretty honest with myself and if I catch myself out in contradictions I’ll say so. My reactions when I’m caught off guard can reveal much. This just happened to be one of those times.

    I sometimes help take care of the scrolls in our shul. One of my tasks when we’re celebrating a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is to wrap the Torah in a wimple beforehand. And of course sometimes I dress the scroll after it is read. If anyone is curious to see what this is all about, scroll to the bottom of this page. Our ornaments at shul are much more beautiful than these. A teenager at shul keeps them polished for us.

    Sorry, society. Didn’t mean to take your thread off-topic. But, you know my love of Torah.

  27. Ultimately if we were created in GODS image then we need to Love ourselves and others first, seeing as that is our only “real” image we have to go by. Loving GOD is all fine and dandy but it is through us that we get our connection to his/her Love, there really is no other tangible way. Otherwise its all in your Head and that could be considered a little Nuts by some 🙂

    As far as the Torah goes, it kind of makes me think of Idolatry. After all didnt GOD write it on our Hearts and Minds?

  28. How can Troah be an idol? Give me a break. The very words taught us by God?

    You’re quoting Christian beliefs. Obviously as a Jew I’m not going to hold to such teachings, at least not yet anyway. The prophets say that when messiah comes no one will have to teach Torah anymore because all will know it already. One of many reasons why I do not believe Jesus was messiah, aside from the fact that I don’t believe in any messiah, is that there is no way it can be said that everyone knows Torah. For the most part, Christians dismiss Torah as nothing but a few proof texts so certainly they do not have it written anywhere in their lives much less their hears and minds!

    I don’t imagine you’ve ever been around a Torah scroll John T. I’ve been called many things in my day, but an idolator? By a Christian? Now that’s funny. Torah is a connection to God but I guess if a person has no sense of the Holy, that connection would indeed seem strange.

  29. JT—After all didnt GOD write it on our Hearts and Minds?

    Imagine a little child entrusted with a precious document. Before long its covered with tomato soup stains and glitter and you can hardly read it. That’s what you’d be placing your faith in. The letter on our hearts and minds is warped by our sin. We then must look to a living God who is holy to guide us. And, yes, He is there.
    The people who don’t feel that connection are the ones who are a little Nuts. 🙂

  30. I like your little child imagery………….”to enter the kingdom of the father you must become as a child” ………or something like that 🙂

    Now Just imagine you are deaf, blind and mute…………how pretell do you think you are going to get the word of GOD……..Maybe by it being written on your Heart and Mind………Geez was GOD thinking when he did that eh JJ!!

  31. <i.We can forgive wrongs against us personally but we cannot forgive wrongs done to others.

    I only partly agree with that. Looking around at society, we can see that a lot of wrongs are seen not just as being against an individual victim, but against society as a whole, and against the moral judgment of society–and people respond accordingly. That is one reason why society takes part in legal redresses against crimes, instead of leaving it up to the individual to take matters into their own hands. When someone is brought to court for a crime, note that it is “The People vs. so-and-so” rather than “The victim vs. so-and-so”. Some people try to introduce the victim’s desires into these cases–for example, saying that the death penalty is a way of bringing closure to the family of the victim of murder. But I actually think that this can easily counter to the concept of societal justice (especially in something like the death penalty–it is not the business of society to carry out individual vengeance or to do so in ways that violate the basic standards of human conduct). Laws are often justified, in fact, simply as a way of sending a signal about what society considers acceptable and unacceptable. Given the fact that crimes are handled by society, on society’s behalf, and just given the fact that people often have an active interest in these cases, it seems clear to me that people realize that, in a sense, a crime against one person is a crime against us all. So I actually do think that non-victims can, in a sense, forgive those who commit crimes.

    The opposite of forgiveness happens all the time with people who were not victims. People who were not the victim of a crime still often feel great moral outrage over terrible crimes and call for justice to be performed. I was never a victim of torture, but I still call for justice against those who authorize it. We can’t have it both ways–we can’t on the one hand claim that people have the right to feel moral outrage over what someone has done to a third party while at the same time saying that we can’t forgive those same perpetrators either. In fact, no one is an island, and this is never less true than when it comes to victimization.

    So I do believe that our response to other people’s actions, including forgiveness, has a role even when we are not the direct victim.

  32. It is very likely that the first five books of the Bible were developed over many centuries by several authors. Scholars give those source traditions names like J, P, D, and E. Each of those authors had their own agendas and theologies. It did not drop out of the sky, it is not God’s literal words (and seriously, how could such an obviously human document be anything but a human document?) The finished product emerged, like anything else in the history of religion, as the product of political wrangling as much as Divine inspiration (the Deuternomist and Priestly traditions did not always agree with one another). Like all sacred texts, it represents the efforts of people who were trying to make sense of God. I think the real value in appreciating ancient sacred texts is in seeing how others, during the formative centuries of the religion, worked through the various theological strands of thought, how their religion evolved and developed into a mature faith, and thus with those ancient authors we can engage in a dialogue. Sacred texts are a dialogue–between the authors and God, and between us and those authors, while we also continue our dialogue with God.

