Archives‎ > ‎

Interesting discussion on Judaism following Gilad Atzmon’s dialogue with Rabbi Yakov Shapira

From Edgar Suter:



I hope you appreciate my solicitous directness and my inclusion of others who are likely to be interested in these poignant religious and political issues. It is my hope that in both truth and charity we may all be the better for an extended discussion.

I was perplexed that Gilad initially mentioned (but did not pursue) the matter of ethics, yet a few breaths later Gilad absolved his “group #1,” religious Jews. The contradiction was spotlighted by your later discussion of Lag BaOmer absent any mention of Simon ben Yohai whose succinct genocidal precept is well known to us.

Please explain how an honest, even-handed, and ethical assessment can absolve people who follow Oral Torah that treats Gentiles as subhumans who should be deceived, looted, subject to lesser (arguably non-existent) judicial protections, and suffer behavior inspired by “Kill even the best of the Gentiles.” Frankly, the evils perpetrated not only by the modern state of “Israel,” but also by usurers, slavers, and others through the millennia, seem the very embodiment of Judaism's “Chosen” (Master Race) religious precepts.

Another point—if your discussion added another interested religious group, practicing Catholics, the matter of “identity theft” would become even more tendentious. Practicing Catholics recognize that the Mosaic Covenant included punishments for disobedience. Notwithstanding the Torah’s disparagement of the Old Testament, the Old Testament is quite clear (and the New Testament equally clear) about the nation of Israel’s disobedience, God’s judgment against that nation, and the promise of a New Covenant in Jeremias 31:31-32. Because the Pharisees and their followers voided the Mosaic Covenant (and because the Covenant with Abram the Gentile concerns his spiritual descendants), it is practicing Catholics who are the legitimate heirs of Abraham and Moses, the only true Jews today. We object to the “identity theft” so succinctly summarized in Apocalypse 3:9, admittedly not a part of your Oral Torah.

From R Yaakov Shapira


You did not understand Gilad and you do not understand Judaism. First, about Gilad (although he can speak for himself, I'm going to give you my understanding): He did not discuss at all whether any particular religion - including Judaism - is responsible for any bad things. What he did say is that considering yourself a Jew because of religion is, in and of itself, innocent, whereas considering yourself a Jew because of political reasons is itself a problem, without going any further. Because whereas considering yourself unique because of your religion is a normal part of many religions - Christians consider themselves "saved" only because of Christianity (see John 19:6 - "Jesus saith ... I am the way, the truth and the life - no man cometh unto the father but by me" - that is exclusivity) but for an ethnicity or a race - or however secular Jews define their Jewishness - as exclusive, is a problem.


That said, he also mentioned that the fact of the matter is, Jews who identified as Jews only because of religion (what Gilad called Rabbinic Jews) never committed any genocides of attacks on goyim - ever.

As far as the Torah religion is concerned is concerned, you gave been misinformed. You claim that the Torah concept is chosenness is means "master race." This is simply a fabrication. First, you will find such an idea nowhere in any Torah teachings. The concept of chosenness for us is, as I explained in the presentation but apparently you did not understand, is that anyone who agrees to accept upon himself the burden (literally "yoke" - in Hebrew: Ole malchus shamayim) of G-d's mission to fulfill the Mitzvos is therefore, "chosen." Anyone who wants - including yourself - can become "chosen" if he so desires. It has nothing to do with race - it has to do with the willingness to accept the "yoke." Second, Jews are not a race altogether, as I mentioned - we have blacks, whites, orientals and latino Jews. Jews area religion, not a race. The idea that Jews are a race is itself an invention of both the secular Jews (who did not want to identify with the religious Jews) and anti-Semitic racists (such as Hitler, who wanted to categorize the Jews as a separate, degraded race).

Now to the Talmud. You are misinformed as to its contents. Your quote “Kill even the best of the Gentiles," is a forgery. It says no such thing anywhere in the Talmud, or anywhere else in Torah literature, for that matter. This slander originated with white supremacist anti-Semites. A simple Google search for "kill the best gentiles" will bring up a slew of websites, mostly of the same genre, quoting it from Sanhedrin 59a "tob shebbe goyim harog" - which is not to be found anywhere on that page or any other page in the Talmud (besides he does not know Hebrew, the word for "good" or "best" in Hebrew is Tov, not Tob). By this I do not mean to say that he misquoted a word or two or paraphrased. No. What I mean it that it is a total fabrication ex nihilo.

