Who Is My Neighbor? A Review of Erich Bischoff’s The Book of the Shulchan Aruch
The Book of the Shulchan Aruch
Translated and Edited by Thomas Dalton, Ph.D.
Clemens & Blair, 2023* * * *
It is a general rabbinic axiom that the non-Jew is not the “brother” of the Jew.
The Book of the Shulchan Aruch by Erich Bischoff
In the May 2023 issue of The Atlantic, a magazine to which I still find myself subscribing, Dara Horn asks in a feature length article, Is Holocaust Education Making Anti-Semitism Worse? Dr. Horn is a Jewess from Short Hills, New Jersey. To get a sense of what interests her, consider the following: she has a doctorate from Harvard University in comparative literature in Hebrew and Yiddish and a master’s degree in Hebrew literature from Cambridge University. Her first non-fiction book, People Love Dead Jews, was released in 2021. Without belaboring the article, which chronicles all that is wrong with Holocaust education in the United States, she claims that it is failing living Jews. In Dr. Horn’s opinion, Holocaust education focuses wrongly on dead Jews as universal victims to educate on the dangers of generic extremism. She takes issue with that on a couple of points; namely, it instrumentalizes exclusive Jewish harm and suffering and genericizes it. It also fails to explain why Jews were targets. She also complains that it fails to humanize Jews by ignoring their vibrant particularism today. Stated perhaps more simply, she critiques the Holocaust remembrance industry, and you can’t make this stuff up, because it is not Jewish-centric enough. Needless to say, nothing in the article was particularly interesting although the last paragraph lays out what she wants for every student in America as it relates to Holocaust education. It is worth quoting in full:
Back at home, I thought again about the Holocaust holograms and the Auschwitz VR [virtual reality] and realized what I wanted. I want a VR experience of the Strashun library in Vilna, the now-destroyed Research Center full of Yiddish writers and historians documenting centuries of Jewish life. I wanted VR of a night at the Yiddish theater in Warsaw — and VR of a Yiddish theater in New York. I want holograms of the modern writers and scholars who revived the Hebrew language from the dead — and I definitely want an AI component so I can ask them how they did it. I want a VR of the writing of a Torah scroll in 2023, and then the people chanting it aloud through the year, until the year is out, and it’s read all over again — because the book never changes but its readers do. I want to VR about Jewish literacy: the letters, the languages, the paradoxical stories, the methods of education, the encouragement of questions. I want a VR tour of Jerusalem, and another of Tel Aviv. I want holograms of Hebrew poets and Ladino singers and Israeli artists and American Jewish chefs. I want a VR for the conclusion of Daf Yomi, the massive worldwide celebration for those who study a page a day of the Talmud and finally finish it after seven and a half years. I want a VR of Sabbath dinners. I want a VR of bar mitzvah kids in synagogues being showered with candy, and a VR of weddings with flying circles of dancers, and VR of mourning rituals for Jews who died natural deaths — the washing and guarding of the dead, the requisite comforting of the living. I want a hologram of the late Rabbi Jonathan Sachs telling people about what he called the “dignity of difference.” I want to mandate this for every student in this fractured and silo America even if it makes them much, much more uncomfortable than seeing piles of dead Jews …
Setting aside the question of why my children — or anyone else’s — should be mandated to endure compulsory conditioning to see how wonderful Jews are in all that they do. I mean seriously, would Dr. Horn wish for her children — and all Jewish children — to be compelled to attend a series of holograms and VR experiences of the wonders, enchantments, cultural milestones, and living traditions and customs of ethnic European Christians? Somehow, I don’t think Dr. Horn would be as enthusiastic. Indeed, I am fairly certain that American Jews would be the first to complain — and complain vociferously — if American school children were mandated to learn about European folk customs and traditions. Irony has, it always seems, been lost on even the most educated Jews.
But more to the point, why only this encomium for Jewish life? To be fair, she should have added the Jewish involvement in the legalization and continuing availability of contraception, abortion, pornography, and sodomy. She could have added the Jewish proclivity for usury or the overwhelming Jewish management of the cultural rot that is contemporary American entertainment. She also could have noted the leadership and underwriting that Jews have provided for seemingly every revolutionary ideology — feminism, socialism, environmentalism, and every other misanthropic “-ism” that we have had to contend with in the West. She could have noted the pivotal role that Jews have played in destroying the common stock and homogeneity of ancestral European-peopled countries by advocating for unrestrained third-world immigration — all while maintaining the most closed ethnocentric country on the planet in Israel.