  33. MS

    Great thoughts. At my Church I often hear my Pastor say the Bible is the living, breathing word of GOD, and all that comes to my mind is that it should be able to Grow and Change. That to me is what GOD intended. When we get stuck on how one interpretation is more right than another, or one book is better than another we ultimately create division. Hence all the war in the world. People who cant or wont Grow and Change. For myself thats the ultimate Sin.

  34. Yael

    I see youre pretty excited about my comments, as you mis-spelled Torah(troah). Good thing Im not taking it literal or I wouldnt know what youre talking about. ;)Hmmmm I wonder if they had spell check or proof readers for all the subsequent translations of the Torah? Well I digress. I believe Jason B. has made reference to this before. It should be more about your actions rather than your doctrine. I wonder, if you are truly a Jew, does that mean you practice all the laws on dress, diet, work, prayer and the multitude of other rules they have? And if you dont how can you lay claim to being a Jew. Not that it matters to me, just curious? As far as it being an Idol, I mean that only when I see people talk about their scripture with such reference yet dont really practice whats in it. Not sure if youre like that but unfortunately countless are. I think when that happens it becomes about the words on the pages of their Holy books rather than the essence behind those words(GOD). That to me is what I meant by Idolatry.

    John

  35. “we can see that a lot of wrongs are seen not just as being against an individual victim, but against society as a whole” (MS)

    True, actually the next post I did on this addresses this issue a little closer than this one. Just pointing that out.

    “we can’t on the one hand claim that people have the right to feel moral outrage over what someone has done to a third party while at the same time saying that we can’t forgive those same perpetrators either” (MS)

    We can’t want this as part of our faith – I agree – but it does happen. However, we have to find the balance between justice and forgiveness – not an easy one to find. But it is possible…to both be angry…and to not sin concerning that anger. We seek justice – just not from our hands. Sometimes the process of forgiveness requires justice be meted out by the law – so one can feel some sense of assurance they can move forward…something I have noticed.

    “Sacred texts are a dialogue–between the authors and God, and between us and those authors, while we also continue our dialogue with God.” (MS)

    That’s a great viewpoint to approach it from – the dialogue of the centuries and the present. I actually see this in Yael’s Jewish community – dealing with teachings from older traditions up until now – which is really groovy.

    “When we get stuck on how one interpretation is more right than another, or one book is better than another we ultimately create division” (John T)

    Usually this is true – but only if one party (or many parties) hold to the idea what they interpret is the ‘only right way’ to view the passage. Then, yes, we are going to see some serious division in that room. However, interpretation is not a ‘bad thing’ – there is nothing wrong with doing that at all – I would say we all do it anyways.

    The problem comes when we set up that a passage cannot contain more than one meaning at all – when it may contain many. Or when the dialogue is not open enough for people to speak their minds about what they learned from a teaching/scripture – they get shot down for having an opinion (usually the not widely held view).

    The wolf truly is in the sheep’s clothing.

    “I think when that happens it becomes about the words on the pages of their Holy books rather than the essence behind those words(GOD). That to me is what I meant by Idolatry” (John T)

    The book being an ‘idol’ – maybe it does happen – I am not sure – I do know a lot of Christians have the bible open to some page of scripture in the middle of their living room – maybe this is their ‘holy tradition’?

    I know what you are getting at – and to some extent I do agree (we came to worship God – the author of the books). However, the path to God is contained in those teachings – they lead us down a path God has set – so the teachings (for me) – play a high role. I can see why Yael said the things she did – this is about the importance of those teachings and what they mean to us.

    That all being said, i rarely crack a bible open – must of my study is done on-line (with on-line bibles)…so if the internet goes down – will I still remember the teachings of God? Yes. If my bible is burnt – do the teachings fade from memory? Not really. I have been trained by years of practice to ‘love my neighbor’ and this is quite ingrained now. Maybe this is the teachings ‘in our hearts and minds’?

  36. John, John, John, It seems a common male tactic to try to put women in their place by claiming we are ruled by emotions in our posts……I had to laugh, nice try though. The Torah as an idol is really quite an amusing idea to me. As I said, I’ve been called many things in my life, but an idolater has to take the cake.

