By Matthew Cohen
It is definately not Eleanor Green's leaving Judaism
that is offensive, for that is certainly her right in a free and open
society, but it is rather her distortion and misrepresentation of what
Judaism says and believes to her readers (who, unless they already have a
background to the issues at hand, don't have a reason to doubt her) in
order to justify her being "born-again". There is absolutely
nothing wrong with being an atheist, and Green will find that a vast
majority of Jews tolerate them, but she should please learn more about
Judaism before telling half-truths and untruths about it. From reading her
testimony I found it very hard to believe that she ever was really a
follower of the Orthodox.
First of all, she notes that "Free thought and
honesty of opinion are unwelcome in most religions." This
statement is certainly true for Islam (of course) and traditional (Middle
Ages) Christianity, but I would say that "most religions" does
not include Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
No, I am not saying that the Orthodox are liberal or
progressive. What I am saying is that the Jewish intellectual tradition,
as typified in the Talmud and other rabbinical writings, emphasizes
individual thought and analyses based on logic and reasoning, even to the
point of questioning and challening one's own teacher. "Faith"
means much less in Judaism than the other "Abrahamaic"
religions, so the comparison lacks understanding.
The most absurd part of Green's article is her claim
that the rabbis and Judaism teach that all Jews go to heaven no matter
what. As a person who has been raised Jewish all my life, that is
absolutely ridiculous, because it is the opposite of what Judaism teaches,
while it is the language that is usually used by Christianity and Islam. I
would like to ask Green which rabbi actually said this, as I suspect that
it is merely a lack of understanding.
On the contrary, as opposed to Christianity and
Islam, Judaism doesn't believe that faith brings "salvation"
(which we would rather say "redemption" in Judaism) but rather
good deeds do, as shown by obeying G-d's commandments. Judaism does not
teach that evil Jews are rewarded in the afterlife, it teaches that Jews
are liable for following their commandments just as Gentiles are liable
for following theirs. While Judaism doesn't have very much doctrine as
opposed to the other religions and is more based on one's own opinion,
some things are without a doubt not part of Judaism, and Green's
rabbinical "quote" is one of them.
Indeed, it seems most likely to me that Green is
confused with a different quote, from Maimonides Mishneh Torah Hilchot
Teshuvah 3:4 (based on Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 105A and
Tosefta Sanhedrin 13:1), which states:
"The righteous of all nations have a place in
the world to come."
This actual rabbinic quote clearly disproves Green's
claims because it underscores the belief of Judaism: that humans (both
Jews and Gentiles) are judged by their actions (obeying or violating G-d's
commandments) and not by faith. This is where Judaism is totally different
from Christianity and Islam. The reason Jews don't try to convert other
people is not because we don't want them to go to heaven; it is because we
don't think that they need to be Jews to go to heaven. With the exception
of the Gospels' quotes of Pharisees, which we can easily doubt their
credibility because we know that their writers had a need to devalue
and dehumanize Judaism in order to legitimize their own beliefs, there is
no written claim existent in Judaism that says that all Jews go to heaven.
Green's statement that Judaism says that all Jews are
"genetically worthy of eternal bliss" also shows me that she
never really understood Judaism at all. Non ethnically-Jewish Jews are
considered 100% Jews. Even if a Jew has no relation to the ancient Semitic
tribes whatsoever, he or she is still without a doubt Jewish.
As Ivan Lang pointed out, the commandments that
Judaism believes that Gentiles must follow are the Noachide Commandments,
which Green offensively calls a "inferior religious system". She
claims that "we" (I presume she means "we Jews"?)
invented it, but I dunno, the logical deduction of the laws from Genesis
in Tracte Sanhedrin of the Babylonian Talmud (56A) is pretty convincing to