Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Question for the Anti-Defamation League

Here are a couple brief quotes from Jay Michaelson’s review of Peter Schater’s Jesus in the Talmud.

Do Jews Have a Jesus Problem?
By Jay Michaelson
Published in The Forward
April 29, 2009, issue of May 08, 2009.

The image of Jesus that one gets from the Talmud is that of an illicit, sex-crazed black magician who uses trickery to lead Israel astray. In BT Sanhedrin 103a, Jesus is depicted as a poor disciple who “spoiled his food,” which Schafer speculates may be a euphemism for sexual misconduct: “to eat the dish” being a recognized Talmudic euphemism known for the sex act itself. A later emendation adds that he “practiced magic and led Israel astray.” And the virgin birth is ridiculed as a cover-up of Jesus’ true parentage: His mother was an “illicit woman” (another Talmudic locution), perhaps even a prostitute.

Shockingly, however, the Talmud does not shirk responsibility for Jesus’ death. On the contrary, it says that he deserved it and that the Jews did it themselves. Jesus was, the text relates, a sorcerer, an idolater and a heretic who led Israel to idolatry. His conviction was entirely just, and his execution — stoning and then hanging — was carried out in strict accordance with rabbinic law.

Indeed, the texts discussed in the best book of the recent crop, Peter Schafer’s “Jesus in the Talmud,” were once considered so outrageous that they were self-censored from European editions of the Talmud.

My question for the Anti-Defamation League, and for all those who argue that it is “hateful” to ask for the name, with proof, of one person killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz, who charge that only a bigot would ask: are these passages from the Jewish Talmud, a reference work used by rabbis for centuries to indoctrinate their communities, not a bigoted work? How are they not? Or were these passages written by men who could have been convinced to change their minds?

Rabbi Steinfeld? Have you discussed these passages in the Talmud with a broad swath of Christian students at Humboldt University? No? Why not?

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