    As far as if I am a Jew or not, I have to say I could care less if Christians think I’m Jewish or not since Christians have no say whatsoever in the matter. I am a Jew according to Halakhah and that is what is important to me. Jews fall across the spectrum in observance, yet we’re all still Jews. There are Jews who follow Judaism and Jews who do not, yet we are all still Jews. Judaism is about doing, following our religion, being a Jew is just a matter of birth or halakhic conversion and for some of us a little of both.

    And yes, actually there are very strict ‘spell checkers’ as it were for Torah. The care that goes into the writing of a scroll is really quite amazing. Perhaps one day when life is not so hectic again I will return to a hobby of mine, studying how to become a soferet. I don’t suppose I will ever reach that level, but I enjoy dreaming and practicing. I have a real sense of the sacredness of such an undertaking. I truly love Torah and that is all there is to it, read into that what you will.

    Mystical Seeker,
    There are many views as to how Torah came into existence, Jews also view revelation in a variety of ways. I find the alphabet theory to be contrived with the claim that various words in a verse were comprised from several different sources. I can see chapters coming together from a variety of sources, book coming together, but each word in a verse? That seems a little much. No matter. The view I hold, along with many Conservative Jews, is that Torah is a record of our people’s encounter with God, however it came into being, and thus the very words are important. Sefrei Torah should not be treated with disdain, as our ancestors cared for them through the ages, so also do we. There is a tremendous amount of enjoyment to be found in studying Torah.

    That Christians care little about Torah really doesn’t surprise me. Some etch it in stone and refuse to allow it to say more than what they say it says, some dismiss it as just another man made book, some do both, some ignore it completely. One of the reasons I enjoy interacting with Jason is that he doesn’t have any of these attitudes. I was surprised when I met him, that is for sure. He is a rare person in your world.

    You are misunderstanding my comment about not being able to forgive wrongs done to someone else, mixing justice with forgiveness. Torah clearly tells us that we are to have courts in order to have a just society. It does not say that society is to forgive wrongdoers, society is only to ensure justice is served. If someone is innocent the court will set them free. This is not forgiveness, they were innocent. If someone ‘does their time’ they don’t need forgiveness; they’ve already paid for their wrongdoing. If you find a verse in Torah which speaks of society forgiving wrongdoers, please point it out to me. I would like to see it. My comment was made from a personal level. For example: I cannot forgive someone for abusing someone else. I cannot forgive someone for murdering someone else. In these cases I can only work to make sure justice is served and that I do my part to keep such things from happening again. That is my obligation to the world in which I live. I can only forgive wrongs done against me. If you think you have greater power than that, what can I say? It would be ludicrous to think that if someone beats the crap out of me, you can come along and say to my assailant, “Oh that’s all right. You’re forgiven because I say so.”

    Back to John T. I live the life of a liberal religious Jewish woman, tallis, tefillin, davening, kashrut, Shabbat, Torah, mitzvot, gemilut hasidim. If you were to come visit me in my community you might just be in for a bit of a surprise as to how different my life is from yours. One cannot take the values of Christianity and use them as a basis for judging another community. We each have our own values. Most Christians can’t read Hebrew in order to even know what Torah says, most have no clue what Judaism is all about, so I don’t get too concerned about if any of you think I’m really following Torah or not. Last time I looked God wasn’t a Christian so I’m not required to answer to Christians on how I choose to live my life any more than you are required to answer to me.

    And as far as someone treating the texts with ‘reference’ ( 8) correct spelling is perhaps a challenge that knows no religious bounds?), but not doing what they say? We start where we start. If someone at least treats their texts with reverence, perhaps in time they will begin to do what those texts say. At least they have some sense of God in their life. One never knows the final outcome, but as long as there is a connection to God, however slight, there are possibilities. Anyway, I thought the Christian beef was about us Pharisees doing our rituals without any reverence? Either way, I also see this as still leaving room for possibilities. One never knows but doing might lead to understanding in the end. If not, oh well, at least we did what we were supposed to do.

    Jason and I both agree social justice is our priority, how we live that out is sometimes similar, sometimes not. This should not be surprising. We follow very different paths. And we’re both pretty happy with our choices.

    Disclaimer: At no time while writing this comment have I been angry, stressed, out of control, crying, menstruating or getting ready to menstruate. Smiling, yes, trying to find the right words, yes, failing at that, probably. Just wanted to make that clear. 🙂

  37. Thanks for the ‘nod’ Yael – I really appreciate that. Fact is, I really do appreciate the Jewish viewpoint you bring to the conversation – if anything – it should help us Christians to know their a few views to the way we look at our own scriptures (and maybe we need to return to the altar of Judaism to do some re-learning – that’s my personal opinion).

    I am thankful for the varying views offered to be honest – they all mean something to someone – and therefore – mean something to me (valuing the other above yourself). I am not Yael, John, Jim, Just1, Mystical, OSS, or Luke – but you know – I think we can all learn from one another and make this world a better place for knowing one another.

