Thursday, June 5, 2008

Day 18 - Can The Torah Be Fair?

I'm sorry. I know the title may be offputting to some people, but that's the only way I think to put it. I'll explain what I mean in a moment.


The Torah's ways are meant to be pleasant. Derachecha Darchei Noam is talking about the Torah, right? And yet there are some ways in which it just isn't... noam.

The prime example that comes to my mind is the mitzvah of wiping out Amalek. Yeah, I know that it's moot in this day and age, but the fact remains that it is a valid part of the religion. If a genuine, provable member of Amalek showed up on the streets of Brooklyn or Yerushalayim, his life expectency could probably be measure in hours at best. And while we "like" to think of Amalek as the Hitler-types, there must also be those that are youngsters -- babies, toddlers, etc. And yet, the commandment from God is to kill them. "Shoot 'em all and let God sort 'em out" is aptly applied to Amalek, it seems. But how do you rationalize killing an infant, or a toddler, or even an adult whose done you no wrong? If we are to kill everyone with a certain DNA profile, then how are we really different from those who have tried to kill us through the years? Because we believe God told us to? This is something that I've always had a major problem reconciling in my mind. And the fact that there are no identifiable Amalekim today doesn't really help -- if we say Deracheha Darchei Noam, shouldn't that apply whether we have access to Amalekim or not? Shouldn't the question of whether genocide is right or wrong exist independent of whether or not the subjects of that decree are accessible to us? Because if we believe in an All-Merciful God, then we have to ask where is His mercy to people who have done nothing wrong. All the Amalekim who attacked the Jews in the desert were long dead by the time Saul got his command. All the Amalekim in his day are long dead now, and yet, if people were to show up today and could be verified as a member of Amalek (or the seven Cannani nations), they'd have a price on their heads. But yet, they are not responsible for the attack in the desert that happened 3300 years ago. They're not responsible for Haman's actions. They're not responsible for killing Saul. How can we punish people for acts that aren't their responsibility? In what way is this considered fair?

I suppose the same could be asked about the concept of Mamzerim. I understand the rationale that punishing the woman's children will serve as a deterent on her actions. I understand it, even though I have serious doubts about it. However, it would be one thing if the concept were applied only to those cases where the mother was truly at fault. However, there could be cases where she is not at fault at all (rape, or a false report of her husband's death) and yet the children suffer the consequences. Why? How is this fair?

Granted, the world is not fair. Where human beings devise laws and set up social systems, there will be, inherently, some unfairness. But that's to be expected because we are flawed creatures. But an Omnipotent being should be able to devise a system that punishes those who do wrong while sparing the truly innocent of punishment.

51 comments:

Larry Lennhoff said...

Mamzerut is even worse than you report, because you could even be a grandchild or great-grandchild of a woman who committed adultery and still be punished for it.

Perhaps the amount of adultery suppressed by mamzerut is great enough to justify the harm done to others - Judaism is not an individualistic religion and is willing to harm individuals for the good of society.

Note that Chazal stopped a number of d'oraita practices when people's behavior was such that it was clear that the punishment did not deter. Sotah and eglah arufah come to mind as examples - sotah ended "when immorality increased in Israel" and eglah arufah when "murders increased in Israel". Perhaps if chazal were alive today they would rule similarly with respect to mamzerut.

Clearly said...

The people that wrote the Torah did not share your cultural assumptions.

bankman said...

i would just point out that while we take the torah very literal in some instances, i feel that this is one case where it is symbolic. Destroy the amalek within you, destroy the amalek around you. even though there are stories in our past of actual killing, i believe that a) they are not factual or b)they are too symbolic

On Her Own said...

I'm with you on this.

I understand that most people, as Bankman said, see this as symbolic and no longer applicable today. Still, its existence in the Torah as something that - contextually - appears to be intended to be meant literally points to the idea that the Torah is not from God.

If we're willing to say the Torah is man-made or has been altered by people, etc. - it's not that big of a problem.

But if it's a divine book, it means that genocide & murder is okay in God's eyes. (An idea that's very problematic, especially in a post-Holocaust world. Yeah, Amalekim presumably had innocents and children among their numbers. They were a nation that one was born into, not a group that one chose to join.) And then what of the commandment not to kill? Don't these contradict each other?

Grr.

Anonymous said...

"And then what of the commandment not to kill? Don't these contradict each other?"

