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The Talmud’s Many Demons

Sages in a superstitious age accepted the existence of invisible devils and the use of magic to render them visible

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(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photo Michael Broad/Flickr)
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A Talmudic Journey Begins

Our book critic dives into Daf Yomi’s daily regimen expecting a law code, but instead finds a chain of questions

Literary critic Adam Kirsch is reading a page of Talmud a day, along with Jews around the world.

If you went to a Reform or Conservative synagogue, as I did, you were probably taught early on that Judaism doesn’t believe in demons and devils. The God of monotheism is a transcendent God, who leaves no room in the universe for other supernatural powers. And it went without saying that God was incorporeal, that he could not be imagined as having a human body. Both of these ways of thinking about the divine, we often hear, mark Judaism’s advance on paganism, with its pantheon of anthropomorphic spirits.

Reading the Talmud this week was a vivid reminder that this way of thinking about Judaism is in fact a modern invention. You can never pronounce on “what Judaism says” without specifying what Judaism you are talking about: post-Enlightenment, post-Reform Judaism may say one thing, where the Judaism of the Talmud says something entirely different. It becomes clear in Berachot 6a, for instance, that the sages of the Talmud not only believed in demons and folk magic, but that they never imagined such things could be theologically controversial.

Here is a baraita attributed to Abba Benjamin: “If the eye would be granted permission to see, no creature would be able to stand in the face of the demons that surround it.” We are all, apparently, constantly beset by invisible devils, and the rabbis of the Gemara go on to expand on the proposition: “Abaye said: They are more numerous than us, and they stand about us like a ditch around a mound.” “Rav Huna said: Each one of us has a thousand to his left and ten thousand to his right.”

The idea that we see only a fragment of reality, that our senses are not designed to perceive everything that is, has a surprisingly modern ring to it. Abba Benjamin’s dictum reminded me of a famous passage from Middlemarch, in which George Eliot praises human dullness: “If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.” Taken as metaphor, the idea that we are surrounded by invisible powers is not hard to accept.

The problem is that the rabbis did not intend it as a metaphor. This becomes clear from the ensuing discussion of the effects of demons and the ways of making them visible. The evil these demons work is not metaphysical or catastrophic; it is trivial and bothersome, making them seem more like naughty sprites than devils. When your knees become tired, when your clothes wear out from rubbing, when you feel squeezed in the crowd at a public lecture—this is all, according to Rava, the work of demons. And there are magical ways of making demons show themselves. All you have to do is find a black female cat who is the firstborn daughter of a firstborn mother, burn her placenta to ashes, grind the ashes, and put some of them in your eye, and you will be able to see the demons. Be sure, however, to place the remainder of the ashes in a sealed iron tube, lest the demons steal it from you.

To my modern mind, there is something not just strange but scandalous about this. It shows that the rabbis of the Talmud could be at the same time geniuses of jurisprudence and men of their age, which was a pre-scientific and superstitious age. Most troubling, perhaps, is the way the rabbis never try to explain how these countless demons fit into a world picture where God is the source of all law and power. Did he create them, and if so, why? It is the taken-for-grantedness of demons and magic, the way they present no theological challenge, that seems most foreign to me in this Talmudic discussion. Perhaps I will discover a deeper treatment of the subject as I read.

Things get still more unexpected in the ensuing pages, where it is stated that God himself wears tefillin. On the scroll inside his tefillin, however, are different biblical verses from the ones in our tefillin: His bears the words, “And who is like Your people Israel, one nation in the land.” So, Israel’s tefillin contain the Shema, which praises “Adonai echad,” one God; in turn, God’s tefillin praise “goy echad,” one nation. It is a poetic idea, capturing the mutuality of the covenant, the special love that exists between God and his people.

But still, the question nags: How exactly can God wear tefillin? Can we imagine God with an arm and a forehead? The rabbis apparently could, quite literally, for in Berachot 7a we hear the story of Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha, a high priest during the time of the Second Temple, who saw God sitting in the Temple on Yom Kippur. God asked the priest to pray for him, and when he heard the prayer, “He nodded to me with his head.”

This direct anthropomorphizing of God clearly troubled later commentators. “It is, of course, impossible to see God optically,” write the editors of the Schottenstein Talmud; they cite the 9th-century sage Saadia Gaon, who rather anxiously explained that what Yishmael saw was simply a great light. But how can a light nod its head? This seems like apologetics after the fact; none of the voices we hear in the Gemara itself object to the literal accuracy of Yishmael’s story.

But here, again, it is possible to resist one part of a Talmudic story while being drawn to another part. For the substance of Yishmael’s prayer displays an acute knowledge of God’s difficult temperament, as we see it in the Bible: “May it be your will that your mercy conquer your anger, and that your mercy overcome your sterner attributes, and that you behave toward your children with the attribute of mercy, and that for their sake you go beyond the boundary of judgment.” God, it seems, needs our help or encouragement to control his anger. There is something very appealing, in a post-religious age, about the idea that God needs our blessings as much as we need his.

***

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This is a brilliant and insightful response, Adam. I’d only add that the sages at the beginning of Berakhot seem to me to be wrestling with the difference between the actions of God and the actions of mazikin (demons), and also the way we relate to God as opposed to the way we relate to demons.
Demons require preventive tactics; God requires persuasion (helping God be what God ought to be, as you note). God inflicts yisurin shel ahava–one of the most troubled, and necessary, concepts, in these opening pages: “afflictions of love.” The notion of afflictions of love will be tested by the heartrending story of R. Yohanan and Reish Lakish (and here the sages in my view turn aside from the agony represented by Yohanan’s reference to leprosy and loss of children, by explaining that remark away). In any case, demons don’t give afflictions of love; they are simply obstacles, and so they must be handled in simple terms. The contemporary equivalents are annoying bosses, taxes, bureaucracy, bad shoes, etc. God is a parent, by contrast, and so cannot be bought off–not even by saying the shema at exactly the right time.
Does the sages’ literal belief in demons reduce the usefulness of the text any more than Dante’s or Milton’s literal belief in Satan reduces the usefulness of their texts? I would say no. In all these cases, we translate into our own idiom; but our idiom is in a (perhaps hidden) way continuous with theirs.

GordLindsay says:

First of all, good for you, Adam, for doing exactly what the sages of the Talmud did: question everything relentlessly, without fear of consequences. But, “superstition?” This is a prejudicial, unscientific bias on your part. Shakespeare said it best: “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Adam (OK, Horatio), than are dreamt of on your philosophy.”