    Maybe that’s what I value about the conversation pieces we have here at the table of faith – there is always something new to learn and new directions to challenge us in our ways of thinking (and in interpretation). That’s where we all equal – at this table – discussing faith with complete open-ness. We’re not always right, we’re not always wrong – but we are all equal voices…and that’s very key to a workable human perspective.

  38. For example: I cannot forgive someone for abusing someone else. I cannot forgive someone for murdering someone else. In these cases I can only work to make sure justice is served and that I do my part to keep such things from happening again.

    I can’t speak for what you personally can or cannot do. All I am saying is that you cannot make a general statement about what is forgiveable and what is not. My other point, regarding what society does, is simply this–the fact is that people do involve themselves in the crimes that are done to other people, and they do so all the time. You say that a bystander cannot forgive a murderer; if so, then I would argue that a bystander cannot also condemn or judge a murderer. We can’t have it both ways. I run across a lot of judgmental people in life who are quick to condemn the activities of other people who do bad things, and so what we have is a one-sided approach to forgiveness, namely that everyone can condemn but only the victim can forgive.

    Can a non-victim forgive a murderer? By definition, a murderer can never be forgiven by their victim, so if no one else can forgive, then a murderer can never be forgiven. What about the family members? Can they forgive the murderer for what was done to their loved one? If the answer is yes, then already we have admitted that non-victims can forgive. If the answer is no, then I would suggest that this runs counter to what most people would in fact believe. The family of a victim is in fact affected deeply by a murder. But ultimately, we are all part of the “family of man”, and in effect I would argue that if we open the doors to non-family members being able to forgive, then the boundary between family members and non-family members (what about friends? Acquaintances? Co-workers? Where is the line really?) becomes arbitrary.

    Naturally, the act of a victim forgiving carries a ton more weight, and it involves a lot more and has greater emotional meaning, than when others forgive. The victim has a deeper emotional involvement in the crime, after all. But that is not the same thing as saying that only the victim can forgive.

    As for the authorship of the Torah, I have no problem with the statement that “Torah is a record of our people’s encounter with God.” I think that the same can be said of any scripture of any religious faith. A lot of serious scholarship has delved into the various traditions of authorship that went into its formation. It is possible that the documentary hypothesis doesn’t capture all the details with complete accuracy of how this document was formed, but in general, I think the documentary hypothesis is the best explanation one can find for its development. However, be that as it may, my purpose is not to criticize the respect for ancient religious traditions. I only want to suggest that honoring religious traditions and the words that formed those traditions is one thing; denying the human processes that went into the production of those words is another altogether. From my own background, I am quite aware that there are plenty of Christian fundamentalists who are in denial about the human nature of the Bible, and in denial about the reality of the warts and problematic passages and clearly human elements that are found there. I think that to deny the human nature of scriptural development is a problematic way to go.

  39. All I am saying is that you cannot make a general statement about what is forgiveable and what is not.

    I can make a general statement about what Judaism teaches and that is what I have done. That you do not agree with it is no surprise, you are not a Jew. Murder is indeed an unforgivable sin and family can not forgive a person for killing a member of their family. They can forgive the hurt done to them but they cannot forgive the murder.

    You are again mixing the notions of being a part of a just society and personal forgiveness. There is no point in going into it again.

  40. I have no problem with the statement that “Torah is a record of our people’s encounter with God.” I think that the same can be said of any scripture of any religious faith.

    Absolutely. Torah is something special to us because it is ours, other religions have their own texts that are equally valuable to them. That another religion has chosen to take Torah on as their sacred text is their choice, but that doesn’t change what it means to us, nor does it change Torah.

    You haven’t read much of what I write or you would know I see Torah as a very human record but also as very divine. In Conservative Judaism we see a tension between the two, we relish the tension between the two. In my studies sometimes I do look at the texts from the POV of which you speak, but I don’t limit myself to that view. The reality is that no one knows for sure how Torah was compiled. I dismiss the Orthodox view of every word being from God but that is as far as I will go. Torah is not a human book, no matter that human voices are heard from within it. The first time I hear Hebrew chanted in shul, the first time I touched a Torah, those were experiences that touched me right at my soul. To say this is all from humans? Not in my world. That Hebrew and Torah do nothing for non-Jews is not surprising. This is actually the way I know if someone who expresses an interest in Judaism will become Jewish. If they are unmoved by the Hebrew they don’t have a Jewish soul, Judaism is not for them. That no doubt sounds strange, but oh well, not everything can be explained rationally.
    People have mystical experiences in all religions, it helps many of us sort out where we belong.