Instead, the Torah commands Jews to be peaceful people, NEVER to antagonize or rebel against the gentile nations. That, in fact, is out primary objection to Zionism, as is found all over anti-Zionist rabbinic writings, most elaborately in the writings of the Satmar Rabbi - we  are not allowed ot take any land, or  wage any wars from the time of the exile 2,000 years ago until the Messiah comes, when there will be no more wars anywhere on earth ("No nation will raise a sword upon another, and knowledge war will no longer be learned." - Isaiah 2:4).

Also, we are prohibited by Torah law to steal, harm, and obviously kill - anybody, Jew and non-Jew.

In fact, for those of you who know Hebrew, I am attaching a statement form the great Rabbinical leader, Rabbi Yisroel Meyer Kagan, the greatest Rabbinic authority of the early 20th century, explaining the Jewish attitude toward violence, and castigating the "new ideas" - he is referring to the ZIonists, the Bundists and others of that secular, anti-Torah ilk, who rebelled against our traditional Torah view.

Please understand that you cannot clump all people who identify as "jews" in the same bucket. After all- YOU call the Catholics the "legitimate heirs of Abraham and Moses, the only true Jews today." Many people make that claim. The Zionists do as well - to the exclusion of both the Catholics and the Torah Jews. As I quoted Tommy Lapid at the presentation saying. Anybody can call himself a "jew" and any people can call themselves the "Jews." So many different people do - some who look and speak and talk more similar than others. Please understand that I am not trying to say here that my religion is better than yours, or that you have no right to claim anything you claim.  My point is just that my religion - the traditional way of practicing Orthodox Judaism until the so-called Enlightenment and Emancipation came and skewered perceptions of both Judaism AND Christianity - disapproves of Zionism, and Israel, as a creation of Zionism (or the Zionist version of Judaism - semantics) is not my country, and Torah Jews have as much to do with it as they do with China.

I understand that it is difficult for you perhaps to distinguish between one segment of "Jews" and another, but please appreciate that it is the same as the difficulty non-Christians have distinguishing between let's say Catholics and Portestants, who are both "Chrsitains.' The seventh-day adventists have vastly different beliefs than either of those, as far as I udnerstand, although they all call themselves "Christians."

It is the same with the Jews. The Zionists are of a different religion than I am.

And, that my religion, traditional Orthodox Judaism before it was polluted by secularist Enlightenment and nationalist Emancipation ideas, requires and desires only that we be at peace with all our neighbors and other religions all over the world. As our great sage Maimonides writes:

 רמב"ם יד החזקה הלכות חנוכה פרק ד 

כל התורה ניתנה לעשות שלום בעולם שנאמר (משלי ג') דרכיה דרכי נעם וכל נתיבותיה שלום

In English: "The entire Torah was given only to make peace in the world, as it says: "It ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace" - Proverbs 3.

It is impossible for me to go over every anti-Semitic slur and false statements and out of context statements attributed to Torah Judaism - people do the same to the Bible itself, and to the Koran,  in order to show that they, too, are racist supremacist documents (I am not an expert in the Koran, but I do know the Bible and the Talmud, and I assume the same misrepresentations apply to the Koran as well. I definitely do see and hear Muslims complaining about the same method of slander and misquotes that we Jews experience regarding the Talmud. And I do see the same method of slandering and misrepresenting the Bible itself as well).  But use the example you yourself cited about the false quote "the best of gentiles should be killed" and apply it to the rest of the slanderous quotes as well.

I will leave you with the words of our great sage Hillel, who was approached by someone who wanted to convert to Judaism who asked him to teach him the entire Torah in one fell swoop, a daunting task. But Hillel accommodated him. He said:

"What you would not want done to yourself, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah. The rest is just commentary." - Talmud Shabbos 31a.

From Edgar Suter

Thank you, Yaakov, for your prompt response.

As is my custom, I do not credulously accept any claim at face value, so when first confronted with the problematic texts, I was incensed and so investigated for myself. I have to believe that the Nasi of the reconstituted Sanhedrin had the competence to accurately translate his eponymous edition of the Oral Torah, including texts that, even considering context, are problematic for Gentiles. Too, the halachic spectrum between ger and toshav put sweet mentions of “neighbor” in context.