Diana Lipton says:

Thank you, Adam. For more on rabbinic demons — and why they are not metaphorical or (as I used to think) externalisations of the rabbis’ internal lives or something ‘acceptable’ like that — see Yishay Rosen-Zvi’s excellent 2011 book, Demonic Desires “Yetzer Hara” and the Problem of Evil in Late Antiquity. http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/14879.html

Actually, it doesn’t say that R’ Yishmael saw God there. He saw certain aspects of God there.

Also, a more common way of understanding anthropomorphisms is that using the word “hand” for God isn’t an analogy from our hands. Rather, our hands are an analogy to the actual concept of “yad”, which is an attribute of God. Also, when we speak of attributes of God, we’re not talking about actual descriptions. Attributes themselves are considered created things that God made. So that the “attribute” of Chesed (roughly: kindness) is akin to a tinted window God created so that when we perceive Him (to whatever extent we do) we see Him in that light.

Althelion says:

I enjoyed reading this article. I believe that it is important to remember that the the knowledge of the sages of centuries ago cannot be viewed through a revisionist’s lens. Those rabbis of old were wise men IN THEIR TIME. They would be lost in today’s world.

Yishmael’s prayer is moving, but the rest is demon stuff is 100% pilpul and essentially worthless.

Gord Lindsay says:

Just to expand on my previous thought — the doors of perception are notoriously selectively variable. Dogs and teenagers hear what adults cannot, and fruit flies can distinguish between two different molecularly identical chemicals where today’s science cannot. The Higgs Boson took an awful lot of work and money in order to enter into the realm of human perception (if we accept the recent experiment) — yet, all of these are accepted as real phenomena beyond the range of our perception. There’s clearly a lot there which we, as adult humans, cannot perceive, and there’s no reason to rule out Abba Benjamin’s assertion. If anything, given our understanding of our own perceptual limitations, it would seem plausible, perhaps even likely.

Mars_Ultor says:

I am trying hard to understand why believing in jinns, fairies, demons or agents is considered ‘superstition’, yet believing in an ever-present, eternal, invisible deus-entity that hears your prayers and controls every aspect of your world is considered an ‘advancement’ and in no way a form of superstition. It seems to be that both cases were pulled out of people’s collective imaginations, and are based on absolutely no plausible evidence. So why use the term ‘superstition’ for one, but not the other?

If we take it a step further, the pantheonic view of gods, akin to the Greek, Roman or Indic beliefs, seems more in step with reality than anything formulated within Judeo-Christian monotheism.

Mars_Ultor says:

Yes its obvious we cannot perceive it with human instruments, but the key difference is that things like HIggs Boson, or faint chemicals or atoms are testable and can be verified independently, and are observable through instruments.

This key difference is all the difference that matters when looking at the world of science and facts and the world of superstition.

Daniel Ostroff says:

A underlying assumption in Kirsch’s thinking is reflected in this passage:
To my modern mind, there is something not just strange but scandalous about this. It shows that the rabbis of the Talmud could be at the same time geniuses of jurisprudence and men of their age, which was a pre-scientific and superstitious age.

Kirsch will never understand the Talmud if he does not “crawl into their headspace.” I realize that it is hard not to keep our “modern sensibilities” – but we moderns are also filled with hubris, as if we “understand” the word – we are enlightened, not like those superstitious minds of yore.

The haughtiness of “I know better” pervades Kirsch’s writing and prevents him, ultimately, from understanding what the Rabbis are trying to say.

Perhaps a dose of humility and skepticism of the “scientific mind” would serve the author well.

Nice article! Some points:

1. If you look in the Talmud some more, you will see instances of demonry all over the place. One of my personal favorites is where R’ Acha (Kiddushin 29b) was in the study hall when a scary demon appeared to him in the form of a seven-headed serpent while he was praying. Each time he bowed one of the heads fell off (which leads one to believe that it was the Shmoneh Esrei where one bows a total of 7 times).
2. When Gd created the universe he had to create an equal amount of evil to balance the good. Hence idol-worship and demons.
3. The Sefer Yetzirah (Aryeh Kaplan’s edition) mentions that after the episode with Cain and Abel (Kayin and Hevel), Adam and Eve separated from each other for 130 years. During that time Adam bonded with Lilith to create the demons of the world. Clearly there was a necessity to maintain such a balance especially when “right and wrong” were not clearly defined since to Cain, killing was perfectly all right (when it was never done before in recorded history).
4. The Israelites were all prophets after the revelation on Mt. Sinai. Still, they worshipped idols, as was evident during the episode of Baal Peor. Also, during the first Temple when they had everything and were on a high level of holiness, they still worshipped idols and this was one of the three causes for the first Temple to be destroyed. Clearly, there was something to be said.
5. Chanoch (Enos) was taken away relatively early (he died at 205 when everyone was living beyond 900 years of age). One of the reasons was because he inadvertently introduced idolatry/witchcraft by teaching that if one worships an agent of Gd (such as the sun, a tree, etc.) with the intent on focusing on the objects’ creator than it’s as if one worships Gd. People soon forgot the “intent” bit and worshipped the objects as entities in and of their own.
6. The Talmud mentions how the Rabbis prayed for the urge of idol-worship to be taken away from the Jewish people. As a direct consequence, when the urge for idol-worship went away, so did prophecy from normal beings (and went to fools and children).
7. Even today in certain South American and African countries there are clear instances of real magic and witchcraft. Don’t understimate the unknown.


the pantheonic view of gods, akin to the Greek, Roman or Indic beliefs, seems more in step with reality than anything formulated within Judeo-Christian monotheism.” In what respect?

As for Jinns and fairies I don’t know what to say. I guess that if believing that the Talmud is truth is a leap of faith, so is the whole concept of demons and such.

On the other hand, if fairies were never mentioned in the Talmud, does that make them non-existent? I don’t know.

Hey, if it’s in the Talmud, it’s gotta be true.

drorbenami says:

hey, the habad movement, as well as AISH educational foundation, teach that Abraham, isaac and Jacob were not really Jewish, they were merely Hebrews…..so stupidity is not limitted to the dark ages….

4 BILLION JEWS SLAUGHTERED BY EMPEROR
HADRIAN

Over
four billion Jews were killed by the Romans in 135AD… 64 million children
wrapped up in Torah scrolls and burnt…. apparently

The Jews’ last
stand at Bethar, Judah

in the final
Roman Jewish war 135AD

“The voice of Jacob’: this is the cry caused
by the (Roman) Emperor Hadrian who killed in the city of Bethar four hundred
thousand myriads”

Babylonian Talmud Gittin 57B

The Talmud is Judaism’s
holiest book (actually a collection of books). Its authority takes precedence
over the Old Testament in Judaism. Evidence of this may be found in the Talmud
itself, Erubin 21b (Soncino edition):

“My son, be more careful
in the observance of the words of the Scribes than in the words of the Torah
(Old Testament).”

