Op-Ed: Torah and Humanity: As We Begin the Reading Cycle
Yonatan SilvermanThe author is a professional translator from Hebrew to English. He is the author of For the World to See:The Life of Margaret Bourke White. He operates the online newsletter SARTABA.
RELIEF SCULPTURE IN ARCH OF TITUS, ROME
ROMAN SOLDIERS PLUNDER THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM
Someday I want to write an essay equating Judaism and the Jewish people with humanity per se. The corollary theme is that the big joke in the Humanities, the ancient Greek literary and cultural work everyone reads as a freshman, is that there is no humanity in them.
Think about it. I took a humanities class as a college freshman. I read Homer and the Greek tragedies. What do I recall of the themes and the content in these works?
The ILIAD is about a brutal war started because one king stole another king's wife.
OEDIPUS REX is about a Greek nobleman who murders his father, copulates with his mother after becoming King, and then remorsefully tears out his own eyes and commits suicide.
Those are two salient examples. But all of the Humanities literature has the same inhuman character.
Such entertainments for the drunken masses aren't part of the Jewish tradition. It's one of the main things that distinguishes the Jewish cultural tradition from the gentile. Greek culture is a big contradiction in terms. A genuine oxymoron.
I'm not exactly a learned Talmud scholar, but I have exposed myself to a little Talmud, and you don't need much exposure to understand the character of the Talmud and what makes it the spinal column of the Jewish faith.
While the Greeks and all the rest only desire to escape from reality through their literary drunken entertainments. The Talmud focuses exclusively on reality and how a person needs to behave in relation to reality and the many difficulties reality represents. Of course with a big stress on how God wants us to behave according to the commandments in the Torah.
There is nothing coarse or grating about anything written in the Talmud. It surely deals with all kinds of criminal matters and all aspects of life. But not as entertainment.
It also has a habit of employing the cleanest least upsetting language for various things. In the chapter called YOMA for example about customs and laws for Yom Kippur it says there is a prohibition against sexual intercourse on Yom Kippur. But it does not use the words sexual intercourse. It says "use of the bed." That's the one example I know. But there are many such examples. That is the refined humane character of the Talmud.
So for all the centuries in Europe that the Catholic Church tried to snuff out Judaism and the practice of Judaism, this was nothing but an effort to snuff out humanity. The Nazis had the same idea of course, and they really meant what they said. Now it's the turn of the Muslims to try the same thing. Islam is an anti-humanistic faith from a to z. Turn to any book by Bernard Lewis and this is frightfully apparent. Churchill called Mein Kampf Hitler’s Koran and he was prescient.
So Israel isn't just defending itself or the Jewish people. It is indeed defending humanity, as it is known in the plainest terms. Those barbarians like the Nazis and nation of Islam whose doctrine revolves around the annihilation of the Jewish people could not care less that their unholy murderous lust against the Jews is really aimed to undermine and obliterate humanity in its entirety.
The Jews are humanity. The Torah is the code for the conduct of humanity.The Jews wholly assimilate humanity in essence and represent it in its wholeness and in every relevant respect. If God forbid the Jewish people are eradicated humanity the entire human species as it has been known and revered for thousands of years will be completely extinguished and cease to exist. Yes, without the Jewish people there is no humanity. What is left?
Think about that as Jews dance with the Torah on Simchat Torah on Monday, hugging it, cherishing it, holding a prayer shawl as a canopy over all the young children and reciting the blessing on the Torah with them. "How I love Thy Torah, I talk of it all day long", Psalms 119.
Perhaps someday I will write this essay.
A Case in Point: The Late Jewish Journalist Daniel Pearl
“Whatever thy hand finds to do, do it with thy strength for there is no work nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in She’ol whither thou goest. I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill – but time and chance happens to them all.” Megillat Kohelet, read on the Sabbath of the Intermediate Days of Sukkot.