What's New?
Theme of the Day

Jewish History, Jewish Religion

by Professor Israel Shahak

Notes and References

Jewish History, Jewish Religion:

The Weight of Three Thousand Years

by Professor Israel Shahak

Notes and References: Chapt. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Chapter 1: A Closed Utopia?

[1] Walter Laquer, History of Zionism Schocken Publishers, Tel Aviv, 1974, in Hebrew.

[2] See Yedioth Ahronot, 27 April 1992.

[3] In Hugh Trevor-Roper, Renaissance Essays, Fontana Press, London, 1985.

[4] See Moses Hadas, Hellenistic Culture, Fusion and Diffusion, Columbia University Press, New York, 1959, especially chapters VII and XX.


Chapter 2: Prejudice and Prevarication

[1] The Jews themselves universally described themselves as a religious community or, to be precise, a religious nation. 'Our people is a people only because of the Torah (Religious Law)' - this saying by one of the highest authorities, Rabbi Sa'adia Hagga'on who lived in the 10th century, has become proverbial.

[2] By Emperor Joseph II in 1782.

[3] All this is usually omitted in vulgar Jewish historiography, in order to propagate the myth that the Jews kept their religion by miracle or by some peculiar mystic force.

[4] For example, in her Origins of Totalitarianism, a considerable part of which is devoted to Jews.

[5] Before the end of the 18th century, German Jews were allowed by their rabbis to write German in Hebrew letters only, on pain of being excommunicated, flogged, etc.

[6] When by a deal between the Roman Empire and the Jewish leaders (the dynasty of the Nesi 'im) all the Jews in the Empire were subjected to the fiscal and disciplinary authority of these leaders and their rabbinical courts, who for their part undertook to keep order among the Jews.

[7] I write this, being a non-socialist myself. But I will honor and respect people with whose principles I disagree, if they make an honest effort to be true to their principles. In contrast, there is nothing so despicable as the dishonest use of universal principles, whether true or false, for the selfish ends of an individual or, even worse, of a group.

[8] In fact, many aspects of orthodox Judaism were apparently derived from Sparta, through the baneful political influence of Plato. On this subject, see the excellent comments of Moses Hadas, Hellenistic Culture, Fusion and Diffusion, Columbia University Press, New York, 1959.

[9] Including the geography of Palestine and indeed its very location. This is shown by the orientation of all synagogues in countries such as Poland and Russia: Jews are supposed to pray facing Jerusalem, and the European Jews, who had only a vague idea where Jerusalem was, always assumed it was due east, whereas for them it was in fact more nearly due south.

[10] Throughout this chapter I use the term 'classical Judaism' to refer to rabbinical Judaism as it emerged after about AD 800 and lasted up to the end of the 18th century. I avoid the term 'normative Judaism', which many authors use with roughly the same meaning, because in my view it has unjustified connotations.

[11] The works of Hellenistic Jews, such as Philo of Alexandria, constitute an exception. They were written before classical Judaism achieved a position of exclusive hegemony. They were indeed subsequently suppressed among the Jews and survived only because Christian monks found them congenial.

[12] During the whole period from AD 100 to 1500 there were written two travel books and one history of talmudic studies -- a short, inaccurate and dreary book, written moreover by a despised philosopher (Abraham ben-David, Spain, c. 1170).

[13] Me'or 'Eynayi'n by 'Azarya de Rossi of Ferrara, Italy, 1574.

[14] The best known cases were in Spain; for example (to use their adopted Christian names) Master Alfonso of Valladolid, converted in 1320, and Paul of Santa Marja, converted in 1390 and appointed bishop of Burgos in 1415. But many other cases can be cited from all over west Europe.

[15] Certainly the tone, and also the consequences, were very much better than in disputations in which Christians were accused of heresy -- for example those in which Peter Abelard or the strict Franciscans were condemned.

[16] The stalinist and Chinese examples are sufficiently well known. However, it is worth mentioning that the persecution of honest historians in Germany began very early. In 1874, H. Ewald, a professor at Goettingen, was imprisoned for expressing 'incorrect' views on the conquests of Frederick II, a hundred years earlier. The situation in Israel is analogous: the worst attacks against me were provoked not by the violent terms I employ in my condemnations of Zionism and the oppression of Palestinians, but by an early article of mine about the role of Jews in the slave trade, in which the latest case quoted dated from 1870. That article was published before the 1967 war; nowadays its publication would be impossible.

