Friday, June 08, 2007


The text below is by Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, and posted here with his permission.
The original is here:
[His blog is here:]



The 20th of Sivan, this week, is the anniversary of the Blood Libel at Blois in France in 1171, when the Jewish community of about 40 people (at a time when the total Jewish population of France was no more than a few thousand) was massacred. Half were burnt to death singing the Aleynu prayer as they perished. The great Rabbeynu Tam instituted a fast day to commemorate the tragedy that for many years was adhered to strictly by the Jews of Ashkenaz.

In 1144 at Norwich, Jews were first accused of killing Christian children because it was claimed they needed Christian blood for the Four Cups of Wine at the Passover seder. In Gloucester in 1168, in Bury St. Edmonds in 1181, Bristol in 1183, and most notoriously in Lincoln in 1255, Jews suffered as the result of this stupidly insane and illogical charge. A thirteenth century monk called Rhindfleish claimed that Jews stole communion wafers from churches to beat until the blood of Jesus flowed, and hundreds of Jews were killed to avenge this ‘crime’.

One might think that unexceptional in an era of burning heretics, drowning witches, and torturing people to confess almost anything, but the Blood Libel persisted into the twentieth century. In Kiev in 1913, the unfortunate Baylis was charged with murdering a Christian child for Jewish religious purposes. Although at the trial he was acquitted, the Jewish religion was not! It will come as no surprise that the Blood Libel is making a giant comeback in the Muslim world and is repeated and exaggerated on state-sponsored television throughout that culturally benighted part of our planet.

You may remember the scandal that erupted earlier this year when Professor Toaff was accused of claiming that medieval Jews were guilty of the Blood Libel and he withdrew his book. On closer reading, all he said was that possibly Jews did use dried human blood in medieval cures and charms, and at most might have retaliated for acts of violence against them—and even this was based only on confessions under torture. But the idea that we ever used blood, something forbidden by our laws, is so malevolently false that only depraved minds could conceive it.

We are also a week away from the moment when six-year-old Edgar Mortara was kidnapped by the Catholic Church from his parents in Bologna, Italy in 1858, on the grounds that his Catholic nanny had secretly baptised him. He was never returned. He became a favourite of Pope Pius IX, who ordered and perpetuated the crime. Mortara eventually died in a Belgian monastery.

What I find amazing is that despite the continuous lies and brutalities, the kidnapping, rape, and murder of our men, women, and children by supposedly good Christians, although negative opinions are expressed, nowhere in any major rabbinic authority or source will you find any support for a halachic position that says you do not have to treat non-Jews correctly and morally and according to the law of the land and if necessary in contravention of Jewish Law.

Throughout the periods of bloody chaos under both Christianity and Islam (accepting the differences) whether it was Rabbeynu Tam in the twelfth century, Rabbi Menahem Meiri in the fourteenth, Rabbi Lowe of Prague in the sixteenth, Rabbi Yechezkel Landau in the eighteenth or Rabbi Yisrael Lipshitz in the nineteenth, they all wrote and spoke out against any evidence of mistreatment, deception or amorality in dealing with non-Jews and our obligations to adhere to ‘The Law of the Land’ (and that would include international law).

Sadly this is no longer the case. Our rabbis seem to get worse as the years roll on. Here is the latest scandal from last week’s Jerusalem Post.

All civilians living in Gaza are collectively guilty for Kassam attacks on Sderot, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu has written in a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Eliyahu ruled that there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings.

The letter, published in Olam Katan [Small World], a weekly pamphlet to be distributed in synagogues nationwide this Friday, cited the Biblical story of
the Shechem massacre (Genesis 34) and Maimonides' commentary (Laws of Kings 9, 14) on the story as proof texts for his legal decision.

According to Jewish war ethics, wrote Eliyahu, an entire city holds collective responsibility for the immoral behavior of individuals. In Gaza, the entire populace is responsible because they do nothing to stop the firing of Kassam rockets.

Eliyahu is simply wrong. Collective punishment is not halachically acceptable and Maimonides’s position on Shechem has been well challenged. This is not the place to go into details. If Rabbi Eliyahu is going to take a highly contentious and controversial abstract law and apply it to modern conditions, then frankly it is in the same category as the Neturei Karta jokers who argue that all the suffering of the Jewish people in Israel and beyond is because they have dared top pre-empt the Messiah.

I had little respect for the Israeli Chief Rabbinate before this outburst. Even if I give him the benefit of the doubt that he was responding in pain to his suffering constituents in Sederot and the scandalous double standards of others, such abuse of Law and Lore demeans the person and the system. It is a blot on our tradition. No wonder we have stopped fasting over Blood Libels.

While we have a right and an obligation to self-preservation and while charity starts at home, we cannot isolate ourselves. We must meet our obligations to society in general. And I can say categorically that no truly great rabbi has ever said anything to the contrary.



Rabbi Rosen can be found here:

There are two mailing lists associated with Rabbi Jeremy Rosen. You can find out more about them here:

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen is the oldest son of Rabbi Kopul Rosen, and the brother of Rabbi Michael Rosen and Rabbi David Rosen. In addition to having been a pulpit rabbi, Jeremy Rosen is the director of Yakar in London, and professor of comparative religion in Antwerp. He is also the author of several books.


Final note and personal opinion: Neturei Karta is mentioned in passing in the article above. The less said about NK, the better. They are the moral equivalent of Shabsai Zvi, about whom also the less said the better. But whereas Shabsai Zvi was a symptom of a pervasive sickness in the soul of his era, Neturei Karta is a tumour. Merely a tumour. Tumours can be sliced out.


e-kvetcher said...

BOTH, I think your email may be flaking... Just in case you didn't get my translations, I'll post them here. Feel free to delete once you get them:

un14 - the national( or people's) union
un01 - putin-a jew through the mother's side (top line, quote from B. Berezovsky), according to the laws of Israel- a pure jew (bottom) - banner behind putin says Russia is not for Russian imbeciles, he is putting his hand on books titled Constitution, Talmud, Kabbalah, Shulchan Aruch
un02 - closeup of un01
un03 - The kikes' hound on the throne, Ivan and Maria in the Zone (prison camps)
un04 - Russian! Help a fellow Russian, else YOU will be next!
un05 - Today the jewish question - is the question of the glory or ignominy of russia. A question of life or death of the russian people (Boris Mironov, ex-minister of press and information
un10 - Jewish Fascism! Today their is nothing more frightening (Edward Khodos, the Jewish strike p8)
un13 - No to Globalist, the Anti-Globalist resistence, Zionism=Fascism in the back banner

The back of the hill said...

Excellent. I'll leave the translations here, and you're probably right that my e-mail is faulty.

For readers who do not know what this is about, I asked e-kvetcher what some signs carried by anti-Semites in a parade in Moscow last week said. He kindly provided the translations above. And yes, the tropes are disquietingly familiar.

At some point I might post about the renaissance of old-style anti-Semitism in Russia. When I can stop laughing every time I think of Vladimir Zhirinovski discovering his own Jewish ancestry, that is.

Tzipporah said...

Very nice, rabbi! (And I don't mean that in a Borat way.)

I find it appalling that a rabbi would use Shechem as a model for anything, knowing how Simeon and Reuven were judged. Ugh.

Search This Blog


There are times when I wished I had spent more time trying to learn Shanghainese. Years ago I knew several people from Shanghai, and if I ha...