The key difficulty is this—Chabad, also ultra-orthodox, freely stipulated the existence and the authority of the precept. Though they limited the applicability to a time of war or when “Jews” control the Gentiles, they clearly treat the precept as genuine and authoritative. Even Abe Foxman (protected by Catholics during the war first declared in 1933) admits the problematic exhortations exist. While one may subjectively accept or dispute its authority, the existence of the precept is an objective issue. By the principle of non-contradiction, the precept exists or it does not. Certainly I have no difficulty making distinctions, so one of you must be wrong. The key question then is, “Why does Chabad claim the precept exists?"

Interestingly the acknowledgment archived at has been scrubbed from the Chabad website. Certainly the admission "causes difficulty,” likely explaining its disappearance.

In Catholicism, there are many ways in which one may be an accomplice to sins great and small. For us, the theoreticians, architects, advocates, and apologists of evil are accomplices in the deeds they have inspired, defend, and/or conceal.

So, I beg the question—Why do Chabad and Abe Foxman claim the precept(s) exist(s)?

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum.


From Israel Shamir


what a pleasure to read your learned commentaries!

If Gilad will put on a schtreimel, I'd bless him, for it is better to believe in God (even in such an odd way, for it would be odd for God to choose Jews) than to believe in jazz, as he does now.

As for the letter of R Y Shapiro, he is sometimes right, and sometimes employs usual Jewish subterfuge. Indeed Orthodox Jews in New York are quite peaceful folk. In Jerusalem, there are some good Orthodox Jews, like Neturei Karta, whom I visited with my Archbishop.

Did Orthodox religious Jews ever committed genocide? Sure, for instance slaughtering 90,000 Christians of Jerusalem in 614 AD.

Is the maxim "Kill even the best of goyim" to be found in the Oral Law? definitely yes. You can read it here  

This page was compiled by Orthodox Jews, so it is also a sort of apologetic reading. They try to explain, that RASHBI meant goyim of his time, and only heathens among them, and only in the time of war etc. But they did not try such a brazen denial as one by R Shapira.

I enjoyed in particular his correction of TOV instead of TOB. In an unlikely case R Shapira is not aware of that, it is perfectly normal to spell TOB or even TWB as it is written TET WAW BETH, though it is pronounced TOV in Israel and by Litwaks and TUV by Polish Jews.

In the linked document you can find references where indeed the maxim is to be found.

More usual apologetics say that RASHBI suffered from the Romans, that's why he said that.

And anyway nowadays Jews do not practice killing of people they consider heathens (such as Catholics) and they are under no obligation to do it until they have dominion. Afterwards - probably yes. Please note that even those Gentiles who accept the seven commandments of Noah will have to be expelled or killed, for the status of resident gentile (ger toshav) can't be granted until Jubilees are restored meaning never.

However subterfuge of R Shapira is certainly motivated by noble reasons of protecting Israel and Torah.

I do hesitate to argue more on this subject for who knows what will be his next subterfuge?

There is a story of a Rabbi Shila who flogged a Jewish man who had intercourse with a Gentile woman. When asked by authorities why he did that, he replied: because he had intercourse with she-ass. Later, he explained that by verse "whose flesh is as the flesh of asses". When that was not enough, he killed the man calling him a persecutor.

So I'd better be satisfied with what I said, before R Shapira,will decide to apply a more dangerous sort of subterfuge against your truly )))

The bottom line: though Jewish faith has many monsters hidden within its books and traditions, now is not the best time to flush them all. If R Shapira personally does not sin (excepting his subterfuge done for the best of reasons) I would not keep him responsible for words of RASHBI etc.

clip_image001[1]From R Yaakov Shapira


Thank you for your responses.