And as for Israel, she could have observed the ethnic cleansing and abuse of Arabs in their ancestral homeland — all to satiate harms that were allegedly meted out by Europeans. Historically, she could have cited the prominent Jewish hand in various slave trading and oppressive tax harvesting, among other things. And if all Germans are forced to bear the burden of National Socialism in perpetuity, why aren’t the Jews subjected to the same burden as it relates to the untold number of victims of international communism, which was, after all, a Jewish project? But no, Dr. Horn wants to indoctrinate America’s youth, as if they aren’t indoctrinated enough already, with a living panegyric to the magnitude and wonder of the Jews. If this were not so disturbing, it would make an excellent parody. But the reality is that years of Jewish victimhood propaganda and nonsense like tikkun olam have been so successful that I suspect Dr. Horn actually believes what she writes. She actually believes that Jews are universal victims and have always been there to help the downtrodden and disadvantaged. Her frustration with Holocaust education is that it does not do enough to make us love Jews as the civilizational lights that she actually believes that they are.
That said, none of this would be germane to my purpose here except for one particular comment that Dr. Horn wrote at the end of her article that left me gob smacked. She wrote, in a rhetorical flourish to justify her suggested mandate of Jewish praise and acclaim, that, “[t]here is no empathy without curiosity, no respect without knowledge, no other way to learn what Jews first taught the world: love your neighbor.” Talk about chutzpah — the Jews first taught the world to “love your neighbor”? Really? Is she that deluded?
“Who is my neighbor” is the most important initial question that can be asked other than the question of God — it determines the scope of “us” versus the “other”; it defines who we identify as the people that we treat with respect, dignity, honesty, and solicitude. Indeed, “who is my neighbor” has to be answered before we can even talk about what actions constitutes “loving our neighbor.” Definitionally, “who is our neighbor” takes precedence over “loving” our neighbor because it establishes who is entitled to the duties we owe towards our neighbor.
Of course, as I have written elsewhere, I have known many individual Jews who have treated as me as a “neighbor,” inasmuch as they have been solicitous and gracious towards me. I recognize that fact and it testifies that the Jewish trait of ingrained hostility towards the gentile (or goy) is not something congenital with Jews but rather systemic within Judaism, culturally or religiously. Jews as human beings can, it certainly seems to me, transcend their Jewishness in this regard but it comes at the cost of eschewing that very ugly side of their religion. In other words, individual Jews can be — and often are — decent human beings, but it is always despite their Jewishness and never because of it. I am the last person on the planet who wants to see any harm come to Jews because they are Jews but the reality here is that Dr. Horn’s cure for anti-Semitism, that is, compelling captive goyish students to endure a hagiographic depiction of Jewish life — as if everything with the Jews is strawberries and cream and unicorns and rainbows — is demonstrative of someone who has not ever thought deeply why it is that Jews have been disliked wherever and whenever they have been.
And she is no outlier there: she is endemic of a stunning lack of curiosity among Jews everywhere. It is because the Jewish religion, whether strictly observed or invisibly absorbed in the ether, teaches a disdain and disrespect for non-Jews against which non-Jews predictably react — and the striking lack of interest by Jews to ask — even once — what it is about them that causes such a universal response is almost as universal as the response of which the Jews complain.
It may be now fashionable for modern liberalism to cannibalize the Christian ethic of the universal dignity of human beings (sans every other religious obligation of Christianity), but however liberalism replicates it, the Jew is no position to take credit for it. Indeed, the galling thing about Dr. Horn’s flight of fancy is that the Jews, from time immemorial, are virtually without peer in treating non-Jews (i.e., the “other”) as not their neighbor or brother in an ironclad categorical way. Stated more succinctly, every non-Jew is definitionally the “other” and the Jews have never considered the non-Jew to be consequently a neighbor in any way. This Jewish reality, more than any other, is the reason why the Jews have been disliked everywhere that they have lived — that is, they have objectified and disdained all the non-Jews with whom they shared geographic and social space in what is an immutable law of inter-Jewish society. We non-Jews occupy a space that is somewhere between a man and animal — the quintessence of sub-human if we define “human” as meaning a man made in the image and likeness of God. For a Jew to lecture anyone — and this is rich — on the universality of loving one’s “neighbor” as if they taught anyone how to do it is both preposterous and obscene.
