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NUMBERS — 15:15 one

NUM155 The principle philosophical and legal differences between American democracy and Judaism are thus viewing one's fundamental identity as an independent individual against being an organic part of a group, the idea of voluntary association and disassociation with any group versus integral membership within an organic community with no possibility of leaving, and the resulted status of one's duty to care for others in the group. These differences make it difficult for American Jews to integrate the two parts of their identity. As I discuss in the chapters that follow, the tensions American Jews feel often manifest themselves in many issues in social ethics, with American ideology pulling in one direction and Judaism pulling in another. The opposition, though, should not be exaggerated. In a number of ways, American Jews’ Jewish and American identities converge and reinforce each other. These factors explain the high degree of comfort Jews feel in America. On a practical level, Jews have fared much better politically and economically under American democracy than they have under the stratified societies of the Middle Ages and under most of the dictatorships of past or present. Jews in America have been legally protected from infringement in the free exercise of their religion, and they have enjoyed unprecedented political, cultural, and economic opportunities. The open, pluralistic view of community inherent in American ideology, while markedly different from most other societies’ view of community and, indeed, from Judaism’s own view, has provided a welcoming and nurturing context for Jews. Assimilation and intermarriage are real contemporary concerns for American Jews, but they are further proof of America's sincerity in creating an open society free from religious discrimination. Theoretical affinities also link the Jewish and American visions of community. Although Judaism places strong emphasis on the solidarity of the community, it has gone a long way to protect individuals and minorities. Rabbinic Judaism respects the rights of non-Jews to live as such, as long as they obey the seven laws given, according to tradition, to the descendants of Noah. (Compare T. Avodah Zarah 8:4, B. Sanhedrin 56a, Seder Olam chap. 5, Genesis Rabbah 16:6, 34:8, Canticles Rabbah 1:16, and M.T. Laws of Kings 9:1 For a throughout description and discussion of this doctrine, see Novak (1983) The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism: An Historical and Constructive Study of the Noahide Laws. New York: Edward Mellon Press). In many passages, the Bible boldly proclaims equality in law between Jew and alien; For instance, “There shall be one law for you and for the resident stranger; it shall be a law for all time throughout the ages. You and the stranger shall be alike before the Lord; the same ritual and the same rule shall apply to you and to the stranger who resides among you.” (Numbers 15:15-16) Although the attitude of Jews toward non-Jews varied according to the specific conditions of their interaction, and although there were exceptions to the general principle of equal treatment, the Rabbis applied the principle not only in the ritual context in which it appears most often in the Bible but to broad areas of civil legislation as well. (B. Gittin 5:8-9, 61a; B. Bava Metzi’a 70b; B. Bava Batra 113a). Furthermore, Judaism does not missionize, except by example. (B. Yevamot 47a-b; J. Kiddushin 4:1 (65b); M.T. Laws of Forbidden Intercourse 13:14-145; S. A. Yoreh De’ah 268:2. Compare Encyclopedia Judaica, s.v. “proselytes.” That Jews were to be an example to other nations, see, for example, Isaiah 2:2-4, 11:10, 42:1-4; 49:6; Genesis Rabbah 43:7; and Leviticus Rabbah 6:5.) It even reserves a place for righteous gentiles in the World to Come. T. Sanhedrin 13:2, B. Bava Batra 10b, and M.T. Laws of Repentance 3:5. According to Samuel, on the Day of Judgment there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile; J. Rosh Hashanah 1:3 (57a). In all these ways, Jewish law and theology protect the rights of individuals and minorities and parallel in many ways the protections offered by American law and ideology. Jewish law also protects the rights of individual Jews and of minorities within the Jewish community. As I will discuss in some detail in Chapter Six, treatment of the poor in Jewish law and in actual practice has historically been truly remarkable in its level of service and humanity, and that continues to our own day. (See, for example, Deuteronomy 24:10-22; Compare also Exodus 22:21-26; 23:6, Leviticus 25:25-55; and Deuteronomy 15:7-11.) Jews are enjoined from tormenting the handicapped by, for example, insulting the death or placing a stumbling block in front of the blind, and, with the exception of a few functions that specific handicaps make it impossible to perform, the handicapped are treated in Jewish law like everyone else. (Leviticus 19:14)


