I recently received some comments to our discussion about the concept of celibacy in Christianity and how that relates to Judaism. I would like to address those comments written by want to take the time to address them. The small font text is what was sent to me by Stephen James Schneider of Make Ridge, British Columbia (in Canada). I am only posting the first half of his comments because he raised some interesting points, but the second half of what he wrote is the standard missionary drivel that we've had to deal with before, so I'm just leaving it out for now.
Good evening, Rabbi Chaim:
I'm not sure if this needs to be said, but (just in case) should anything in the comments below seem offensive or even blasphemous, it was not my intent to be rude or inconsiderate of your feelings. We hold different beliefs to be true, but I respect your right to believe what you do and am hopeful that the reverse is also true on your part. I do know that I can benefit from your knowledge of Scripture and your wisdom even though we belong to different faiths. Hopefully, you will be able to help me answer some questions and to further develop my understanding of Scripture. Oh, and (just so you know) I have very thick skin, so you don't need to mince words unless you want to.I recently found your blog and this post while searching for information regarding Jewish marriage customs in the 1st Century and their application with respect to the betrothal of the Virgin Mary, Jesus' parthogenic birth, and her husband Joseph. I'm a Roman Catholic Christian, a follower of (as you amusedly (from my perspective) put it) the "bastard from Bethlehem", who understands that it is impossible to fully understand Christianity without understanding the Jewish roots of that faith, and who is in the process of figuring out the correct interpretations of certain Catholic doctrines, ones (the interpretations) that are in line with the Torah, Psalms, Prophets, etc. if not necessarily the Talmud, although ideally also consistent with it. Your blog raised questions and ideas that don't relate to Moses and his black wife (Zipporah?), but that I am hopeful you will be able to clarify.
Despite past experiences with well-mannered Christians turning to me to innocently ask me a few questions, I will nonetheless assume good faith on your part and try to take you seriously. But I must point out one thing that you wrote so far with which I strongly disagree and you should take into consideration. You wrote, “We hold different beliefs to be true, but I respect your right to believe what you do and am hopeful that the reverse is also true on your part.” That sentence smacks of the thinking man’s worst enemy: relativism. If you believe something to be true, then the view which opposes you is false and nobody has the “right” to hold a false position. You shouldn’t assume that just because you have granted me the “right” to believe what I do that I should grant you the same leeway. If you hold something false, then it’s still false.
Do I understand "Hashem" to be a way to not write or say one of the 11 names of G*d derived from the Tetragrammaton? I've been told that Jews do not believe it proper to write or say aloud any of the names of G*d, but I'm not sure of the source in the Torah or Talmud regarding this. Exodus 23:13 talks of the names of other gods and not the one and only true G*d that we both serve and love, whether you believe that or not. What does "Hashem" mean (translated) in English? Is it similar to "Adhonai", "Lord of All"?
The word Hashem simply means “the Name” in Hebrew. Jews believed that God’s Tetragrammaton should be ineffable, that is, it should not be pronounced. Instead, His four-letter name is read as “Adonai” (which actually means “My master” in the honorific plural form) even though it is not spelled like that. The different between His written name and his verbalized name is alluded to in Exodus 3:15 which mentions both God’s Name and remembrance (i.e. utterance) which are supposed to be two different things. The prevailing custom amongst Jews is to even refrain from referring to God as Adonai except in ritual contexts, so instead we call Him, “Hashem”.
In your ninth paragraph, do you really believe that what you have written is true of all priests and nuns? Of Gentiles who have dedicated their lives to serve G*d as they understand Him? When you stated: "No one else is able to suppress their most natural desires and inhibitions. Catholic Priests who outwardly live a life of "ascetic chastity" are known to be the most debaucherous depraved individuals."
I don't believe that to be a fair or objective statement. If you haven't watched the movie "Spotlight" about the pedophilia by priests in the greater Boston area, it noted that approximately 50% of priests are involved in some sort of sexual (romantic?) relationship and that there were roughly 90 priests in the city that were abusing or had abused children. This works out to approx. 6% of the total priests, bishops, etc. in Boston between 1950 - 2015, the period covered by the journalists' investigation. Refer to the following articles:
Sobering statistics to be sure, which I accept (as a Catholic) to be accurate, but not the picture that you have painted. It occurs to me that perhaps you simply have an extremely strong (or even extraordinary) libido and have made the mistake of believing that yours is average in nature, leading to your belief that "mere mortals" are incapable of resisting these natural urges. I suppose it could also be a Gentile thing; that there is something in the DNA of the Jewish people, but that seems unlikely to me. Variation of libido seems more likely on an individual basis rather than on an ethnic one, thus varying from individual to individual. Your's could simply be on the high end of the spectrum.