[17] In the end a few other passages also had to be removed, such as those which seemed theologically absurd (for example, where God is said to pray to Himself or physically to carry out some of the practices enjoined on the individual Jew) or those which celebrated too freely the sexual escapades of ancient rabbis.

[18] Tractate Berakhot, p. 58b.

[19] 'Your mother shall be sore confounded; she that bare you shall be ashamed...', Jeremiah, 50:12.

[20] Published by Boys Town, Jerusalem, and edited by Moses Hyamson, one of the most reputable scholars of Judaism in Britain.

[21] The supposed founders of the Sadducean sect.

[22] I am happy to say that in a recent new translation (Chicago University Press) the word 'Blacks' does appear, but the heavy and very expensive volume is unlikely, as yet, to get into the 'wrong' hands. Similarly, in early 19th century England, radical books (such as Godwin's) were allowed to appear, provided they were issued in a very expensive edition.

[23] An additional fact can be mentioned in this connection. It was perfectly possible, and apparently respectable, for a Jewish scholar of Islam, Bernard Lewis (who formerly taught in London and is now teaching in the USA) to publish an article in Encounter, in which he points out many passages in Islamic literature which in his view are anti-Black, but none of which even approaches the passage quoted above. It would be quite impossible for anyone now, or in the last thirty years, to discuss in any reputable American publication the above passage or the many other offensive anti-Black talmudic passages. But without a criticism of all sides the attack on Islam alone reduces to mere slander.


Chapter 3: Orthodoxy and Interpretation

[1] As in Chapter 2, I use the term 'classical Judaism' to refer to rabbinical Judaism in the period from about AD 800 up to the end of the 18th century. This period broadly coincides with the Jewish Middle Ages, since for most Jewish communities medieval conditions persisted much longer than for the west European nations, namely up to the period of the French Revolution. Thus what I call 'classical Judaism' can be regarded as medieval Judaism.

[2] Exodus, 15:11.

[3] Exodus, 20:3-6.

[4] Jeremiah, 10; the same theme is echoed still later by the Second Isaiah, see Isaiah, 44.

[5] The cabbala is of course an esoteric doctrine, and its detailed study was confined to scholars. In Europe, especially after about 1750, extreme measures were taken to keep it secret and forbid its study except by mature scholars and under strict supervision. The uneducated Jewish masses of eastern Europe had no real knowledge of cabbalistic doctrine; but the cabbala percolated to them in the form of superstition and magic practices.

[6] Many contemporary Jewish mystics believe that the same end may be accomplished more quickly by war against the Arabs, by the expulsion of the Palestinians, or even by establishing many Jewish settlements on the West Bank. The growing movement for building the Third Temple is also based on such ideas.

[7] The Hebrew word used here -- yihud, meaning literally union-in-seclusion -- is the same one employed in legal texts (dealing with marriage etc.) to refer to sexual intercourse.

[8] The so-called Qedusbab Sblisbit (Third Holiness), inserted in the prayer Uva Letzion towards the end of the morning service.Numbers, 29. 9-10.

[9] The power of Satan, and his connection with non-Jews, is illustrated by a widespread custom, established under cabbalistic influence in many Jewish communities from the 17th century.

A Jewish woman returning from her monthly ritual bath of purification (after which sexual intercourse with her husband is mandatory) must beware of meeting one of the four satanic creatures: Gentile, pig, dog or donkey. If she does meet any one of them she must take another bath.

[10] The custom was advocated (among others) by Shn'et Musar, a book on Jewish moral conduct first published in 1712, which was one of the most popular books among Jews in both eastern Europe and Islamic countries until early this century, and is still widely read in some Orthodox circles.

[11] This is prescribed in minute detail. For example, the ritual hand washing must not be done under a tap; each hand must be washed singly, in water from a mug (of prescribed minimal size) held in the other hand. If one's hands are really dirty, it is quite impossible to clean them in this way, but such pragmatic considerations are obviously irrelevant. Classical Judaism prescribes a great number of such detailed rituals, to which the cabbala attaches deep significance. There are, for example, many precise rules concerning behavior in a lavatory. A Jew relieving nature in an open space must not do so in a North-South direction, because North is associated with Satan.