First, as to Israel Shamir, I am seriously bewildered that you would point to the statement of RSHBI in the Mechilta as the source of that allegedly genocidal statement that was never made, and then consider it "apologetics" to say it is referring to war time. And, aware as I am of the Mechilta's dictum, I honestly could not fathom that it s the statement the statement meant by wherever Edgar got it from. For it is not "apologetics" for the Talmud itself - Yerushalmi KIddushin (4:11) says it is referring to war time! Please explain to em how in the world could you say that RSHBI said to kill gentiles if the Talmud itself clearly says that RSHBI is talking  about war time? (And for the record, ti does not mean "the best" of the gentiles but either (a) even if a gentile did you favors ("was good") to you, still you may not spare him during war time because of your personal relationship with him, or (b) even if he is not an idol-worshipper  (per Be'Er HaGolah 7). In fact, the Maharsha HaAruch on Shemos 14:7 states that it is obvious that RSHBI is referring to a war, even without the Talmud itself sayong so because the Oral Torah tells us it is forbidden to kill goyim, and so it is impossible that it should mean anything except war. In any event, I apologize for not realizing that this is what you meant, though honestly, it is astonishing that it was on fact what you meant, since it has zero connection with the statement quoted, and you honestly had me fooled. Though, I should have figured it was some distortion of something like this.)

I stand by my grammatical correction, that טוב is phonetically spelled with a "v" at the end, not a "b" as there is no Hebrew accent in existence that pronounces it "tob". "B" would simply be incorrect. But this is getting off topic.

Regarding the killing of Christians in Jerusalem in the Persian-Byzantine war, surely you are aware that what you are describing is not quite what happened. First, it was the Persians, under General Sharbaraz that was at war with the Byzantines, and some Jews, who were then persecuted by the Byzantines (e.g Antioch massacre in 608 AD), joined with the Persians to try to oust the Byzantines. The Byzantines were not Jews, yet the Jews fought with them. The Jews' choice of allies in the Sasnian war had nothing to do with goy-hatred, but with self-defense against the Byzantine oppression under Emperor Hyraclius. The war ended in the expuulsion of the Byzantine from Palestine. See Benzion Netanyahu (The Founding Fathers of Zionism, p. 208).

As well, you surely know that your figure of 90,000 is considered by current scholarship as greatly inflated, the number was probably closer to 17,000 - but that is just an aside, that speaks to "subterfuge", for even 17,000 deaths are 17,00 too many. Also, you surely know that current archaeology and historic records show vastly differing versions of the story, including those that claim it was the Persians who committed the massacres, not the Jews.Much more importantly, the Jews who did join the revolt were probably rogues, not rabbinical Jews, as evidence shows the Jews who participated offered sacrifices and planned ot build a third temple, all in contradiction to Torah law. And our rabbinical literature does not mention it, as opposed to other wars, such as Bar Kochba, that rabbinical Jews were involved in.

But, in any case, it seems that what we agree on is that Jews do not kill anyone nowadays - and that means for the past few thousand years, by Torah law. Our job is to live peacefully in exile in harmony with our neighbors. We are prohibited to wage war or to take up arms against any of the gentile nations, and that is our primary objection to Zionism. If you are friends with the Neturei Karta Jews in Jerusalem, you surely know that. My views on Zionism and our exile is the same as theirs - we both got it form the same place -the Torah.

Edgar, the website does not represent Chabad as a whole - it is just made by some people, and I imagne they took down the statement you made because they found ti to be incorrect. As far as the Nasi of the so-called reconstituted Sanhedrin, that Sanhedrin and its Nasi was not recognized by anybody except the Nasi and some naive readers of his website. I dont even think ti got off the ground.

What I will say is that there are Jews who interpret the Torah in many different ways - just as gentiles do their Bible, and Muslims do theirs. The categories "Rabbinic Jews" or "Ultra-Orthodox" Jews are not monolithic - they are categories created by people just out of convenience. (IN fact, as a rule you will never hear Orthodox Jews call themselves Rabbinic Jews unless talking to someone who calls them that, like when I talk to Gilad. And, for the record, Chabad is quite controversial in the Ultra Orthodox world, and even within Chabad there are varying factions. When I say controversial i mean there are great rabbis who call them a joke as far as their interpretation of Judaism si concerned, or worse - idol worshippers  Depends on which faction, which rabbi, etc.

In any case, you cant judge any Jews by YOUR or Israel Shamir's interpretation of our Talmud - or anyone's for that matter. If you want to judge someone, judge him by his own version of his religion, not someone else's. You cannot ell someone what their religion is supposed to be. And as Israel Shamir can tell you, there are ews -J myself included - who interpret our religion, Talmud and all - as  a religion of peace and harmony, and we would never think of harming anyone. Israel Shamir's Archbishop, it seems, is warmly welcomed by the Neturei Karta Jews he visits in Jerusalem, and he would be so welcomed by myself and my people as well. (I know that Rabbi Moshe Sherer of the Agudah was friends with Cardinal O'Conner). There are many of us, we just dont have websites. We are probably the majority of the Ultra-Orthodox Jews (the so-caled "black-hat" type that is).