And I just read something that demonstrates that integral fact of Jewish life.
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From the period that covered the formation of the Second German Reich in 1871 to effectively the beginning of the Third German Reich in 1933, German criminal law proscribed “hate” laws based on religion. While we tend to think of “hate” laws as something current, and perhaps they are, we neglect to understand that they date, at least in Europe, from the nineteenth century. Section 166 of the Reich Criminal Code prohibited, among other things, blaspheming God or insulting a recognized religious community deemed to exist within the Reich. The Jews were such a recognized religious community. As least for a period of fifty years then under German federal law, “public insult” of the Jews carried with it the possibility of prosecution for a hate crime. During this period, there were multiple trials in which members of the public were tried for “public insulting” of Judaism. Obviously, and without knowing the details of any particular case, the courts who assessed such claims must have had to delineate between legitimate scholarship and public expression and expression designed to be gratuitously insulting based upon naked stereotypes and bare prejudice.
Without knowing the intricacies of German law and procedure, I assume that the defendants in such cases always possessed the ability to interpose the defense of “truth” as a mitigant; that is, like defamation (which mirrors these types of hate crimes in a corporate sense), the truth of the controverted expression is always an absolute defense. Thus, in the cottage industry that grew up around such Section 166 litigation, an expert witness industry also grew up. Erich Bischoff, the author of The Book of the Shulchan Aruch reviewed here, was one of those experts. Bischoff was born in 1867 and was academically trained in Hebrew and Jewish history. Through the course of his lifetime, he published several works on various aspects of Judaism and became recognized as an expert. What is important to note is that Bischoff was not a polemicist or Jew-baiter like, for example, Julius Streicher but an academic researcher and paid expert. To use The Book of the Shulchan Aruch as an example of his literary temperament, it is worthwhile to note that it is by no means a screed — it is a relatively dispassionate look at what the Shulchan Aruch is, and what it teaches, at least in certain parts. Now, the purpose of publishing it was, at least in part, to shine a bright and public light on the Shulchan Aruch for the purposes of educating the broader public of its contents, which, given its contents, was wholly unappreciated by German Jewry. But it reads nothing like a salacious expose on the more decontextualized and revolting aspects of the Talmud. No, Bischoff is balanced even if he has an agenda to expose the underlying Jewish ethos for what it is. “What it is” is the operative term — here, Bischoff implicitly relies upon the truth of the documents — contextualized and in an academic manner — to demonstrate an ethos in Judaism within that is both ugly and anti-social. This is a matter in which the document speaks for itself, and I mean that literally. For this, he must have been lumped in with gutter anti-Semites, but the charge, so it seems to me, is patently unfair. In any event, it is not Bischoff’s gloss that so offends Jewish sensibilities, it is that he accurately presented foundational Jewish texts for a broader public consumption.
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I confess that I had never heard of the Shulchan Aruch before reading this book. That said, the importance of this work cannot be overstated. This from The Jerusalem Post:
 marks the 450th anniversary of the publication of one of the most important Jewish works of the modern era, a scholarly code so influential that it continues to serve as one of the pillars of our people’s faith, norms and values. Nonetheless, despite its vast impact on Jewish life and law, the Shulchan Aruch (Hebrew for “the set table”) remains largely unknown to most contemporary Jews. Indeed, an entire generation of secular Israelis is being raised without ever glancing at its text, let alone grasping its significance, and this is something that desperately needs to change. The Shulchan Aruch was written by Rabbi Yosef Karo, whose family was exiled from Spain while he was just a child in 1492, during the expulsion of the country’s Jews. He eventually settled in Safed in northern [Palestine], and was one of the preeminent scholars of his generation. Divided into four sections, the Shulchan Aruch covers everything from the laws of prayer to marriage to financial damages. It was first printed in 1565 in Venice by the publishing house of Giovani di Gara, a non-Jewish Hebraist, and was essentially a distillation of Jewish law based on a previous work by Rabbi Karo known as the Beit Yosef …. [T]he Shulchan Aruch symbolizes the Jewish people’s ability to find unity within diversity, and to respect differing customs and approaches so long as they are rooted in authentic tradition and scholarship. Indeed, the simple act of coalescing Sephardi and Ashkenazi practice into one work bound us together forever, thus ensuring that we would remain one people, all of whom share the same canonical legal foundation. … Sadly, however, outside of Orthodox circles, this monumental work and all that it represents are foreign to most Jews, many of whom go through life without ever being exposed to its erudition and wisdom.