[12] 'Interpretation' is my own expression. The classical (and present-day Orthodox) view is that the talmudic meaning, even where it is contrary to the literal sense, was always the operational one.

[13] According to an apocryphal story, a famous 19th century Jewish heretic observed in this connection that the verse Thou shalt not commit adultery' is repeated only twice. 'Presumably one is therefore forbidden to eat adultery or to cook it, but enjoying it is all right.'

[14] The Hebrew re'akha is rendered by the King James Version (and most other English translations) somewhat imprecisely as 'thy neighbor'. See however II Samuel, 16:17, where exactly the same word is rendered by the King James Version more correctly as 'thy friend'.

[15] The Mishnah is remarkably free of all this, and in particular the belief in demons and witchcraft is relatively rare in it.

The Babylonian Talmud, on the other hand, is full of gross superstitions.

[16] Or, to be precise, in many parts of Palestine. Apparently the areas to which the law applies are those where there was Jewish demographic predominance around AD 150-200.

[17] Therefore non-zionist Orthodox Jews in Israel organize special shops during sabbatical years, which sell fruits and vegetables grown by Arabs on Arab land.

[18] In the winter of 1945-6, I myself, then a boy under 13, participated in such proceedings. The man in charge of agricultural work in the religious agricultural school I was then attending was a particularly pious Jew and thought it would be safe if the crucial act, that of removing the board, should be performed by an orphan under 13 years old, incapable of being, or making anyone else, guilty of a sin. (A boy under that age cannot be guilty of a sin; his father, if he has one, is considered responsible.) Everything was carefully explained to me beforehand, including the duty to say, 'I need this board,' when in fact it was not needed.

[19] For example, the Talmud forbids a Jew to enjoy the light of a candle lit by a Gentile on the sabbath, unless the latter had lit it for his own use before the Jew entered the room.

[20] One of my uncles in pre-1939 Warsaw used a subtler method. He employed a non-Jewish maid called Marysia and it was his custom upon waking from his Saturday siesta to say, first quietly, 'How nice it would be if' -- and then, raising his voice to a shout, '. . . Marysia would bring us a cup of tea!' He was held to be a very pious and God fearing man and would never dream of drinking a drop of milk for a full six hours after eating meat. In his kitchen he had two sinks, one for washing up dishes used for eating meat, the other for milk dishes.

[21] Occasionally regrettable mistakes occur, because some of these jobs are quite cushy, allowing the employee six days off each week. The town of Bney Braq (near Tel-Aviv), inhabited almost exclusively by Orthodox Jews, was shaken in the 1960s by a horrible scandal. Upon the death of the 'sabbath Goy' they had employed for over twenty years to watch over their water supplies on Saturdays, it was discovered that he was not really a Christian but a Jew! So when his successor, a Druse, was hired, the town demanded and obtained from the government a document certifying that the new employee is a Gentile of pure Gentile descent. It is reliably rumored that the secret police was asked to research this matter.

[22] In contrast, elementary Scripture teaching can be done for payment. This was always considered a low-status job and was badly paid.

[23] Another 'extremely important' ritual is the blowing of a ram's horn on Rosh Hashanah, whose purpose is to confuse Satan.


Chapter 4: The Weight of History

[1] See, for example, Jeremiah,44, especially verses 15-19. For an excellent treatment of certain aspects of this subject see Raphael Patai, The Hebrew Goddess, Ktav, USA, 1967.

[2] Ezra, 7:25-26. The last two chapters of this book are mainly concerned with Ezra's efforts to segregate the 'pure' Jews ('the holy seed') away from 'the people of the land' (who were themselves at least partly of Jewish descent) and break up mixed marriages.

[3] W.F. Albright, Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands, Funk & Wagnall, New York, 1955, p.103.

[4] It is significant that, together with this literary corpus, all the historical books written by Jews after about 400 BC were also rejected. Until the 19th century, Jews were quite ignorant of the story of Massadah and of figures such as Judas Maccabaeus, now regarded by many (particularly by Christians) as belonging to the 'very essence' of Judaism.

[5] Acts, 18:15.

[6] Acts, 25.

[7] See note 6 to Chapter 2.

[8] Concerning the term 'classical Judaism' see note 10 to Chapter 2 and note 1 to Chapter 3.

