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The Other in Jewish Thought and History: Constructions of Jewish Culture and Identity (New Perspectives on Jewish Studies);Rabbinic Dual Morality Governing Jews and Gentiles: A Real Issue. Futility of Exculpations,

Friday, July 14, 2017

 Podwojna moralnosc -double morality  Of this anthology, I focus on the scholarly work of Steven D. Fraade. He squarely faces the double standard on Jews and gentiles, and does so without evasion or apologetics. He notes that, “There are surprisingly few critical treatments of the topic of Jewish attitudes to non-Jews in ancient times.” (p. 159). One commonly hears of the dual morality in the Talmud [PODWOJNA MORALNOSC], but the reader quickly learns, from this work, that it is true of other rabbinical literature as well.



Steven D. Fraade is Mark Taper Professor of the History of Judaism at Yale University. His candor is refreshing.

**DUAL MORALITY ON INDEMNIFICATION FOR A GORED OX. JEWS ARE SELECTIVELY EXEMPT

Author Fraade quotes from MISHNAH BABA QAMMA 4:3

“‘If an ox of an Israelite gored an ox of a gentile, the owner is not culpable. But if an ox of a gentile gored an ox of an Israelite, regardless whether it is harmless (TAM) or an attested danger (MUAD), the owner pays full damage.’” (p. 147)

**DUAL MORALITY ON BLOODSHED, RETURN OF STOLEN PROPERTY, ETC.

Author Fraade quotes from TOSEFTA ‘ABODAH ZARAH 8(9)4-5:

“‘Concerning bloodshed, how so? A gentile against a gentile or a gentile against an Israelite is culpable (HAYYAB), [whereas] an Israelite against a gentile is exempt (PATUR). Concerning robbery, whether stealing or robbing, or taking a beautiful woman captive (Deut 21:11), or the like: a gentile against a gentile or a gentile against an Israelite is prohibited (ASUR), [whereas] an Israelite against a gentile is permitted (MUTAR).” (p. 149)

In addition, author Fraade quotes from SIFRE TO DEUTERONOMY 344:

“‘The robbed property of a gentile is permitted, while the robbed property of an Israelite is forbidden, but we will not report this to the government.’” (p. 153).

**A JEW SHOULD AVOID ROBBING A GENTILE—WHEN NECESSARY FOR TACTICAL REASONS (PUBLIC RELATIONS)

Author Fraade quotes from TOSEFTA BABA QAMMA 10:15:

“‘One who robs from a gentile is liable to return [what he robbed]. Robbing from a gentile is viewed more strictly than robbing from an Israelite…because of profanation of the divine name.’” (p. 150).

In addition, author Fraade quotes from TALMUD BABA QAMMA 4:3 (4b):

“‘At that moment, Rabban Gamaliel decreed that the robbed property of a gentile be forbidden, because of profanation of the divine name.’” (p. 155).

**ANALYSIS: JEWS ALLOWED TO KEEP THE STOLEN PROPERTY OF THE GOYIM

Fraade comments, “Although the sages disagree whether the robbed property of a gentile must be restored, they all agree that there is no such legal obligation to restore the lost property of a gentile…In other words, a Jew MAY retain the stolen property of a gentile, EXCEPT where by so doing, he would bring disrepute to the Jewish NOMOS. Legally, the gentile’s lost property falls outside the scriptural obligation to return the lost property to one’s ‘brother’ (Deut 22:3), but metalegally, under certain circumstances (which cannot be fully predetermined), it should be treated as if within.” (p. 157; Emphasis in original).

**THE ANTI-GOYISM IN RABBINICAL LITERATURE IS A VERY REAL ISSUE. EXCULPATIONS ARE VACUOUS

We sometimes hear arguments that the offending passages variously are mistranslations, misunderstandings, the imaginations of anti-Semites, or are long-defunct teachings that had self-evidently applied only to the pagan peoples of Talmudic times. Not so! Author Steven Fraade concludes, “Rabbinic rules that treat non-Jewish Others other than they treat their own have troubled interpreters of rabbinic thought from early rabbinic times until the present. From medieval until most recent times, such troubled interpreters have sought to explain away these embarrassing rules: 1) They represent a merely THEORETICAL position that was never accepted in practice. 2) They represent a MINORITY view but not the halakhah (as first expressed in medieval codes). 3) They represent a necessary short-term response to gentile economic or political oppression of the Jews at a very specific time and place in history. These reductive explanations, whatever their apologetic advantages, fail to engage the diversity and complexity of early rabbinic constructions of our problematic: the anomalous place of the gentile within the Jewish NOMOS.’” (pp. 157-158).

**THE AUTHOR’S OWN ARGUABLY-REDUCTIVE EXPLANATION

Fraade attempts to account for the controversial teachings by stating that gentiles had no juridical status within the Jewish NOMOS; that Jewish laws may acknowledge the applicability of gentile laws when they intersect, but without granting them any constitutive bearing on the Jewish NOMOS; and that gentiles are also creatures of God, and so may benefit from the Jewish NOMOS. Thus, the Jewish laws, even when conciliatory to the GOYIM, were essentially based on what, in Fraade’s words, are “complete exclusivity and self-sufficiency of the Jewish NOMOS.” (p. 158).

However, this explanation merely restates the facts: It really doesn’t explain anything. After all, belief in being the Chosen People of God, and of being a self-contained exclusive community with its own laws, is one thing. Teaching that a Jew is not required to grant basic decencies to the GOY, such as indemnifying his gored ox or returning his lost or stolen property, is quite another. It is racism, pure and simple.

Interestingly, Fraade quotes Moses Maimonides, a famous well-learned medieval rabbi who defended the teaching about the Jew not having to indemnify the GOY for a gored ox. Maimonides said, “‘For whoever lacks the human qualities is not a true person, and his purpose is only to serve the true person.’” (p. 160). Notice the presumption in deciding who is or is not a “true person”, if not summarily deciding that a Jew, by virtue of being a Jew, is a “true person”. This has overtones of Jews being a Master Race.

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For a detailed study of Talmudic dual morality, see my review of a book written entirely by Steven D. Fraade: FROM TRADITION TO COMMENTARY.
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