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4 years ago  ::  Jun 01, 2010 - 12:08PM #61
rocketjsquirell
Posts: 15,984

Hi everyone


Shark,


I am sorry you didn't like my response. But you did ask what and how I think about such things.


 

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4 years ago  ::  Jun 01, 2010 - 1:09PM #62
sharktacos
Posts: 244

Jun 1, 2010 -- 12:08PM, rocketjsquirell wrote:


Hi everyone


Shark,


I am sorry you didn't like my response. But you did ask what and how I think about such things.


 





Rocket,


I do appreciate your posts quite a bit. I just felt that in post #43 that you were not directly addressing the issue of genocide depicted as commanded by God, and so I was (hopefully in a friendly way) attempting to press for a more direct response to that issue.

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4 years ago  ::  Jun 01, 2010 - 1:50PM #63
sharktacos
Posts: 244

Jun 1, 2010 -- 11:45AM, nieciedo wrote:


The short answer is that Jews get to the same place as you do through the New Testament by the same historical processes that gave rise to the New Testament itself and your perception of it.




Yes, this is what I would like to dig into more.


You identify this as arising out of a world that increasingly needed to see things in non-zero-sum terms. I can see that historically to a large degree. Of course, both  then and now, there are many voices that would speak against a non-zero-sum view and in contrast see things very much in "us vs. them" terms. In fact, my experience is that it is still quite counter cultural and counter intuitive today to see things this way. For example most people still see justice in terms of retribution rather than restoration, and very few people have grasped the idea of love of enemies.


In particular love of enemies, restoratives justice, and the idea of active nonviolence (which all are rooted in seeing things in non-zero-sum terms) has not been reflective of one particular religion, but instead marginal groups of Jews, Christians, Hindus, and even atheists have found themselves side by side here  (one example being civil rights demonstrations, as well as more recent actions as well) while they were often at the same time out of step with the majority of their own particular faith communities who rejected their position with great vigor.


I mention this because 1) a non-zero-sum view seems to cut across religious divides 2) it is by no means simply a sign of the times, or merely what we "like" and is in fact still quite radical to not see things in "us vs. them" terms today. There is I would agree, something that is attractive and compelling to us about this non-zero-sum view, that is very true. But it is I would add, at the same time quite counter-intuitive as well.


I say all of that because, speaking for myself, I see that non-zero-sum worldview as not simply being the one I have now, but the right view. I can understand how others may have adopted an "us vs. them" zero-sum perspective instead. It is a very understandable human response to suffering, I'd say even instinctual in way. I don't pretend that thinking otherwise is easy or even comes natural, but I do think it is ultimately better. So despite my own very non-pacifist instincts, I hold onto the non-zero-sum view as being a glimpse of God's true nature in a dark and broken world. I see it that way because I have witnessed how it has healed impossibly broken lives and relationships. So my own position is honestly not based on reading a religious text in a scientific dispassionate manner and then deducing this from it, but rather from encountering the power of grace active in the world around me and then recognizing that this was the same thing the authors of the New Testament had discovered too. As you suggest, I think they caught onto this, and then went back and re-read everything in their sacred Jewish texts (remember at the time there was no Christian Bible or "New Testament") in light of that.


That is my own particular perspective. I wanted to understand how others from a Jewish perspective who also view things in non-zero-sum terms arrived at the same place as I have since they obviously get there by a different rout than I do.

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4 years ago  ::  Jun 01, 2010 - 3:14PM #64
nieciedo
Posts: 5,617

Jun 1, 2010 -- 1:50PM, sharktacos wrote:


I say all of that because, speaking for myself, I see that non-zero-sum worldview as not simply being the one I have now, but the right view. I can understand how others may have adopted an "us vs. them" zero-sum perspective instead. It is a very understandable human response to suffering, I'd say even instinctual in way. I don't pretend that thinking otherwise is easy or even comes natural, but I do think it is ultimately better. So despite my own very non-pacifist instincts, I hold onto the non-zero-sum view as being a glimpse of God's true nature in a dark and broken world. I see it that way because I have witnessed how it has healed impossibly broken lives and relationships. So my own position is honestly not based on reading a religious text in a scientific dispassionate manner and then deducing this from it, but rather from encountering the power of grace active in the world around me and then recognizing that this was the same thing the authors of the New Testament had discovered too. As you suggest, I think they caught onto this, and then went back and re-read everything in their sacred Jewish texts (remember at the time there was no Christian Bible or "New Testament") in light of that.





ST:


 I think you are correct. As I said above re: the Maslow hierarchy: if the foundation of your pyramid is secure, you can climb higher for a better view. If you are (relatively) free from the pressures of scarcity and war you can embrace a much more open and accepting worldview.