Essentially, the Shulchan Aruch is the closest thing that exists to a comprehensive Code of Jewish law that draws from the available sources of Jewish law, scripture, tradition, and custom — and one that became the condensed and comprehensive guide to what Judaism requires, forbids, and permits. It captures the ethos of Jewish life — the soul of it and Jews everywhere. The Jerusalem Post is right — it is not simply that contemporary Jews don’t know about the Shulchan Aruch, not enough gentiles know about it either.
Written almost one-hundred years ago in 1929, Erich Bischoff, a non-Jewish expert in Judaism, described it this way in his work, The Book of the Shulchan Aruch:
The Shulchan Aruch is not a new, independent code of laws; rather, it forms in fact a certain keystone and the determination of the authorized, practical religious law that touches all areas of Jewish life, in a short form. It presupposes the Talmud, along with its attachments, as a pocket Atlas assumes the entirety of the corresponding cartographic survey sheets. The Talmud, on the other hand, presupposes the Old Testament together with the associated religious and legal tradition, just as a map series requires the physical and political configuration of the Earth’s surface. In doing so, the maps, ordinance survey maps, and pocket atlases often distort nature just as much as the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch distort the Old Testament — especially a pocket Atlas from 1564!
His purpose in writing this book was stated expressly — to educate the public and especially the cottage industry of Section 166 criminal trials of where the Shulchan Aruch fit within the constellation of “public insult” crimes. So, hypothetically, if someone in Germany during this time published that Judaism sanctioned that Jews may cheat their fellow German non-Jewish citizen, Bischoff, through his expertise, would have been able to testify regarding the truth of the claim. This did not endear him to the Jews of the period.
Bischoff provides a primer on Jewish law — its sources and wellsprings. Here, Bischoff discusses the Old Testament, the oral tradition which soon became encapsulated by the Talmud, the codices before the Shulchan Aruch, and the status of the Shulchan Aruch as the preeminent expression of the Jewish law. Bischoff’s overview is worth dwelling on because it concisely encapsulates the sources — Rabbinic Judaism teaches that Moses received the written law (the Torah) and oral law (the Talmud), which was passed down. Some key definitions worth knowing: (i) Midrash: halachic (i.e., religious-legal) interpretations; (ii) Mishnah: the basis of the Talmud; an authoritative collection of the validated halachoth written during the second century AD; (iii) the Gemara is the Talmud in the narrower sense and containing the disputations of the Palestinian and Babylonian rabbis about the Mishnah and the religious legal halachic materials handed down in the Palestinian schools; (iv) the Palestinian Talmud equals the Mishnah and the Palestinian Gemara; (v) the Babylonian Talmud equals the Mishnah and the Babylonian Gemara; this is what people today describe as the Talmud; (vi) the Decisors (or Goanen) were heads of the Babylonian schools who sought to determine the Talmudic religious legal norms — halacha — from case to case in legal opinions; and (vii) the Responses of the Decisors were published and form an important religious legal source for the later halachic codices.
Rabbi Karo, the author of Shulchan Aruch sought to reduce all of this material into a usable codex that would encapsulate the whole of the Jewish law in a practical and concise way. Because Karo was a Sephardic Jew from Spain (who later lived in Palestine), his work was later supplemented by an Ashkenazi, Rabbi Isserles, who offered the take of Ashkenazim custom and practice in response, which was eventually cobbled together for posterity. It is unlike the Talmud in that it is not a running debate, opinion, or conjecture — instead, it is something akin to the best statement available as to what the settled, or at least, the best views of what Judaism required, prohibited, and permitted. In that sense, it is more like a series of bullet points with limited explanation or debate. This is important because the Talmud contains statements that are gratuitously offensive to the “other” but often they are the recorded opinions of one Rabbi. Moreover, as I understand it, the recorded debates in the Talmud are often mediated between two contrived extremes so if someone is looking for an extreme statement in the Talmud, it can be found.