[9] Nobel Prize winners Agnon and Bashevis Singer are examples of this, but many others can be given, particularly Bialik, the national Hebrew poet. In his famous poem My Father he describes his saintly father selling vodka to the drunkard peasants who are depicted as animals. This very popular poem, taught in all Israeli schools, is one of the vehicles through which the anti-peasant attitude is reproduced.

[10] So far as the central power of the Jewish Patriarchate was concerned, the deal was terminated by Theodosius II in a series of laws, culminating in AD 429; but many of the local arrangements remained in force.

[11] Perhaps another characteristic example is the Parthian empire (until AD 225) but not enough is known about it. We know, however, that the establishment of the national Iranian Sasanid empire brought about an immediate decline of the Jews' position.

[12] This ban extends also to marrying a woman converted to Judaism, because all Gentile women are presumed by the Halakhah to be prostitutes.

[13] The voluntary act on the part of the a prohibited marriage is not generally void, and requires a divorce. Divorce is nominally a husband, but under certain circumstances a rabbinical court can coerce him to 'will' it to 'ad she yyomar rotzeh ani (kofin).

[14] Although Jewish achievements during the Golden Age in Muslim Spain (1002-1147) were more brilliant, they were not lasting. For example, most of the magnificent Hebrew poetry of that age was subsequently forgotten by Jews, and only recovered by them in the 19th or 20th century.

[15] During that war, Henry of Trastamara used anti-Jewish propaganda. although his own mother, Leonor de Guzman, a high Castilian noblewoman, was partly of Jewish descent. (Only in Spain did the highest nobility intermarry with Jews.) After his victory he too employed Jews in the highest financial positions.

[16] Until the 18th century the position of serfs in Poland was generally supposed to be even worse than in Russia. In that century, certain features of Russian serfdom, such as public sales of serfs, got worse than in Poland but the central Tsarist government always retained certain powers over the enslaved peasants, for example the right to recruit them to the national army.

[17] During the preceding period persecutions of Jews were rare. This is true of the Roman Empire even after serious Jewish rebellions. Gibbon is correct in praising the liberality of Antonius Pius (and Marcus Aurelius) to Jews, so soon after the major Bar-Kokhba rebellion of AD 132-5.

[18] This fact, easily ascertainable by examination of the details of each persecution, is not remarked upon by most general historians in recent times. An honorable exception is Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Rise of Christian Europe, Thames and Hudson, London, 1965, pp.173-4.

Trevor-Roper is also one of the very few modern historians who mention the predominant Jewish role in the early medieval slave trade between Christian (and pagan) Europe and the Muslim world (ibid., pp.92-3). In order to promote this abomination, which I have no space to discuss here, Maimonides allowed Jews, in the name of the Jewish religion, to abduct Gentile children into slavery; and his opinion was no doubt acted upon or reflected contemporary practice.

[19] Examples can be found in any history of the crusades. See especially S. Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol I, book 3, chap 1, 'The German Crusade'. The subsequent defeat of this host by the Hungarian army, 'to most Christians appeared as a just punishment meted out of high to the murderers of the Jews.'

[20] John Stoyc, Europe Unfolding 1648, Fontana, London, p.46.

[21] This latter feature is of course not mentioned by received Jewish historiography. The usual punishment for a rebellious, or even 'impudent' peasant was impalement.

[22] The same can be observed in different regions of a given country. For example, in Germany, agrarian Bavaria was much more antisemitic than the industrialized areas.

[23] 'The refusal of the Church to admit that once a Jew always a Jew, was another cause of pain for an ostentatious Catholic like Drumont. One of his chief lieutenants, Jules Guerin, has recounted the disgust he felt when the famous Jesuit, Piere du Lac, remonstrated with him for attacking some converted Jews named Dreyfus.' D.W. Brogan, The Development of Modern France, vol 1, Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1966, p.227.

[24] Ibid...

[25] Let me illustrate the irrational, demonic character which racism can sometimes acquire with three examples chosen at random. A major part of the extermination of Europe's Jews was carried out in 1942 and early 1943 during the Nazi offensive in Russia, which culminated in their defeat at Stalingrad.

During the eight months between June 1942 and February 1943 the Nazis probably used more railway wagons to haul Jews to the gas chambers than to carry much needed supplies to the army. Before being taken to their death, most of these Jews, at least in Poland, had been very effectively employed in production of equipment for the German army.