    What is problematic for one group is not necessarily problematic for another. Jesus being a glaring example of that, I would say! I don’t deny that humans played a role in the forming of Torah, I just refuse to deny that there was divine intervention as well. There is no group on earth who examines Torah more carefully than Jews. Go read my Torah blog someday and you will find me arguing, mocking, rolling my eyes, wrestling, reaching understanding, and starting it all over again, many times. You’re talking to the wrong person here if you think I’m into glossing over anything. Sometimes I think it’s all a bunch of crap, but you know, it’s my crap and I happen to like working with it so I keep studying, thinking, living it out as part of a community.

  41. Yael

    Now that put a smile on my face. TOUCHE. The reference to emotional was more about being Passionate. I am married to a French woman so I know all about it :).
    Also about being Christian. I would classify myself probably as a Universalist. I love the idea of Grace. I definately need lots of that. Though I know little about the Torah I have a fair bit of experience with Jews. I worked in a Jewish Hospital for several years and got a fair bit of exposure to the faith. One thing I do know, Judaism isnt a Race of people its a Faith Based system not unlike any other in the world. Thats why theres polish jews, canadian jews, white jews, black jews. By the way my wife thinks you have a great sense of Humour. She laughed. Thanks.

    John

  42. You are again mixing the notions of being a part of a just society and personal forgiveness.

    No I’m not. I was specifically referring to personal forgiveness and personal judgmentalism. I don’t know how I could have been more explicit, when I said: “We can’t have it both ways. I run across a lot of judgmental people in life who are quick to condemn the activities of other people who do bad things, and so what we have is a one-sided approach to forgiveness, namely that everyone can condemn but only the victim can forgive.” This was clearly a reference to personal forgiveness and personal condemnation, not to societal judgment or forgiveness. I have run across holier-than-thou, or superior-than-thou people, who are quick to judge the actions of others, even when those actions don’t affect those people pesonally, and then they turn around and insist that it is not their place to forgive because they are not the victim. This is a double standard in human behavior that happens to be a hot button for me.

    I can make a general statement about what Judaism teaches and that is what I have done.

    Okay, fair enough. I will accept that when you said “We can forgive wrongs against us personally but we cannot forgive wrongs done to others,” the “We” you were speaking of were Jews, not all people in general. Whether it is possible to make a sweeping statement about what Jews believe is not a question I feel capable of addressing; I know that it is certainly not the case that one can generally make a sweeping statement about what “Christians” believe, although certainly fundamentalists do try to claim that they can do just that. There is so much diversity of thinking among Christians on just about every question that a sweeping statement about what “Christians” believe is usually wrong. But perhaps Jews are more homogeneous than Christians are.

    Absolutely. Torah is something special to us because it is ours, other religions have their own texts that are equally valuable to them. That another religion has chosen to take Torah on as their sacred text is their choice, but that doesn’t change what it means to us, nor does it change Torah.

    No disagreement here. I am a strong believer in religious pluralism. A religion that works for one person need not work for another.

    People have mystical experiences in all religions, it helps many of us sort out where we belong.</i

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Well stated.

    You haven’t read much of what I write or you would know I see Torah as a very human record but also as very divine. \

    You are right, I don’t know anything about your viewpoint on the Torah. Thanks for clarifying. I certainly respect your own process of wrestling with the Torah. I think what sparked my response was the statement that the Torah was “the very words taught us by God,” which sounded like you were saying that God literally wrote all the words of the Torah.

  43. John T,
    Sounds like you have a great wife! I happen to think you couldn’t do better than having a French wife, but I could be prejudiced, coming from a long line of Bourquins…….BTW, I have to confess something to you about the idolatry thing…..Yael’s Pursuit of Idolatry.

    MS,
    A hot button for you? Ah, that is why we can’t communicate about this topic then because one of my hot buttons is people who have nothing to do with horrendous crimes hanging signs out in public, “We forgive you, ______” as if it is their right to grant forgiveness. We will ever talk past each other on this one, I have no doubt.

    The teaching in Judaism about forgiveness is really a pretty basic one. Two Jews, three opinions, but in all my studies, this basic idea, that forgiveness can only come from the victim, isn’t one about which I’ve read conflicting views. Judaism actually is much more homogeneous than Christianity, a fact which surprises many both outside and inside Judaism.

    I chose carefully when I wrote, ‘the very words taught us by God’. I think God did teach us the words, but as to how we were taught? I leave that open to speculation. You should also realize that even my definition of God is quite undefined! Just to add to the confusion….. 🙂

  44. Yael, do you also object to people who have nothing to do with horrendous crimes hanging signs out in public that say, “We hate you for what you’ve done?”