But there is another process: when one is at the absolute bottom of the social system with no access to wealth or power one finds that one has very little autonomy and very little choice or say over one's life. One can then either allow oneself to be consumed by hatred of one's enemies or one can embrace acceptance and love of one's enemies, which is enormously freeing for the individual.


Anyhow, while I agree with you that non-zero-sum is the more accurate reality - in fact, I subscribe to the belief in the fundamental unity of all things in God - that does not mean that the zero-sum God-concept is false. It is merely a different point of view. The warrior God served a need for the people at a given point in history. It is not the totality of who or what God is, but it is not necessarily wrong.


I like to use the Star Wars analogy. Darth Vader betrayed and murdered Anakin Skywalker. Anakin Skywalker was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force and became Darth Vader. Both of those statements are true...from a certain point of view.


 


I'd like to focus a little bit now on the things we  consider objectionable, like the extermination of the Amalekites or the seven Canaanite tribes.


We think of the wholesale slaughter of non-combattant men, women, and children as horrific. Yet the Bible depicts God commanding this to be done.


From what I read (and I admit I didn't read it thoroughly or closely) I think you were a little bit unfair to ffb.


If one truly believes in the sovereignty of God and truly believes that the Torah represents an accurate and reliable transmission of God's will, then one must accept that God truly did command genocide.


Two issues this raises are theodicy (how could God do this?) and ethics (what are we supposed to do about this?).


The Jewish tradition neutralized the second issue through law. The commandments to exterminate these tribes does not have any ethical import for us because they applied only to the persons to whom they were given at the time they were given and under the circumstances they were given. The regular rules of warfare are given in Deut 20:10-14. The treatment of the Canaanites and Amalek are exceptions to those rules. One cannot use the exceptions to justify a violation of the general principle.


That leaves the theodicy question. One may not like these laws, but if one truly believed that these reflected God's commands, then one would have to likewise believe that He had His reasons. And God's ways are not our ways nor are our thoughts God's thoughts. God is not answerable to us - note that Job never gets an answer from the whirlwind. The position I believe ffb was making is that if God commands X, then X is moral because morality is defined by obedience to God's commands. Compliance with the command to exterminate Amalek was moral because God commanded it, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes us.


This is a very modern concern. It is only with the advent of modernity, and the sovereignty of the individual, that this would become as great an ethical concern as it is. In previous eras with a more collectivist and corporate mentality, the dilemma was not as acute. Wives and children were seen as extensions of their husband/father. Men were seen as cells in the body of their tribe/city/nation. Corporate entities could be punished for the offenses of their members and individuals who were personally innocent could suffer for the crimes of their neighbors. This is the basis of the theology of history articulated in the Deuteronomistic school. Nations that are collectively righteous receive God's blessing; nations that are collectively sinful receive punishment. The argument in for the extermination of Amalek and the Canaanites is that they were collectively wicked and thus deserving of punishment. God then used Israel as the instrument by which that punishment would be carried out.


Now, what is remarkable is that Israel applied the same standard to themselves. When Israel met with misfortune at the hands of the Assyrians and the Babylonians, they pointed the finger of blame directly at themselves. They sinned and violated the covenant and thus they believed that God used Assyria and Babylon to punish them the same way God used them to punish the Canaanites.


Now this has disturbing modern implications: Hareidi rabbis in Israel have claimed that God sent the Holocaust as a punishment for the sins of Reform Jews. The difference, though, is that in antiquity we had prophets to come and tell us exactly what God was doing and why; according to Jewish tradition, prophecy ceased after the Babylonian Exile so one really cannot make such arguments today.



Moderated by Beautiful_Dreamer on Jun 02, 2010 - 04:19PM
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4 years ago  ::  Jun 01, 2010 - 3:50PM #65
sharktacos
Posts: 244

Nieciedo,


Thanks for your response. I do think I understand the logical consistency of FFB's position, and as I have said it is one that many from my own faith take as well. I just think it is dangerous to ever assume that we have a direct word from God about anything, especially when that alleged word says we should physically harm or kill others. There is (as my own faith has demonstrated) a very real and lethal danger that comes when people think they should unquestionably obey what some person claims God told you to do, whether they do it say it from a mountain or in a book. So if Moses or even Jesus told me to kill someone, I would object and challenge them on that. I think they both protested too, so I don't feel that I am out of step with them when I question these things.


To be clear, I do not see FFB as a threat at all, nor do I see Jews as a threat. I think that is silly honestly. If anything, my own religion has historically been much more of a threat to others (I'm thinking for example of the crusades). I do however see a stance that prioritizes unquestioning obedience to a sacred text over all moral or ethical concerns to be one that in the wrong hands can and has been quite dangerous, and so it is not something I can embrace in any way because it ignores how we sinful humans factor into the mix and how through us even religion itself can become corrupt and hurtful.


