Thursday, August 16, 2007

Answer to my friends post about violence in the Torah

This is copied and pasted from a weekly email from Rabbi Aaron Moss in Australia.

Question of the Week:

There is a lot of talk today about the dangers of Islamic violence. But from my reading of the Torah, it is just as violent as the Koran, and maybe more. Can you say that Judaism is a religion of peace if its holy text promotes war?


No one has ever been attacked by a book. Texts are not threatening. Otherwise libraries would be considered high risk areas. If you want to know whether an ideology is dangerous or not, don't look at its texts, but rather look at the people reading the texts.

Holy texts are like joke books. Possessing a joke book doesn't make you a comedian. A joke that is funny on paper may fall flat when said out loud, and a joke that seems corny when you read it can get big laughs when said right. It's all in the way you tell it. Similarly, a holy text that speaks of war does not necessarily make its readers violent, and a religion of peace can also produce people of war.

Anyone who knows anything about religion knows that it's all in the interpretation. While the Torah does describe many wars, these have been understood as historical events rather than an eternal call to fight infidels. The modern application of these wars is a personal one - that we each must wage an internal war against our own inner enemy, we must battle the forces within that prevent us from living a moral and holy life. Selfishness, arrogance, cynicism, laziness, indifference - these are the only infidels that Jews seek to slaughter. This is why the violence in the Torah has not translated into violence by Jews - the interpretations don't allow it. We simply don't read our texts that way.

It was the Koran that described the Jews as the People of the Book. If you want to know what the book is about, look at the people that read it.


Common Sense Jew said...

This rabbi is right on. The only nation that it says that it is a mitzvah to kill is amalek. This is also not morally questionable because it's like kill or be killed in this instance. To the guy in the last post who said his bro is irreligous beause of this, thats a bunch of bull.

dovebear said...

The problem is that the Torah is designed to give the ideals of human behavior. What are we to think when Moshe Rabbeinu gives a command to the Jews to slaughter thousands of captive woman and children? Is Moshe not to be considered the ideal regardless of the practicality of the issue at hand?

The very concept of killing nations, as Amon in Parshat Matos, reminds me of genocide as revenge in Kenya and Sudan.

To say that we only follow the Torah as a an internal rather than an external war, seems a bit of an apologist reaction; saying that this isn't REALLY what it means because it stings our moral conscience.

To deflect it as looking at how Jews act today is dangerous. Jews do not always act properly, and if this is our method of judging Judaism, it is simply asking for trouble.

Anonymous said...

as we used to say back in the day "The kashe (Torah talks about killing in many different situations) is better than the Teirutz ( basically what the Torah says is not what the Torah means)

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