Aletho News


German opposition calls to reverse online hate speech law

RT | January 7, 2108

New online hate speech regulations which took effect Monday, stipulates that German authorities can impose huge fines of up to €50 million ($60.1 million) on social media platforms which fail to promptly delete offensive content.

The parliamentary leader of the Left Party, Sahra Wagenknecht, called the legislation a “slap in the face for all democratic principles,” claiming the courts, rather than private companies, should determine what constitutes unlawful content.

Nicola Beer, the General Secretary of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), expressed similar sentiments. “The past few days have clearly shown private providers aren’t always able to make the right decision,” she told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

Other politicians, such as the leader of the Greens, Simone Peter, argued the law hampered free speech in Germany, leaving it at hands of US corporations to decide what was “hate speech” and what was not.

January 7, 2018 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | ,

1 Comment »

  1. IS THE TRUTH “hate speech”???????????????????????????????????


    The Bible already expresses ambivalence about Hebrew slavery, the rabbis expand upon it and Maimonides takes the next step, applying the negative evaluation of slavery even to non-Israelites.

    Centrality of the Exodus Narrative Does not Erase Slavery from the Bible
    God forges his covenant by a self-identification:
    אָנֹכִי יְ-הוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִיךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים. I am YHWH your God who took you out the land of Egypt (Exodus 20:2; Deut.5:6).

    The essence of Passover and/or the Matzot festival, which launches the annual cycle of pilgrimages, also commemorates the exodus, anchoring the relationship between God and Israel as Liberator and slave. We still celebrate this (combined) holiday of Passover and Matzot as “the time of our freedom[1] (זמן חרותינו).

    Yet, what disturbingly hovers over this core liberating experience is the very real phenomenon of ongoing actual slavery, recognized by the Hebrew Bible as a legitimate institution.[2] The very Decalogue, introduced by God as a supreme liberator, the one who took you out of the land of Egypt, tacitly endorses slavery as a sanctioned component of continuing Israelite life; slaves are offered relief from their indentured lives on the Sabbath only, lapsing back into their oppressed condition the other days of the week.
    Regulation of Hebrew Slavery: A Step Towards Abolition
    Although it sanctions the institution of slavery, biblical law begins the process toward abolition, a process still unresolved in various parts of the world, by regulating and restricting the absolute control a master could exercise over an Israelite slave. Though limited in scope, both the Covenant Collection (Exodus 21-23) and the Deuteronomic Collection (Deuteronomy 12-26) conceptually transform the Hebrew slave from pure chattel owned by the master, to some form of independent personhood bearing legal rights. This process culminates in Leviticus 25, which avoids the locution

    “Hebrew slave (עבד עברי)” altogether, preferring “your brother.” [3]

    Such laws as Exod. 21:26-27, mandating the release of a slave upon the infliction of physical injury by the master, are innovative for their time, and “without parallel in the Ancient Near East.”[4]

    Rabbinic Period: Making It Hard to Keep a Hebrew Slave
    In the first centuries of the Common Era, rabbinic jurisprudence, which often revised biblical law to accord with its own conceptions of law and morality, advanced the biblical rules governing the treatment of Hebrew slaves in further humane directions. The rabbis take this to such an extreme, that the Talmud states,

    “anyone who acquires a Hebrew slave acquires a master for himself” (b. Kiddushin 20a):

    כי טוב לו עמך – עמך במאכל ועמך במשתה, שלא תהא אתה אוכל פת נקיה והוא אוכל פת קיבר, אתה שותה יין ישן והוא שותה יין חדש, אתה ישן על גבי מוכים והוא ישן על גבי התבן, מכאן אמרו: כל הקונה עבד עברי, כקונה אדון לעצמו. “Because he is well with you” – he must be with [i.e., equal to] you in food and drink, that you should not eat white bread and he black bread, you drink old wine and he new wine, you sleep on a feather bed and he on straw. Hence it was said: “Whoever buys a Hebrew slave is like buying a master for himself.”[5]