    I am not exasperated by the idea that only victims can forgive; in fact, I can understand this position that you are advocating. Rather, I am exasperated by the double standard that results from people acting self-righteously and judgmentally in one breath and then turning around and claiming that only victims can forgive.It is the double standard that I object to. If you think that you have no right to intrude yourself in any way a crime that you are not involved in, if you think that all emotional or personal responses to crimes legitimately should take place strictly between the victim and the perpetrator, that is your right, although I disagree. My point, which I tried to raise several times now, is that there is a huge inconsistency in how this concept is often applied. Some of the most judgmental and self-righteous people I have encountered are also the ones who are quick to insist that only victims can forgive. It’s the double standard, not the believe that only victims can forgive, that is my hot button.

    I am frankly not sure what to make of the idea that Jews must necessarily all have the same ideas about forgiveness. As an ex-fundamentalist Christian, I knew a long time ago that I would not want to be part of a religion that forced me to think a certain way regardless of what logical or moral or philosophical arguments I might come up with. A religious tradition that constrains how I can think is not something that holds much appeal for me.

  45. You make many assumptions which have no basis.

    Where have I ever come across as judgmental and self-righteous as pertains to crimes? I clearly stated from the start that if the person has paid their dues, justice is served and if the person is declared innocent, they are innocent. In neither instance is it required for them to be forgiven.

    We are required to work hard for justice in the courts, something sadly lacking today in our country. The sages teach that if a court executes even one person in 7 years it is a bloody court, and some say even one in 70 years. Does that sound like judgmental and self-righteous? Torah teaches that if the whole jury votes for the death penalty the person is to be set free because justice could not have been served. Does that sound judgmental and self-righteous?

    It would be nice if you could stop seeing all religious people as fundamentalist Christians. We are not. There are many other religions in the world, many other ways of living out a religious life than that of fundamentalism. No wonder you cannot find a place in which to worship! What place could overcome your assumptions?

    I would suggest that you not make statements about Judaism until you do a little research. Where did I say we Jews all have the same ideas about forgiveness? I said the basic teaching is that forgiveness can only be given between victim and perpetrator. How that is worked out in reality is certainly not some fixed formula. Only in the fundamentalist branch is anyone pressured to follow any certain path or think any certain way, fundamentalists are the same in all religions it seems. Just because a teaching is widely accepted does not mean we’re all being forced to accept it, could it instead mean that the teaching makes sense????? Novel concept, no doubt.

    I’ read your blog at one time. You don’t think much of any religion, so perhaps you just find fault to justify your own lifestyle of non-commitment? The teaching of our tefillin is this: we have four compartments on our head because we are allowed to think whatever we want. We have one compartment on our arm because we are required to act the same, which is to live a life of mitzvot. But even the how of living a life of mitzvot is not fixed in liberal Judaism. Good grief, one of the reasons I love being Jewish is that I am free to think for myself, finally. I guess you won’t see that, however, since your take seems to be that unless I totally go against all teachings of Judaism, I am merely another brainwashed religious zombie!

    Whatever. I’m part of a great community. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Hope you continue to enjoy your isolated state of superiority! Talk about self-righteous and judgmental! Lady, you take the cake.

  46. Yaelbatsarah,

    Do you have a reference for where the Torah teaches if a whole jury votes for a death penalty the person is to be set free as justice could not be served? I couldn’t find it on my own.

    Thanks.

  47. Where have I ever come across as judgmental and self-righteous as pertains to crimes?

    I didn’t say you were judgmental. I was just asking a simple question. I am trying to make a point that you keep missing or evading, and I’m not sure why you are not grasping the point I am making. You stated that one of my hot buttons is people who have nothing to do with horrendous crimes hanging signs out in public, “We forgive you, ______” as if it is their right to grant forgiveness.”. I asked you if you also object to people who have nothing to do with horrendous crimes hanging signs out in public saying “We hate you.” A simple yes or no answer would suffice. Is it okay for someone to hate someone who commited a crime against another person, but not okay for someone to forgive that person? I am just trying to understand if this is what you actually believe. Or do you think that if a crime happens to another party, we as individuals should not involve ourselves whatsoever towards the criminal one way or another? I have made this point and raised this question repeatedly in this discussion, and yet it seems to go right over your head.

    It would be nice if you could stop seeing all religious people as fundamentalist Christians

    I don’t see all religious people as fundamentalist Christians. That is an absurd accusation to make at someone who is deeply interested in the religious writings of theologians and authors like Spong, Borg, and others. I spend a lot of time in my blog explicitly arguing against the notion that all religious people are fundamentalist Christians. The problem is simply that you keep making statements that sound an awful lot like what fundies would say, like suggesting or implying that the Bible constitutes God’s literal words. When I try to get clarity on what you actually mean by that, I get vague and non-specific answers, or you deny that you said what it seemed to me that you were saying. If I am misunderstanding you, then I welcome correction,but up to this point I’ve had a hard time understanding you. I was specifically trying to understand what you believed, and you have taken this as a judgmental attack against you or against people of faith in general.

