Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jewish Thought on Slander: or Making Fun of Someone

Nadene Goldfoot
Saying things that are not true is slander.  In Hebrew this is called Leshon ha-ra, said (loshen hora).  The spreading of malicious reports to damage another person's reputation is regarded in Judaism as the greatest of crimes.  The Midrash, a book explaining the Torah with more legends including ethics, says "The slanderer speaks in Rome and kills his victim in Syria."  To listen to slander is equally forbidden.  Our scripture cites only the case of a husband who falsely questions his newly-married wife's virginity.  His punishment included both a flogging and a heavy fine.  The Rabbinic courts were given the power to fine and excommunicate the offender until he apologized to the satisfaction of the person he had injured.  Sometimes fasting was required as an additional penance.

You know what this means?  It kills gossiping.  It stops listening to gossiping as well.  I think it has caused us to be researchers and get to facts only, not hearsay. That has even led to people becoming lawyers.

Judaism is big on  the rules for a witnesses.  That is a person who is in possession of testimony and is obliged to give evidence before the court and testify.  We are not to give false testimony and this would be punishable according to the rule, "Then shall ye do unto him, as he had purposed to do unto his brothers."  Two witnesses are usually required.  One is only acceptable in matters of purely religious law regarding things permitted or prohibited.

I'm awfully proud to be Jewish.  Our constant word is "Life". " To Life' or" L'Chaim" is our toast.  If Judaism stands for anything, it is of reverence for life and the preservation of life.  Life is precious for all, people and animals.  Israel was also a land of rules which Moses started with the 10 commandments.  Judaism is concerned with doing right by our family and neighbors so is very judicial, something others have found fault with.  After all, our people had Judges before we had kings.  Deborah (c1150 BCE) , a female was an important judge and a married woman that everyone respected and listened to.  Besides that, she may have had an occupation considering she was the nurse of Rebekah.  .  There's another thing to be proud of; respect for the leadership of a woman at an early period.  The wife in a home has great respect in a Jewish household.  "G-d could not be everywhere so He created mothers."  Leopold Kompert, novelist (1822-66)

There was no one in our history that was for killing or slaughtering of others except during the taking of the Promised Land, and that happened at least as far back as 1313 BCE or 3, 313 years ago when Moses headed there.  He couldn't make it and had to hand over the reigns of authority to Joshua.  Slaughtering was the accepted norm in those days. Moses had reacted violently when he saw the boss of slaves kill a slave for being too slow, and he killed him for doing it.  That was not acceptable, even for a prince in Egypt, so he knew he had to get out of town and state which in later life led him to leading the Exodus.   After Joshua settled the 12 tribes of Israel, they were following the teachings of Moses who had much to say about life with not only the 10 basic commandments but with 613 more.

It's not a religion concerned with what happens when we die.  It's up to G-d and in his hands so we don't speculate as we're not in a hurry to die nor do we worry about it.  If we follow the laws of Moses and live a life of being righteous to everyone, things will be okay.  What's important is what we do when we're here on earth.

I love the fact that we have schools of students intent on understanding the laws from the Torah who can sit around and argue with each other, delving into all the meanings and bringing it all up to date.  Solomon's wisdom is something we all hope to share and to use.

I am appalled at history's people who have hated Jews and who have made fun of our religion.  They only show to us how little they understand.  Usually they make fun of us about things that are the opposite in our religion, like saying we kill children and drink their blood at Passover.  They use our no no's, things we would not do at all, and tell the populace that we have done these things.  That's what hatred is.  Blind ignorance.  The only people affected are the people doing the ridiculing.  Jews know that these mean people are wrong and blind.  What's appalling have been the people who swallow these false stories.

I've seen so many things that make fun of us that I've lost count.  Before and during the 2nd WW there were  many posters and pictures going around calling Jews sheenies and kikes, derogatory terms for "Jews"  and  ugly pictures exaggerating the nose.  None of us have ever rebelled with rioting.  Our rabbis have not issued orders to kill those responsible.

We've had this problem since 1654 when Peter Stuyvesant, governor of (New Amsterdam) New York, banished Jews from that city.  Why?  They were looked down on because they were not Christians.  Here it was the Jews who had invested money and owned shares with the West India Company in Amsterdam, so  the directors of the company asked for the rescinding of the order.

Our problems loomed in the 1920s.  prejudices were openly voiced.  The government wanted to keep Jews out of the country and stop their immigration and a bill by Mr. Burnett was created January 29, 1919. People were reading the " Protocals of Zion" and then "Mein Kampf.".  

One way to fight such things like anti-Semitism is to continue to be a better person or group and show the world that they are wrong.  I think I see that our religion promotes this as well as being a good citizen in the country we live in.  Here, it would be the USA, as most Jews outside of Israel live here. 

Ammunition we use is that of humor and laughter.  Jewish comedians can make a point, and we can laugh at ourselves a lot.  It's better than turning to bullets and hatred.  Of course we do have an Anti-Defamation League.  "The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry in the U.S. and abroad through information, education, legislation, and advocacy.

The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Book: Kike!  by Michael Selzer
Book: Just Because They're Jewish by M. Hirsh goldberg

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