In response to Herb Silverman’s letter to the editor titled “Religious shift”: Judaism believes in equality for all people. It has always believed this, and there has been no shift on this matter. Humanity was, after all, created in the image of God. God loves all His creatures and the Jewish people are charged with treating all people with a sense of respect and decency, regardless of race or gender. There is no place for racism or discrimination.
The Bible and rabbinic writings that have brought a code of ethics and morals to civilization after civilization are the very teachings that Orthodox Jews, until this very day, follow with great commitment. The respect, sensitivity and kindness manifest in Judaism has always been ahead of its time, and this continues to be the case, in my estimation.
It is true that women and Gentiles are not counted towards the requisite number of people in an Orthodox prayer service (minyan). This is not discrimination nor is it racism. Women and Gentiles are not inferior. Rather, it is God’s law. Men do not give birth and women do not get prostate cancer. Should we accuse God of being sexist? Gentiles are not required to keep kosher. Is God guilty of discrimination too?
I have spent a full decade of my life engaged in post graduate Jewish studies, and I have barely scratched the surface of all there is to learn. I would challenge all those who view Orthodox Judaism as antiquated or discriminatory to study and seek out the truth. Read the Bible, in Hebrew. Learn the Talmud, examine the codes of Jewish law.
In the book of Numbers, Moses sent 12 Jewish, male dignitaries to the land of Israel. They were not women. They were not Gentiles. And no, that’s not because Moses was racist or sexist. The law of Minyan derives, in part, from this biblical episode. Study it, then you’ll begin to understand.
Is there an intricate area of Jewish law colloquially called a “Shabbos goy”? Yes. Has its rationale been accurately described by the rabbi whom Mr. Silverman consulted “at an early age”? Absolutely not. As far as I am aware, the Talmud in Tractate Shabbat, wherein these laws are explicated, does not give this reason anywhere. See Jeremiah 29:13.
In this country we pride ourselves on our belief in religious freedom. It is sad when Jews will go to great lengths to defend this right for others, but not for their own.
Rabbi Moshe Davis
Brith Sholom Beth Israel
Originally published in the Charleston Post and Courier, July 23, 2015