    Where did I say we Jews all have the same ideas about forgiveness?

    Uh, well, you just said that in your prior comment, since you must know. You stated that there is only one “basic idea” in Judaism, that “forgiveness can only come from the victim”, and said that you’ve never found conflicting ideas on this. Or do you now say that some Jews actually don’t agree with this position? So which is it? Do all Jews believe that forgiveness can only come from the victim? Or to they differ on this?

    You don’t think much of any religion

    That is patently untrue. If I didn’t think much of religion, I wouldn’t be interested in it. I am interested a deeply radical and reformed Christian faith, but I am a religious pluralist. I would not be a pluralist if I didn’t think much of religion.

    Good grief, one of the reasons I love being Jewish is that I am free to think for myself, finally. I guess you won’t see that, however, since your take seems to be that unless I totally go against all teachings of Judaism, I am merely another brainwashed religious zombie!

    No, I am simply taking what you said and trying to make sense of it. You seemed to be arguing that “I am a Jew, and all Jews believe that forgiveness can only come from the individual, and therefore that is what I believe.” If that is not your argument, then great! I only point out that tou stated pretty clearly that this belief is universal among Jews. If you are amending your statement that all Jews believe this, then fine. I don’t know what your religious perspective is. I don’t know how dogmatic your are about your faith. You keep making little statements that suggest a kind of dogmatism or biblical literalism (like saying that the Torah are God’s words, or that all Jews believe that forgiveness comes from the victim), and then get all huffy when I make this inference. To be honest, for purposes of this discussion I am less interested in what “Jews” believe than in what you believe. It is just possible that non-Jews might actually agree with you. Or maybe they don’t. Either way, all I am trying to do is get some clarity here.

    You have drawn a lot of inferences about my beliefs that have no substance whatsoever. I have been trying to understand your point of view, but up this point I haven’t been very successful at it. You assume that I am hostile to religion, when that is just not the case.

  48. Mystical and Yael (and even Dagoods) – I posted on come of your questions and claims from this post under the blog above – Hirschfield’s Quadrant – which relates almost entirely to Yael and MS’s convo – but also answers your question Dagoods (the teachings are from rabbinical literature – Yael might know more specifically).

    Reason I posted in the blog above – it is so much moe related to this convo – and Hirschfield does address exactly what MS and Yael are debating here – justice and forgiveness (a quadrant of his teaching).

  49. i liked this post. i don’t like how ppl launched into huffiness about religions and argue’n semantics… what this post laid out is Mimetic theory… http://toothface.blogspot.com/2008/02/old-way-trodden-by-victim.html

    a better source is preachingpeace.org and read the intro articles to Mimetic Theory. it comes from Rene Girard’s Violence and the Sacred. excellent read. shows how religion has been coopted and perpetuates a violence and victimhood it was created to end.

  50. SocietyVs,

    I could find the reference to the bit about once in 7, once in 70 and never. (Mishnah Makkot 1:10) What I couldn’t find was anything about a unanimous jury meaning justice could not be served.

    Not saying it doesn’t exist—I am looking for a reference.

    I’ll wait and see what Yaelbatsarah says.

  51. Seeker – the insights were very good – and the convo with Yael makes a great piece for all the partake in – don’t say ‘sorry’ for writing a great piece for all to enter into. I rather enjoy it…we just need to move to the next level on the debate – since it is also covered in the blog above this.

  52. Dagoods,
    I didn’t see the comment here until after I’d already commented on the next blog from Hirschfield. I’ve continued my search online after that posting since the Ask Moses article I linked doesn’t actually provide a reference for the section of interest.

    I did find the place in Tractate Sanhedrin where this rule is given. I want to read the discussion of the law however, but I may have to wait until I’m home or at shul later this afternoon before I’m able to do so. For some reason this employer doesn’t consider a set of Talmud to be a useful addition to our engineering department.

    Unless I remember incorrectly, you are a lawyer. I’d be curious to know what you think of this requirement that at least one judge must vote for acquittal as compared to the American system where a unanimous verdict of guilt is required, but I don’t suppose this is the place for that.

  53. After finding the reference in Mishnah, I’ve continued searching in Gemara for the discussion of this law. I did not find this in a quite glance through the tractate, however, so….I will continue my search later on.

    Rabbi Elliot Dorff speaks of this in his book, “The Unfolding Tradition: Jewish Law After Sinai” speaks of the restrictions on the use of capital punishment on p. 40-41. Number 5 on his list being, “There must be at least one judge on the court who votes to acquit the defendant, for otherwise the court might be prejudiced against him or her.”

