” The beauty of Thora is like a beautiful princess furtively appearing at her window. Only the passionate lover will be able to see her. “
ZOHAR, The book of lights (cabbalah)
Through the spectacles of the Jewish doctor I am, Jewish community life seems to slip aside the essential, and that is why I would like to give my own way of looking at the essential values of Judaism.
Without having practiced Jewish religion according to the rigid prescriptions formulated by rabbis, I remain still very sensible to the messages send by the bible, just as other non-practising Jews did, such as Herzl, Weizman, Ben Gurion, Chagall or Einstein…
I didn’t study extensively Jewish writings, which gives me some virginity in front of the Jewish writings and gives me the opportunity to make commentaries without first thoughts.
Don’t misunderstand the thoughts that will follow. They are not intended to destroy values that are cherished by thousands of people, and for which thousands of people sacrificed everything, even their lives.
No, the main reason, justifying this reflexion, is to start a constructive dialog with all the people interested in the Jewish people and its contribution to mankind.
In the first book Genesis one doesn’t tell us in a simple minded way that God the father made a man. Although this text, at first glance even a little childish, tells us that genesis of the earth succeeded in 6 days. Which seems incredible in the light of nowadays science and which is leading us to close this book thinking that if the rest is so little credible, this book must be one more legend. But still, it is based on a reality. This reality is the creation of life on earth. Although described in a syncopated chronology, it is – unlike most of the legends – without fundamental contradiction with scientific observation. And when we read the text very carefully one is struck by something very peculiar:
That is that between the creation of the universe and the god figure which is according to the bible at the origin of the universe, there is the verb: “…Vayomer Elohim yehi or…” “…And god says let light be…”
Without trying to define the role of neither a god nor what he has done or not done, the message is clear:
The message, the verb, the divine word is the key element of the story of genesis. (more…)
The bible doesn’t describe God. It is revealed by a very vague definition which is: YE-HO-VE-H (or Jehovah) which is the acronym of the phrase” Yech Hou Veyiyeh Hou “, “The one who always is and always will be”, (The eternal one).
Our anthropomorphic tendency wants us to imagine a kind of “God the father” who imposes his will like a man, like a father, like a king, like a tyrant. The French word for God, “Dieu” is the French pronunciations of the Greek word for the god Zeus, archetype of God the Father. In English, the word God is derived from the Indo-European root “gheu” = to invoke, and “gheu-tu” = the invoked. So French and English don’t mean the same when they talk about god. God in English could mean “mother” as often seen on battlefields where the last invoked person in mortal agony is “mother”. Opposed to that, “Dieu” means “father”, the one who rules and has to be obeyed.
But what has always existed, and will always exist are the biological and physical codes. (more…)
How can we define a religion?
A religion is a code of conduct specific to a group. Erich Fromm in his book ” To Have or to be” says that codes of conduct can exist completely out of a divine context. This was the case in the communist countries.
According to Maimonides in the “guide for the lost”, religion has a goal. The main goal of religion is to keep peace in a society.
Religious codes of conduct are acquired in the family and at school. Even lay people present conduct and convictions acquired during their education. It’s only when lay people are confronted with different cultures that passively instilled conduct and convictions related to a religion become apparent because different from other cultures. (more…)
The interdiction to represent god as a man or an animal had of course the aim to prevent anthropomorphism. And thus avoid coping with the laws of life the same way one copes with laws of men with all the misconceptions raising from that attitude. For example the sacrifice of children by early idol worshippers.
Unfortunately when one reads the prayers written by the rabbis, which were literally translated by Christian priests and later by the Koran, these prayers as poetic and wise as they can be, are full with anthropomorphic misconceptions in flagrant contradiction with the biblical message. The interdiction of anthropomorphism is a major interdiction, present in the 10 commandments: “You will not make an image of god!” and you will not bow before any representation of creatures presents in the air, the earth or the sea. Major commandment set aside by Catholicism (but restored by Protestantism) hair of the Greco-Roman traditions of Zeus (the etymology of the French word “Dieu”) god the father of the half-god-half-man Hercules
And yet in the prayer ” Avinou malquénou chebachamaim ouvaaretz… ” translated in Latin by ” Pater noster quod est in coelum… “, in French by ” Notre père qui êtes aux cieux… ” and in English by “heavenly father who is in the skies” god is pictured as a father, with the character of a father, severe and protecting as a king.