NUMBERS — 16:32 swallowed

NUM221 The Talmud includes many fractious disputes, in which virtually anything could be questioned, but there were some limits to this general picture of uninhibited debate. When the Sanhedrin existed, rabbis could challenge decisions in debate, even vigorously, but in practice they had to conform to the Sanhedrin’s majority ruling. (Compare, for example, M. Rosh Hashanah 2:8-9.) Furthermore, there were rules of propriety concerning how the debates themselves should be held with colleagues, and, all the more so, with teachers or parents. B. Kiddushin 29a-b, 40b; later codified in, for example, Arukh Hashulhan, Yoreh De’ah 240:12.) So, for example, rabbinic sources strive to differentiate the high level of dissent to which the Rabbis were accustomed and which they thought healthy from that of the biblical figure Korah, whose rebellion the Torah condemns. Korah’s dissent the Rabbis said, was not “for the sake of Heaven” but rather for his own power and love her victory, whereas the disputes of Hillel and Shammai were for the sake of Heaven -- that is, to identify God's will. Because that was the case, rabbinic disputes will continue for all time, but Korah’s dispute died with him. (Numbers 16:1-35). Thus disputants must argue for the right reasons while following the practice determined by the majority. These rules were enforced, for rabbinic literature speaks of Jews whose mode of dissent led the community to exclude them. These include the min (sectarian) and the apikoros (heretic). In view of the wide latitude of rabbinic debate, one can understand why there is considerable discussion in classical and contemporary literature about exactly what these people held or did that made their modes of dissent unacceptable. Rashi (1040-1105), for example, said that one feature of admissible debate is that “Neither side of the conflict cites an argument from that or of another god, but only from the Torah of our God.” (Rashi on B. Hagigah 3b, s.v. “kulan.”) In addition to such individuals, there have been groups that splintered off from the Jewish people. These include Christians, Hebrew Christians (who existed from the first through the fifth centuries), Karaites (from the eighth century to the present), and Sabbetaians (in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth). Thus, with all their commitment to pluralism, rabbis throughout the centuries have drawn some clear lines defining acceptable method and content.


NUMBERS — 24:16 spirits

NUM300 The Midrash... asks why God initiated the human species by creating only one man. One reason, the Mishnah suggests, is to impress upon us the greatness of the Holy One, Blessed be He, for when human beings mint coins, they all come out the same, but God made one mold (Adam) and no one of us is exactly like another. This physical pluralism is matched by an intellectual pluralism for which, the Rabbis say, God is to be blessed: “When one sees a crowd of people, he is to say, ‘Blessed is the Master of mysteries,’ for just as their faces are not alike, so are their thoughts not alike.” The Midrash supports this further when it says that when Moses was about to die, he said to the Lord: “Master of the universe, You know the opinions of everyone, and that there are no two among Your children who think alike. I beg of You that after I die, when You appoint a leader for them, appoint one who will bear with [accept, sovel] each one of them as he thinks [on his own terms, lefi da’ato].” We know that Moses said this, the Rabbi said, because Moses describes God as “God of the ruhot (“spirits” [in the plural])” of all flesh.” (Numbers 24:16) It is even the case that righteous non-Jews have a portion in the world to come, for it is only “the nations who ignored God” and who will be denied that -- again, a theological consideration. [M. Sanhedrin 4:5; B. Berachot 58a; Midrash Tanhuma on Numbers 24:16; T. Sanhedrin 13:2 based on Psalms 9:18] Thus God wants pluralism so that people will constantly be reminded of His grandeur. (Continued at [[LEV727]] Leviticus 19:18 yourself DORFFRAG 53).


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