Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


The 10 Big Lies About Jews & Judaism

posted by David Klinghoffer
Not long ago, I wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times in which I briefly alluded to Jewish and Christian beliefs about the Afterlife. Just before the piece was to be put to bed, I got a querying phone call from my editor, who was not Jewish. She said that her Jewish colleagues had flagged my point about the Afterlife as a factual error. Jews, they told her, do not belief in an Afterlife!
These were smart people, editors at the L.A. Times. And they were Jews, who felt they knew enough about their ancestral religion to make a point of it when they saw a writer drifting into error on the subject. Yet it was they who were mistaken, not me.
With apologies to my friend Michael Medved, author of the recent bestseller The 10 Big Lies About America, I was thinking today that it could be interesting to compile and annotate a list of the 10 Big Lies people tell about Jews and Judaism. No, not the obvious, crazy ones you’re thinking of — blood libels, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, various 9/11 conspiracy theories about how Jews working in the Twin Towers were warned ahead of time about the attack and decided to call in sick that day. Those are lies that nobody who’s smart, sane, and not an anti-Semite would believe. Although they get lots of attention from debunkers, they are really far less interesting than the untruths believed by many intelligent, educated, and nice people who might be Jewish themselves.
Here’s my list — the first item will be familiar to anyone who’s followed this blog of late. Add your own lies in the comment box! But remember, these are lies about Judaism as a stream of religious thought going back to deep antiquity, and about the Jews as a continuously existing people. We’re not talking about pop sociology here — what the statistically average American Jew alive today thinks about himself and his faith — but about theology and history. In no particular order:
1.) Judaism never had a problem assimilating Darwinian theory. It’s intelligent design that should be rejected by all Jews as a purely Christian idea, and totally treif.
2.) Judaism never had a mission to convert others or persuade them to drop their faulty religious or secular worldviews in favor of Torah’s view of reality.
3.) Judaism has no apocalyptic vision of the End of the World, similar to that in Christianity’s book of Revelation and certainly not one with a particular year as the deadline for wrapping up world history, as in the modern 2012 Mayan calendar doomsday prediction. By the same token, Judaism is a purely this-worldly religion with little interest in Heaven, and no belief in Hell.
4.) The natural political stance of a believing Jew is liberalism.
5.) Judaism is a uniquely rational religion, unlike Christianity, that has always disdained superstitious beliefs and practices such as astrology, alchemy, demons, and the like. Such ideas are simply the detritus of history and can be safely ignored by every Jew. Any parallels between Judaism and various pagan religions of antiquity is simply a coincidence, from which nothing interesting can be learned about the ultimate spiritual reality.
6.) For a Jew, secularism poses no threat whereas nearly everything about Islam should be seen in a sinister light. Christianity used to be a threat but after 9/11, it was replaced by Islam.

7.) Modern Zionism arises naturally from Jewish religious thinking going back to the Bible.
8.) The Jews are primarily an ethnic grouping, a people, a family, a race — not an idea.
9.) The history narrated in the Torah is basically a myth, a fiction woven together from strands of folk tales long after the events in question purportedly occurred. For example, there is no serous historical basis for believing that the Exodus happened as the Torah records it.
10.) Judaism’s problem with Christianity has to do primarily with issues surrounding Jesus’ life and death. Judaism never countenanced belief in a Messiah who comes back from the dead, having failed to transform the world when he was alive, as Jesus failed. Jews would never accept the idea of God’s taking physical form. God could never be seen as possessing different aspects — neither three (as in the “Trinity”), nor ten, nor any other number.
So there you have it. Instead of “lies,” you may wish to call these “misunderstandings,” “instances of historical or theological illiteracy,” or the like. In any event, not one of them is true, certainly not as stated. Yet I would guess that most people who consider themselves liberal, urbane, and sophisticated types — including most Jews — would assent to most or all these.


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Frank

posted August 21, 2009 at 12:42 am


David, I bet this book would entertain you and your readers for hours:
What You Thought You Knew About Judaism: 341 Common Misconceptions About Jewish Life (early 1990s)by Reuben P. Bulka
He was compelled to follow up with “More of What You Thought…” [The author did not pay me to promote his book :-) ]
One caution on number 10: “Judaism never countenanced belief in a Messiah who comes back from the dead, having failed to transform the world when he was alive, as Jesus failed. Jews would never accept the idea of God’s taking physical form. ”
While true, your readers could way too easily interpret that as implying that these were the beliefs of the majority of Jews throughout history, or that you are either a Messianic Jew or a Jew for Jesus yourself. Actually, the form in which you expressed some of the other items on the list also lend themselves to misinterpretation of this sort.