The second, rather remote, example comes from a description of the Sicilian Vespers in 1282: 'Every Frenchman they met was struck down. They poured into the inns frequented by the French and the houses where they dwelt, sparing neither man nor woman nor child ...

The riots broke into the Dominican and Franciscan convents, and all the foreign friars were dragged out and told to pronounce the word ciciri, whose sound the French tongue could never accurately reproduce.

Anyone who failed in the test was slain.' (S. Runciman, The Sicilian Vespers, Cambridge University Press,1958, p. 215.)

The third example is recent: in the summer of 1980 -- following an assassination attempt by Jewish terrorists in which Mayor Bassam Shak'a of Nablus lost both his legs and Mayor Karim Khalaf of Ramallah lost a foot -- a group of Jewish Nazis gathered in the campus of TeI-Aviv University, roasted a few cats and offered their meat to passers-by as 'shish-kebab from the legs of the Arab mayors'.

Anyone who witnessed this macabre orgy -- as I did -- would have to admit that some horrors defy explanation in the present state of knowledge.

[26] One of the early quirks of Jabotinsky (founder of the party then led by Begin) was to propose, in about 1912, the creation of two Jewish states, one in Palestine and the other in Angola: the former, being poor in natural resources, would be subsidized by the riches of the latter.

[27] Herzl went to Russia to meet von Plehve in August 1903, less than four months after the hideous Kishinev pogrom, for which the latter was known to be responsible. Herzl proposed an alliance, based on their common wish to get most of the Jews out of Russia and, in the shorter term, to divert Jewish support away from the socialist movement. The Tsarist minister started the first interview (8 August) by observing that he regarded himself as 'an ardent supporter of zionism'. When Herzl went on to describe the aims of zionism, von Plehve interrupted: 'You are preaching to the converted'. Amos Elon, Herzl, 'Am 'Oved, 1976 pp.415-9, in Hebrew.

[28] Dr Joachim Prinz, Wirjuden, Berlin, 1934, pp. 150-1.

[29] Ibid., pp. 154-5.

[30] For example see ibid., p. 136. Even worse expressions of sympathy with Nazism were voices by the extremist Lohamey Herut Yisra'el (Stern Gang) as late as 1941. Dr Prinz was, in zionist terms, a 'dove'. In the 1970s he even patronized the US Jewish movement Breira, until he was dissuaded by Golda Meir.


Chapter 5: The Laws Against Non-Jews

[1] Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, 'Laws on Murderers' 2, 11; Talmudic Encyclopedia, 'Goy'.

[2] R. Yo'el Sirkis, Bayit Hadash, commentary on Beyt Josef, 'Yoreh De'ah' 158. The two rules just mentioned apply even if the Gentile victim is ger toshav, that is a 'resident alien' who has undertaken in front of three Jewish witnesses to keep the 'seven Noahide precepts' (seven biblical laws considered by the Talmud to be addressed to Gentiles).

[3] R. David Halevi (Poland, 17th century), Turey Zahav" on Shulhan 'Arukh, 'Yoreh De'ah' 158.

[5] Talmudic Encyclopedia, 'Ger' (= convert to Judaism).

[6] For example, R. Shabbtay Kohen (mid 17th century), Siftey Kohen on Shulhan 'Arukh, 'Yoreh De'ah, 158: 'But in times of war it was the custom to kill them with one's own hands, for it is said, "The best of Gentiles -- kill him!"' Siftey Kohen and Turey Zahay (see note 3) are the two major classical commentaries on the Shulhan 'Arukh.

[7] Colonel Rabbi A. Avidan (Zemel), 'Tohar hannesheq le'or hahalakhah' (= 'Purity of weapons in the light of the Halakhah') in Be'iqvot milhemet yom hakkippurim -- pirqey hagut, halakhah umehqar (In the Wake of the Yom Kippur War - Chapters of Meditation, Halakhah and Research), Central Region Command, 1973: quoted in Ha'olam Hazzeh, 5 January 1974; also quoted by David Shaham, 'A chapter of meditation', Hotam, 28 March 1974; and by Amnon Rubinstein, 'Who falsifies the Halakhah?' Ma'ariv", 13 October 1975. Rubinstein reports that the booklet was subsequently withdrawn from circulation by order of the Chief of General Staff, presumably because it encouraged soldiers to disobey his own orders; but he complains that Rabbi Avidan has not been court-martialled, nor has any rabbi -- military or civil -- taken exception to what he had written.