Jewish scholar Hyam Maccoby, in “Judaism on Trial,” quotes Rabbi Yehiel ben Joseph:

“Further, without the Talmud, we
would not be able to understand passages in the Bible … God has handed this
authority to the sages and tradition is a necessity as well as scripture. The
Sages also made enactments of their own … anyone who does not study the
Talmud cannot understand Scripture.”

Second century Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai, one of
Judaism’s very greatest rabbis and a creator of Kabbalah, sanctioned
pedophilia—permitting molestation of baby girls even younger than three! He
proclaimed,

“A proselyte who is under
the age of three years and a day is permitted to marry a priest.” 1

Yebamoth 60b,

Subsequent rabbis refer to
ben Yohai’s endorsement of pedophilia as “halakah,” or binding Jewish
law. 2 Yebamoth 60b

Has Rabbi ben Yohai, child
rape advocate, been disowned by modern Jews? Hardly. Today, in ben Yohai’s
hometown of Meron, Israel, tens of thousands of
orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jews gather annually for days and nights of singing
and dancing in his memory.

References to pedophilia abound in the Talmud. They occupy
considerable sections of Treatises Kethuboth and Yebamoth and are
enthusiastically endorsed by the Talmud’s definitive legal work, Treatise
Sanhedrin.

The Pharisees Endorsed Child Sex

The rabbis of the Talmud are notorious for their legal
hairsplitting, and quibbling debates. But they share rare agreement about their
right to molest three year old girls. In contrast to many hotly debated issues,
hardly a hint of dissent rises against the prevailing opinion (expressed in
many clear passages) that pedophilia is not only normal but scriptural as well!
It’s as if the rabbis have found an exalted truth whose majesty silences
debate.

Because the Talmudic authorities who sanction pedophilia
are so renowned, and because pedophilia as “halakah” is so explicitly
emphasized, not even the translators of the Soncino edition of the Talmud
(1936) dared insert a footnote suggesting the slightest criticism. They only
comment: “Marriage, of course, was then at a far earlier age than now.” 3

In fact, footnote 5 to Sanhedrin 60b rejects the right of
a Talmudic rabbi to disagree with ben Yohai’s endorsement of pedophilia:

“How could they [the rabbis], contrary to the opinion of R.
Simeon ben Yohai, which has scriptural support, forbid the marriage of the
young proselyte?” 4

1 Yebamoth 60b, p. 402.

2 Yebamoth 60b, p. 403.

3 Sanhedrin 76a.

4 In Yebamoth 60b, p. 404, Rabbi Zera disagrees that sex with girls under three
years and one day should be endorsed as halakah.

Sex with a “Minor” Permitted

What exactly did these sages say?

The Pharisees justified child rape by explaining that a boy of nine years was
not a “man” Thus they exempted him from God’s Mosaic Law:

“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination”
(Leviticus. 18:22)

One passage in the Talmud gives permission for a woman who molested her young
son to marry a high priest. It concludes,

“All agree that the (sexual) connection of a boy aged nine years and
a day is a real connection; whilst that of one less than eight years is
not.” Sanhedrin
69b 5

Because a boy under 9 is sexually immature, he can’t
“throw guilt” on the active offender, morally or legally. 6

“…the intercourse of a small boy is not regarded as a sexual
act.” 7

The Talmud also says,

“A male aged nine years and a day who cohabits with his
deceased brother’s wife acquires her (as wife).”8

Clearly, the Talmud teaches that a woman is permitted to
marry and have sex with a nine year old boy.

5 Sanhedrin 69b.

6 Sanhedrin 55a.

7 Footnote 1 to Kethuboth 11b.

8 Sanhedrin 55b.

DEMONIC?

Sex at Three Years and One Day

In contrast to Simeon ben Yohai’s dictum that sex with a
little girl is permitted under the age of three years, the general teaching of
the Talmud is that the rabbi must wait until a day after her third birthday.
She could be taken in marriage simply by the act of rape.

R. Joseph said: Come and hear! A maiden aged three years and a day
may be acquired in marriage by coition and if her deceased husband’s brother
cohabits with her, she becomes his. (Sanhedrin 55b)

A girl who is three years of age and one day may be betrothed by
cohabitation. . . .(. Yebamoth 57b)

A maiden aged three years and a day may be acquired in marriage by
coition, and if her deceased husband’s brother cohabited with her she becomes
his. (Sanhedrin. 69a, 69b, also discussed in Yebamoth. 60b)

It was taught: R. Simeon b. Yohai stated: A proselyte who is under
the age of three years and one day is permitted to marry a priest, for it is
said, But all the women children that have not known man by lying with him,
keep alive for yourselves, and Phineas (who was priest, the footnote says)
surely was with them. (Yebamoth. 60b)

[The Talmud says such three year and a day old girls are] . . . fit
for cohabitation. . . But all women children, that have not known man by lying
with him, it must be concluded that Scripture speaks of one who is fit for
cohabitation. (Footnote to Yebamoth. 60b)

The example of Phineas, a priest, himself marrying an
underage virgin of three years is considered by the Talmud as proof that such
infants are “fit for cohabitation.”

The Talmud teaches that an adult woman’s molestation of a
nine year old boy is “not a sexual act” and cannot “throw
guilt” upon her because the little boy is not truly a “man.” 9 But
they use opposite logic to sanction rape of little girls aged three years and
one day: Such infants they count as “women,” sexually mature and fully
responsible to comply with the requirements of marriage.

The Talmud footnotes 3 and 4 to Sanhedrin 55a clearly tell us when the rabbis
considered a boy and girl sexually mature and thus ready for marriage. “At
nine years a male attains sexual matureness… The sexual matureness of woman is
reached at the age of three.”

9 Sanhedrin 55a.

DEMONIC?

No Rights for Child Victims

The Pharisees were hardly ignorant of the trauma felt by
molested children. To complicate redress, the Talmud says a rape victim must
wait until she was of age before there would be any possibility of restitution.
She must prove that she lived and would live as a devoted Jewess, and she must
protest the loss of her virginity on the very hour she comes of age. “As soon
as she was of age one hour and did not protest she cannot protest any more.” 10

The Talmud defends these strict measures as necessary to
forestall the possibility of a Gentile child bride rebelling against Judaism
and spending the damages awarded to her as a heathen – an unthinkable
blasphemy! But the rights of the little girl were really of no great
consequence, for,

“When a grown-up man has intercourse with a little girl it is
nothing, for when the girl is less than this (three years and a day) it is as
if one put the finger into the eye.” The footnote says that as “tears come
to the eye again and again, so does virginity come back to the little girl
under three years.” Kethuboth
11b.

