Finally, it’s been decided who’s a Jew

Being out of country, I have not heard of this Mona Charen, but I couldn’t keep quiet here about this piece, which makes the peculiar link between Sarah Silverman’s particular brand of humor and how those liberal Jews are too, well, liberal.
Funny she should mention the bit about the Democratic party, since I’m pretty sure God never intended Jews to be Republican partisans either. Maybe that’s something to think about?

. For at least a century, large numbers of nominally Jewish Americans have demonstrated far more attachment to liberal politics than to actual Judaism. They declare that Judaism demands social justice, equality, gun control, liberal abortion laws, and an increase in the capital-gains tax and they adhere to these tenets, well, religiously.

Social justice has always been a foundation of Judaism, at least according to some luminaries such as Abraham Joshua Heschel, and to be fair, Ms. Charen did pay lip service to that ideal in the column, but the rest of the litany is just weird. Equality? How is it this could be seen as a bad thing? Have not Jews always traditionally fought for equality under the law, to contrast with pagan societies such as Hammurabi’s Babylon, whose infamous code specifically delineates different sets of law for different social castes?

As for the capital gains tax thing, I don’t know what the hell that’s about. Sounds kind of like one of those ‘straw arguments’ I’ve been hearing about.

Gun control laws, and a general dislike of guns, well… the Biblical law commanding Jews to put a parapet on their house? The thing about Jewish law is that it’s based on precedent. A widely accepted interpretation of a law, such as the interpretation of the parapet law to mean danger-proofing one’s house by keeping things such as a dangerous dogs and firearms out of it, becomes normative. So, really, my impression is that the wide interpretation of Jewish law enables those sorts of attitudes anyway.

Besides which, the abortion law…this is an instance of someone getting hung up on the letter of the law. Jewish law *technically* forbids the burial in a Jewish cemetary of someone who commits suicide, but as the stories go, the rabbis of the Talmud would make excuses for someone known to have killed theirself out of respect for the dignity of the person, which is paramount in Jewish law. Always paramount. This, of course, takes many divergent interpretations throughout the course of Jewish law and thought that you can’t really say one way is 100% correct, but this is the foundation. So even if abortion was forbidden, given that traditionally a fetus is not considered a human being until the first breath is drawn, it stands to reason the important consideration is the woman’s dignity.

Let’s take a look at some other simplifications, shall we?

Capital punishment is sanctioned for some crimes.

Yes, sure it is. Rabbinic Judaism’s foundation is in the post-Temple area, and the Talmud speaks of the Sanhedrin, where it’s said, if in a capital crime, a single elder voted to execute, the prisoner would not be sentenced to death.

And above all, Judaism demands that human beings worship God, not themselves.

True enough. If only there was…more than just the Bible to tell us how to do this. Some kind of encyclopedic compendium of interpretation of Biblical law, followed by thousands of years of precedent based on those interpretation.

Well, I guess not, so good thing the Bible tells me to stone my disobedient children!

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