    Nahmanides: Freeing Hebrew Slaves Is Being Like God
    Noting the close connection between the Covenant Collection and the Decalogue, Moses Nahmanides (1194-1270) draws a vital parallel between this “first legislation” (mishpat ha’rishon) and the first of the Ten Commandments (dibbur ha’rishon),
    מפני שיש בשילוח העבד בשנה השביעית זכר ליציאת מצרים הנזכר בדבור הראשון… [F]or the liberation of the slave in the seventh year is reminiscent of the exodus from Egypt mentioned in the first commandment… (Exodus 21:2)

    Israel’s consciousness of their own experience as a victim of oppression should compel them not to be victimizers, and this is enshrined in the biblical law of manumission after six years. By invoking the opening line of the Decalogue, Nahmanides creates a parallel between the Israelite owner freeing his slaves and God freeing the enslaved Israelites; thus by releasing the Hebrew slave, the Israelite owner follows in God’s ways (imitatio dei), as a liberator.


    Up until now, we have discussed only Hebrew slaves. Non-Hebrew slaves were considered permanent acquisitions and never had to be freed. The stark contrast is seen best in the Holiness Collection, which, as stated above, denies that Hebrew can ever really be slaves:
    ויקרא כה:מב כִּֽי עֲבָדַ֣י הֵ֔ם אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵ֥אתִי אֹתָ֖ם מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם לֹ֥א יִמָּכְר֖וּ מִמְכֶּ֥רֶת עָֽבֶד: כה:מג לֹא תִרְדֶּ֥ה ב֖וֹ בְּפָ֑רֶךְ וְיָרֵ֖אתָ מֵאֱלֹהֶֽיךָ: כה:מד וְעַבְדְּךָ֥ וַאֲמָתְךָ֖ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִהְיוּ לָ֑ךְ מֵאֵ֣ת הַגּוֹיִ֗ם אֲשֶׁר֙ סְבִיבֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם מֵהֶ֥ם תִּקְנ֖וּ עֶ֥בֶד וְאָמָֽה: כה:מה וְ֠גַם מִבְּנֵ֨י הַתּוֹשָׁבִ֜ים הַגָּרִ֤ים עִמָּכֶם֙ מֵהֶ֣ם תִּקְנ֔וּ וּמִמִּשְׁפַּחְתָּם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עִמָּכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר הוֹלִ֖ידוּ בְּאַרְצְכֶ֑ם וְהָי֥וּ לָכֶ֖ם לַֽאֲחֻזָּֽה: כה:מו וְהִתְנַחַלְתֶּ֨ם אֹתָ֜ם לִבְנֵיכֶ֤ם אַחֲרֵיכֶם֙ לָרֶ֣שֶׁת אֲחֻזָּ֔ה לְעֹלָ֖ם בָּהֶ֣ם תַּעֲבֹ֑דוּ וּבְאַ֨חֵיכֶ֤ם בְּנֵֽי־ יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אִ֣ישׁ בְּאָחִ֔יו לֹא תִרְדֶּ֥ה ב֖וֹ בְּפָֽרֶךְ: ס Leviticus 25:42 For they are My servants, whom I freed from the land of Egypt; they may not give themselves over into servitude.—25:43 You shall not rule over him ruthlessly; you shall fear your God. 25:44 Such male and female slaves as you may have—it is from the nations round about you that you may acquire male and female slaves. 25:45 You may also buy them from among the children of aliens resident among you, or from their families that are among you, whom they begot in your land. These shall become your property: 25:46 you may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property for all time. Such you may treat as slaves. But as for your Israelite kinsmen, no one shall rule ruthlessly over the other.

    The rabbis make no attempt to soften this. In fact, at least some voices in rabbinic literature interpret v. 46 not as permission to keep slaves forever but as a commandment to do so (b. Berachot 47b).
    …אמר רב יהודה: כל המשחרר עבדו עובר בעשה, שנאמר: לעלם בהם תעבדו! …Rav Yehudah said: “Whoever frees his slave has violated a positive commandment, as it says, “You shall work them forever.”
    Nevertheless, the rabbis did take some small steps, by codifying a prohibition to humiliate non-Israelite slaves (b. Niddah 47a),
    …אמר שמואל: לעולם בהם תעבודו – לעבודה נתתים ולא לבושה. …Samuel said: “‘You shall work them forever’ – I gave them to you for work, but not for humiliation.”



    “Those who are incapable of attaining to supreme religious values include the BLACK coloured people and those who resemble them in their climates. Their nature is like the MUTE ANIMALS. Their level among existing things is below that of a man and above that of a monkey.”