You mentioned that with the genocide accounts these can be side stepped ethically because they were specific commands that do not currently apply. I can see that. What, I wonder, would be the approach to the parts of the Torah that stipulate the death penalty? I don't believe that these are carried out today. Why is that from an Orthodox point of view? Why not for example kill children for disobeying their parents if that is what the law stipulates and we are not supposed to question the law? If these are general commands, would they not remain in force along with food laws?  Many Muslim countries have implimented death penality laws for breaching their religious laws, why has this not been pursued in Isreal? Clearly there is something that leads to different conclusions and applications, what is it?

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4 years ago  ::  Jun 01, 2010 - 4:39PM #66
nieciedo
Posts: 5,617

Jun 1, 2010 -- 3:50PM, sharktacos wrote:


You mentioned that with the genocide accounts these can be side stepped ethically because they were specific commands that do not currently apply. I can see that. What, I wonder, would be the approach to the parts of the Torah that stipulate the death penalty? I don't believe that these are carried out today. Why is that from an Orthodox point of view? Why not for example kill children for disobeying their parents if that is what the law stipulates and we are not supposed to question the law? If these are general commands, would they not remain in force along with food laws? Many Muslim countries have implimented death penality laws for breaching their religious laws, why has this not been pursued in Isreal? Clearly there is something that leads to different conclusions and applications, what is it?





The death penalty is the premier example of the Jewish legal system at work.


All of the laws that mandate capital punishment remain in force. In theory, adulterers, idolaters, Sabbath-desecrators, and rebellious children are all liable to be put to death for their offenses.


But:


Remember that Jews view the Torah as essentially the Constitution of the Jewish people. It is a legal document. So, when it says that someone who worships idols or does work on the Sabbath is to be put to death, it means that death is the sentence if that person is legally convicted in a court of law. It does not mean that anyone can appoint himself a vigiliante and murder people they believe are chayav mitah (liable for death), no more than the death penalty in the United States means that one can legitimately go around summarily executing murder suspects.


The rabbis were not keep to go around executing people. On the doctrine of "Choose life" and that all human beings are created in the image of God, the preference is for acquital rather than execution. They followed a careful reading of the text and identified a host of rules that govern judicial procedures. For example, no one can be put to death without the testimony of two witnesses. The Rabbis determined strict rules for the qualifications and examination of witnesses, who can testify and whose tesimony is accepted. The Torah specifies sacrifices as the means of atonement for inadvertant trangressions; a more severe punishment such as execution would require the beyond the doubt ascertainment of deliberate intent. For example, to execute someone for a crime two witnesses would have to be able to testify not only that they saw the suspect in the act but that they warned him ahead of time that it was a capital offence and he heard and understood and did it anyway. The rules for the rebellious son are defined even mroe carefully, to specifically identify exactly the precise circumstances in which the case is applicable -- with the implication being that it is not applicable in practically any likely real-life situation.


The end result is that the death penalty is next-to-impossible to actually carry out, and that presumes the existence of Sanhedrin with the sovereign authority over the Land of Israel to impose it (which we obviously do not have).


I have often stated that the Jewish religion is vitiated by an institutional obsessive/compulsive disorder. That is not always a bad thing. The very same mindset that allows people to obsess over the craziest and more ridiculous absurd detail of dietary law or Sabbath observance is also responsible for the effective nullification of capital punishment in a Jewish context. The death penalty remains on the books - we can change that - but the Torah is not in heaven but in our hearts and in our mouths for us to perform it.


So it's the same with the genocide stuff. If somone killed somebody today claiming they violated the Sabbath, they would be completely 100% guilty of murder in Jewish law. Someone who perpetrated genocide claiming the story of Amalek as justification would be 100% guilty of mass murder under Jewish law.

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4 years ago  ::  Jun 01, 2010 - 9:00PM #67
Heidi2027
Posts: 396

Being a student of Judaism, not a cradle Jew, I found this advice very good in today's ethics lesson:


"The bashful student will not learn." 


I am here to learn.  And I am learning lots of good stuff.  Thanks, Bnet.

Moderated by Beautiful_Dreamer on Jun 02, 2010 - 06:34PM
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4 years ago  ::  Jun 01, 2010 - 9:43PM #68
sharktacos
Posts: 244

Okay, I'm still in "collect information mode" before I respond to anything, so here is an other question left open for me:


It is my understanding that Hasidic Judaism is mystical or if you prefer pietistic. As I understand the term mystical and pietistic  would both mean that there is to some degree of experienced connection or union between the mystic and God. This idea of connection and communication common among mystics of all faiths would seem to be in conflict with the idea that several people have expressed here that God has not been communicative for several hundred years. This has me confused because I had thought that Hasidic Jews would also be Orthodox Jews. I'm not sure how to put those two things together.


On a broader level one could ask the same question of how Kabbalah mysticism (which has been accepted by rather wide group of Jews inclusing many Reform Jews) would also fit together with the idea of God's non-communiction and non-interaction today.


thoughts?


