“Society attacks early, when the child is defenseless.”

B.F. Skinner

“Civilization will not attain to its perfection, until the last stone from the lst church falls on the last priest!”

Emile Zola

“…Jews are taught that the belief in one’s own religion or way of life does not in any way require the corollary that others are wrong. . . We do not seek to convince, convert, or oppress others, only to be left to observe our own faith and practice in peace.”

Grand Rabbi Y.A. Korff, Boston Globe,  Oct. 23, 2011

A Grand Rabbi is a rebbe.  I’ve always thought it odd that the Jews chose such similar words for distinctly different levels of perceived holiness.  I’ve known many rabbis but never a rebbe. A rebbe is, to a particular sect of Jews, a dynastic leader, a super-rabbi, holy and mystical (whatever those empty words mean to the believers) beyond mere mortals, steeped in Jew trivia and rituals, living in a Jew bubble, cultivating a bushy beard and a benign, even beatific affect.

His whole life is consumed with things Jewish; therefore he’s infinitely wise (and, to the followers of the last rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, immortal). 

Guru + Cardinal

He’s a cross between a guru and a cardinal, with more ornate vestments than the former but less ornate than the latter.  He may have deluded himself or other believer-wannabees to believe that he has direct contact with the deity.  I don’t know if G.R. Korff has made such claims. 

Grand Rabbi questions

I’m a Jewish (by birth) atheist (since age 12), and I’ve wondered how one is chosen Grand Rabbi.  And does the Grand Rabbi have a extra high silk cook’s hat with pompom on the High Holidays…or maybe an extra layer of fringe or brocade?  And what does a Grand Rabbi do?  Act as a one-man font of wisdom and spend part of each the day making wise Solomonic decisions?  Does he get any perks, like the droit de signeur with batmitzvah girls? 

Qualities of the goyim

But I blaspheme.  Sorry about that.  Anyway.  Rabbi Korff is full of it.  His first sentence in the quote above is a non-sequitur.  If Judaism is, to Jews, the one right religion, what of the billions of non-Jewish believers?   If they’re not wrong, what are they?   Unenlightened?  Retarded?  Expendable?  There are nearly a billion Hindus.  Are we to believe that only a few million Jews have the key to truth – and won’t share it?

Goyim (gentiles) are certainly useful, hence the concept of the “Shabbos goy,” the non-Jew who would do things that Jews are forbidden to do on the Sabbath.  There are over 30 kinds of work that must be avoided, so the toilet paper is pre-torn on Friday.  Not making that up.  Long ago, many Catholic girls serving as housemaids and shabbos goyim would baptize the little Jewish kid – and the church would make it stick!  (In The God Delusion, Dawkins recounts a particularly galling case from the 19th century.)

Aspiration and reality

It’s true that Jews don’t proselytize (strange behavior for people who think they have the truth) or encourage conversion.  But the Grand Rabbi’s second statement is what corporations would call “aspirational”: it’s the way Jews should behave, not the way they actually do.

The truth is that Jews can be as fanatic and close-minded as any other believers.   True story: a Jewish child tells Mom that he’s seen a cross around a man’s neck.  He’s told it’s because the man is a Christian.  He too wants to be a Christian.  He has no idea what it means – maybe some kind of club. 

Mom tells him in no uncertain terms that if you become a Christian, “you will no longer have a Mommy, a Daddy, or a place to live.”  The kid is scared shitless.  He gets the message.  See above quote from Skinner.

More reality

In Israel, Modern Orthodox (merely psychotic) are harassed and confronted by haredim, truly crazy Ultra-Orthodox – and dangerous too, as in throwing stones and shouting insults.  How can you be “more” Orthodox?  I have no idea.  It consumes your every waking hour, and then what?  You pray in your sleep?  Yet different strains of Jewish Orthodoxy are as rigidly discriminatory as Sunnis and Shi‘ites (I still don’t know the difference, and I don’t care). 

There is a constant race among many kinds of Jews to see who can appear to be more observant.  Appearance and ritual are everything.  Those deemed not sufficiently observant and pious (there is actually a frum [’pious, modest’] dress code, called tznius) find themselves scorned.  Compare the two ends of the spectrum – the haredim and my three-day-a-year, Judaism-ultra-lite family; the haredim would not consider my family to be Jews at all.

Inflammatory issue

As for intermarriage, here’s where Jews really go nuts, including my lukewarm parents.  It was stunning – how little regard they had for Judaism, yet how fanatic they were on this one issue.  