    (Maimonides, Guide To The Perplexed, Translation from the Hebrew Version)


    Canaan is identified as a black man and blacks as in inferior people, only in the Gemara, which is to say the latter part of the Talmud, the Midrash and later writings of the rabbis. This invective, this racism, is not anywhere in the bible concerning the black race.

    The rabbinic account of the malediction against Ham stipulates that his son Canaan, and all Canaan’s offspring, are to fated to suffer perpetual slavery and black skin without the chance of their condition being ameliorated. It is this anti-Old Testament, Rabbinic gloss that influenced those fifteenth century Renaissance humanists who had crossed over into the forbidden territory of the Talmud, the Midrash and the Kabbalah as part of a supposedly enlightened act. It is an irony of history that as a result of this supposedly progressive development, the abominable view of blacks as a perpetual race of slaves became entrenched among the western liberal intelligentsia for at least the next three hundred years.

    Here is what Schorsch writes in his book, JEWS and BLACKS in the EARLY MODERN WORLD:

    “Few Jewish thinkers understood Ham’s curse to initiate his or her progeny’s blackness.”

    That is an out and out prevarication. The classic rabbinic texts hold that the punishment visited upon Ham was the transformation of his son Canaan, and all Canaan’s progeny, into BLACKS.

    Rabbi Hiyya said,

    “Ham and the dog copulated on the ark. Therefore Ham came forth dark skinned.”




    Midrasch Talpioth, p 225 -L



    (French Rabbi, Ray Touitou – sermon uploaded to You Tube on 20 November 2013)

    A constant feature of the New World Order is that human beings are animals and we are defined by our animal desires.

    There is a consistent denial of God, or that human beings have a connection to God through our souls. Why is this?

    Animals have no rights.

    “The Talmud is to this day the circulating heart’s blood of the Jewish Religion. Whatever laws, customs or ceremonies we observe – whether we are orthodox, conservative, reform or merely spasmodic sentimentalists – we follow the Talmud. It is our common law.”

    Herman Wouk

    “The modern Jew is the product of the Talmud…” – “Babylonian Talmud”, published by the Boston Talmud Society, p. XII

    The Jews refer to the remainder of Earths inhabitants, the non-Jewish peoples, as “Gentiles”, “Goyim”.

    Let’s see what the Jewish Talmud teaches the Jews concerning the non-Jewish majority, i.e. those who are not part of Jahve’s “Chosen People”:

    “The Jews are called human beings, but the non-Jews are not humans. They are beasts.”- Talmud: Baba mezia, 114b

    “The Akum (non-Jew) is like a dog. Yes, the scripture teaches to honor the the dog more than the non-Jew.”- Ereget Raschi Erod. 22 30

    “Even though God created the non-Jew they are still animals in human form. It is not becoming for a Jew to be served by an animal. Therefore he will be served by animals in human form.” – Midrasch Talpioth, p. 255, Warsaw 1855

    “A pregnant non-Jew is no better than a pregnant animal.”- Coschen hamischpat 405

    “The souls of non-Jews come from impure sprits and are called pigs.”- Jalkut Rubeni gadol 12b

    “Although the non-Jew has the same body structure as the Jew, they compare with the Jew like a monkey to a human.”- Schene luchoth haberith, p. 250 b

    “If you eat with a Gentile, it is the same as eating with a dog.”- Tosapoth, Jebamoth 94b

    “If a Jew has a non-Jewish servant or maid who dies, one should not express sympathy to the Jew. You should tell the Jew: “God will replace ‘your loss’, just as if one of his oxen or asses had died”.”- Jore dea 377, 1

    “Sexual intercourse between Gentiles is like intercourse between animals.”- Talmud Sanhedrin 74b

    “It is permitted to take the body and the life of a Gentile.”- Sepher ikkarim III c 25



    The Mishneh Torah Law Code
    Moses Maimonides (1138-1205) is the first to take a big step towards a more humane treatment of gentile slaves. In the final section of his Laws of Slavery, Maimonides, expresses moral discomfort with the idea, endorsed by the Torah, that an Israelite master is to work his non-Israelite slaves with harsh labor (pharekh),[6] which he defines as (Mishneh Torah, “Laws of Slaves” 1:6):

