Monday, November 05, 2012

WWCS (What would Chazal say) about Sandy?

Despite the Swiftian efforts of @berlshain, some stupid #Sandy memes continue to gain ground.  One especially toxic myth is the view that the storm was God's way of passing judgement on pro-gay marriage New York.

Best as I can tell, this meme began with a Right Wing preacher, who linked the storm and homosexuality to Halloween the gay high Holy Day. Not to be outdone, the ugly warts at Torah Jews for Decency picked up the Christian's way of thinking and connected the storm and their pet bugaboo to the Great Flood of Noah. In the view of Rabbi Noson Leiter, the flood both occurred and was "triggered by the recognition of same-gender marriages." This outburst won a public rebuke from George Pataki.

The rabbi is not just a hate-mongering fraud. He's also ignorant of his own tradition. Here's Rashi, king of the commentators, quoting the Babylonian Talmud:

for the earth has become full of robbery: Their verdict was sealed only because of robbery. — [from Sanh. 108a]  -- Rashi to Genesis 6:13

The flood, we can see, was not "triggered by the recognition of same-gender marriages." Rather, their "verdict was sealed only because of robbery." So the rabbi is guilty not only of spreading hatred, but of spreading misinformation about what the tradition actually says.

Another common maneuver is to tie the storm to Parshas Va'ayreh, and the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which was read in synagogues last Saturday. Like Rabbi Leiter's drasha, this one works only if you ignore centuries of rabbinic tradition which link the sin of Sodom with selfishness, not homosexuality. As Ramban reads it even the story's most famous verse -- the one notoriously used by Rashi to suggests the people of Sodom were sodomists -- is used to fortify the prophetic and rabbinic view that the sin of Sodom was, in fact, radical indifference to suffering, poverty, and vulnerability. (Such a liberal, right?)
Nachmanides commenting on the verse "AND WE SHALL KNOW THEM". 
Their intention was to stop people from coming among them, as our rabbis have said, for they thought that because of the excellence of their land... many will come there and they despised charity... they continued provoking and rebelling against Him with their ease and the oppression of the poor... In the opinion of our Rabbis, all evil practices were rampant among them. Yet their fate was sealed because of this sin - i.e. they did not strengthen the hand of the poor and needy - since this sin represented their usual behaviour more than any other. Besides, since all peoples act righteously towards their friends and their poor, there was none among all the nations who matched Sodom in cruelty. 
Though Ramban concedes the townspeople wished to rape Lot's visitors, theirs was not a crime of lust. Their motive, he says, was to discourage visitors (illegal immigrants!) because they were unwilling to share the city's bounty with outsiders. This sin, the sin of selfishness, was how Chazal explained subsequent Jewish tragedies, including the loss of the Temple. Given their endless inveighing against this form of cruelty and their habit of connecting it to communal losses and tragedies, does it not seem likely that this is also how they would explain Sandy, were they alive today?  More here

Search for more information about what the Rabbis actually considered the worst sin a Jew can commit  

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