No, because the people that wrote the Torah ordered not to murder, not to not kill.

On Her Own said...

"No, because the people that wrote the Torah ordered not to murder, not to not kill."

Semantics. If killing someone for the sole reason that they were born into a particular nation is not murder, I don't know what is.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's a semantic difference but it's the difference. The real difference in this case is in fact semantic.

Anonymous said...

Good post, Malkie.

Since I started lusting after shiksas, I also began questioning Moshe's assertion that every midianite non-virgin woman had to be killed, too. No allegory, that. "And now, kill every male among the children, and every woman who has known a man by lying with him, kill."

Nice, huh?

Also, what's the deal with the prohibition of a kohen to marry a zona? According to every major posek, a Jewish woman who's had sex with someone she wasn't allowed to (like a goy), is a zona for life. Forever. No teshuva, no tikun.

How come I (a man) can do teshuva for certain things, and my eligibility to marry a Jewess is never called into question (unless I were a mamzer), but this woman is branded for life?

On Her Own said...

"Yes, it's a semantic difference but it's the difference. The real difference in this case is in fact semantic."

That's why I posted the second half of the comment.

If we're going to argue about semantics (i.e., about the definition of "murder" vs. "killing") then surely killing someone purely because they were born into a certain race/nation IS murder, not just killing.

Anonymous said...

Murder is unjustified killing. You feel that being born into Amalek isn't an adequate justification. That's fine. But God feels it is an adequate justification, so telling us to kill Amalek does not contradict thou shalt not murder

Anonymous said...

I think the crux of your answer lies within your last paragraph.
"But an Omnipotent being should be able to devise a system that punishes those who do wrong while sparing the truly innocent of punishment."
He DID devise such a system, but we are analyzing His system through the eyes and minds of mortals, therefore it seems wrong.

Dave said...

"But an Omnipotent being should be able to devise a system that punishes those who do wrong while sparing the truly innocent of punishment."
He DID devise such a system, but we are analyzing His system through the eyes and minds of mortals, therefore it seems wrong.


Interesting claim.

So, you say that if a newborn were to be determined to be an Amalekite, we would be mandated to kill him or her. But that's ok, it would be divine will, and who are we to judge.

Muslim extremists claim that God wants them to strap on explosives and go kill innocents at bus stops.

You want to tell me how I'm supposed to judge the difference between you? Lack of opportunity does not make for morality.

And by the by, if we cannot judge God's will with mortal eyes, how do we know which of the competing claimants who purport to know God's will are actually correct?

Sorry, these are the only eyes and mind I have, and telling me I cannot use them to judge is equivalent to telling me that I shouldn't bother thinking. If you don't want to be bothered with thought, well, I suppose that's good for you. Me, I'll keep that whole thinking thing going.

Akiva said...

While sitting in a nice comfortable community in Kew Gardens or Monsey or Lakewood, this is a good question. And of course, you believe that the general safety and tolerance you've seen your whole life is just the way things are in the modern Western world.

Now, those co-religionists (for the moment) of yours sitting in Ashkelon, they're dodging rockets daily by those who want to kill them. Why do they want to kill them? BECAUSE THEY'RE BEING TAUGHT SINCE BIRTH to hate the Jew, kill the Jew, give up their own life to kill a few Jews.

You can't relate, you're sitting comfortably, knowing the police will come if danger approaches and they're called.

But there are some societies that are so corrupted they simply must be destroyed. That bothers modern sensibilities quite a bit, but modern sensibilities haven't been under sustained deadly assault very often.

Anonymous said...

You're looking at mamzerus backwards. Some souls have certain damages, just like some bodies do, that make them unfit for certain duties. When those souls come into this world they are put into the bodies of mamzerim. It isn't about the human being/mamzer. It's about that soul and its purpose here.

The same thought process can apply to Amelek.

I have issues with the commandment about a rapist whose punishment is having to marry the girl that he raped (unless the girl doesn't wanna, then he has to pay her 50 shekels).

bankman said...

This reminds me of another discussion on another board about ethics and morals. Some claim "reason" and human experience give us our moral compass, while believers say that morals must come from a divine source. In this case, killing amalek is perfectly moral because it is comanded by our creator and who are we to claim otherwise just because we feel it immoral?

Dave said...

What a compelling argument, anonymous.

"It is ok for terrible things to happen to these people, there was a flaw in their souls that means they deserved it."