[8] R. Shim'on Weiser, 'Purity of weapons -- an exchange of letters' in Niv" Hammidrashiyyah Yearbook of Midrashiyyat No'am, 1974, pp.29-31. The yearbook is in Hebrew, English and French, but the material quoted here is printed in Hebrew only.

[9] Psalms, 42:2.

[10] 'Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven', Deuteronomy, 25:19. Cf. also I Samuel, 15:3: 'Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.'

[11] We spare the reader most of these rather convoluted references and quotes from talmudic and rabbinical sources. Such omissions are marked [. . .]. The rabbi's own conclusions are reproduced in full.

[12] The Tosafot (literally, Addenda) are a body of scholia to the Talmud, dating from the 1 lth-13th centuries.

[13] Persons guilty of such crimes are even allowed to rise to high public positions. An illustration of this is the case of Shmu'el Lahis, who was responsible for the massacre of between 50 and 75 Arab peasants imprisoned in a mosque after their village had been conquered by the Israeli army during the 1948-9 war.

Following a pro forma trial, he was granted complete amnesty, thanks to Ben-Gurion's intercession. The man went on to become a respected lawyer and in the late 1970s was appointed Director General of the Jewish Agency (which is, in effect, the executive of the zionist movement).

In early 1978 the facts concerning his past were widely discussed in the Israeli press, but no rabbi or rabbinical scholar questioned either the amnesty or his fitness for his new office. His appointment was not revoked.

[14] Shulhan 'Arukh, ' Hoshen Mishpat' 426.

[15] Tractate 'Avodah Zarah', p. 26b.

[16] Maimonides, op. cit., 'Murderer' 4, 11.

[17] Leviticus, 19:16. Concerning the rendering 'thy fellow', see note 14 to Chapter 3.

[18] Maimonides, op. cit., 'Idolatry' 10, 1-2.

[19] In both cases in section 'Yoreh De'ah' 158. The Shulhan 'Arukh repeats the same doctrine in 'Hoshen Mishpat' 425.

[20] Moses Rivkes, Be'er Haggolah on Shulhan 'Arukh, 'Hoshen Mishpat' 425.

[21] Thus Professor Jacob Katz, in his Hebrew book Between Jews and Gentiles as well as in its more apologetic English version Exclusiveness and Tolerance, quotes only this passage verbatim and draws the amazing conclusion that 'regarding the obligation to save life no discrimination should be made between Jew and Christian'. He does not quote any of the authoritative views I have cited above or in the next section.

[22] Maimonides, op. cit., 'Sabbath' 2, 20-21; Shulhan 'Arukh, 'Orab Hayyim' 329.

[23] R 'Aqiva Eiger, commentary on Shulhan 'Arukh, ibid. He also adds that if a baby is found abandoned in a town inhabited mainly by Gentiles, a rabbi should be consulted as to whether the baby should be saved.

[24] Tractate Avodah Zarah, p. 26.

[25] Maimonides, op. cit., 'Sabbath' 2, 12; Shulhan 'Arukh, 'Orah Hayyim' 330. The latter text says 'heathen' rather than 'Gentile' but some of the commentators, such as Turey Zahav, stress that this ruling applies 'even to Ishmaelites', that is, to Muslims, 'who are not idolators'. Christians are not mentioned explicitly in this connection, but the ruling must a fortiori apply to them, since -- as we shall see below -- Islam is regarded in a more favorable light than Christianity. See also the responsa of Hatam Sofer quoted below.

[26] These two examples, from Poland and France, are reported by Rabbi I.Z. Cahana (afterwards professor of Talmud in the religious Bar-Ilan University, Israel), 'Medicine in the Halachic post-Talmudic Literature', Sinai, vol 27, 1950, p.221.

He also reports the following case from 19th century Italy. Until 1848, a special law in the Papal States banned Jewish doctors from treating Gentiles. The Roman Republic established in 1848 abolished this law along with all other discriminatory law against Jews.

But in 1849 an expeditionary force sent by France's President Louis Napoleon (afterwards Emperor Napoleon III) defeated the Republic and restored Pope Pius Ix, who in 1850 revived the anti-Jewish laws. The commanders of the French garrison, disgusted with this extreme reaction, ignored the papal law and hired some Jewish doctors to treat their soldiers.

