Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Nonsensical "Values" of Conservatism

According to the Torah, the Jewishness of a child is determined by the father. I know that many of readers will be surprised to read that because today everyone knows that a child's Jewishness is determined by the mother. But if you were to read the Torah, you will see that the many lists of different character's lineage only contain men. Women/mothers did not enter the writer's heads. So what changed? When the Roman Empire conquered Ancient Judea, it became very common for Roman soldiers to rape Jewish women. When a married woman was raped, there was no way of knowing if her child was her husband's or the Roman soldiers. So the Rabbis of the time decided to switch the determining parent from the male to the female.

I know that must surprise many of my readers as well. Rabbis at one point in history actually decided to change and adapt. For thousands of years Judaism revolved around the Temple in Jerusalem. When the Temple was destroyed, the Rabbis once again adapted and changed the religion to survive. All this happened before the idea of "conservatism" was invented (I am referring to the general social/political idea and attitude. Not to be confused with the Conservative religious sect of modern Judaism). 

Today conservatives around the world, Jewish and not Jewish believe that change must be fought. They believe they have certain practices, certain ideas or "values" and any discussion that things might have changed over the last tens, hundreds or thousands of years is simply wrong. But if people had always thought this way, their religions that they love so much would have died out hundreds or thousands of years ago. The world is always changing and smart people know how to learn and adapt where as conservatism insists on staying the same and refusing to adapt as if their attitude will stop time from passing. 

Today religious Jews are absolutely panicked about intermarriage and "assimilation". If a Jewish man marries a non Jewish woman, his bloodline and his lineage are lost to the Jewish people and any children he fathers with his non Jewish wife will not be Jewish. They believe that if this growing trend continues, Judaism as they know it and accept it will disappear. However, since history shows that the Rabbis can and have switched the determining parent between the man and the woman in the past, wouldn't it make sense for Rabbis to say it is enough that one parent be Jewish? Than there would be no danger of their religion vanishing. But their conservative mind set tells them that they cannot bend. The world must not change and their religion must not change. 

A few days ago, 40,000 ultra-orthodox Jewish men went to a rally at Citi-Field in New York to listen to Rabbis warn them about the dangers of the internet. These Rabbis commanded their followers to avoid the internet and warned them that it is evil. (Obviously new technologies and unrestricted access to knowledge is very dangerous to ultra-Orthodox Judaism). One Rabbi, Rabbi Wachsman told the crowd that whoever did not follow these new edicts and bands on the internet would not be able to get into heaven. 

Obviously, I really don't care if people believe Facebook and Gmail will stop them from getting into fantasy "wonderland".  But I must ask again, why be so conservative? Why would the ultra-Orthodox not use the internet to communicate between communities around the globe and share ideas on their religion? There is no value to this kind of conservatism. 

The same conservative attitude is causing all the grief in America over gay marriage. The conservative says that "marriage has always been between one man and one woman and therefore cannot change". Ignoring the fact that that statement is in no way whatsoever even slighly historically accurate, why can't marriage change? Through most of history, marriage was all about producing children. Today marriage is about love. So why can't the "institution" adapt and include the love of two men or two women? If you don't agree with gay marriage, than don't have one. But how does it affect you if someone else does? What do conservatives gain by telling people no? 


  1. It seems to me that you conflate being a political conservative in terms of U.S. politics with orthodox-judaism specific issues and then blast off about what you think is American conservatism.

    In other words you sound like a fuckin MORON.

    Now as for gay marriage, marriage is a man reserving a woman for himself for sexual purposes. It makes absolutely no sense for men to reserve other men or for women to reserve other women.

    1. I wrote about the "conservative mind set" not everything Americans label as conservative that actually have nothing to do with the word conservatism. It is not my fault Americans use the word for a catch all.

      For example, laissez faire economic policy in America is called conservatism just because the Republics take that position. It actually has nothing to do with conservatism.
      The words conservatism comes from the world conserve. The conservative mindset fights any kind of change, be it in religion or politics.

      I could have gone into a whole history of where and why this mind set started (post Napoleon Europe, specifically Austria), but that would have made a boring post for most of my readers.

      As far as your narrow minded, uninformed, dumb view on marriage, its baseless.

      Do you know how to make a point or do you just curse and throw a temper tantrum?