For what it's worth, and you can quote me on this as a rabbi - according to Jewish theology, the Pope is closer to G-d than Theodor Herzl or David ben Gurion. No question about it.


From Edgar Suter

Thank you, Israel and Yaakov.

I offered my source, Chabad. Israel offered another source, Ne'emanei Torah Va’Avodah. Chabad’s commentary references “sages,” plural, so the precept does not appear to be merely a dead letter from a lone rabbi who went off the rails. Whether transliterated by a “v” or “b,” some contemporary ultra-orthodox champion the precept and “settlers” act out the precept, so I am hard-pressed to deny its existence. To my read, neither the Soncino and Steinsaltz translations nor an honest read of history convey a universal humanitarianism that, without hedging, encompasses Gentile “neighbors.” Instead I discern a pervasive misanthropic double-standard.  So sadly the Torat HaMelech stands in a long lineage.

That is why I was so disappointed that Gilad raised the point of ethics only to let the point die in his blanket absolution, as if the religious theorists bear no blame for adherents who act out the anti-Gentile precepts. I hope we hear from Gilad in this regard.

From R Shapira

Today hamelech was written by a looney tune.  He represents nobody including chabad (he's as much chabad as Shmuly boteach)

And listen, it's really hard to argue with someone who gets the ideas of Judaism off random websites. You can do it if you like, it's a free world but you k ow anyone can write anything on the Internet and you really ought to do more serious scholarly research before you arrive at such conclusions. Just sayin.

clip_image001[3]From Edgar Suter


I am seeking a good will discussion of ethics, not opening a prosecutorial case at the Hague, so I mention salient data points (e.g., Simon ben Yohai and Torat HaMelech), not the entire lineage.

Obviously I did not attend yeshiva, but I have spent considerable good-will time in the Judaica sections of university and theological libraries and my shelves are sagging under the weight of Nusner, Graetz, Newman, Eisenmenger, Poliakov, McCaul, St. John Chrysostom, et al.—even Jones and Shamir. :-)   Please do not infer that my study is the Judaic analog of couch-potato surfing Jack Chick comic books on Catholicism.

We Catholics too have no shortage of loons, but at some point, “the other guy is a loon” leaves only one authority standing—and the prudent among us should ameliorate these issues before we stand at His Judgment Seat.


From Gilad Atzmon

Hello everybody.. I am touring in Japan and do not be much time in my disposal... I also believe that a fruitful civilized  discussion of this issues is essential.. I don't think that any of us can vindicate or incriminate Judaism as whole ...  .. We may not even  agree amongst ourselves what Judaism is.. What we could do instead is verifying  what certain problematic segments suggest.. Decide whether they are genuine and then understand their meaning or even different meanings.. Such am approach could lead towards a greater understanding of the  relationships between Jews and their spiritual heritage ...we may even grasp what drive Orthodox Jews in israel and buying toward  militancy..

From Tom Mysiewicz (on the shamireader list)

Israel neglected to mention that Jeremiah is not part of the Torah and is considered one of many Biblical “old wives tales” by Talmudists, i.e., anything after the first 5 books.
As to the generally accepted Talmudic quotes these relate to public disclosure made during public sedition trials in 1944.  I find it hard to believe that a Federal Prosecutors would not have strenuously objected to their being entered into evidence if, as Israel maintains, they were forgeries.  See evidentiary photoreproductions in the complete work:
I always think if we are truly trying to have a discourse we need to look at the situation objectively.  Israel does not explain how Israeli behavior is well in line with the allegedly forged Talmudic passage.  And there are dozens of utterances by Rabbis and officials in Israel that would indicate the quotes are NOT forgeries.
As for the “yolk”--why is a child born to a Jewish mother assumed to have the yolk?  Why are Jews generally forbidden to marry non Jews?  Where in the Torah does it show “Jewish" (no Jews yet, of course) matrilineal lineage?.  Are non-Jews allowed to directly own productive land in Israel?  The list is endless.