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.