Case in point: A Jewish woman and her husband played real hardball.  They gave their #1 son the choice between staying with the shicksa (gentile girl) or going to med school.  The latter won out, and he is now happily married to a nice Jewish girl.  But attempts to strong-arm the remaining three kids met with varying degrees of resistance and family alienation.

My generation, especially the first-born, paid the price so that our younger siblings and the next generation could have hassle- and-bigotry-free weddings to otherwise quite nice and worthy non-Jews. 

Another true story: a conservative-turned-Orthodox father lavishes perks (even, in one case, a house) on his three toe-the-line Jewish daughters and their kids.  Two of them married rabbis.  Wow!!  The two grandchildren that are product of marriage to a shegetz ( = a gentile, lit. ‘crawling thing’)  are ignored.

Off the deep end

And then there are those poor people who go “off the derech” – off the rez, as it were, at least mentally.  They’re brought up in an Orthodox Jew-bubble, but they develop doubts.  They pour out their hearts on their blogs.  They dare not change anything about their totally-false observance, lest they cut themselves off from all social and familial support.  You will have no Mommy, no Daddy, no place to live.

Gay Jews are another group despised by the Orthodox; the Torah calls homosexuality “an abomination” and is very explicit about the penalty: death.  I saw a documentary about the gay Jews’ sincere appeals to “Ha-shem” (= ‘the name’; they won’t even say God’s name, like this: Godgodgodgodgodgod) to recognize them as human beings and Jews.  One hadn’t seen his father in many years, even though the two lived in the same Brooklyn neighborhood.

Every day Jews suffer oppression and ostracism from other Jews. And they are by no means alone.  Even more vile and pointless than religion itself, than this mendacious investment in fantasy, is the inevitable tendency of believers in the supposedly same religion to ostracize, persecute, and sometimes murder people WHO SIMPLY BELIEVE A DIFFERENT VERSION OF THE SAME FANTASY.

The Grand Rabbi should take a look at the real world.  Then he can explain to me why the Jews recite the Prayer for the Dead when someone leaves their tribe

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Comment by Alan Perlman on June 12, 2012 at 7:16pm

OK, point taken.  But it gets bizarre.  Jews have to indirectly ask goyim to do work for them.

One of the best parts of "Religulous" was the Sabbath store, including a wheelchair that the driver somehow didn't operate.  Maher: "Why go to such lengths to please a God who put you in the wheelchair in the first place?"

Comment by James Yount on June 12, 2012 at 7:10pm

Exodus 20:10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who is in your gates.

I remember healing on Sabbath being a debated topic but generally the preservation of life tended to trump any other argument.  Another Sabbath issue that was always funny to me was electrical use. Electrical timers are ok, but manually turning on a switch wasn't. Buying good on the Sabbath is bad, but consuming electrical energy (that you eventually have to pay for) is ok....

Comment by Alan Perlman on June 12, 2012 at 2:57pm

James...For sure. Be fruitful and multiply does not mean two guys getting it on.  I don't recall anything in the Torah about servants not working, but I'll check it.  This whole thing is a colossal waste of time.  Crazy questions, e.g., should a Jewish doctor treat a Jew on the Sabbath?  How about a goyish patient?  I always thought the concept odd too.  Gentiles' immunity from Jewish commandments makes them useful tools?  

Comment by James Yount on June 12, 2012 at 12:56pm

Also, I feel like the laws against homosexuality were put into place because tribes relied heavily on their children and gays can't reproduce. Though this just goes to show that the Torah was not given by some omniscient god, because of all of the violence that has resulted from those words.

Comment by James Yount on June 12, 2012 at 12:39pm

I always thought the 'shabbos goy' practice was odd. Doesn't the Torah say that not only the Jew, but his servants, should abstain from work on shabot? Are gentiles somehow bequeathed a subcategory that grants them special leeway?

Comment by Alan Perlman on June 12, 2012 at 9:51am

To Derek...thanks for the kind words -- and for sharing my post.  Being born and raised Jewish (became atheist at 12) gives me an inside perspective on Judaism, and the best part is that I can criticize Jews with impunity.  As for Anti-Semitism, there's an important distinction to be made: anti-Semites hate Jews just because they are Jews.  I don't hate Jews -- just their irrational, inhumane view of the world and their SOB of a God.


To S.B....It is dysfunctional to us -- but not to them.  This is religion's true ignorance: they're unable to view their practices and prejudices from an outsider's point of view.



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