I don’t remember exactly what I wrote in “Moses’ Black Wife and Celibacy” and my web filter doesn’t even let me look at that webpage—it’s been close to four years since I wrote that article. But if I remember correctly, I did not just focus on the possibility of pedophilia amongst clergy who have taken oaths of celibacy. I believed I also made the argument that they engage in other illicit sexual activities such as visiting other women (including, nuns) and masturbation. Even if only 2% of Roman Catholic priests are pedophiles, that does not mean that 99% are not secretly or even openly engaging in some other sorts of illicit sexual activity. I will grant you that as much as 1% of the world’s male population can be characterized as asexual, perhaps they have higher representation in the halls of the Church.
By the way, I think it is considered ungentlemanly to speak about other people’s libidos or sexual drives. My personal life has no bearing on the discussion. Your implied ad hominem attack against the Jewish people for possibly having a higher disposition for strong libidos is not only offensive, but belays much ignorance. The Jewish people are not just a race of people who can be identified through DNA analysis, but they are also an opt-in religion which accepts people from any other race. Thus, there is no such thing as “Jewish DNA” (granted, there might be certain things which are more common in Jews, but remember Jews can come from any race).
Deuteronomy 9:4-8 makes it clear that the ancient Israelites were not chosen by G*d to be His (first) chosen people because of spiritual superiority over Gentiles, and I expect the same is true regarding any physical superiority. As I understand it, G*d doesn't "play favourites", but rather selected Israel to be a people set aside from Gentile nations to serve as an example for what G*d commands of Gentiles as well. We Gentiles were never under the Mosaic Covenant (Law), but it serves to us as a guide to what G*d seeks from us spiritually. The Law is, after all, both spiritual and physical (written) in nature; unlike Jews, Gentiles are to follow its spiritual principles, precepts, and commands. Jews are, of course, to follow both, and it is by the standard of the Law that they will be judged by G*d when the time comes.
This paragraph is true. Although, in truth, gentiles are excluded from certain commandments and it is not recommended that they follow those commandments. Instead, gentiles are supposed to follow the Seven Noahide Laws and not the 613 commandments of the Torah. But, indeed the Torah could serve as precedent for the general spirit of the law to which gentiles should strive to adhere. The gentiles will only be judged according to the Noahide laws, nobody expects more of them—even in the End of Days.
I firmly believe that faith can move (metaphorical) mountains and that there are many people who have learned to discipline their minds and bodies to the degree necessary to achieve perpetual celibacy, including many priests, nuns, Buddhist monks, etc. One does not need to be "damaged" (unhealthy) in some way to master one's worldly (physical) desires and cravings; one does have to be dedicated to one's reasons for doing so. I believe the Essenes were an example of Jews who learned (with difficulty) how to do so. Moses, of course, was able to do so easily, not having any temptation to give into these natural urges, but that hardly means that others are (with greater difficulty) incapable of it. And G*d and faith can work wonders (miracles).
This paragraph contradicts the previous one. Previously, you granted that the Torah should serve as precedent for the type of law that even gentiles should follow and now you are arguing against the spirit of Torah Law that you can be “holier” than the Torah by abstaining from sex completely. You can firmly believe whatever you want, but that does not make it true. Whether they like to admit it or not, all red-blooded men have certain urges which it is impossible for them to indefinitely suppress. Period. The Torah Law requires Jewish men to procreate by fathering at least one boy and girl. Isaiah (45:18) says that God did not create the world for nothingness, He created the world to be populated. Tradition understands Isaiah’s comment to obligate gentiles in procreation, as well. There is no way out of this.
You claim that the Essenes were able to live a pure sexless life. What do you know about the Essenes? Anything we know about them is from Josephus who is not known for being such a reliable source, but even he doesn’t say anything about them completely abstaining from sex, he only writes that they were ascetic and OCD about ritual impurity. And anyways, the Essenes were probably some fringe group on the extreme edge of Judaism and cannot be representative of true Jewish tradition and adherence to the Torah Law.
If I understand the Jewish marriage process in the 1st Century at least, the Virgin Mary was betrothed to Joseph although the marriage had not (yet?) been consummated, so I fail to see how Jesus could be called a bastard as His mother and step-father were married fully under Jewish law.