In most cases, the Talmud affirms the innocence of male
and female victims of pedophilia. Defenders of the Talmud claim this proves the
Talmud’s amazing moral advancement and benevolence toward children; they say it
contrasts favorably with “primitive” societies where the child would
have been stoned along with the adult perpetrator.

Actually, the rabbis, from self-protection, were intent on
proving the innocence of both parties involved in pedophilia: the child, but
more importantly, the pedophile. They stripped a little boy of his right to
“throw guilt” on his assailant and demanded complicity in sex from a
little girl. By thus providing no significant moral or legal recourse for the
child, the Talmud clearly reveals whose side it is on: the raping rabbi.

The act of circumcising a child is CHILD ABUSE!

GOD IS NOT INTO CHILD ABUSE!

THE JEWISH BIBLE ENDORSES CHILD ABUSE!

THE JEWISH BIBLE IS MAN MADE & HAS NO PART WITH OUR CREATOR.

EZRA

&

THE BLOODLINE

Racism was invented

By the Jewish Priest
Ezra!

Ezra & Hitler are in total
agreement

“it
was against the will of the Eternal Creator. . .Nations that make mongrels of
their people or allow their people to be turned into mongrels sin against the
Will of Eternal Providence.”

Mein Kampf, p. 186 .
. . p.162

DEMONIC?

Pedophilia Widespread

Child rape was practiced in the highest circles of
Judaism. This is illustrated from Yebamoth. 60b:

There was a certain town in the land of Israel the legitimacy of
whose inhabitants was disputed, and Rabbi sent R. Romanos who conducted an
inquiry and found in it the daughter of a proselyte who was under the age of three
years and one day, and Rabbi declared her eligible to live with a priest.

The footnote says that she was “married to a priest” and
the rabbi simply permitted her to live with her husband, thus upholding
“halakah” as well as the dictum of Simeon ben Yohai,

“A proselyte who is under the age of three years and one day is
permitted to marry a priest.” 12

These child brides were expected to submit willingly to
sex. Yebamoth. 12b confirms that under eleven years and one day a little girl
is not permitted to use a contraceptive but “must carry on her marital
intercourse in the usual manner.”

In Sanhedrin 76b a blessing is given to the man who marries off his children
before they reach the age of puberty, with a contrasting curse on anyone who
waits longer. In fact, failure to have married off one’s daughter by the time
she is 12-1/2, the Talmud says, is as bad as one who “returns a lost article to
a Cuthean” (Gentile) – a deed for which “the Lord will not spare him.” 13 This
passage says:

“… it is meritorious to marry off one’s children whilst minors.”

The mind reels at the damage to the untold numbers of
girls who were sexually abused within Judaism during the heyday of pedophilia.
Such child abuse, definitely practiced in the second century, continued, at least
in Babylon, for another 900 years.

10 Kethuboth 11a.

11 Kethuboth 11b.

12 Yebamoth 60b.

13 Sanhedrin 76b.

A Fascination with Sex

Perusing the Talmud, one is overwhelmed with the recurrent
preoccupation with sex, especially by the most eminent rabbis. Dozens of
illustrations could be presented to illustrate the delight of the Pharisees to
discuss sex and quibble over its minutest details.

The rabbis endorsing child sex undoubtedly practiced what
they preached. Yet to this hour, their words are revered. Simeon ben Yohai is
honored by Orthodox Jews as one of the very greatest sages and spiritual lights
the world has ever known. A member of the earliest “Tannaim,” rabbis
most influential in creating the Talmud, he carries more authority to observant
Jews than Moses.

Today, the
Talmud’s outspoken pedophiles and child-rape advocates would doubtlessly spend
hard time in prison for child molestation.

The Oedipus complex was the invention of Sigmund
Freud!

Freud originally discovered, in the treatments partially
conducted under hypnosis, that all his Jewish patients, both male and female,
had been abused children and recounted their histories in the language of
symptoms. After reporting his discovery in Jewish psychiatric circles, he found
himself completely shunned because none of his fellow Jewish psychiatrists was
prepared to share the findings with him. Freud could not bear the isolation for
long. A few months later, in 1897, he described his patients’ reports on sexual
abuse as sheer fantasies attributable to their instinctual wishes.

Freud’s father was a pedophile! In a letter to his
friend Wilhelm Fliess, he wrote:

“Unfortunately, my own father was one of these
perverts and is responsible for the hysteria of my brother (all of whose
symptoms are identifications) and those of several younger sisters. The
frequency of this circumstance often makes me wonder.”

Fliess’s son, Robert Fliess
exposed his own father as being another pedophile who had sexually abused him
when he was a child.

DEMONIC?

1.
Case of Rabbi Yoram
Aberjil (Netivot, Israel) (Accused of cult like practices and sexual
harassment of young women and treatening the lives of the survivors and those
who support them.)

2.
Case of Rabbi
Shlomo Aviner (Beit El, Israel) (Two women accused the rabbi of
creating emotionally intimate relationships with them. These relationships
included his expressions of his love for them during regular late-night phone
conversations, extracting details from them of their sexuality and promoting an
unhealthy emotional dependence on him).

3.
Case of Rabbi Aryeh
Blaut (AKA: Louis Blaut, Louis Steven Blaut, Louis A. Blaut, Louis S. Blaut)
(Seattle, WA) (Convicted
sex offender on federal charges of possession of child pornography.
According to the United States Department of Probation, Louis Blaut is
not allowed contact with anyone under the age of eighteen on the internet or in
person).

4.
Case of Rabbi Jerry
Brauner (Boro Park, Brooklyn, NY) (Convicted on the charges of Sexual
Abuse-1st Degree and Sexual Abuse-3rd:Subject Another Person to Sex Contact
Without Consent. He was sentenced to 11 years probation, with the condition he
must participate in a sex offender treatment program. Brauner has been on
probation since 2002 for the sexual abuse of a 15-year-old boy. On
December 27, 2006, Jerry Brauner was arrested on charges of stealing a
half-million-dollar home from a cancer-stricken woman, using a forged power of
attorney to sell it and pocket the profits. Brauner is being held in lieu of
$85,000 bail for lying about prior sex-abuse convictions when he applied for
his notary’s license.)

5.
Case of Rabbi Lewis
Brenner (AKA: Lippa Brenner) (Brooklyn, NY) (Convicted of child molestation.
The original charges included 14 counts of sodomy, sexual abuse and
endangering the welfare of a child. He agreed to plead guilty to one
count of sodomy in the third degree, a Class E felony, in exchange for a
sentence of five years’ probation.)