But the Shulchan Aruch is different. Rabbi Karo wanted to distill the most authoritative and acknowledged view of Jewish law into digestible bytes. His work is not an invitation to debate or ponder, rather it is an instructional manual on how to live as a Jew. It’s an assemblage of the best and most persuasive consensus of what being a Jew requires, permits, or prohibits. If the Shulchan Aruch says it, one can be fairly certain that it is a strong reflection of Jewish law — and it is probably the closest thing in Judaism to the Catholic Code of Canon Law.
Orthodox Jewry considers the Shulchan Aruch as the authoritative statement of Jewish law. Bischoff concedes, however, that liberal Judaism, even in his day, appears to have let go of the Shulchan Aruch as a source of law — or at least its spirit, but Bischoff maintains that liberal Judaism has no equivalent codex to base whatever its opinions are. To that end, Bischoff maintains that the long shadow of the Shulchan Aruch still casts light on even the most liberal Judaism because everything from lighting shabbat candles to circumcising babies is determined by reference to the Shulchan Aruch. In other words, liberal Judaism would dissolve into nothingness without its invisible reliance on the glue of the Jewish law, of which the Shulchan Aruch is its most preeminent statement.
* * * *
But why is this old Jewish law relevant today?
Why is it relevant to non-Jews? In other words, who cares? The purpose of a non-Jew taking interest in something like the Shulchan Aruch is two-fold: For the person interested in religion generally, this type of work sheds light on the inner workings and soul of Rabbinic Judaism. If understanding cults in the non-pejorative sense fascinates a certain mind, the Shulchan Aruch is clearly something within that ambit. Moreover, as Rabbinic Judaism is an offspring of Temple Judaism, there is an interesting aspect to understanding where the former veered from the latter (especially for a Catholic who believes that the Church is the legitimate inheritor of Temple). I confess that it is curiosity — for good or bad — about the idiosyncrasies of all cults that interests me.
But the more compelling reason to study this type of work is to gain insight on what conduct Rabbinic Judaism encourages, prohibits, and permits as it pertains to non-Jews. Stated more succinctly, intra-religious obligations of lighting shabbat candles or what shoe goes on what foot first hold no social importance beyond the curiosity of the non-Jew, but how Jewish law instructs the Jew to relate to his non-Jewish fellow citizen is far more important. The Jewish experience, lived in the reality of history, has always involved living among non-Jews. To be a Jew, ironically enough, is to never escape close quarters with the non-Jew to a degree that is unmatched by any other nation. Even in Israel, which is a fabricated and intentional sovereign state exclusively created for Jews, the Jews there are forced to live with millions of non-Jewish people. Jews therefore have given much thought on how to live among non-Jews, and this latter point goes to the heart of the question of Jews’ love for their neighbors. To distill this to its essence, I do not care, one way or another, about how Rabbinic Jews practice their religion, but I do care if their religion sanctions immoral or anti-social conduct towards non-Jews such that it impacts the overall tenor of a given society.
And this point is magnified because the question of sanctioning immorality of anti-social conduct is proportionate to the influence and power that the Jews have in a given society — if they have anti-social and immoral ideas and they have power, those ideas will be more readily projected into that society with corresponding ill effects on the morality of the society — e.g., if Jews with cultural power encourage degenerate behavior in the society. Perhaps most important, the idea of Rabbinic Jewish panegyric, as a “light unto the nations” — that is, as a model of conduct — rings more than hollow if this anti-social animus contained within the heart of Rabbinic Judaism is laid bare. To put it bluntly, understanding this type of codex helps us understand whether the assumption, from the perspective of the non-Jew, that the Jews are our friends is warranted or whether it is a dangerous fallacy.
