The Truth about the Talmud (Part 3)


The Truth about the Talmud
(Part 3)
Go Sin in a Strange City?
James Scott Trimm

Ironically anti-Semitism seems to be running rampant through the Hebraic Roots movement in recent years.  One major example has been the circulating of false and slanderous attacks on the contents of the Talmud.

Do not get me wrong, it is perfectly acceptable to disagree with things which the Talmud says.  I know there are a number of things which are in the Talmud which I disagree with.  What I am talking about is material that misrepresents or misquotes what the Talmud says, often so as to wrongly indicate that the Talmud says things that any civilized person would find repugnant (for example the false claims that the Talmud teaches that it is permitted to sodomize young boys).  These types of claims move beyond mere disagreement and into the area of blatant anti-semitism.

Lists of quotes and misquotes have been circulated, many of these lists of supposed quotes from the Talmud have actually been drawn from Nazi propaganda pamphlets originally circulated during World War II.

Many of these lists of quotes (often taken out of context), and misquotes, are circulated by persons who have never even seen a Talmud, much less have any real knowledge of what they are talking about.

One passage often quoted out of context is:

“If a person is tempted to do evil he should
go to a city where he is not known,
dress in black clothes, cover his head in black,
and do what his heart desires so that G-d’s
name will not be desecrated.”
(b.Moed Katan 17a)

However if one actually reads this passage in context it is clear that the Talmud is not at all suggesting a person should take this course of action.  To the contrary this section of Talmud is discussing the unscrupulous behavior of an individual who had been disfellowshiped by Rabbi Judah.  After Rabbi Judah died, he came to the court seeking to have his disfellowshipment reversed, the rabbis looked into the matter and refused to do so.  Soon after this the man died.  This man was then refused a burial in the cemetery for the righteous and allowed only to be buried in the cemetery of judgment (The Grotto of the Judges).

We are then told the reason that this this man was disfellowshiped, not returned to fellowship, and not permitted burial in the Grotto of the rigthteous, is because the man had followed the poor advice given by a minor Rabbi (Rabbi Illa) ” If one sees that his [evil] inclination is gaining sway over him, let him go away where he is not known; let him put on sordid clothes, don a sordid wrap and do the sordid deed that his heart desires rather than profane the name of Heaven openly.”

Here is the portion of Talmud in context:

The man [then] came to the College [and] said, ‘Absolve me’. Said the Rabbis to him, There is no man here of the standing of Rab Judah who could absolve you; but go to R. Judah Nesi’ah that he may absolve you. He went and presented himself to him. Said he to R. Ammi: ‘Go forth and look into his case; if it be necessary to absolve him, absolve him’. R. Ammi looked into his case and had a mind to absolve him. Then R. Samuel b. Nahmani got up on his feet and said: ‘Why, even a ‘separation” imposed by one of the domestics in Rabbi’s house was not lightly treated by the Rabbis for three years; how much more so one imposed by our colleague, Rab Judah!’ Said R. Zera, From the fact that this venerable scholar should just now have turned up at this College after not having come here for many years, you must take it that it is not desirable to absolve that man. He [R. Judah Nesi’ah] did not absolve him. He went away weeping. A wasp then came and stung him in the privy member and he died. They brought him into ‘The Grotto of the Pious’, but they admitted him not. They brought him into ‘The Grotto of the Judges’ and they received him. Why was he admitted there? — Because he had acted according to the dictum of R. Il’ai. For R. Il’ai says, If one sees that his [evil] yezer is gaining sway over him, let him go away where he is not known; let him put on sordid clothes, don a sordid wrap and do the sordid deed that his heart desires rather than profane the name of Heaven openly.
(b.Moed Katan 17a)

This is just one of many examples of dishonest representations made by anti-semites and often parroted by others, who are all too willing to slander the Jewish people.

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