The ruling sect needed a new Law of its own, into which “stranger” eyes could not pry, and it needed to make the Jews understand that, though the heathen inexplicably had bound the racio-religious Law into the Christian Bible, this Law nevertheless still was the Law of the Jews alone, and inexorably in force.
Thus the Talmud set out to widen the gap and heighten the barrier between the Jews and others. An example of the different language which the Torah spoke, for Jews and for Gentiles, has previously been given: the obscure and apparently harmless allusion to “a foolish nation”(Deuteronomy, 32.21).
According to the article on Discrimination against Gentiles in the Jewish Encyclopaedia the allusion in the original Hebrew is to “vile and vicious Gentiles”, so that Jew and Gentile received very different meanings from the same passage in the original and in the translation.
The Talmud, however, which was to reach only Jewish eyes, removed any doubt that might have been caused in Jewish minds by perusal of the milder translation; it specifically related the passage in Deuteronomy to one in Ezekiel, 23.20, and by so doing defined Gentiles as those “whose flesh is as the flesh of asses and whose issue is like the issue of horses”! In this spirit was the, “interpretation” of The Law continued by the Talmudists.
The Talmudic edicts were all to similar effect. The Law (the Talmud laid down) allowed the restoration of a lost article to its owner if “a brother or neighbour”, but not if a Gentile.
Book-burning (of Gentile books) was recommended (book-burning is a Talmudic invention, as the witch-hunt was prescribed by the Torah). The benediction, “Blessed be Thou … who has not made me a goi”, was to be recited daily. Eclipses were of bad augury for Gentiles only.
Rabbi Levi laid down that the injunction not to take revenge (Leviticus 19.18) did not apply to Gentiles, and apparently invoked Ecclesiastes 8.4 in support of his ruling (a discriminatory interpretation then being given to a passage in which the Gentile could not suspect any such intention).
The Jew who sells to a Gentile landed property bordering on the land of another Jew is to be excommunicated. A Gentile cannot be trusted as witness in a criminal or civil suit because he could not be depended on to keep his word like a Jew. A Jew testifying in a petty Gentile court as a single witness against a Jew must be excommunicated. Adultery committed with a non-Jewish woman is not adultery “for the heathen have no lawfully wedded wife, they are not really their wives”. The Gentiles are as such precluded from admission to a future world.
Finally, the Talmudic interpretation of the original moral commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart”, is that “man shall occupy himself with the study of Holy Scripture and of the Mishna and have intercourse with learned and wise men”. In other words, the man who best proves his love of God is he who studies the Talmud and shuns his Gentile fellow-man.
An illustrative glimpse from our present time sometimes best shows the effect produced on human minds by centuries of Talmudic rule. In 1952 a Mr. Frank Chodorov published this anecdote: “One very cold night the rabbi tottered into our house in a pitiful condition; it took half a dozen glasses of boiling tea to thaw him out. He then told how a sympathetic goy had offered him a pair of gloves and why he had refused the gift; a Jew must not be the instrument of bringing a mitvah, or blessing, on a non-believer. This was the first time, I believe, that I came smack up against the doctrine of the ‘chosen people’, and it struck me as stupid and mean”.
So much for the “hedge” which the Talmud set up between the Jews and mankind, and for the feeling of contempt and hatred for “strangers” which it set out to instil in the Jews. What did it do to the Jews themselves? Of this, the Jewish Encyclopaedia says, “The Talmudists made the Torah into a penal code“. For once, in this painstakingly accurate work, the meaning is not quite clear; the Torah already was a penal code (as perusal of it today will show), and its penalties had sometimes been applied (by Ezra and Nehemiah against the Jews; and for that matter by the Romans, at the behest of the Sanhedrin, against the “prophet and dreamer of dreams”, Jesus). Possibly the meaning is that, under the Talmudists, the penal code was regularly enforced, and its provisions strengthened.
That is certainly true; the rabbinical practice, previously cited, of “encouraging lynching as an extra-legal preventive”, because they were not allowed by host-governments to pronounce death sentences, shows in how real a sense the Talmud could be applied as “a penal code”. It was a very far cry from the few moral commandments of remote tradition to the multitudinous laws and regulations of the Talmud, which often forbade moral behaviour and assigned drastic punishments for “transgressions”. Observance of these laws, not moral behaviour, remained the basis.
The Talmudic Law governed every imaginable action of a Jew’s life anywhere in the world: marriage, divorce, property settlements, commercial transactions, down to the pettiest details of dress and toilet. As unforeseen things frequently crop in daily life, the question of what was legal or illegal (not what was right or wrong) in all manner of novel circumstances had incessantly to be debated, and this produced the immense records of rabbinical dispute and decisions in which the Talmud abounds.
Was it as much a crime to crush a flea as to kill a camel on the sacred day? One learned rabbi allowed that the flea might be gently squeezed, and another thought its feet might even be cut off.
How many white hairs might a sacrificial red cow have and yet remain a red cow?
What sort of scabs required this or that ritual of purification?
At which end of an animal should the operation of slaughter be performed? Ought the high priest to put on his shirt or his hose first?
Methods of putting apostates to death were debated; they must be strangled, said the elders, until they opened their mouths, into which boiling lead must be poured. Thereon a pious rabbi urged that the victim’s mouth be held open with pincers so that he not suffocate before the molten lead enter and consume his soul with his body. The word “pious” is here not sardonically used; this scholar sought to discover the precise intention of “the Law”.
Was Dr. Johnson acquainted with or ignorant of the Talmud; the subject might prove a fascinating one for a literary debating society. He gave one argument its quietus by declaring,
“There is no settling the point of precedence between a louse and a flea”. Precisely this point had been discussed, and settled, among the Talmudic scholars.
Might a louse or a flea be killed on the Sabbath? The Talmudic reponse was that the first was allowed and the second was a deadly sin.
The Talmud became the unbreakable husk around a kernel determined to survive; it encased the heart of the Jew with a spirituality which though cold as ice was strong as steel to protect … The Talmud, which they carried with them everywhere, became their home”,
A home made of ice and steel, behedged and walled around, with all the windows stopped and the doors barred; the picture is Dr. Kastein ‘s.
In this home the Jews, “owing to the acceptance of the idea of the Chosen People, and of salvation … could interpret everything that happened only from the standpoint of themselves as the centre”. The planet swam in space, among the myriad stars, only to enthrone them on a mound of gold in a temple surrounded by heathen dead; “the Law raised an insuperable barrier against the outside world”.
No Jew, save a Talmudic scholar, could know all of this huge compendium. Probably no Gentile could gain access to an unedited version. A college of specialists and a lifetime of work would be needed to compare such translations as have been made with the originals, if they were made available. Many students, until recently, found the lack of translations significant, but the present writer cannot see that this is important. Enough is known of the Talmud (and most of this from Jewish or converted-Jewish sources) for its nature to be clear, and nothing is gained by heaping proof endlessly on proof.
Ample enlightenment can be obtained from the Jewish Encyclopaedia, the German translation of the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds (Zurich 1880 and Leipzig 1889), William Ruben’s Der alte und der neue Glaube im Judentum, Strack’s Einleitung in den Talmud, Laible’s Jesus Christus im Talmud, Drach’s De l´Harmoni entre l´Eglise et la Synagogue, and Graetz’s History of the Jews.