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The Shulchan Aruch, as editorialized in brief by Bischoff, quotes a number of seemingly innocuous and internal laws governing Jewish religious observance. Literally, how a Jew should rise in the morning, how a Jew should shake the urine off of his penis, or how a Jew should wet his hands before a meal. Bischoff notes the permission of the Kapparot, which is the customary atonement ritual sacrifice practiced by Orthodox Jews on the eve of Yom Kippur. The chicken is sacrificed for the sins of the Jew making the sacrifice. For a short book, it doesn’t make sense why any pages were devoted to these mundane topics other than, perhaps, to demonstrate the mind-numbing ritualism of Judaism in its own words. One interesting sidebar in the Shulchan Aruch is the express remit to consume human blood, which is assumed to be something religious Judaism forbids. In commentary, Bischoff writes:
The consumption of blood is allowed in the Shulchan Aruch! Karo seems to think nothing of it, and his commentator Isserles does not apply a “Hagah” [objection] to this striking rule! Only the author of commentary, Magen Abraham, who died in 1682, says that blood as a diet is only permitted for dangerously ill for whom his doctor has prescribed the consumption of blood.
The editor of the book, Thomas Dalton, notes the significance of this point in a footnote; namely, the question of the so-called “Blood Libel” and the ritual slaughter of Christian children for, among other things, their desiccated blood, as discussed in detail by Ariel Toaff’s Passovers of Blood, squares with this permitted consumption of human blood.
The Shulchan Aruch is replete with examples of the impurity of non-Jews for Jews themselves and the aspersions of idolatry towards Christianity. Accordingly, the rules against assisting non-Jews — or harming them, even gratuitously — are typical. One way to think about it is that the Shulchan Aruch is not primarily interested in inter-Jewish relations with non-Jews but to the extent that non-Jews become its subject, the passages are always negative and offensive. A general principle that runs throughout is that non-Jews should not be assisted by Jews in any meaningful way unless there is something to be gained by the Jews from the assistance. There is a permission as well for devious behavior to avoid giving offense to non-Jews if a greater harm from the offense may follow. There are passages that condone perjury if done to help a Jew against a non-Jew. There are passages that commend harming or even killing non-Jews if the Jews have the upper hand. There are passages that commend usury for non-Jews, not simply to enrich the Jews, but to actively harm the non-Jews.
According to Jewish law, Jews are obliged to obey the civil law insofar as it consistent with Jewish law; if the two conflict, Jewish law is primary. There are passages that forbid litigating before non-Jewish judges and from assisting a non-Jew in litigation (even if the non-Jew is in the right) against a Jew or limiting assistance to the non-Jew if it is, in fact, illusory assistance. There is language that permits the keeping of lost property of non-Jews and not correcting the mistakes of non-Jews in commercial dealings. The law goes so far as to say that returning lost property to a non-Jew for the sake of honesty is contemptable under Jewish law but to return in order to build up the reputation of the Jews for honesty is acceptable. Fleecing non-Jews is then a permitted practice and there are even rules for how Jews should divide up the profits from such fleecing, which amounts to, I suppose, honor among thieves. Interestingly enough, Jews are forbidden from outright stealing from non-Jews but not when it comes to the mistakes or forgetfulness of non-Jews. In other words, non-Jews ought to be quite careful with dealing with Jews because the Jew is virtually duty-bound to not correct an error in the Jews’ favor. Similarly, the Jews may not defraud a Jewish tax collector, but they are permitted to defraud a non-Jewish tax collector. A Jewish informer is liable to death for his threat to turn over a Jew or the Jew’s money to the non-Jews if the threat has not been realized (i.e., he has not yet informed but only threatened to inform). If he has informed, the non-Jew may not be killed because by doing so, the Jews would be brought into disrepute.
As it relates to inter-Jewish relations, the Shulchan Aruch contains the view throughout, which is not perhaps surprising to those who have studied the issue, that non-Jews, as a collective, are inferior people with inferior rights. Whatever gloss is applied, non-Jews are not — and should never be considered — a “neighbor” of the Jews in the sense of filial affection, honesty, or decency. The ethics of Judaism as it relates to the concept of “neighbor” is interesting inasmuch as it is remarkably exacting for the Jews vis-à-vis other Jews; because non-Jews fall outside of the concept of “neighbor” within Jewish law, however, it is virtually open season on them with the full weight of Jewish law sanctioning what anyone would consider anti-social or immoral behavior. This is the reality of Judaism for those of us who are not Jews.