6.
Case of Rabbi
Yaakov Yitzhak Brizel (Jerusalem, Israel) (Accused of child molestation)

7.
Case of Rabbi
Ephraim Bryks (Winnipeg, Canada, New York, NY) (There
is a Call for Action on this case. Accusations about sexual
inappropriate behavior with children started surfacing in the 1980′s. Rabbi
Bryks is currently a member of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens. The
Vaad is a Rabbinical committee that makes important decisions within an
orthodox community.)

8.
Case of Rabbi
Shlomo Carlebach (There is a Call for Action on this
case. Accused of several cases of child
molestation, and sexual assault of young adult women)

9.
Case Rabbi Perry Ian
Cohen – Montreal and Toronto Canada
(Accused of sexual
abuse of a seventeen year old. Fired for sexual impropriety with congregants)

10. Case of Rabbi
Yitzchak Cohen (Israel) (Accused of sexually harassing students at Bar-Ilan University)

11. Case
of Rabbi Asher Dahan, Be’er Sheva, Israel (Arrested
after being accused of raping and sexually abusing two 17-year-old girls after
he offered “to redeem them of sin and evil inclinations.”)

12. Case
of Rabbi Anthony Dee (Blackpool England; Portsmouth, England) (Former
synagogue minister Reverend Anthony Dee found guilty of sexually abusing two
boys and a girl in Blackpool and Portsmouth,
England. This
is the first set of convictions, there was a second set of convictions in
1997.)

13. Case of Rabbi Moshe
Eisemann (AKA: Moshe Eiseman) – Mashgiach Ruchni Ner Israel Rabbinical College
(Baltimore, MD) (There is a Call for Action on this case – Accused of child sexual
abuse)

14. Case of Rabbi Elior
Chen (Jerusalem, Israel) (Accused
of cultic type practices)

15. Case
of Rabbi Arnold Fink – Beth El Hebrew Congregation – Alexandria, VA (Accused
of Professional Rabbinic Sexual Misconduct)

16. Case of Rabbi
Benyamin Yaakov Fleischman (AKA Benyamin Fleischman, Ben Fleischman)-
Photographer (Baltimore, MD) (Convicted of sexually assaulting a minor.)

17. Case of Rabbi
Gershon Freidlin (Colonia, NJ; Pittsburgh, PA; Washington, PA) (Rabbi
Gershon Freidlin pleaded guilty to one count of child endangerment , saying he
had touched the youth’s penis and buttocks while applying tanning lotion on the
boy on July 10, 1995 Under the terms of a plea agreement, the rabbi will
not be jailed for the crime, but faces up to five years probation.)

18. Case of Yehudah
Friedlander – Rabbi ‘s Assistant (Brooklyn, NY) (Accused of
molesting a 15 year old on a 1995 plane flight from Australia to LA. Friedlander was
the assistant to the chief rabbi of an Hungarian Hasidic congregation in
Brooklyn, known as the Pupas)

19. Case of Cantor
Stuart Friedman (Halifax,Canada-Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, Los Angeles,
Baltimore) (Convicted and sentanced to 15 months in
federal prison on one count of distributing child pornography).

20. Case of Cantor
Philip Friedman (Albany, NY, Queens, NY, Long Island, NY) (Temple
Israel fired its longtime cantor for “inappropriate behavior” toward
a member of the congregation, and the Albany County district attorney’s office
confirmed Tuesday that it is investigating the matter.)

21. Case
of Rabbi Jacob Frank (AKA: Yaakov Frank) and the Frankist Movement (Convicted
of cultic type practices and sexual offenses.)

22. Case
of Rabbi Lewis Furman of Ohr Somayach, Johannesburg, South Africa (Prominent South African rabbi who was
allegedly caught having an affair with a married woman. He is also accused of
being “serial philanderer” — was forced to resign his position in South Africa
and will not practise as a rabbi in this country again.)

23. Rabbi Tobias
Gabriel (Toronto, Canada) (There is a Call for Action on this
case. Accused by more then one woman of clergy sexual abuse /
professional sexual misconduct).

24. Case of Rabbi
Mordechai Gafni (aka: Marc Gafni, Mordechai Winiarz, Marc Winiarz) (There
is a Call for Action on this case. Accused sexually abusing
teenage girls, attempted sexual assault of a young adult, and also accused of
cult like practices).

25. Case of Rabbi
Shimon Gerlick (Nahariya, Israel) (Arrest for allegedly committing indecent sexual acts with a
two minors and and adult woman)

26. Case of Rabbi
Jonathan Ginsburg (St. Paul, MN) (There is a Call for Action on this
case. Resigned as senior rabbi at Temple of Aaron,
shortly after reaching an out-of-court settlement with a former congregation
member who accused him of sexual misconduct. A criminal investigation into the
case also is being closed, with no charges forthcoming).

27. Case of Rabbi
Ephraim Goldberg (Boca Raton, FL) (Pled
guilty to one misdemeanor count of exposure of sexual organs in a washroom at a
Palm Beach Mall.)

28. Case of
Rabbi/Cantor Sidney Goldenberg (Levittown,NY; Seaford, NY; Bayshore, NY;
Petaluma, CA; Coney Island, NY) (Convicted of molesting children. The first
complaints came in 1971. He was finally convicted in 1997.)

29. Case
of Cantor Joel Gordon (Buffalo Grove, IL) (Convicted of
having keeping a house of prostitution and involvement in a prostitution ring.)

30. Case
of Rabbi Mark A. Golub – Mental Health Counselor (Newport, Virginia)
(Had professional
counseling license revolked for having sex with a female client, according to a
state disciplinary order).

31. Case of Rabbi
Sidney Greenbaum (AKA: Rabbi Zalman Greenbaum, Professor Zalman Greenbaum)
(Pleaded guilty at Hendon
magistrates’ court to three charges of indecent assault on young boys)

32. Case
of Rabbi Yisrael Menachem Grunwald (AKA: Israel Grunwald) (Borough
Park/Brooklyn NY) (In a plea bargin agreement Rabbi Israel Grunwald agreed to 500
hours of community service and counseling after being accused of fondling a
15-year-old on a 1995 plane flight from Australia. The
charges against him were then dropped.)

33. Case of Rabbi
Solomon Hafner (Borough Park/Brooklyn, NY) (Accused
of sexually abusing a developmentally disabled boy)

34. Case of Cantor Mark
Horowitz, Temple Beth Am in Amherst (Getzville, NY) (Charged
with committing lewd acts on an undercover police officer.)