    No defined limit is set for the work.
    Useless work.[7]
    In both cases, the slave is not allowed a semblance of accomplishment that could salvage some sense of self-worth or empowerment as a human being.[8] In effect, the master replaces God as the supreme object of the slave’s obedience and dependence. Thus, this may account for why the classical rabbis considered keeping a slave past the obligatory sabbatical limit tantamount to idolatry.[9]
    Focusing on the imposition of pharekh labor, Maimonides writes, (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Slaves 9:8):
    Best to be compassionate and not overburden slaves. מֻתָּר לַעֲבֹד בְּעֶבֶד כְּנַעֲנִי בְּפָרֶךְ. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהַדִּין כָּךְ מִדַּת חֲסִידוּת וְדַרְכֵי חָכְמָה שֶׁיִּהְיֶה אָדָם רַחְמָן וְרוֹדֵף צֶדֶק וְלֹא יַכְבִּיד עֻלּוֹ עַל עַבְדּוֹ וְלֹא יָצֵר לוֹ. It is permissible to have a Canaanite slave perform excruciating labor (pharekh). Although this is the law, the attribute of piety and the ways of wisdom is for a person to be compassionate and to pursue justice, not to excessively burden his slaves, nor cause them distress.
    Feed slaves well. וְיַאֲכִילֵהוּ וְיַשְׁקֵהוּ מִכָּל מַאֲכָל וּמִכָּל מִשְׁתֶּה. חֲכָמִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים הָיוּ נוֹתְנִין לָעֶבֶד מִכָּל תַּבְשִׁיל וְתַבְשִׁיל שֶׁהָיוּ אוֹכְלִין. וּמַקְדִּימִין מְזוֹן הַבְּהֵמוֹת וְהָעֲבָדִים לִסְעוּדַת עַצְמָן. He should feed them and give them drink from all his available food and drink. This was the practice of the ancient Sages who would give their slaves from every dish of which they themselves would partake. And they would provide food for their animals and slaves before partaking of their own meals.
    A master to his slave has the power of God. הֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר (תהילים קכג-ב) “כְעֵינֵי עֲבָדִים אֶל יַד אֲדוֹנֵיהֶם כְּעֵינֵי שִׁפְחָה אֶל יַד גְּבִרְתָּהּ [כֵּ֣ן עֵ֭ינֵינוּ אֶל־ה’ אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ עַד שֶׁיְּחָנֵּנוּ]”. And so, it is written Psalms 123:2: “As the eyes of slaves to their master’s hand, and like the eyes of a maid-servant to her mistress’ hand, [so are our eyes to the Lord our God awaiting his favor].”
    Do not verbally abuse a slave, but speak kindly. וְכֵן לֹא יְבַזֵּהוּ בַּיָּד וְלֹא בִּדְבָרִים. לְעַבְדוּת מְסָרָן הַכָּתוּב לֹא לְבוּשָׁה. וְלֹא יַרְבֶּה עָלָיו צְעָקָה וְכַעַס אֶלָּא יְדַבֵּר עִמּוֹ בְּנַחַת וְיִשְׁמַע טַעֲנוֹתָיו. וְכֵן מְפֹרָשׁ בְּדַרְכֵי אִיּוֹב הַטּוֹבִים שֶׁהִשְׁתַּבֵּחַ בָּהֶן (איוב לא-יג) “אִם אֶמְאַס מִשְׁפַּט עַבְדִּי וַאֲמָתִי בְּרִבָם עִמָּדִי” (איוב לא-טו) “הֲלֹא בַבֶּטֶן עשֵֹׁנִי עָשָׂהוּ וַיְכֻנֶנּוּ בָּרֶחֶם אֶחָד.” Similarly, we should not embarrass a slave verbally or physically, for the Torah only contemplated work for them not humiliation. Nor should one excessively scream at or exhibit anger with them. Instead, one should speak to them gently, and listen to their complaints. This is explicitly stated with regard to the positive paths of Job for which he was praised Job 31:13, 15: “Have I ever shunned justice for my slave and maid-servant when they quarreled with me…. Did not He who made me in my mother’s belly make him? Did not One form us both in the womb?”
    The children of Abraham are kind and not cruel like idolaters. וְאֵין הָאַכְזָרִיּוּת וְהָעַזּוּת מְצוּיָה אֶלָּא בְּעַכּוּ”ם עוֹבְדֵי עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה אֲבָל זַרְעוֹ שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ וְהֵם יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁהִשְׁפִּיעַ לָהֶם הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא טוֹבַת הַתּוֹרָה וְצִוָּה אוֹתָם בְּ”חֻקִּים וּמִשְׁפָּטִים צַדִּיקִים” רַחְמָנִים הֵם עַל הַכּל. Cruelty and arrogance are common only among idolaters. By contrast, the descendants of Abraham our patriarch, i.e. Israel on whom the Holy One, blessed be He, endowed the goodness of the Torah and commanded to observe “righteous statutes and judgments,” (Deuteronomy 4:8) are compassionate to all.
    God is merciful so we should be as well. וְכֵן בְּמִדּוֹתָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שֶּׁצִּוָּנוּ לְהִדָּמוֹת בָּהֶם הוּא אוֹמֵר (תהילים קמה-ט) “וְרַחֲמָיו עַל כָּל מַעֲשָׂיו . וְכָל הַמְרַחֵם מְרַחֲמִין עָלָיו שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג:יח) “וְנָתַן לְךָ רַחֲמִים וְרִחַמְךָ וְהִרְבֶּךָ”: And similarly, with regard to the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He, which He commanded us to imitate, it is written Psalms 145:9: “His mercy is upon all of His works.” And whoever shows mercy to others will have mercy shown to him, as implied by Deuteronomy 13:18: “He will show you compassion, and in His compassion merciful increase you.”