The term “betrothal” in this context is somewhat of a misnomer. In Jewish Law, there are two steps in marriage: Kiddushin and nissiun. Kiddushin is what people call “betrothal” but is much more than simply declaring a woman as his intended future wife. Kiddushin actually creates the marriage from a legal standpoint. Once Kiddushin has been effected, a woman is considered a married woman and any sexual act which commits with another man is considered adultery and she may be liable for the death penalty. For all intents and purposes, Kiddushin creates the marriage. From Kiddushin and onwards, a man is Biblically prohibited from fornicating with his wife’s close relatives, etc… The only difference is that when a man and woman have only done Kiddushin, then they are forbidden from being intimate with each other until such time as they execute the Nissiun. The second stage of marriage Nissiun is what “consummates” the marriage. Nissiun is the symbolic act of a groom taking his bride into his possession (customarily done under a wedding canopy) and the recitation of certain blessing in the presence of ten Jewish men. Afterwards, the couple may engage in sex. In the 1st century, Nissuin was usually done about 6 months after Kiddushin to give the families of the bride and groom time to prepare for the wedding. From what I understand, Skank Mary was in a Kiddushin relationship with Joseph at the time that she fornicated with a Roman soldier named Pandra. In doing so, Mary lost her virginity and became pregnant. Perhaps to save face and try to finagle her way out of a severe punishment, she claimed that she was impregnated divinely.
While the rabbinic community does not accept this, Christians believe that Jesus' birth was parthogenic in nature. His not having a human father means that there was no adultery on Mary's part (as per Isaiah?), making it impossible for Him to be a bastard. Of course, I do understand that your beliefs cannot allow you to accept a virgin birth, but parthogenesis is an authentic medical possibility that occurs when two naturally occuring genetic mutations that do not naturally occur together do occur together. Even the late Christopher Hitchens, a famous Antithiest, did reluctantly have to admit the possibility of a parthogenic birth with respect to Jesus, and he refused to admit that G*d was anything more than a primitive myth, so that's something significant. Parthogenesis would be (and is) easily possible for G*d who also preserved Jeremiah's sperm in bathwater until it could "take seed" in his daughter.
First of all, you spelled it wrong. It’s Parthenogenesis. The Parthenogenesis claim is quite laughable. Even my layman’s knowledge of biology understands that it is basically a glorified form of meosis cell division, which would theoretically mean that a cell from Mary’s body split into two and from that developed an entire human being (which is a phenonmoen which obviously has never been observed in any mammal, let alone in humans!) who had the exact same DNA as Mary. So then, Jesus was a woman. Maybe that’s why Jesus is traditionally depicted as having long hair. But I don’t get it because Jesus is actually a male name attested to in the Bible. Maybe then again, we all know the story of Pope Joan.
Second of all, even if I agree that he did not have a human father, maybe his father was a demon. Maybe he was half-human, half-demon. How would you know it was God Himself? And what did you mean when you wrote “(as per Isaiah?)” are you referring to the prophecy of the birth of Hezekiah?
Third, I don’t understand why you mentioned Christopher Hitchens as an authority. We both agree that he is an idiot!
About that, as it was G*d who made this happen, is it correct to say that this pregnancy could not have been classified as incestuous (making it a sin for Jeremiah) and the child would not have been a bastard despite Jeremiah not being married to his daughter (which would have been very wrong)? After all, technically, the child's human parents were not married, whereas Mary and Joseph actually were.
Okay, let’s clear up some misconceptions. When I speak about a “bastard” I am actually referring to the Biblical status of a mamzer which is not defined as a child born out of wedlock (don’t worry, the Jerusalem Post also made the same mistake, see here). A mamzer is defined as a child of a mamzer or the child of a union of two people who are banned from marriage with a prohibition punishable by kares. That is, if a Jewish man has sex with his mother, sister, mother-in-law, aunt, living wife’s sister, etc…, then the resulting child is a bastard. This includes a man who has sex with a married woman. Of course, when Skank Mary had sex with the Roman soldier, the resulting child is not technically a mamzer because his father is not Jewish. I just like to him the Bastard from Bethlehem for the fun of it.
I don’t understand your claim that contrasts the story of Ben Sira with Jesus “the child's human parents were not married, whereas Mary and Joseph actually were.” The fact that Mary and Joseph were married has no bearing on the situation, if Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ father (it was a Roman soldier or, if you want to be silly, it was a demon, or if you want to be even sillier…).
Now we move on to the story of Ben Sira. First of all, as you might know, that story is of dubious origins. The son of the earliest person to have supposedly recorded the story claimed that his father never said such a thing (if you could read Hebrew, see here). Secondly, even if this story is true, that doesn’t mean that the resulting child is not a mamzer. It is actually a big question amongst contemporary scholars about whether a woman who becomes pregnant with the semen of a man whom she cannot marry, but without a prohibited act of sexual intercourse is the child considered a mamzer or not. The practical ramification of this disagreement is whether the child of a married woman who was artificially inseminated by another (Jewish) man is considered a mamzer. In practice, the prevailing understanding is in accordance with the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein that such a child is not a mamzer, but the Satmer Rebbe does disagree.
In short, I am conceding your point that Jesus was not technically a bastard, but vehemently ruling out the possibility of immaculate conception.