35. Case
of Rabbi (Alan J.) Shneur Horowitz (Hagerstown, MD; Israel; Schenectady,
NY; California; Iowa) (Convicted and sentenced to 10 – 20 years in prison for sodomizing
a nine-year-old psychiatric patient. Allegedly, he has assaulted a string of
children from California to Israel to New
York in the past twenty years. Alan J. Horowitz is an
Orthodox rabbi, magna cum laude, M.D., Ph.D. A graduate of Duke University,
and was a writer for NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association).

36. Case of Rabbi
Steven J. Kaplan (Saskatoon, Canada) (Allegations, detailed in court documents,
that he lacked proper ordination, sexually harassed female congregants and
committed adultery with one of them).

37. Case
of Rabbi David Kaye (Potomac, MD; Rockville, MD; San Antonio, TX) (There is a Call for Action on
this case. Featured on “Dateline NBC” for
seeking a sexual encounter with an underage boy in a chat room. NBC News
conducted a sting in August, (2005) working with a group called “Perverted
Justice.” Members of the group, posing as underage boys and girls, entered
Internet chat rooms and waited for adults to engage them in conversations)

38. Case of Rabbi David
Kedmi – Certified Mohel (New Hempstead, NY; Spring Valley, NY) (Accused of Battery
and Breach of Contract.)

39. Case of Case of
Rabbanit Bruria Keren (AKA: Burka Wearing Mother) (Beit Shemish, Israel)
(Arrested on charges of child
sexual abuse and physical abuse of her twelve children. She has also been
accused of cult like practices)

40. Case of Rabbi
Israel Kestenbaum (New York, NY) (Convicted of child pornography on the internet)

41. Case
of Rabbi Robert Kirschner (San Francisco, CA) (Confessed to sexually exploited
or harassing three congregants and a synagogue employee)

42. Case of Rabbi
Yisucher Kohn (AKA: Barry Kohn) (New Square, NY) (Convicted of Sexual Abuse 1st: Sexual
Contact With Individual Less Than 11Years Old.)

43. Case
of Rabbi Yehuda Kolko (AKA: Joel Kolko, Yudi Kolko) – Yeshiva Torah
Temimah (New York, NY) (Arrested in New York City
on December 7, 2006 following a long-term police investigation. He was
charged with four counts of sexual abuse, including two felony counts, and
endangering the welfare of a child. The most recent sexual abuse was
allegedly against an 8-year-old boy, who says he was abused while he was in the
first grade during the 2002-03 school year.Rabbi Yudi Kolko and Yeshiva Torah
Temimah were hit with a $20 million civil lawsuit on May 5, 2006, accusing him
of molesting two students more than 25 years ago. One of the alleged
victims said Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, 60, sexually assaulted him when he was a
seventh-grade student).

44. Case of Rabbi
Ze’ev Kopolevitch (Jerusalem, Israel) (Convicted of molesting students
at Rosh Yeshiva, Netiv Meir yeshiva high school)

45. Case of Rabbi
Mahluf Aminadav Krispin – Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Bialik (suspected and chared with the sexual
assault of two women)

46. Case of Rabbi
Baruch Lanner (New York, NY) (Convicted – child molestation. Sentancing still
pending after 2 years)

47. Case of
Rabbi Avraham M. Leizerowitz (AKA: Avraham Mordecai Lazerewitz) -
Geres Misivta Bais Yisroel School, (Borough Park Brooklyn) – (A civil suit was filed against Rabbi
Avraham Mordecai Leiverowitz of the Gerrer Mesivta High School in Borough Park
Brooklyn. The charges include improperly touching a boy during a one-on-one
help session in the rabbi’s office in the Borough Park
secondary school. Three other older boys have also come forward making
similar allegations.)

48. Case
of Cantor Steven Joel Levin (AKA: Steven Levin, Steve Levin, Steven J. Levin) (Allegations
were made against Cantor Steven Joel Levin of child molestation. There was also
a seperate allegation of professional sexual misconduct by another party.)’

49. Case of Rabbi
Stanley Z. Levitt (Philadelphia, PA; Baltimore, MD) (Several adults who have accused Rabbi
Stanley Levitt of child molestation over the last forty years.)

50. Case
of Rabbi Jerrold Martin Levy (Boca Raton, FL) (Convicted
of two counts of soliciting sex through the Internet and two counts of child
pornography. He was sentenced to six years and sex in prison. He
was caught in the “Candyman” year-long sting operation by the US
government.)

drorbenami says:

I don’t understand why you attached this to my comment in particular. In all populations there is a percentage of disturbed people…rabbis are no different…I didn’t know all 50 examples, but I already knew certain rabbis have problems….

Shalom, salaam & how’s she cutting
drorbenami?

The reason why I am posting these FACTS is because the Jewish controlled Media is not telling you about this CANCER that is part & parcel of Judaism.
Any decent & honest Jew who tries to expose this CANCER is condemned by the Jewish community & shunned.

Tens of thousands of children continued to be sexually abused, because Freud was shunned by his fellow Jewish psychiatrists for showing them the results of his investigations. He turned the FACTS on their head and invented the Oedipus complex instead.

The Oedipus complex was the invention of Sigmund
Freud!

Freud originally discovered, in the treatments partially
conducted under hypnosis, that all his Jewish patients, both male and female,
had been abused children and recounted their histories in the language of
symptoms. After reporting his discovery in Jewish psychiatric circles, he found
himself completely shunned because none of his fellow Jewish psychiatrists was
prepared to share the findings with him. Freud could not bear the isolation for
long. A few months later, in 1897, he described his patients’ reports on sexual
abuse as sheer fantasies attributable to their instinctual wishes.

Freud’s father was a pedophile! In a letter to his
friend Wilhelm Fliess, he wrote:

“Unfortunately, my own father was one of these
perverts and is responsible for the hysteria of my brother (all of whose
symptoms are identifications) and those of several younger sisters. The
frequency of this circumstance often makes me wonder.”

Fliess’s son, Robert Fliess
exposed his own father as being another pedophile who had sexually abused him
when he was a child.

All of these cases with a 3 year old girl have to do with whether she “enjoys” it. The only way for that to happen is for her to have puberty at 3 years, which is an extreme case but apparently has existed.

Yes, girls sometimes mature much earlier than usual, which is why in some cases today they need to take something to slow their physical maturation process. Otherwise, letting them mature REALLY early can cause other kinds of diseases for them later on.

Bottom line, such a situation does exist, however this clearly does not apply to all 3 year old girls.

drorbenami says:

okay…i am sorry to hear about your problems, but in israel almost every month in the newspapers there is a story about some rabbi doing something wrong, either sexually or whatever, so the problem is not entirely hidden from view. ….
i was just confused what was the connection to my particular comment, but now i see you are just attempting to spread the word about this issue…
okay, no problem…i’ll keep it in mind….