"How do we know that?"

"Because terrible things happened to them."

Hershey said...

One commenter here murk the lines between Islamic suicide terrorists and the war waged by Saul. Although Saul was commanded to commit what’s today considered atrocities and war crimes, it’s still very different from terror during times of peace.
We can judge this controversial command by either civil or divine jurisprudence.
Civil: These practices were perfectly acceptable at the time. In cases where battles turned out to be prolonged or nasty, the victorious army often butchered the whole city. Also, nations were not supposed to have a just cause, give diplomacy a chance, or win a UN resolution; Kings waged war based solely on whims. Amaleq themselves attacked the Israelites in surprise and at a time they were the least prepared.
Divine: God decreed the Amalekite DNA as evil; simple as that. Amalekite men, women, children, and even their cattle, sheep, and belongings are all drenched in wickedness, and in order to make the world a better place they should all be eroded; the sooner the better. Disagree? Well, who knows a utensil better than its maker. Why create them in the first place? He created Satan too. Agag was the sole survivor—for a period of one night— of the Amalekite holocaust only to bring about Haman.
Minor correction: Canaanites were killed in the conquered land, Canaan, only. Canaanites that fled the territory were spared, so don’t regret letting go a Mitzvah the last time you spotted a Canaanite in Brooklyn.

Dave said...

Although Saul was commanded to commit what’s today considered atrocities and war crimes, it’s still very different from terror during times of peace.

I doubt you'll find that the people setting off suicide bombs think they are in a time of peace.

The "it was in line with the standards of time time" argument is a perfectly reasonable to make if your not claiming divine inspiration. And even then, that doesn't mean it was right; just that it is understandable.

And the problem with the "divine instruction" argument is that then you have exactly the same claim that the suicide bombers use; that it is a religious commandment and who are they to judge.

G said...

You want to tell me how I'm supposed to judge the difference between you? Lack of opportunity does not make for morality.

No, but lack of human element may.

Jews are instructed to destroy Amalek. They are named and identified. There is a concrete limit imposed on this type of instruction.

To the best of my knowledge in Islam the intsruction is given in much broader terms and left to man to decide who falls within it. The human element makes all the difference in the world...as we can clearly see.

Dave said...

And if "Daas Torah" declared that a group today were Amalek(*), do you seriously think that there are not groups within Judaism who would act on those instructions?

The situation still seems analagous to me (especially given that more moderate parts of Islam argue that the Quran specifically forbids these bombings).

(*) It saddens me that I find this to even be a possibility.

Anonymous said...

Dear Malkie,

Let me start with quoting you.

"Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Malkie. I'm 26, married for five years and I have a beautiful two year old daughter. My husband is a great guy. I truly love him and our family."

I also swam the same waters like you, struggling which way to swim, but I have a wife that loves me, and precious little kids. One day when I though that I am ready to make the dive. I thought about the pain that I will cause my little kids, my wife which I admire and really love. I couldn’t imagine that I would be the person causing her the greatest pain in her life.

I took a step back, thought things over, and with time I came out slowly, discussing my thoughts, objections, rejections etc. with my wife. We had lengthy and healthy conversations. I am not saying it was easy, but with a wife that’s understood me, she was able to help me stay focused on what is important, and what is just nonsense (made up by confused people).

It sounds like you are a smart lady, and it seems you love your surrounding family, and they love you, you have a great husband and a precious daughter. With that type of love, and environment it is hard to make a move without effecting the lives of the people you really care about and they care about you. The feel of guilt will be unbearable.

BTW: I am a manager in a fortune 500 company, learned in a Yeshiva, never went past 8th grade with my English studies, never had a problem or felt guilty about not being able to be reached on Shabbos, (why should I be different than the Sikh’s, Muslims etc).

Wishing you good luck...

jewish philosopher said...

Has any actually met an Orthodox Jew who is mamzer and therefore felt disabled by that? These things are really just hypothetical.

On Her Own said...

"Has any actually met an Orthodox Jew who is mamzer and therefore felt disabled by that?"

Um, yeah, I have. This guy I grew up with was a mamzer. And he had a REALLY hard time finding someone he could marry. (Although he eventually did.) He had to suffer for the sin of his mother - something which seems innately unjust.