The Chief Rabbi of Rome, Moshe Hazan, who was himself a doctor, was asked whether a pupil of his, also a doctor, could take a job in a French military hospital despite the risk of having to desecrate the sabbath. The rabbi replied that if the conditions of employment expressly mention work on the sabbath, he should refuse. But if they do not, he could take the job and employ 'the great cleverness of God-fearing Jews.'

For example, he could repeat on Saturday the prescription given on Friday, by simply telling this to the dispenser. R. Cahana's rather frank article, which contains many other examples, is mentioned in the bibliography of a book by the former Chief Rabbi of Britain, R. Immanuel Jakobovits, Jewish Medical Ethics, Bloch, New York, 1962; but in the book itself nothing is said on this matter.

[27] Hokhmat Shlomoh on Shulhan 'Arukh, 'Orah Hayyim' 330, 2.

[28] R. Unterman, Ha'aretz, 4 April 1966. The only qualification he makes -- after having been subjected to continual pressure -- is that in our times any refusal to give medical assistance to a Gentile could cause such hostility as might endanger Jewish lives.

[29] Hatam Sofer, Response on Shulhan 'Arukh, 'Yoreh De'ah' 131.

[30] Op. cit., on Shulhan 'Arukh, 'Hoshen Mishpat' 194.

[31] R. B. Knobelovitz in The Jewish Review (Journal of the Mizrachi Party in Great Britain), 8 June 1966.

[32] R. Yisra'el Me'ir Kagan -- better known as the 'Hafetz Hayyim' -- complains in his Mishnah Berurah, written in Poland in 1907:

'And know ye that most doctors, even the most religious, do not take any heed whatsoever of this law; for they work on the sabbath and do travel several parasangs to treat a heathen, and they grind medicaments with their own hands. And there is no authority for them to do so.

For although we may find it permissible, because of the fear of hostility, to violate bans imposed by the sages -- and even this is not clear; yet in bans imposed by the Torah itself it must certainly be forbidden for any Jew to do so, and those who transgress this prohibition violate the sabbath utterly and may God have mercy on them for their sacrilege.'

(Commentary on Shulhan 'Arukh, 'Orah Hayyim' 330.)

The author is generally regarded as the greatest rabbinical authority of his time.

[33] Avraham Steinberg MD (ed.), Jewish Medical Law, compiled from Tzitz Eli 'ezer (Responsa of R. Eli'ezer Yehuda Waldenberg), translated by David B. Simons MD, Gefen & Mossad Harav Kook, Jerusalem and California, 1980.

[34] Op. cit., p. 39. Ibid., p.41.

[35] Ibid., p. 41.

[36] The phrase 'between Jew and gentile' is a euphemism. The dispensation is designed to prevent hostility of Gentiles towards Jews, not the other way around.

[37] Ibid., p. 412; my emphasis.

[38] Dr Falk Schlesinger Institute for Medical Halakhic Research at Sha'arey Tzedeq Hospital, Sefer Asya (The Physician's Book), Reuben Mass, Jerusalem, 1979.

[39] By myself in Ha'olam Hazzeh, 30 May 1979 and by Shullamit Aloni, Member of Knesset, in Ha'aretz, 17 June 1980.

[40] Ezekiel, 23:20.

[41] Tractate Berakhot, p. 78a.

[42] Talmudic Encyclopedia, 'Eshet Ish' ('Married Woman').

[43] Exodus, 20:17.

[44] Genesis, 2:24.

[45] Maimonides, op. cit., 'Prohibitions on Sexual Intercourse' 12; 10; Talmudic Encyclopedia, 'Goy'.

[46] Maimonides, op. cit., ibid., 12, 1-3. As a matter of fact, every Gentile woman is regarded as N.Sh.G.Z. -- acronym for the Hebrew words niddah, shifhah, goyah, zonah (unpurified from menses, slave, Gentile, prostitute).

Upon conversion to Judaism, she ceases indeed to be niddah, shifhah, goyah but is still considered zonah (prostitute) for the rest of her life, simply by virtue of having been born of a Gentile mother.

In a special category is a woman 'conceived not in holiness but born in holiness', that is born to a mother who had converted to Judaism while pregnant.