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Zionism-Israel

posted August 21, 2009 at 7:54 am


Generalizations about theology are dangerous. Referring to your points:
1- Evolution – The late Zvulun Hammer of the National Religious Party had a debate on the Knesset floor with Shulamit Aloni that could have been a scene in the Scopes trial. Orthodox Judaism is opposed to the teaching of evolution it seems.
2- All of the evidence is that in ancient time Judaism engaged extensively in proselytizing, so that up to 10% of people in the mediterranean world (maybe 10 million or more) were Jewish and or “Yerey Elohim” The activity stopped only because it was outlawed by Chritanity.
3- There are plenty of visions of apocalyptic violence in the old testament, and the Kabbalists occupy their time with calculation of the “Ketz” – end of the world – through numerological calculations. It is hard to believe you don’t know this. Your dictum about heaven and hell contradicts your own assertion at the start of the article that Jews believe in an afterlife – Olam Habah. The truth is that the belief was added to Judaism and did not exist in ancient times, and has many variants.
5- A lot of superstition exists in the framework of Jewish religious belief and sometimes becomes part of it. The notion of physical resurrection, condemned by Maimonides, is the basis of orthodox objections to organ transplants, since the donor would be missing an essential body part on the day of judgment.
6- Moshe Feiglin and most orthodox Jews have quite a different view about secularism and fight it in every way possible. Hassidic sects put excommunication bans on members who read foreign language books and newspapers. Haredi schools refuse to teach secular subjects. Ultraorthodox inveigh against the secular Israeli government. What is true is the opposite of what you wrote.
7- Zionism could not arise until it freed itself from the religious establishment, which opposed any secular movement at all. Return en masse to the land is forbidden by the Talmud in Massekhet Berakhot, until and unless the Messiah comes.
9-Orthodox Judaism believes in the literal truth of the Torah, so what you are describing is your belief and that of some archaeologists perhaps. The early history is dubious. Most of the history in its essentials – especially the later parts – has a basis in fact. Archaeological findings like the inscription in the cave of Hezekiah confirm passages in the bible that relate to the siege of Jerusalem and digging a tunnel to seek an alternative water supply. The Jews lived in the land and had a kingdom here. It is not a “myth” and those who say it is are themselves propagating myths.
10 – The Jewish messiah was a person, not a god. His job was to restore the kingdom and judge the world as per Isaiah. He had to be a son of David in the male line and an heir to the throne. Jesus fit none of the requirements.
There are many versions of Judaism and interpretations, but you should not present your particular ideas as the authoritative ones. They are not. I wish orthodox Jews accepted evolution but wishing doesn’t make it so.



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Frank

posted August 21, 2009 at 10:30 am


Wow, Zionism-Israel, you really missed a couple of key words in David’s post. It was a list of lies, remember?



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Marian

posted August 21, 2009 at 1:33 pm


All of the “Big Lies” are true about SOME kinds of Judaism and SOME kinds of Jews. But ANY sentence that starts out “Jews don’t…” is inevitably going to be false. Most of the “Big Lies” arise out of Classical Reform Judaism as promulgated to the public in the 1950s. The most important thing the non-Jewish world needs to know about Judaism is that it comes in almost as many flavors as Christianity and Islam.