Mike Shapiro says:

This is a wondrous journey that you are undertaking. I shall be following (and maybe even sticking in my 2c), as you go along.

I find it less than surprising that the writers of the Talmud believed in demons, folk magic, etc. As a very wise professor of mine once said: “All things in context.” We need to remember that there have been two millennia of scientific knowledge and philosophical thinking, since the sages wrote the Talmud. We have found reasons that many of the fearful, unknown things happened. We no longer fear such demons (well, most of us. Some now think that the “demons” are actually aliens sent here to probe us, but that is another essay) and try to assign logical explanations to everything, while the actual reasoning may be “merde happens”!

We also continue to have religious fanatics, that try and find an explanation for everything in the Talmud or in a bad, 4th hand translation, politically motivated English Bible. We have Atheists who won’t even have a conversation about religion.

Personally (and this is what much of such discussions are about), I believe in God, but have not seen a recent job description.

Mars_Ultor says:

Can this Leonardo Paor troll be blocked?

As to the pantheon question, what I meant was that the behaviours that people usually attribute to a ‘god’, things like a beautiful sunset, images in the clouds, hurricanes, earthquakes, anything seen in nature, have the attributes of both goodness and evil. For example, a religious person seeing a beautiful rainbow may deduce its god’s creation, yet at the same time when an earthquake kills thousands of people, many religious see this as a punishment from a god.

So in this sense, it makes more sense to think of a pantheon of multiple gods, some of who are benevolent and friendly, and others as wrathful and wicked. In other words, the great amounts of praise heaped upon monotheism as some sort of theological advancement or progress, is nothing more than an added limitation of previous beliefs.

So in short, why is believing in 1 single god (who may exhibit characteristics of schizophrenia) considered a real fundamental advancement over believing in multiple gods each of whom exhibit a certain personality? Personally I think that one delusion is as delusional as another.

Somewhere Talmud says that it is a sin to have sex with a gentile boy older than 13. He might enjoy it and it sinful to give joy to the gentiles. Hence, only have sex with gentile boys who are younger.

rita deutsch says:

I found this article interesting and informative. I come from a reformed background and Ms Hoffman offers a glimpse of the unseen and mystical perspective behind our rituals. The idea of ritual cleansing offers the modern woman, a way of reaching a spiritual level not available in daily life. It is quietly personal and in many ways elevates
the jewish woman to new paths, however ancient they may be. The relevance to
our lives in 2012 is pertinent, but ties us to our roots.

rita deutsch says:

this article reminds me of those of Jung and the Red book. the mystical ideology behind the collective, the unseen, the mystical. We as humans will seek answers to the unknown and as intelligent and questioning creatures, as G-d made us
will forever ask why. G-d will watch and observe as his creation asks and seeks,
as we always have. We in the modern age, are asking and seeking the way we have done for thousands of years. Our questioning now is an old and ancient rite…
and exploration may seem new, but it is as old as Adam in the garden. We are hardwired in this way, as new as the process seems. Human perception is
studied and explored, and when it’s time to be revealed, as in all things, we will
be given the right to the secrets of the universe.

Since the web-moderators are very obviously not doing their job, I will just indicate here that the above two posts are based on nothing other than the false allegations and willfully malicious charges of extreme antisemitic websites.

It is a standard antisemitic claim on those websites that the Talmud endorses sex with three-year-old girls. This is false. The Talmud prohibits sexual relations with minors (whether gentile or not!!). Any such sexual relations would be criminal and judged as such by a Rabbinic court; marriages, which would really be engagements or betrothals, could in certain circumstances be made with minors but the two parties would have to live apart and the marriage could not be consummated until the parties had grown to maturity and could give their adult consent to the marriage relationship.

But in any case no sexual relations outside of marriage, of any sort let alone criminal ones per se such as relations with minors, are permitted in the Talmud. Adultery, and unfaithfulness in marriage as such, is absolutely condemned. Even the above citations on their face, when read seriously (and as their actual contexts in the Talmud indicate) are not endorsements of sexual crimes but on the contrary merely assert the seriousness of the crime being committed even if it is done by children over 9. E.g., it is stated that the child victim under 9 is not adjudged to be equivalent to the adult guilty party over that age. Certain other Talmudic references were “as-if” statements relating to dowries, not to permissible sexual relations, e.g. criminal acts against a girl under three does not remove that girl’s status later in life as a virgin, which again relates to dowry issues and protects that girl’s prospects. It is not saying such sexual violations are approved, nor even legitimate: they would be criminal and liable to court punishments. On these matters, and a lot else dredged up out of their own guilty minds by the posters above, see Gil Student’s website, “The Real Truth About the Talmud” at

http://www.angelfire.com/mt/talmud/three or the same thing at http://talmud.faithweb.com/articles/three.html Student set up these sites to counter the slanders circulating against the Talmud on antisemitic websites.

Rafi, you have been taken in by an antisemitic troll, who got his stuff from rabidly antisemitic internet websites, not from the Talmud at all which such people are incapable of either reading or understanding. For the actual contextual meaning of the alleged citations, those that is that have any truth in them at all and are not falsifications all the way through, see my post below, or http://talmud.faithweb.com/articles/three.html

There is an email address to the web-managers that you can contact with a complaint. It is: info@tabletmag.com

As for why monotheism is better than polytheism, just give it a bit more thought. If everything that happens reflects the arbitrary wills of a multiplicity of divine personalities, each tyrannically following their own interests, then: 1: the only fate for human beings is slavery, serving one or another god and hoping that the power of one’s master prevails over other masters, so that 2: political life is seen as hierarchical and tyrannical by necessity and brutal rulers are entirely justified, with everyone a slave of some sort, even kings being the slaves of gods; 3: the universe itself in its innermost workings is filled with arbitrariness and contradictory strife, so that there can be no secure objective and secular rational order to nature nor hope for universal peace and harmony; and 3: the moral consequences are dire — power is all, brutality is a final truth of life, and there is no refuge. The results are unsurprisingly what we actually see in Graeco-Roman times, with gladitorial games to the death being thought great entertainment, and constant war itself, along with genocide, being highly praised.