In order to make quite sure that there are no mix-ups, the rabbis insist that a married couple who convert to Judaism together must abstain from marital relations for three months.

[47] Characteristically, an exception to this generalization is made with respect to Gentiles holding legal office relating to financial transactions: notaries, debt collectors, bailiff and the like. No similar exception is made regarding ordinary decent Gentiles, not even if they are friendly towards Jews.

[48] Some very early (1st century BC) rabbis called this law 'barbaric' and actually returned lost property belonging to Gentiles. But the law nevertheless remained.

[49] Leviticus, 25:14. This is a literal translation of the Hebrew phrase. The King James Version renders this as 'ye shall not oppress one another'; 'oppress' is imprecise but 'one another' is a correct rendering of the biblical idiom 'each man his brother'. As pointed out in Chapter 3, the Halakhah interprets all such idioms as referring exclusively to one's fellow Jew.

[50] Shulhan 'Arukh, 'Hoshen Mishpat' 227.

[51] This view is advocated by H. Bar-Droma, Wezeh Gvul Ha'aretz (And This Is the Border of the Land), Jerusalem, 1958. In recent years this book is much used by the Israeli army in indoctrinating its officers.

[52] Maimonides, op. cit., 'Idolatry' 10, 3-4.

[53] See note 2.

[54] Exodus, 23:33.

[55] Maimonides, op. cit., 'Idolatry' 10, 6.

[56] Deuteronomy, 20:16. See also the verses quoted in note 10.

[57] Numbers 31:13-20; note in particular verse 17: 'Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.'

[58] R. Sha'ul Yisra'eli, 'Taqrit Qibbiya Le'or Hahalakhah' (The Qibbiya incident in the light of the Halakhah'), in Hattorab Wehammedinah, vol 5, 1953/4.

[59] This is followed by a blessing 'for not making me a slave'. Next, a male must add a blessing 'for not making me a woman', and a female 'for making me as He pleased'.

[60] In eastern Europe it was until recent times a universal custom among Jews to spit on the floor at this point, as an expression of scorn. This was not however a strict obligation, and today the custom is kept only by the most pious.

[61] The Hebrew word is meshummadim, which in rabbinical usage refers to Jews who become 'idolators', that is either pagan or Christians, but not to Jewish converts to Islam.

[62] The Hebrew word is minim, whose precise meaning is 'disbelievers in the uniqueness of God'.

[63] Tractate Berakhot, p. 58b.

[64] According to many rabbinical authorities the original rule still applies in full in the Land of Israel.

[65] This custom gave rise to many incidents in the history of European Jewry. One of the most famous, whose consequence is still visible today, occurred in 14th century Prague.

King Charles IV of Bohemia (who was also Holy Roman Emperor) had a magnificent crucifix erected in the middle of a stone bridge which he had built and which still exists today.

It was then reported to him that the Jews of Prague are in the habit of spitting whenever they pass next to the crucifix.

Being a famous protector of the Jews, he did not institute persecution against them, but simply sentenced the Jewish community to pay for the Hebrew word Adonay (Lord) to be inscribed on the crucifix in golden letters.

This word is one of the seven holiest names of God, and no mark of disrespect is allowed in front of it. The spitting ceased. Other incidents connected with the same custom were much less amusing.

[66] The verses most commonly used for this purpose contain words derived from the Hebrew root shaqetz which means 'abominate, detest', as in Deuteronomy, 7:26: 'thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.' It seems that the insulting term sheqetz, used to refer to all Gentiles (Chapter 2), originated from this custom.

[67] Talmud, Tractate Beytzah, p. 21a, b; Mishnah Berurah on Shulhan 'Arukh, 'Orah Hayyim' 512. Another commentary (Magen Avraham) also excludes Karaites.

[68] According to the Halakha, a Gentile slave bought by a Jew should be converted to Judaism, but does not thereby become a proper Jew.

[69] Leviticus, 25:46.

[70] The Hebrew form of the name Jesus -- Yeshu -- was interpreted as an acronym for the curse may his name and memory be wiped out', which is used as an extreme form of abuse.

In fact, anti-zionist Orthodox Jews (such as Neturey Qarta) sometimes refer to Herzl as 'Herzl Jesus' and I have found in religious zionist writings expressions such as 'Nasser Jesus' and more recently 'Arafat Jesus.'



Previous      Back to Index

What are you going to do about it?