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LazerA

posted August 21, 2009 at 2:41 pm


David:
While many of the “Lies” you have cited are quite untrue, there are some problems:
#1 Basically accurate, evolution remains a controversial in Judaism.
#2 Problematic. While Judaism certainly does want non-Jews to abandon their false beliefs, it does not seek to convert them to Judaism (i.e. mikva, milah, acceptance of mitzvos).
#3 Basically accurate. (And, Z-I, the Jewish belief in the afterlife is not a later addition. Just because the Sadducees say something doesn’t make them right.)
#4 Yes, this is an obvious lie.
#5 Mixed bag. Judaism explicitly prohibits the adoption of pagan practices and superstitions. At the same time, this has happened over time, and it is sometimes hard to know from where an unusual custom originated. Also, while Jewish may forbid or discourage engaging in certain practices (magic, astrology, etc.) it does not necessarily deny their existence. (And, Z-I, Maimonides did not deny physical resurrection; on the contrary, he taught it explicitly.)
#6 Basically accurate, except that I think most liberal Jews still see Christianity as the primary threat to Judaism.
#7 Yes, this is a lie (but not as obvious as #4).
#8 Partial lie. Judaism is about the teachings of the Torah. The Jewish people were chosen for the purpose of representing these teachings. So, while Judaism is integrally associated with a people, it isn’t fundamentally about that people.
#9 Yes, an outright lie.
#10 I’m a bit confused by this one. The first sentence is arguably untrue, at least in part. The rest of the paragraph, however, is all basically accurate:

“Judaism never countenanced belief in a Messiah who comes back from the dead, having failed to transform the world when he was alive, as Jesus failed. Jews would never accept the idea of God’s taking physical form. God could never be seen as possessing different aspects — neither three (as in the “Trinity”), nor ten, nor any other number.”
I would be interested in hearing where you got any idea to the contrary. I only know of one current Jewish group where ideas like this are espoused, and they are, tragically, headed rapidly in the direction of the Christians before them.



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Turmarion

posted August 21, 2009 at 3:11 pm


As a Gentile, I don’t have a horse in this race, but I am a little puzzled by point 10:
10.) Judaism’s problem with Christianity has to do primarily with issues surrounding Jesus’ life and death. Judaism never countenanced belief in a Messiah who comes back from the dead, having failed to transform the world when he was alive, as Jesus failed. Jews would never accept the idea of God’s taking physical form. God could never be seen as possessing different aspects — neither three (as in the “Trinity”), nor ten, nor any other number.
I second LazarA in being confused. Is the first sentence the lie or misconception, and the rest an explication? Or is the whole paragraph the lie/misconception, so that the implication is that Judaism does “countenance a belief in a Messiah who comes back from the dead”, etc.? If it’s the latter, it’s really puzzling, since that doesn’t seem in line with normative Judaism; but as I said, it may be the phraseology that’s confusing me.



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kernestm

posted August 21, 2009 at 7:16 pm


Numbered items posted by:
Zionism-Israel
August 21, 2009 7:54 AM
5- A lot of superstition exists in the framework of Jewish religious belief and sometimes becomes part of it. The notion of physical resurrection, condemned by Maimonides, is the basis of orthodox objections to organ transplants, since the donor would be missing an essential body part on the day of judgment.
Hey the worms got it. the blackbird got the worms, the cat got the bird. The cat better be resurrected at the same time, so I can get my parts back!
But I believe God can sort it all out since our bodies will be different, ie spiritual, non-material in nature.
7- Zionism could not arise until it freed itself from the religious establishment, which opposed any secular movement at all. Return en masse to the land is forbidden by the Talmud in Massekhet Berakhot, until and unless the Messiah comes.
Please can you give a reference for “forbidden by the Talmud in Massekhet Berakhot” in the english OT.
10 – The Jewish messiah was a person, not a god. His job was to restore the kingdom and judge the world as per Isaiah. He had to be a son of David in the male line and an heir to the throne. Jesus fit none of the requirements.
Actually He fits ALL the requirements. He came at the right time, but Jewish historians added or subtracted 200 years, I can’t remember just where, so the timing would be wrong. People were healed, raised from the dead, etc.
The world peace doesn’t come until after the prophesies in Daniel, Zechariah,and Malachi, and others. The world is just getting around to that, with world wide attacks on Israel. Eventually all attacking Israel, and the only hope is the Messiah’s return.
“Baruch Ha Bah B Shem Adonai” – Blessed is He Who Comes in the name of the Lord. Then Heaven will release Yeshua to make His triumphant return to begin His reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords on the Throne of David which will sit where the Holy of Holies was once filled with the Spirit of YHVH. Proverbs 30:5-6, after describing YHWH in such a wonderful way, then asking the question, ‘what is His name, and what is His Son’s name, if you know’
Do you know His name?
The gap of 2000 years is so non-jews can seek God and be saved. There is no way I could qualify for heaven unless someone pays my way. There are two sides, and I changed by believing God, and accepting the offer Jesus made. The payment is perhaps not that He actually “paid” any substance, but that the crime was so great that all are condemned, being more dreadful than any normal human being crucified, because of His Godhood. Those who want to can repent and accept the offer Yeshua made, and change to His, that is God’s, side of the divide.
10 -~ I wish orthodox Jews accepted evolution but wishing doesn’t make it so.
Why call God a liar? He made it clear that He created all things, Is your concept of god no bigger than a man? It will take a much bigger God to get Israel out of the coming problems, read Malachi, the last of the prophets.
For those who don’t know some of the circumstances and claims being used to oppose Christians.
Carmel Alert, 14aug09:
“Presently in Israel, and in every Jewish community around the world, what the Rabbi(s) says is considered infallible, even to the point of his words or instructions being contrary to the word of God. This has brought the Jewish people to trust in their Rabbis, or religious leaders, and to obey their every command no matter what it is. It was the Rabbis who changed Yeshua’s name from Yeshua to Yeshu, a word made up of Yod, Shin and Vav, where each letter is the first letter of a word. The words made up of the letters from His ‘new’ name are, Yimah Shemo Vezichro, meaning, may His name and memory be blotted out or erased. In Israel most people do not know who Yeshua is, only Yeshu. In addition to this, when the traditional Jewish prayer books were complied (called ‘Sidur’ in Hebrew) prayers against the name of Yeshua were inserted in order to completely distance anyone who believes in His name from attending the Jewish synagogues which were always the main religious and social gathering places for the Jewish people. These books are used to pray out of during any kind of event (daily prayer times, feasts, the Sabbath etc.) therefore they are known well by those who use them often.
I should also add that many Jews do not heed the Rabbis or practise Judaism at all and are completely secular, however they are still under the same influence that comes down through the generations. As an example, even the most secular Jew will know Yeshua by the name ‘Yeshu’ and will say that He was a Christian and has nothing to do with Israel or the Jewish people.”
LazerA
August 21, 2009 2:41 PM
#3 Basically accurate. (And, Z-I, the Jewish belief in the afterlife is not a later addition. Just because the Sadducees say something doesn’t make them right.)
Sadducees don’t believe in life after death, that is why they are sad, you see.