With the Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries, there is an acknowledgement that the rules for mistreatment of non-Jews comes at a potential cost. To treat non-Jews poorly then is to run the risk that God’s name or the reputation of the Jewish people is profaned. There is the much more dire risk that such behavior may cause violence or economic harm to the Jews as well if non-Jews become agitated against the Jews for such behavior. Again, the ethics of the Jews care little about the act itself as committed against a non-Jew but only the potential and probable consequences or blowback for the Jews. Thus, there is an implied caveat to these anti-social behaviors directed at non-Jews: Jews should not engage in them “for the sake of the peace” or if they bring about the profanation of God’s name or harm the Jewish people. In other words, such acts are to be avoided if they will bring harm to the greater Jewish community or cause the opinion of the Jews or God to fall into disrepute because of their odium. In still other words, none of these acts are intrinsically condemned as they discretely relate to non-Jews; they are only conditionally forbidden if they produce more collective harm to the Jews than the individual good of fleecing the non-Jew.
And this analysis was not theoretical, the continuous expulsion of the Jews from country after country is an example where the Jews in a given area improperly calculated the risk of harming the non-Jews versus the risk to the Jews from the inevitable blowback from the non-Jews harming (or expelling) the Jews as a result. Again, the threadbare ethic really is “what is good for the Jews” with an emphasis on the collective nature of the Jews.
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The Shulchan Aruch, as it relates to non-Jews, is a monumental indictment of Judaism. True enough, the Shulchan Aruch does not appear to be salacious or gratuitous, as, for example, selected passages of the Talmud can be, but its straightforward presentation is thus even worse. There is not any sense of it as an opinion run amok as if it were imbibed with the heat of emotion; rather, it is a cold legal treatise that permits, in the most matter of fact manner, anti-social and immoral behavior towards the non-Jew. Moreover, it is not the scandal, per se, of the behavior that is commended or prohibited that is the most offensive; no, it is the obvious spirit that runs throughout the Shulchan Aruch — which is a mere compendium of Jewish law itself — that non-Jews are virtually sub-humans. It is one thing for me to call someone sub-human in the passion of an argument (i.e., the Talmud), it is worse to measure dispassionately and make the same point (i.e., the Shulchan Aruch).
As a Catholic, Jewish ethics and law described in the Shuchan Aruch are very foreign to me. We do not have a set of dual ethics — one for Catholics and one for non-Catholics. According to our universalist ethics, we have no remit to treat any of God’s children as having less moral worth than us. Christ came to save all — Jew and Greek, free and slave. So not only is everybody the Catholic’s neighbor, but the missionary zeal of the Christian church was also animated by that neighborliness to an extreme sense. We traversed the globe to bring baptism and faith — in the face of mortal dangers — because what we brought was good and we believed everyone, no matter where or when, deserved that good on account of their dignity as human beings made in the image and likeness of God.
Candidly, long before I became a Christian in my heart, the ethic of the universal dignity of man in Christianity corresponded to what I knew, deep in my soul, was right. In other words, I believed Christianity was right long before I ever became a Christian. Judaism, by contrast, is nauseating on this point. As a religion and cult, it creates a spiritual caste system in which non-Jews are objectified and disdained — a cult that causes both Jewish supremacism and is the corresponding root of non-Jewish animosity towards the Jews.
To be clear, Jews are not disgusting and lest anyone read my language as dehumanizing Jews themselves, let me say this again as pointedly as possible: Jews can be as righteous as anyone else if they relinquish Rabbinic Judaism with all of its anti-social and immoral aspects. The problem is not the Jews per se — it isn’t racial. The problem is that Rabbinic Judaism is a socially destructive religion that feeds the worst ethnocentric and prejudiced impulses of man. Indeed, it spiritualizes those impulses — and that has been the case since its inception after the destruction of the Temple and its rejection of the Messiah.
So, what is the point of this? Why should we dwell on a medieval-era Jewish law book and its harsh statements towards non-Jews? What is the utility other than feeding the fire of enmity towards the Jews?