You mentioned that Deborah the Judgess may have been the reincarnation of Moses' wife Zipporah. Is reincarnation a part of what Jews believe happens after death? I didn't think it was; I thought that was Buddhists and faiths related to eastern philosophy (mysticism?). Is reincarnation the means by which Elijah will return and (if so) will he remember his previous life or lives? Spiritually, he will, of course. I mean physically; with his (new?) physical brain? If I understand correctly, Elisha saw Elijah carried up into heaven in a vision, although not necessarily the 3rd (?) heaven. Physically, if a whirlwind is anything like a tornado, it's not hard to conclude what would have happened to Elijah's physical body. As to where it (ie. his corpse?) was "spit out" of such a whirlwind is anyone's guess, but a body minus its soul is not that important, not even the body (shell) of a great Prophet like Elijah. It's Elijah's soul that is important and that was carried into the heavens, though which heaven I'm not sure of. Or would Elijah's spiritual journey have ended in his being delivered to "Abraham's Bosom" in Sheol, two concepts that I am still in the process of learning about? And is there any teaching about Enoch being a previous life of Elijah?
Lots of good questions. There was a dispute about the concept of reincarnation with R. Saadia Gaon opposing such an idea, but ever since the revelation of Kabbalah, it has basically been universally accepted amongst Jews with a few prominent skeptics. I don’t know exactly how Elijah will return, only time will tell. It should be any day now… We were once redeemed in the month of Nissan and we are destined to be redeemed then again. There are different teachings about Elijah the Prophet returning to This World in different forms and connections between him and the story of Enoch, but I think I will hold off on speaking about such deep ideas in a public forum.
As I have thus far been successful in finding interpretations of doctrines that are in line with the Torah, Psalms, Prophets, etc. but sometimes not the Talmud, it seems more and more (as I proceed) that the Christian and Jewish faiths are not at odds fundamentally; it's simply a matter of determining, with a circumcised heart and mind, what the correct interpretations are for this to be true, and for Christianity (as it existed in the 1st Century) to be a natural evolution of Judaism (as it existed in the 1st Century) based on the Hebrew Scriptures and their Greek translation, which the Dead Sea Scrolls have demonstrated is extremely accurate and faithful to the Hebrew (Scriptural) source material that was translated.
It has been proven time and again that the Written Scriptures are completely nonsensical and meaningless unless one has a tradition in how to interpret them. For every doctrine and philosophy you might try to draw out from the Torah, Psalms or Prophets or other books of the Bible, I can find you other sources in the Bible which seem to imply the exact opposite. You must use the Oral Law alongside the Written Law in order to get the whole picture. That Oral Law is reflected in the Talmud and other Rabbinic writings and is an indispensable part of understanding the otherwise closed book that is the Bible.
The most significant point of disagreement is, of course, who we respectively believe the Messiah to be and whether He (and Elijah) have come once before, roughly 2000 years ago. Both faiths hold that Elijah and the Messiah are coming; Christians simply believe that it is a case of returning rather than coming for the first time.
I’m not sure if it is the most significant point of disagreement, but it is definitely a significant point of disagreement.
Where the disagreement comes in, as I understand it, is with the Christian belief that the Messiah, willingly humbling Himself to serve G*d as the Suffering Servent Isaiah foretold, decisively defeated the single, greatest enemy of Israel and the entire world: the spiritual consequences of sin, spiritual death, as only a Messiah could be expected to successfully do. Due to this singular victory on the level of spiritual reality, the forgiveness of sins (past, present, and future; universally across time) "became" possible, thus allowing humanity to stand before G*d justified in His sight and His love.
The sacrifice of animals could never be entirely sufficient to cancel out the sins of human beings, simply because animals are not human beings. Those sacrifices, as I understand it, were instead a physical foreshadowing of what G*d always had planned to make happen in order to undo the damage (Original Sin) that Adam and Eve caused with their rebellion against Him. One man, the first man, caused Original Sin and so it necessitated another, the Messiah, to defeat (negate) it and thus make the salvation of Jews and Gentiles alike possible. The question becomes whether this victory on the part of the Messiah, whomever He may be, has already happened or is yet to be accomplished.
This is another major point of disagreement. We Jews do not believe that because of Adam’s sin all of mankind is damned for eternity. We believe that any sin can ultimately be forgiven and we do not need sacrifices to achieve that forgiveness. We can simply return our hearts to God, refrain from the sins previously committed, and repent our ways. Sacrifices are never brought for willful sinning, only as an atonement to help one feel as though his repentance is accepted for committing a sin by mistake. The main principle is repentance. X-tians believe that man cannot rectify his sins and must use a sacrificial person or “lamb” whose death somehow fixes those sins. I know it doesn’t make sense, but that’s why X-ianity holds. The Messiah’s role will be to show people how to repent and come closer to God, not to die as a punishment for Adam’s original sin. There is more to talk about this, but again I do not want to speak about deep Kabbalistic ideas in a public forum, especially when I am not an expert in the topic.