    This codified recommendation represents the high water mark of Jewish law in expressing noble and equitable ideals. It also presents an exquisite weave of biblical texts, philosophy, theology, and law. This emerges most clearly if we follow the logic of four verses Maimonides cites and how he integrates them into a kind of philosophically theological mini-treatise that touches on the nature of man, his relationship with the divine, the nature of God, and imitatio dei.

    A Closer Look at the Verses
    Maimonides Quotes
    1. Kindness (Without) obligation; Psalms 123:2
    הִנֵּ֨ה כְעֵינֵ֢י עֲבָדִ֡ים אֶל יַ֤ד אֲֽדוֹנֵיהֶ֗ם כְּעֵינֵ֣י שִׁפְחָה֘ אֶל יַ֪ד גְּבִ֫רְתָּ֥הּ כֵּ֣ן עֵ֭ינֵינוּ אֶל יְ-הֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ עַ֗ד שֶׁיְּחָנֵּֽנוּ: As the eyes of slaves to their master’s hand, and like the eyes of a maid-servant to her mistress’ hand, so are our eyes to YHWH our God awaiting his favor.

    By ending with God’s “favor (ח-נ-נ),” which connotes kindness without obligation, we are reminded that the non-Jewish slave has no legal grounds for grievance against pharekh labor. Nevertheless, Maimonides uses this text to prioritize the slave’s needs—like quality food at proper meal times—over the master’s needs, a level of compassion that would surely undermine the utilitarian basis for slave ownership.
    2. All Are Formed in the Womb: Job 31:13, 15
    אִם־אֶמְאַ֗ס מִשְׁפַּ֣ט עַ֭בְדִּי וַאֲמָתִ֑י בְּ֝רִבָ֗ם עִמָּדִֽי… הֲֽלֹא־בַ֭בֶּטֶן עֹשֵׂ֣נִי עָשָׂ֑הוּ וַ֝יְכֻנֶ֗נּוּ בָּרֶ֥חֶם אֶחָֽד: Have I ever shunned justice for my slave and maid-servant when they quarreled with me…. Did not He who made me in my mother’s belly make him? Did not One form us both in the womb?
    While the previous verse called for supererogatory conduct, this verse demands abiding by the legal duties (משפט) a master owes his slave because, as Job says, both he and the slaves share the same humanity; [10] all are formed in the womb, and every individual emerges from the same physiological processes.[11]

    3. A Legal Claim: Deuteronomy 4:8
    וּמִי֙ גּ֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל אֲשֶׁר־ל֛וֹ חֻקִּ֥ים וּמִשְׁפָּטִ֖ים צַדִּיקִ֑ם כְּכֹל֙ הַתּוֹרָ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּֽוֹם: Or what great nation has laws and rules as perfect as all this Teaching that I set before you this day?
    Building off the reference to משפט in Job, here Maimonides raises the stakes for the normative value of his advised treatment of slaves by transforming it into a bedrock of the entire Jewish legal framework.