    2. @SJ http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/youare

  2. >According to the Torah, the Jewishness of a child is determined by the father

    That isn't so certain

    1) In ancient days, women would automatically take the religion of their husband.
    2) There is a law regarding giving a Jewish slave a non-Jewish slave to marry. Yet any offspring stays with the master when the Jew is released. If the child was Jewish according to the father, he would have to be set free.

    1. It is certain as the rabbis of the Roman period felt a need to change it to the mother.

    2. And in Ezra's time...when he told them to separate from their foreign wives....was at it paternal?

    3. That is the point, the men had non Jewish wives and Ezra tried to put a stop to it. But it would appear he did not succeed since later rabbis felt a need to make this change again.
      Honestly, it has been a number of years since I read up on this and I will have to look into it more.
      But this does not change the point I wrote about. At one point Judaism was determined by the father and later it switched to the mother.

    4. >At one point Judaism was determined by the father and later it switched to the mother.

      I know that is your point. I don't think it is so clear cut given the reality of that day and age for the two points I brought up.

    5. I am just saying what the Torah says. If you want to claim that the Jews of that period actually did not practice that way, than that is fine. But that still does not change what the Torah says.

    6. Well the Torah doesn't say anything explicitly. It just gives a narrative. The women simply took the religion of their husbands....before a child was born

      The only thing it does allude to explicitly, is the issue with the slave, which does not work in your favor :)

    7. Not true. Whenever the Torah talks about the lineage of anyone, they only refer to the men because apparently that is all that matters. To be a proper king, a person needed to be a decedent of David, not Bat-Sheva.

    8. Where does it say the women took the religion of the husband?

    9. It doesn't but I do understand the assumption. But now that I think about it more, a number of times in the Torah the wives specifically did not not change their religion. The first example that comes to mind is the man non Jewish wives of King Solomon.

  3. >For thousands of years Judaism revolved around the Temple in Jerusalem.

    For thousands?????

    >marriage has always been between one man and one woman

    That isn't what they say.

    They say marriage has always been about man and woman.

    And I disagree with your post. Obvious some change is good, while some change is bad. Progressives see all change is good, typically based on feelings of empathy, compassion (or feelings of entitlement). Conservatives would say that not every change in the long run is good even though to the individuals, it seems compassionate. A good society finds that balance between liberal attitudes of changes where things absolutely needs change and conservative values to anchor it down.

    IIRC, there is a fascinated TED lecture on this topic where the lecturer sees a sort of ring/yang existence. WHere Liberalism functions as the destroyer to tear at what needs to be torn for good change and conservatives operates at holding everything together and conserving that which needs to be. Both are needed.

    1. Thousands, should be over a thousand. My mistake.

      As far as change, I believe most change that frees up the individual to live his/her life in happiness is always good, as long as that individual is not hurting anyone else.

      Other than that not all change is good and every change needs to be judged based on its own merits. My point was that the current conservative trend is to be reactionary and anti all forms of change.

  4. >What do conservatives gain by telling people no?

    What do YOU think I gain?

    1. Honestly, I have no idea. A feeling of power? That is just a guess. I really cannot figure out what someone gains by trying to force me to live a life that I do not want or denying me what what I deserve when it has no effect on them whatsoever.

    2. >denying me what what I deserve when it has no effect on them whatsoever.

      For better or worse, everything has an affect on society even though at a particular point, it may not affect a given individual. We don't each live on individual islands. Conservatives care about the long run health of a society no less than you do. So give them a little more benefit of the doubt than to demonize their intentions. You may not agree with them, but I don't think I have ever demonized you.

    3. No you have not. And it was not my intention to demonize. As I said, most people I know in the world are conservative. My parents are conservative.
      I do not want to get into a debate on gay marriage right now. This is not the post to do that (I think my next one will be better suited for that).
      My point is, adapting to the changing world, rather than fighting the change is sometimes worth considering.

  5. Really, you think your average Conservative gets some High with power?

    How many Conservatives are you actually close with....that are not orthodox Jews?

    1. Actually most of my friends are conservative. I was conservative when I was younger, mimicking my parents.
      I really do not know why. The guess of "a feeling of power" was really just throwing a dart blindly and hoping to hit the target.
      I have no idea why. I think in many cases it has to do with hate, but I am not simplistic enough to think that is the main cause.
      So please enlighten me if you have a better answer.