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David Klinghoffer

posted August 21, 2009 at 9:13 pm


LazerA, I like your bullet-point response. I can back up each of these points and will hope to do so with citations soon.



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Jurgen

posted August 22, 2009 at 11:29 am


Another big fat lie is that a Jew cannot also be a Christian. It is the same as saying an Englishman cannot also be a Christian. DON’T believe this big lie, although certain Rabbis would like you to believe it. If you are of Jewish ancestry, that is, like a Jewish mother, you CAN be Jewish and Christian, heck even Jewish and Buddhist if you really want to be!



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a jew

posted August 22, 2009 at 12:35 pm


i am a conservative jew, humanitarian, child of god.
regarding #1, darwin isnt god. darwinian ideas stemmed from darwin.
if the majority of the population on earth is christian,lutheran, prodestant, catholic, episcopalian, etc, they might all have an easier time believing in darwins ideas…the neuroscience community has adopted some of darwins ideas…
blame who…a society that doesnt know the truth or its own true roots? i wouldnt call it a lie, i would call it not believing in or choosing to believe in misinformation and/or a human beings´ opinion.
regarding #2…if that is a lie, then you are saying that judaism is different from the torah…the practice of judaism and the spirituality of judaism…the torah, where does it say anything about converting? it is not a practice at all unless one wants to of its own volition, to genuinely learn and know judaism and the torah.
regarding #3…how can you say that jews and judaism have no interest in heaven when it states in the prayer books…as it is in heaven, so shall it be on earth… and …as in the days of old.
i personally do not think that there is a hell, but if you personally think that jews do not have any interest at all in heaven, where does that put you? where do you evolve and become more enlightened?
#4. liberalism, socialism, which statistically is the majory of jews, unfortunately as far as im concerned. in america, i would think partially stems from the suffering during ww2…and many of the children that were brought up in such households. however, the main purpose and idea of social responsibility got a bit lost…hence, bleeding heart liberalism, and not 10 percent.
#6 i do not think that many understand the concept of duality…
#7 the stories in judaism, as far as i know and am aware, were stories during a time in history, purported or not, but of realism. people can relate to such stories, however dysfunctional in human relationships or not.
re the afterlife. there is a process of mourning and grieving when a relative or friend passes away. there is a process of respectful grieving and shiva, yartzheit and respect toward the dead during yom kippur…
if jon edward and his television show has any credibility and validity to it, then those that have passed away arent six foot under in a wooden box or in a mosoleum, etc…their soul goes on, and then that opens possible blogs and conversations about the kaballah and the mystical aspects of judaism, etc…which might be a bit more interesting and healthy for evolution towards enlightenment.