    Interesting morning learning much about rabbinic court proceedings as I search for that illusive passage in Gemara. But, I need a nap before the next job starts. Rabbi is returning from Israel today so perhaps I will just ask him if Gemara discusses this law and if so, where in the tractate.

  54. Yaelbatsarah,

    Thank you VERY much for the link. Spent some pleasurable time studying the Jewish legal system according to the Tractate Sanhedrin.

    [O.K. this is completely juvenile, and probably shows immaturity on my part, but the question for the witness listed “Did he strike him intentionally on ‘the bird of life’?” made me laugh out loud. I have never heard that phrase used before. Sorry.]

    Quite interesting. Yes, I am a lawyer, which is why the statement (as you pointed out, in contrast to the American requirement of a unanimous jury) intrigued me.

    I wonder (this is me talking out loud) if part of the difference is the American system is judging the evidence and thus requires a high standard to make sure the evidence is good enough, whereas the Jewish system is judging the person, and thus requires the tribunal to look at all of the person, and not simply this single act. Don’t know.

    Thanks for the link, though.

    All right, All right. I HAVE to say it. If this was the legal system in place at the time, it just shows the illegality of the trial of Jesus recorded in the Gospels.

  55. “it just shows the illegality of the trial of Jesus recorded in the Gospels.” (Dagoods)

    How so Dagoods? Too much of a ‘rush to death’ or the fact they all agreed upon the penalty? I mean, I slightly agree.

  56. Dagoods,
    I’m glad you asked for the reference because it has enabled me to also have a great time researching something I probably would not have looked into too closely just on my own. As a result I have a few new ideas floating around in my head.

    I couldn’t tell you how much of what is written in Tractate Sanhedrin was actually in place or how much is more of an ideal. We didn’t have much power at the time of the Roman occupation so it’s perhaps not so clear cut. This weekend is our yearly scholar-in-residence program with Professor Shaye Cohen from Harvard as our guest lecturer and this is one of the topics he will address, this shifting of power, this struggle for power during those days of Greek and Roman occupation.

    I’ve read some of his material ahead of time and I have to say I don’t think his views would be appreciated in Orthodox circles, nor even perhaps close to my own and without a doubt his views would be anathema to most of the more conservative branches of Christianity. But, I enjoy it when someone really rocks the boat and challenges our ideas so I’m looking forward to squirming a bit, recoiling a bit, as I am exposed to the conclusions he has reached as a result of years of research. It’s kind of fun, testing the limits of my own tolerance within Judaism….

    As far as the trial of Jesus recorded in the Gospels? Jewish sources are silent about this subject so I will be as well. What that silence means depends on which side of the great divide a person stands.

    Many of my friends are lawyers, you know those Jewish stereotypes…..Me, I just enjoy studying all the legal ins and outs of Talmud. It interests me that we use our legal codes in much the same way as the United States Constitution is used, that we have that same fluidity that enables us to adapt our codes to changing times without tossing them out.

    Ah, those euphemisms….they can indeed be quite amusing. Sometimes the conversations recorded make me roll my eyes. One study Rabbi had awhile back I just tossed the papers aside with my reaction being, “Oh puh-leeze. I’m supposed to take THIS seriously?” But, it’s fun studying anyway.

    Thanks for your insight in answer to my question. It does sound reasonable that these systems of law are addressing the differing needs of the societies they represent.

  57. SocietyVs,

    Quick notes of the statements within the Tractate Sanhedrin (and if you need me to flesh them out in comparison to the Gospel accounts I will, but you probably know these stories well enough to recognize the problems.)

    “…but in capital cases the trial takes place in daytime and the verdict is given in daytime. In non-capital cases a verdict of acquittal or of conviction may be reached the same day; while in capital cases a verdict of acquittal may be reached the same day, but a verdict of conviction not until the following day. Therefore such a case is not tried on the eve of a Sabbath or festival.”

    “In non-capital cases they may say ‘The matter is too obvious,’ but not in capital cases; and such a statement can only be made by the chief judge.”

    “If the accused is found innocent he is set free; if not, his case is passed over till the morrow. The judges then go apart in pairs and take some food, but they drink no wine the whole day. They spend the night discussing the case and come to the court early on the morrow.”

    “If one say “at the third hour” and the other “at the fifth,” their evidence is invalid. R. Jehuda, however, maintains that it is valid; though if one say “at the fifth hour” and the other “at the seventh,” their evidence is invalid, since at the fifth hour the sun is in the east, and at the seventh it is in the west.”

    “If the evidence of the witnesses is found to agree, the chief judge opens the case for the defendant, and his fellow judges support him.”

    Again, I don’t know if this was the procedure at the time. Most likely was not. Still fun to read about.

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