And I'm sure he's not the only one (especially when twinned with the concept of agunah). And that others might have an even harder time finding someone than he did. The law still has practical ramifications in 2008.

myshkin said...

is malky gone?
i'll really miss her if she is

jewish philosopher said...

This is really just a variation on the question "why do children suffer". It's not very original, I'm afraid.

And On Her Own, how did this guy become a mamzer? Even when a married woman is caught with another man, if her husband had access to her, then we assume he is the dad. So his parents were a brother and sister who got married? What happened??

On Her Own said...

JP - I don't know the whole story - only that his mom ran off with another man; which, I suppose, means that her husband didn't "have access" to her.

jewish philosopher said...

So his mother was not Orthodox, however she had a halachically valid (Orthodox) Jewish wedding to someone. Then she left that man and moved in with another guy, with no Orthodox divorce, who had to have been Jewish incidentally to make their kids mamzerim. They had a son. The son apparently at some point became Orthodox himself and wanted to marry an Orthodox girl. Then he had a problem.

I’ve known many people from non-Orthodox backgrounds, however this story sounds very unusual, possibly unique. Frankly, I’m a little skeptical, unless you can give more identifying information.

On Her Own said...

"So his mother was not Orthodox, however she had a halachically valid (Orthodox) Jewish wedding to someone. Then she left that man and moved in with another guy, with no Orthodox divorce, who had to have been Jewish incidentally to make their kids mamzerim. They had a son. The son apparently at some point became Orthodox himself and wanted to marry an Orthodox girl. Then he had a problem.

I’ve known many people from non-Orthodox backgrounds, however this story sounds very unusual, possibly unique. Frankly, I’m a little skeptical, unless you can give more identifying information."

>> You do realize that you just made a whole lot of stuff up and then questioned the validity of the stuff you made up?

I never claimed to know all the details of the story. Only that a kid I grew up with whose mother was (at least outwardly) Modern Orthodox and who was raised Modern Orthodox, went to MO schools his whole life - was a mamzer because his mother had him after she "ran off" with his father.

I don't know why the mother "ran off" with his father -- maybe her husband was abusive, maybe he refused to give her a get, maybe she was just a "bad woman." Who knows? I certainly don't.

I knew his circumstances only because I was friends with him as a teenager. However, it turned out that most people in the community ended up knowing about it also because the husband sent letters around to everyone on the shul list letting everyone know as a "public service."

It's of course possible that this is a unique circumstance, though I doubt it.

jewish philosopher said...

So a modern "Orthodox" woman, who was actually married, shacked up with some other Jewish guy without first receiving a get? And the son (from the adultery) is Orthodox and needs an Orthodox wife?

If this is true, then it should actually be publicized since all of this person's kids are mamzerim too.

jewish philosopher said...

Six Month Malkie, I am just curious. Are you by any chance in love with someone who is not Frum?

Frummer????? said...

Hi Six Month Malkie!

You don’t publicise your email address so forgive this “megilla” in your comments!

I heard a story once about somebody who went off the derech during the holocaust because he observed somebody who had the only siddur in the camp, and he used to have people queuing up to pay him half a days food ration, a truly high price, to use the siddur.

“I want nothing to do with a G-d who’s child who can take a persons ration for the use of a siddur”

Somebody once pointed out to him, “Why focus on that one individual who took? Look at the hundreds of others who gave what little food they had only to be able to daven to Hashem from a siddur!”

True, Chareidi Jewry has many issues. Sadly Chassidish have even more. But every society has it’s good sides and its bad. One needs to learn to focus on the good.

But it is indeed impossible to focus on the good of a community if you are disenchanted and your mind is yelling at you that you don’t want to be a part of them.

So are you a “bad person” for becoming disenchanted as you’d expect your real life friends to think?

No. Certainly not. It happens to many people. The difference is that some rattle along inside their little boxes and kid themselves that they are ok. Others are like you, honest people who can’t kid themselves, and want a life of meaning, not one of programmed and mindless robotic antics.

That’s a great thing. It means you have intellect and are honest with yourself. In fact its another way of your inner self telling you that it wants more and not less!

So it’s a good idea to try to find answers to hashkafic questions in blogvelt then.

No.

The problem with what you are doing is that the “blogvelt” is not the place to find answers to the real questions which you raise. Blogvelt is where all us likeminded individuals get together, and what happens is, we egg each other on. The people who do have the answers and the explanations are hard to find in this land of make believe. They tend to live only in the real world.