    4. Imitatio Dei : Psalms 145:9 and Deuteronomy 13:18
    טוֹב יְ-הֹוָ֥ה לַכֹּ֑ל וְ֝רַחֲמָ֗יו עַל כָּל מַעֲשָֽׂיו: YHWH is good to all, and His mercy is upon all His works.
    וְנָֽתַן לְךָ֤ רַחֲמִים֙ וְרִֽחַמְךָ֣ וְהִרְבֶּ֔ךָ כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר נִשְׁבַּ֖ע לַאֲבֹתֶֽיךָ: And he will show you compassion, and in His compassion increase you as He promised your fathers on oath.
    The last verses cited concentrate on the trait of “mercy,” which Maimonides uses to underline the moral of gravity of the benevolent treatment of slaves, regardless of their origins, by raising it to the level of imitatio dei.
    In fact, Maimonides may be implying even more than this.

    All Humans Are Created Equal:
    Maimonides in Guide of the Perplexed
    Maimonides’ Guide offers a complementary explanation of what it means to be human that works in tandem with the legal case he builds about slavery in the Mishneh Torah. According to Maimonides any differences between individual members of a species are accidental, attributable only to the fickle nature of matter, or their physical constituents, since

    “[T]here in no way exists a relation of superiority and inferiority between individuals conforming to the course of nature except that which follows necessarily from the differences in the disposition of the various kinds of matter…” [12]

    For Maimonides, material success or physical prowess do not in any way indicate superiority over others since they are simply arbitrary consequences of the natural world that do not constitute an “increment in substance.”[13] He then cites, among other verses, the same verse he uses to end the halakha about non-Jewish slaves, Psalm. 145:9, to substantiate the principle of divine:

    “beneficence with regard to His creatures…in that He makes individuals of the same species equal at their creation.” [14]

    No verse better captures what is perceived as the modern liberal ideal of “all men are created equal” than Psalms 145:9 in Maimonides’ reading. It elevates the equalization of another human being to a metaphysical standard of imitatio dei, and one which emulates the specific divine trait that grounds all of human existence in the “mercy” that establishes a common human form and that is blind to contingent differences.
    Conclusion: Slavery Is Contra Deum
    Psalm. 145:9 then delivers the philosophical and theological coup de grace to slavery. If God’s “beneficence” is manifest in the equality inherent in human beings “at their creation,” then to exert mastery over another human being subverts God’s governance and constitutes an act contra deum rather than imitatio dei.
    Professor James A. Diamond is the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Chair of Jewish Studies at the University of Waterloo and former director of the university’s Friedberg Genizah Project. He holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies and Medieival Jewish Thought from the University of Toronto, and an LL.M. from New York University’s Law School.

    He is also a Herzl Institute/Templeton Foundation Fellow. His primary areas of study include biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, medieval Jewish thought and philosophy, Maimonides, and rabbinics. He is the author of Maimonides and the Hermeneutics of Concealment (SUNY, 2002) which was awarded the Canadian Jewish Book Award and Converts, Heretics and Lepers: Maimonides and the Outsider (University of Notre Dame, 2008) awarded Notable Selection-Jordan Schnitzer Book Award in the Category of Philosophy and Jewish Thought for best book in 4 years (2008) as well as the Canadian Jewish Book Award. His most recent book, Maimonides and the Shaping of the Jewish Canon (Cambridge, 2014), argues that Maimonides’ philosophy and jurisprudence has become an integral part of the Jewish canon alongside the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud.

    [1] In Exodus, its perpetual memory is sustained by observing the pre-Deuteronomic Festival of the Unleavened Bread, “for on this very day I brought you out of the land of Egypt” (12:17). In Deuteronomy, this is conflated with the Passover festival, “so that you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt as long as you live” (Deuteronomy. 16:3). For an excellent analysis of the Deuteronomic transformation of both biblical festivals into one see ch. 3 of Bernard Levinson’s Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation, (NY: Oxford University Press, 1997). See also Michael Satlow’s TABS essay, “Passover and the Festival of Matzot:
    Synthesizing Two Holidays.”