I think most non-Jews — with the exception of the pure sycophantic philo-Semite — sense that something is not altogether right within Judaism. Even if we set aside the worst stereotypes of Jews, like their gross materialism, there is something dark about the inner soul of Judaism as it relates to the “other.” It seems unreasonable to think that even if Jews have been emancipated from the shtetel (which, in any event, is only recently), and even if further that many Jews have seemingly washed their hands of religious Judaism, that the virus of virulent negativity towards non-Jews has magically abated with the abandonment of religious Judaism. It is obvious that it has not. If that invisible force of Jewish law still binds even at an unconscious level — and I think it clearly does, then we can see why Jews act the way that they do. And we can see that accepting anything that they do or say at face value — as if there is an implied sense of good faith that animates them — is more than foolish. It is naïve and dangerous.
Simply stated, the Jews are not our friends because the Jews have categorically removed us from the status of potential neighbors. Still another reason to consider this type of material is that secular Judaism is on the wane — so whatever we think of liberal Judaism and its staying power, latter-day events are demonstrating that it has no staying power. It is rapidly being replaced by a resurgent Orthodox Judaism and its cousin, an illiberal form of fascistic ethnonationalism apparent in militant Zionism, because these types of Jews have higher fertility than liberal Judaism, both in Israel and in the Jewish diaspora in the West. Either way, both forms, Orthodoxy and Zionism, take their cues for relating to the “other” from the ancient Jewish laws of inter-Jewish relations. Jewish liberalism may have aped something universal, but it is on the precipice of disappearance, and it clearly never took hold of the collective Jewish soul.
It is endemic of the human condition to “project,” which, in the psychological definition, means that we superimpose upon others the values and perspectives that we ourselves hold. But non-Jews, and especially well-meaning Christians, do themselves a significant disservice by projecting our values and perspectives upon the Jews. They aren’t, in the main, like us because they have been taught something very different for a very long time. It is true that there are many Jews who are similar to us in values and perspective but, if so, this similarity is driven by their effective abandonment of the ethos and soul of Judaism. If Jews are decent to us non-Jews, it is despite their religion and never because of it. In that sense, there is something not believable about Jews as liberals — i.e., they are not authentic as liberals because if liberalism is, at least in part, a heresy and distortion of the Christian idea of the universal dignity of man, Jews are not authentic liberals, or they would have long ago disowned Judaism completely.
Finally, to build on this idea of Jews-as-not-our-friend, Judaism teaches, in its laws, that deceiving the non-Jew is a legitimate form of behavior. In other words, along with the implied animosity, Jews cannot be trusted in whatever they say because everything could be — and often is — not what it appears to be. If we remember that the law of Judaism, at least as it relates to us, is that we are inferior people with inferior rights, their protests otherwise ring patently false.
To sum this up, trust, which is the building block of society, is predicated upon mutual good will and honesty, neither of which can we expect from Jews, and thus trust with them is a non-starter. None of this changes the reality that we, at least those of us who live in the United States, must live and work with them. But we should never have any false ideas that they can be our friends, at least as a collective, or they mean us well in the sense that we too are a collective people. When it comes to the Jews and us, there is no “we.” They view their relationship with us as zero-sum; we should view it similarly. And once you see that, you cannot “unsee” it. I wish no harm towards the Jews. I feel a distinct sense of pity for anyone born into that type of degenerate form of ethics. I sincerely wish all of them would eschew their rotten Jewish ethics and help us build up the kingdom of God.
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Post-script: To return to the thoughts beginning this review, there is an irony in Dr. Horn’s point that the Jews first taught the world how to “love one’s neighbor.” In one sense, based upon Jewish law, she is of course completely and laughably wrong — Jewish law, as it relates to the “other”, is filled with an almost unbroken string of offensive behavior towards non-Jews that is the very opposite of “love” but something that vacillates between hate and indifference.
That said, she is right that the Jews did teach the world how to love their neighbor in the sense that: (i) Jews, in fact, do have a commendable and intense intra-Jewish standard of conduct for loving their neighbor (i.e., their fellow Jew), which was introduced to the world over by those Jews who accepted Jesus Christ as the Messiah (i.e., the Christians). Christianity was — and remains — the vehicle by which the rules of appropriate and universal neighborliness were first brought to the world. So, the irony here, of course, is that Christianity delivered to the world the exacting standard of Jewish neighborliness with the caveat that every man should be every man’s neighbor.
For a Jewess still holding onto her Jewishness to make a similar claim is outrageous.
Saint John the Baptist, Pray for us.