 

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4 years ago  ::  Jun 01, 2010 - 9:53PM #69
Pam34
Posts: 2,653

Where did you get the idea that God is non-communicative? Merely because God no longer 'speaks' through prophetic voices on in thunder and smoke from a mountaintop?


 


As for Hasid/Orthodox - they are orthodox because they are traditionally observant, and hasid because they are 'pietist' - if I understand that to mean they are mystically minded and intent on the inner meaning of their observance, especially tending toward universal, mystical meaning.


 


It might be helpful to read up a bit on the origins of the Hasidic movement. At a time when Jews were greatly constrained politically and socially, and those who were considered 'closest' to God were those with the time, resources and talent to become well-educated in Jewish texts and history, the Baal Shem Tov came teaching that one's inner heart was closer, and that intent was as important, or more important, than precise behavior or knowledge.


 


He was quite popular - and attracted many followers, who transmitted his teaching and became popular leaders of subgroups themselves.


 


Nowadays, most hasidic groups also place a high value on learning the texts and the details of observance, but they still 'read' through a more - what - existential? pair of glasses.


 


It is quite empowering to believe that one's every minor mundane act of observance has the potential to effect the course of the universe and the fate of all mankind, after all.


 

Blessed are You, HaShem, Who blesses the years.
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4 years ago  ::  Jun 01, 2010 - 10:23PM #70
nieciedo
Posts: 5,617

Jun 1, 2010 -- 9:43PM, sharktacos wrote:


Okay, I'm still in "collect information mode" before I respond to anything, so here is an other question left open for me:


It is my understanding that Hasidic Judaism is mystical or if you prefer pietistic. As I understand the term mystical and pietistic  would both mean that there is to some degree of experienced connection or union between the mystic and God. This idea of connection and communication common among mystics of all faiths would seem to be in conflict with the idea that several people have expressed here that God has not been communicative for several hundred years. This has me confused because I had thought that Hasidic Jews would also be Orthodox Jews. I'm not sure how to put those two things together.


On a broader level one could ask the same question of how Kabbalah mysticism (which has been accepted by rather wide group of Jews inclusing many Reform Jews) would also fit together with the idea of God's non-communiction and non-interaction today.


thoughts?





There is a difference between prophecy, between "communication" from God and the "experience" of God.


Actually, in my own belief system, all "communications" from the Divine are rooted in the same fundamental "experience" of God that the mystics speak of. 


Regardless, though, Judaism recognize several different forms of communication and interaction with the divine. It is all part of the Constitutional history of the Jewish people. 


According to the traditional mythological history, the Jewish nation began at Sinai with the giving of the Torah, our Constitutional Convention as it were. The Torah is law, God's revealed statues for the nation Israel to live by. It cannot be added to or deleted from - but it can be interpreted and reinterpreted and expounded upon. Upon the death of Moses (who in Judaism contra Islam is the greatest of the Prophets but not the last) we entered the era of the Judges, leaders that God would raise up and direct when needed. With Samuel and the establishment of the monarchy, the era of the Prophets began with humans taking over the temporal authority with the constitutionally-defined office of Prophet being filled from time to time when necessary to advice and warn and adjudicate dispute. Finally, after the death of Malachi, Haggai, and Zecheriah and the return to Jerusalem under Ezra, the age of Prophecy ceased and the Rabbinic era began with humans fully responsible for both spiritual and temporal decision-making. 


A prophet is a communal office who played a specifically defined role in the interpretation of God's will for the nation. This is different and distinct from an individual's person experience of the divine that may help clarify God's will for the individual - so long as it does not contradict God's previously revealed will for the nation.


I personally view the popularity of mystical theology (like authentic Kabbalah, not the Madonna crap) as part of the new era as it were of individual responsibility. The religious authority of priests and prophets corresponded to the ancient political authority of kings and "oriental despontism" in which only one person (the king) was truly free. The religious authority of the rabbis as the leaders and representatives of corporative communities corresponded to the medieval political authority of the feudal aristocracy in which only some (the lords) were free. With the advent of modernity we have entered into the era where the individual citizen is sovereign and all citizens are (in theory) free and equal and so I believe religious authority ought to follow suit and so I believe the individual Jew has replaced the rabbi as the "magistrate in office at the time" who is empowered to make halakhic decisions. 


But that is a far cry from someone having a personal religious experience and then claiming the authority to impose the content of that experience on others. There is no longer any formal constitutional place for that in the life of the Jewish nation. A real honest-to-God Prophet in the era of Prophecy could have said whether the Holocaust was the fault of Reform Jews; no one alive today can make that claim and have it carry any weight or value for anyone other than himself.


 

Moderated by Beautiful_Dreamer on Jun 02, 2010 - 06:35PM
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