As nice as this prayer can be, the simplistic interpretation of it is able to let the biblical notion of deity to be misunderstood: What is and will be, and not the projection of man’s character, on the laws ruling the universe. (more…)
The bible abounds with still actual medical rules. Some subjects seem to be very modern because they involve contemporary ethical subjects such as “the carrying mother”. Rachel, the wife of Jacob, who is infertile, brings about this subject. Her maid Bilhah will carry the child for her and will deliver between her legs in order to give away the child symbolically to Rachel, mimicking the delivery of the first of Jacob’s 12 sons: Dan. Sex related subjects are very modern and humane in this episode.Without knowing the origin of infections, Hebraic terminology introduced a word to define every contaminated thing. This word is “touma” which is derived from the word “meth” or death. Touma means something that leads to death.The liquid pouring out of a lesion is “touma”, so everything that has been touched by these liquids is touma and cannot be used anymore.
This notion of “touma” does not only apply to men but also to houses. A cohen (priest) has to check a patch on a wall with an interval of one week. If he notices growing of the patch he can ask for the demolishing of that house. The stones of that house are not allowed to be reused but have to be thrown away at a “touma” place.
It is only with the invention of the microscope and the work of Pasteur and Koch that the abstract meaning of “touma” acquired a visible reality explaining all the notions of washing, quarantine, ritual bathing, etc… (more…)
Theo Klein in his book “Libérez la thora” recalls us how important justice can be in biblical texts. Justice practised by king Solomon is known by everybody, and during the Middle Ages in Spain justice practised by Jewish juges according to biblical law had the force of law. Even today a lawyer is a much-esteemed professional in Jewish society.In his book “Les Juifs, le monde et l’argent” President Mitterand’s advisor Jacques Attali shows that the introduction of money was the most important progress in humanity introduced by Jews as money was able to compensate for real or presumed injustice. Before money was introduced punishment always consisted of death or physical injury.Thanks to the introduction of money harm that was inflicted to somebody could be repaired on a fair counterpart according to the biblical equality “the worth of an eye for the worth of an eye” which is quoted within the laws of social justice in the bible.
Contrary to the non-Jewish popular belief that blood has to be avenged by blood.
This popular belief is in contradiction with the 10 commands major law: though shall not kill!
Death penalty is always wrong because death is irreversible, and guilt is never 100%. So even if death penalty is described in the bible it was actually never performed as nobody had the right to kill.
Even with all the money of the world one is not able to restore life or an eye, and that’s why corporal punishment is unfair. It can’t be restored after pardon.
A very important notion in the bible is the notion of sacrifice. The main object of the temple in Jerusalem was the sacrifice of animals.
Indeed life is impossible without sacrifice. Life nourishes life! But instead of the sacrifice of an animal just for the material purpose of food, sacrifice will take place in a sacralised shrine to let people take the time to realise that nothing on earth can happen without sacrifice.
Not only animal life is sacrificed. A part of the harvest is sacrificed (truma, or the interdiction to cut the edges of a field or to pick up wheatears. They are kept for the poor), and a part of the land is sacrificed (jubilee, or the return of the earth to its owner after 50 years), and a part of the harvest time is sacrificed (the omer, or sabbatical year when land is supposed to remain untouched), and a part of the personal fortune is sacrificed (tsedaka, or charity).
But the loss of the temple abolished animal sacrifice and the loss of the land abolished harvest sacrifice. (more…)
The notions of good and wrong are very controversial. According to the bible the possibility to distinguish between good and wrong differentiates man from the animal.
This possibility puts man on the same level as the gods (sic! Elohim, in plural as quoted in genesis, which means the old frightening gods, those at the genesis of the earth)
God decides what is good and wrong. The first “good” described in the bible is the creation of the earth and all that is upon it (…and god saw that it was good….). So we can conclude that creation is something good.
The first “wrong” described in the bible is nudity.
But what is nudity? Nudity is a displeasant sensation that is a part of the secondary acquired sexual characteristics during puberty. This displeasant sensation ( called inhibition) is primarily a function of the great cerebral hemispheres. This inhibition can be neutralised by the absorption of alcohol. This inhibition causing embarassement starts usually with puberty and can also affect other parts of the body. During puberty small imperfections become mountain high and are eagerly masked to the eye of others. If this embarassement becomes too important, it can give a neurotic attitude causing “tics”
Of course the environment plays an important role in the acceptance of his own image. Today the research of Freud and other psychanalysts succeeded in unveiling all kind of diseases caused by the fixation of inhibitions even leading to paralysis in extreme cases. Sexual liberation was able to diminish the cases of nevroses caused by the fixation of inhibitions.
It’s a fact that nudity causes pleasant physiological reactions in the watcher. A blessing for procreation, a feeling of embarrassment for the arousing puber. (more…)