So can one find answers without perhaps having to befriend a Rav in the real world, and face up to telling a fellow human being without the benefit of anonymity that one doesn’t believe in Yiddishkeit?

People have different tastes, but you might enjoy listening to the shmuzin on www.theshmuz.com. There is also www.Rabbiwallerstein.com who people like as well. He has many shmuzin both on his website and on www.Torahanytime.com which are given to women. Try listening to some of them, neither of them are your “regular shiurim”. They are very different to the regular Beis Yaakov stuff. I also believe that both Rabbis can contacted by email.

Thankfully, despite being a prolific blogger in my own right quite some time ago, that time has passed and I have moved on bH to a better place, to a life of meaning, satisfaction and real happiness.

You too can find that. But you have to look elsewhere. Not here!

Best of Luck!

Frummer

Anonymous said...

But an Omnipotent being should be able to devise a system that punishes those who do wrong while sparing the truly innocent of punishment.

If like you say HE could be able to punish the wrong doers and sparing innocent people where is the free will? I did good I get all good do bad get petch of course I will do good.

may I suggest 2 books one small one larger the first is called I'm not the boss I only work here the second is Garden of Emuna available in Hebrew or English

David said...

"This is really just a variation on the question "why do children suffer". It's not very original, I'm afraid."

Stating that a question is "not very original" is hardly a very original response. The question stands, and it stands unanswered.

Also, couldn't help but notice your switch from claiming that mamzerut is "hypothetical" to 'better publicize these people, because their children are mamzers!'

Not very nice. And not very honest.

Anonymous said...

where the hell are you, Malka???

Anonymous said...

Methinks Malka got spooked out by someone who recognized her. A shame.

Anonymous said...

Jewish Philosopher, why are you being such a jerk? Have you never known a mamzer? They do exist, you know, and their lives are very tragic. I don't know why you persist in poking holes in Malkie's account of things. It is perfectly believable to me. Also, why must you assume that she is being tempted away from Judaism by a goyish lover? I know she's just a woman, but, hmmmm, maybe she actually does have a MIND of her own, ya think?

American Jew

Anonymous said...

This is what you wrote in the beginning of your blog:
I’m going to work hard during those six months to try to see the positives in Judaism.

If this is hard work...

emily said...

Hi Malkie,

I am not sure if you are still active on your blog, or reading comments. But here goes anyway...

I am not going to argue every point you have made, some very good. I have read your entries, but not all the comments. There are a lot! :-)

I left the frum life. I left because I am gay, and as you can imagine, it was not gonna work out.

But I have since seperated Judaism from Jewish people. Gadolim, regular working folk, learners...all people. As such, they have faults, biases, and agendas.

I am agnostic, leaning again to believing. My major sticking point is if being gay is such an abhorrence, then why was I created?


**Anyone reading this, please don't waste the energy it will take you type out the pat frum answer of the yetzer harah and having to resist. It makes me gag! This goes doubly so for Jewish Philosopher! I have been to your web site. I have read you theory of sex addiction a few times. You are a sick cookie! The only one obsessed with sex here, is you.**

My only advice for you Malkie is:

a) move out of town. Seriously, NY is a "special" place. You can lead a very happy frum life elsewhere.

b) stay away from imamother! The women there are also "special". Not all, but many! That place will really drag your neshoma down a few levels.

c) seperate Judaism from the flawed yidden on earth. Seek out ppl who will discuss with you, not simply talk AT you about revenge against Hitler and "this is our tradition for thousands of years".
There are MUCH better opinions and choices out there.

Hatzlacha!

Anonymous said...

Anyone report 'Six-Month Malkie' as a missing person yet?

Anonymous said...

Malkie:

You really let us all down. Shame on you!!!

Anonymous said...

Please come back... for your sake and ours too!

Anonymous said...

That's it.. no more waiting.. I'm outta here!!

Anonymous said...

This time I'm not kidding.. i am OUT of here!!

Anonymous said...

I am REALLY out of here!!!!!

Anonymous said...

This time I mean it!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

It's almost a year now, and I'm really getting tired of this waiting.

Anonymous said...

whats the deal?
at least let us know the ending!!

Anonymous said...

No more waiting for me!

Anonymous said...

Yawn.. What's taking so damned long??

Anonymous said...

That's it.. I'm packing my bags!

Anonymous said...

The waiting is getting ridiculous...