Monotheism breaks with all of that. It frees nature from arbitrary variously irrational powers, revealing its unity under God, radically secularizing it by removing divine gods/powers from it and revealing it all as God’s unitary creation, and thereby opening it up to rational and objective study as a subject in itself, so these monotheistic breakthroughs provide a civilizational foundation on which all scientific thought can build and be sustained culturally (even the Greek philosophers who did develop scientific attitudes could only do so by being sceptical about the gods while not challenging their significance in the lives of more gullible people around them — but their rationalist heritage would have been swamped by polytheistic cultures if Judaic ideas had not transformed later Roman civilization in the form of Christianity). It extends morality to every person as equally a creature of the one God, and gives a universal vision embracing all humanity, freeing each person from the powers and circumstances that enslave the polytheist and making individual moral responsibility fully possible and thinkable. It opens up political life through the concept that every person is equally God’s creation and in the divine image, and thus must be given respect, thus initiating the journey to anti-authoritarian and more democratic political thinking. It provides a standpoint that allows for societal acceptance of prophetic criticism of the powerful, something not found in polytheistic societies. These are only some of the enormous benefits of monotheism over polytheism.

Very true. This is already hinted at in the comments by Kirsch on the anthropomorphisms of God having tefillin, etc. Because the Rabbis really did live in a time when everyone believed in spirits, and therefore their statements about that were not just (or more truly not only) metaphorical but also literal, Kirsch is unable to recognize Rabbinic metaphors about anything else when he comes to them. He thinks the Rabbis were indiscriminately literalistic about everything, including their deepest beliefs. Of course that is not so, not of any culture actually, no matter how literalistically any culture’s members believed some things we think are fantastic. Every culture recognizes metaphors about some aspects of life, and make metaphorical statements as proverbs, etc.

The Talmudic statements about God are altogether metaphorical; they are there to make a point, not because they are to be taken literally. Already in the Torah itself, Kirsch will have come across the statements that God is a lion, he is an eagle, he is a pregnant woman giving birth, he is a king, he is … etc. To this the Talmudic Sages add that God is space itself, HaMakom, or rather he is not contained by any space, etc.

The various metaphors literally cancel each other out, but metaphorically they break through together into absolute transcendence of all imagery. The literal images break each other. To suppose that God is really a man is something explicitly prohibited by the Talmudic Rabbis, which is why they declared that no images can contain or convey God, and none would be permitted.

Berachot says God has tefillin saying how marvellous is Israel, unique upon the earth, to make not a literal point but to suggest the truly beautiful and actually quite profound metaphorical truth that God joins in Israel’s prayers and reciprocates them, mirroring back at the time of morning prayers the very love that Israel devotes to God in its own Shema and tefillin declarations that God is One: the two declarations of uniqueness meet in active love, each is the treasure of the other, and the divine image is joined together and fulfilled.

I figured as much. Honestly, I don’t know how I even get sucked into these arguments.

Pam Green says:

Your viewpoint of polytheism is very simplistic. You may not approve of polytheism but to make such bold declarations and accusations without a shred of factual support is – oh, what’s it called? oh, yeah – bigotry.

This is mere name-calling, Pam, and unworthy of you. Actually, there is factual support for my assertions within my comment. Read it again, and then check with your books on Greek, Roman, Mesopotamian and Egyptian history and religions, or read Greek and Roman myths, plays and literature generally, and scholarly books on other Near Eastern religions and cultures, and you will indeed see universes fraqmented by arbitrary and wilful divinities at war with each other (and in these relations morality and moral conscience do not determine their interactions), the view that humans reflect the gods in their own interactions but are the gods’ slaves, so that humans depending on their status can enslave others in similar ways and make war and do violence and that this is part of the natural way of things and is even good, at least for those powerful enough not to fail, that there can be no legitimate transcendental prophetic criticism of society urging radical change and measuring the acceptability of a society on the basis of the treatment of the least powerful and most vulnerable, and of alien minorities (the “stranger who sojourns amongst you” that according to the Torah we are commanded to love), etc., etc. All of the points I made are well based on facts and indeed on wide reading in ancient Near Eastern cultures and the Greek and Roman ones too.

Cultures do differ from each other, Pam, both individually and in general ways. They are not all the same, and some are radically different from others. The history of humanity and also of religions demonstrates this. I point this out, in case you are a cultural relativist who thinks all cultures and religions are at base really the same and have the same implications and values, no matter how much each culture in fact insists on and values itself for its own distinctive traits. Cultural relativism must hold that each culture lies and is therefore false as such, since the cultural relativist knows better than all particular cultures what each one actually teaches and thinks, and that those actual teachings and practices are all the same, “really.” Thus cultural relativism refutes itself, by generating a kind of elitist imperialism (similar to the theoretical imperialism of some earlier cultures and religions) in which all cultures are merely colourfully ignorant versions of its own superior uniquely enlightened culture.

It is true that there are discussions in the Talmud, such as demons, etc., that speak of a bygone age, and these tend to be magnified in importance by those who do not want to accept the authority of the Talmud. It is also true that well over two-thirds of the Talmud focuses on the Temple service and matters connected with it, things no longer practiced even in their day, indicating the deep devotion of the Sages to the renewal of that service in the messianic age, and their intention to preserve priestly knowledge about the service for later generations. This was to make sure that there could be a reconstituted Temple service by “the kingdom of priests.” Until then even the study of such matters is to a degree an enactment of the Temple service to HaShem. In any case it is their view that the Jewish people’s role even now is to lead priestly lives and dwell as far as is possible in HaShem’s presence, on behalf of all Creation and the whole of humanity their laity. In the messianic age this role will be known and honored by all peoples; the Talmud preserves that high calling in anticipation of that coming era, to which all the ethical and ritual observances that still apply are also directed. Modernity cannot cancel these deeper purposes of life itself before ultimate things.

But the fundamental outlook on the human condition and often the specific comments of the Sages, as well as their guidance on halakhic matters still applicable to us, are in general very relevant to our own age. That means that they are also wise in terms of our own time, not just their own. Almost all of the many Orthodox and traditionalist Jews today whose lives are grounded on Talmudic and later Rabbinic teachings are definitely modern folk very well able as a matter of fact to navigate our society. As is well known, amongst the modern Orthodox many Chief Rabbis are also possessors of doctoral university degrees (Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has a doctoral degree in philosophy, for example), and both Modern and Haredi Orthodox people include many who are highly successful in their chosen fields.

It is a singular trait of the Torah itself that although it comes out of the time of the ancient Near East, three millenia ago, entirely unlike the writings of ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian religions it conveyed and still conveys a very modern understanding of human life and destiny, so that billions of people around the world honor it as a guide to modern life. The Talmudic Sages continue that tradition, which is why it has been able to hold together and to instruct the Jewish people down through the centuries and in the modern period.

Thanks for those links. It is important not merely to denounce and deny slanderous allegations of this kind but also to document their error.

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The Talmud’s Many Demons

Sages in a superstitious age accepted the existence of invisible devils and the use of magic to render them visible

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