Friday, August 23, 2013

DovBear revises his thinking (again)

All credit to Rabbi Josh Yuter for showing me this rabbinic teaching:

דברים רבה (וילנא) פרשת כי תבוא פרשה ז מה השמן הזה אין יכול להתערב במשקין אחרים אף ישראל אין יכולין להתערב בעובדי כוכבים

I don't know who said it, or when it was said, but the words mean, "Just as oil doesn't mix with other liquids, so doesn't Israel mix with idol worshipers." If you've been around the blog this month, you know that similar words appeared on a controversial summer camp project.

Originally, I denounced the thinking behind this project, both here and on Facebook. But after reading something Ksil wrote, I had a change of heart and put this on Facebook and the original post's thread:
A commenter on my blog made a very solid point about the arts and crafts project with the nasty label on it. I am going to rephrase it here: 
Anyone one observant should think twice before they criticize the message found here. Sure it sounds nasty, but does an observant person who really thinks about his observances disagree with the point? Observant people won't eat food cooked by a nonJew or drink wine that a non Jew has touched, or take cheese that came from a nonJewish cow. Why? Because (in the view of Chazal) Jews and Gentiles don't mix, so they enacted restrictions to keep us apart.
Fair point, no?
So two points:
1) Ksil is definitely right that the idea that Jews don't mix with Gentiles is built into normative Orthodox Judaism' therefore it was wrong for us to treat it like some kind of crazy Hasidic bias. Any Orthodox Jew who abstains from eating their cooking or avoids their wine and cheese tacitly agrees with the statement found on that label.
2)  The passage from Devarim Raba (cited above) seems to make those decrees unnecessary. If it is true that Jews are incapable of mixing with Gentiles, why are the Akum this and Akum that decrees necessary?  You can throw water and oil into the same glass, and they will never mix. You don't need artificial decrees to keep them apart. Nature does the work for you.  If Jews are like water and Gentiles are like oil, assimilation should be impossible and interactions should be permitted.
There are a few members of the blogging community who are dead certain that I never revise my thinking, offer corrections or apologize for mistakes. In particular I am thinking of one of the many Michaels and a person called Abbi. It would be wonderful if you could help me let them know of the existence of this post, and many others like it.

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