On his blog, the revisionist review, Michael Hoffman protests a Missouri program in which lawyers receive continuing legal education credit for studying the Talmud. In his view, anything related to the Talmud (and probably Jews) is evil and should not be tolerated. Hoffman writes:
In the “seminar accredited for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) by the Missouri Bar” reported in the press release below, St. Louis, Missouri lawyers who attend will be schooled by Chabad rabbis in the Babylonian Talmud, a handbook on lying, deceit and wrong-doing whichdesecrates the name and memory of Jesus Christ (Sanhedrin 43a; Gittin 57a), and His Blessed Mother Mary (Sanhedrin 106a; Kallah 51a), permits sex with children (Sanhedrin 69b in The Talmud: The Steinsaltz Edition [Random House, 1999] vol. 19, p. 13; also cf. Ketubot 11b and Sanhedrin 54b) and teaches that Judaic males are above God (Bava Metzia 59b).
I will not deny that the above passages can be found in the Talmud; I have already written about them here. In a nutshell, the Talmud does not represent a monolithic set of beliefs. It is a mixed bag, collected over hundreds of years and representing many (often contradictory) opinions. Most of the passages cited above are of the genre called “Agadah“; they are not articles of faith but rather folklore, personal opinions and tall tales. As for the “sex with children” part, which ancient texts can be held to modern, 21st century criteria and withstand the scrutiny unscathed? Sure, the sexual morality of ancient Jews differed from that of modern Americans – but so did that of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians – and just about everybody else.
I do agree with Hoffman that there should be a separation of Synagogue and State just as there is (in theory) a separation of Church and State. On that basis I would eliminate the above program. I would add, however, that Talmud study does sharpen the mind and is likely to broaden one’s insight into tricky questions such as those listed in the above article. The type of debate used in the Talmud forces the student into difficult mental exercises and challenges the limits of logical deduction, memory and linguistic skills. It was quite a struggle for me, at least for the first couple of years.
Hoffman writes, regarding the Chabad sect:
Chabad (also known as “Chabad-Lubavitch”) is a Hasidic faction of Orthodox Judaism that derives its halacha (law) from the pagan-occult Zohar (Kabbalah), and the Babylonian Talmud, along with the sacred texts of the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Lyady. One of Rabbi Zalman’s texts, Tanya, teaches that the souls of gentiles “contain no good whatever” (Opening the Tanya, p. 43).
He is 100% on the mark here. I was involved with Chabad for a few years in my youth and I can vouch for the accuracy of this statement. It should be noted, however, that Chabad does not promote any form of proselytizing among non-Jews; their efforts are directed specifically at Jews and they have done a lot of good in bringing estranged Jews back to their roots (or, at least, some semblance of their roots).
A lot of people in the anti-Semitic crowd are similar to those on the Left; they see things in absolutes. There is either black or white and nothing in-between. Anti-Semites can see no good in Jews and the Left can see no good in white advocacy or race-realism. Reality is far more complex than that. It is full of various shades of gray. Those who try to force their own ideologies upon reality are bound to reach bizarre conclusions and open themselves up to ridicule.