    [2] For another reflection on this problem, see Isaac Sassoon’s TABS essay, “Did Israel Celebrate Their Freedom While Owning Slaves?”

    [3] For more on the three sets of Hebrew slave laws the TABS essays by Marvin Sweeney, “The Bible’s Evolving Effort to Humanize Debt Slavery.” Zev Farber, “The Law of the Hebrew Slave: Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy,” and Aaron Koller, “The Law of the Hebrew Slave: Reading the Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy Law Collections as Complementary.”

    [4] See Reuven Yaron, “Biblical Law: Prolegomena,” in Jewish Law in Legal History, ed., Bernard Jackson (Leiden: Brill, 1990) p.36, and Hans Jochen Boecker, Law and the Administration of Justice in the Old Testament and Ancient East, (Augsburg Press, 1988) pp.162-163.

    [5] In her comprehensive survey of slavery in the rabbinic corpus, Catherine Heszer asserts the same distinction between rabbinic an Roman law as that made previously with respect to the distinct nature of biblical laws on slavery. Although rabbinic/biblical bears some analogy to Roman law in its recognition of a master’s right to punish a slave for misconduct, “unlike Roman Law, biblical and rabbinic law refrain from granting the master an unlimited power of life and death over his slave.” In Jewish Slavery in Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) p. 211.

    [6] As is his systematic wont, Maimonides dedicates a section in his Code to the laws governing slaves but ends, as is also his custom in a number of other sections, with his own creative, rhetorical, non-halakhic sentiments which finally collapse the distinction between Hebrew and non-Hebrew slaves.

    כל עבד עברי אסור לעבוד בו בפרך, ואיזו היא עבודת פרך זו עבודה שאין לה קצבה ועבודה שאינו צריך לה אלא תהיה מחשבתו להעבידו בלבד שלא יבטל

    [8] The horror of this kind of labor reappears in the twentieth century in the Nazi concentration camps captured with mind numbing force by Primo Levi: “In the early Lagers, which were almost coeval with H’s coming to power work was purely persecutory, practically useless for productive ends: to send the undernourished to dig up turf or cut stone served only a terroristic purpose…for Nazi rhetoric…”work ennobles” and therefore the ignoble adversaries of the regime are not worthy of working in the commonly accepted meaning of the word. Their work must be afflictive; it must leave no room for professionalism, must be the work of beasts of burden- pull, push, carry weights, bend over the soil. This too is useless violence…” in The Drowned and the Saved (NY: Vintage Books, 1989), p.121.

    [9] See for example jKiddushin 1:2. To appreciate the theological offensiveness of slavery, it is instructive to note that the term “harsh labor (פרך;, pharekh),” which the Israelites are forbidden to subject their fellow Israelites to, is the same term used in the Torah regarding the Egyptians treatment of Israelites (Exodus. 1:13-14).

    [10] The moral gravity of Job’s sentiment carries through into the modern age and concludes Isaac Mendelsohn’s pioneering scholarly work on Slavery in the Ancient Near East (NY: Oxford University Press, 1949) who also recognizes the unique biblical progressiveness in restricting the right to enslave in perpetuity, “a step which no other religion had taken before.” His parting comment is “The first man in the Ancient Near East who raised his voice in a sweeping condemnation of slavery as a cruel and inhuman institution, irrespective of nationality and race, was the philosopher Job.” He then quotes Job31:15 as the expression of this moral condemnation of slavery. (p.123)

    [11] Maimonides’ choice of Job’s declaration of equal human rights is also determined by Job’s situation of a shared humanity in birth. Maimonides, again in the Guide, points to the very process of the formation of the embryo in the womb as emblematic of divine mercy, a characteristic human beings attribute to God based on empirical observations of natural phenomena. “[T]he production of the embryos of living beings, the bringing of various faculties to existence in them and in those who rear them after birth-faculties that preserve them from destruction and annihilation and protect them against harm and are useful to them in all the doings that are necessary to them” Guide, I:54, p.125.
    [12] III:12, p.447.
    [13] Ibid.
    [14] Ibid, p.448.


    Comment by Buddy Silver | January 8, 2018 | Reply

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