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Your Name

posted August 23, 2009 at 2:36 am


Jurgen, can a Jew be a Jew and an axe-murderer at the same time?
(Now, before you accuse me of trying to equate this’n'that, just realize I’m trying to make a point.)



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Jay Trachman

posted August 23, 2009 at 9:57 am


One cannot be a Jew and a Christian at the same time — and only so-called “messianic Jews” believe they can. No one I’ve ever met or spoken to in the entire Jewish community accepts them as Jews. But they can say what they want, to entertain themselves.



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Dave Nichols

posted August 24, 2009 at 12:22 pm


Do you have anywhere that you enlarge on the 10 lies of Jewish faith. I would be interested in your reasoning behind each statement.
Dave Nichols



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Holly

posted August 25, 2009 at 5:57 pm


Gross over-simplification which will mislead the ignorant.



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Mergatroid

posted August 25, 2009 at 8:28 pm


@Zalman: “2. As for content, “The natural political stance of a PRACTICING Jew is liberalism” is not a lie, but emes (truth).”
Really, it depends. (I can’t believe this actually needed to be said.)



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Your Name

posted August 30, 2009 at 12:35 pm


I’m not sure what your point is about these being “lies” about Judaism, when the truth is that you will find Jews who adhere to the beliefs/doctrines you list as well as those that do not.
Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people. That is the best definition of it. There are core beliefs, but even with respect to those beliefs, there are Jews who accept some and reject others. There is no universally accepted canonical body of dogma against which one can enumerate “lies” about what it does or does not state.
With respect to your historical statements, addressing them outside of any religious context, some of them are debatable, in dispute, or else ambiguous as you present them.
I wonder what particular axe to grind you might have in using the highly charged word “lies”, and precisely what your intent is for your post.



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Your Name

posted August 30, 2009 at 2:43 pm


Everybody misses the fundamental point on the difference between Christianity and the Jews. Christ said the Pharisees were wrong in their teaching.
Christ said you have an obligation to love your fellow man, not to take an eye for and eye like it says in the Talmud.
Christian holidays celebrate the birth and resurrection of the Messiah, Jew holidays celebrate the extermination of 70,000 Arabs (Purim, every spring)and military victory (Hanukkah).
There is a huge difference in the way that observant Jews and Christians look at life.



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Mergatroid

posted August 30, 2009 at 3:47 pm


@YourName: “Christ said you have an obligation to love your fellow man, not to take an eye for and eye like it says in the Talmud.”
Tell us what page in the Talmud.
Someone else can tell us where in the Pentateuch it says to love your neighbor as yourself.
@Yourname: “Jew holidays celebrate the extermination of 70,000 Arabs (Purim, every spring)and military victory (Hanukkah).
Don’t forget, YourName, that our military victory at Hanukkah also involved killing bunches of Syrian-Greeks. (That was said sarcastically.) Don’t forget that YOUR BIBLE too gives the reason for Purim. Does that mean that your bible is screwed up, too?



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Jehosophat

posted September 23, 2009 at 1:24 am


Really dumb blog post.



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Huh

posted April 11, 2010 at 4:22 pm


“The Jews are primarily an ethnic grouping, a people, a family, a race — not an idea.”
Um so if anyone wants to join Judaism they would have to be part of a certain ethnic group? How does that make sense? At least in Christianity, they accept most different people of different colors… but come on?
Plus, to me, a lot of these Jewish and Christian religious holidays in America are only appreciated by the so called secular/nonreligious/atheists because it’s a day off from school or work. No one takes it seriously anymore. So if you ask me, to celebrate the victory of whatever that happens like 2,000 years ago is just for a very small amount of people. I am pretty sure people who celebrate Christmas cares more about gifts and parties than loving Jesus. If it’s about spending time with your family, then why is it celebrating Jesus’ birthday? We know many people do not have the intention of celebrating Jesus’ birth. Some people don’t even know what Christmas is about.



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