Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pious Fools will Destroy the World

You may recollect the case, a few years back, in which Saudi religious police stopped teenage girls from escaping their burning school because their hair wasn't covered. 15 of the girls died.

In the Mishna on Page 20a of the Sotah tractate, Rabbi Yehoshua gives a list of people who are so negative they "destroy the world". His first category are the pious fools. On page 21b (today's reading) the Gemarah asks what a pious fool is, and gives as an example a man who sees a woman drowning in the river and doesn't try to save her because she isn't clothed decently.

That's pretty clear, isn't it? It's about 1,800 years old, that ruling, many centuries before the Middle Ages and their bad press. (And, I feel compelled to add, the Sotah tractate is not the most feminist one we have. Even so).

This thread began here.


Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

No, I don't remember the case of the Saudi girls.

I do remember, however, the much more recent case of the woman with motion sickness, a disease whose sufferers have to sit in the front of buses, who was harassed by Orthodox Jews on a Jerusalem bus because she wouldn't move to the back.

I also know personally a young Jewish woman in my city, raised in a Chabad Lubavitch home, whose parents refused to see her anymore after she converted to Catholicism to marry a Catholic man. They even refused to see their grandchildren when these were born.

Islam and Orthodox Judaism are indeed hotbeds of pious foolishness.

Anonymous said...


Yes, I remember the story of the Saudi girls burning to death. It also made me aware that in Saudi Arabia there are religous fools who make sure a woman isn't driving a car. Or a woman isn't "out" in the company of a man, not her husband, brother, or father. And, if it wasn't for the oil? The Saud's would be the arabs selling camels.

Wealth made the Sauds into stock that are so disliked ... You get to read this ... let's say ... when picking up, not a religious text, but Thomas Gordon's GIDEON'S SPIES. And, you learn that Henry Paul, hired by Al Fayad, was also being "handled" by spy groups. So Henry Paul, himself, was quoted as saying that the Sauds, rich as they are, are dreck. They snap their fingers, and expect the world to jump.

There's also a good joke out there, about two monks (known for their silence); walking together ... to reach a monastery. Along the way, they both see a distressed woman who fell into the water; and was about to drown. When one ran in, and though she was naked, he took her to the other side of the shore. Saving her life.

The two monks then still proceeded on, in silence.

Much later, having arrived at their destination; the priest that would have watched the woman drown, turns to the other and said: "What you did was a sin." And, the monk replied. "No. I picked her up, and put her down. But you are still carrying her with you in your head."

Lots of different ways to look at human events.

It saddens me to realize how damaging and dangerous religions are to the human psyche.

"On the positive side," where anti-Semitism was what the Catholic Church did within their sermons; today's world is different. Italian women are no longer winning prizes having 17 to 22 children, each. (The Italians have learned about birth control in spite of the Pope.)

And, in Europe, now, one of the realities is that the Holocaust has taught a lot of people to steer clear of their churches. So the pews remain empty.

While in America, I noticed decades ago, that all the heads at Temple were turning grey. And, then I saw those who had children looked for the Bar Mitzvah (parties). But once the kids went through the rituals, they left! Honest. They walked out the door, and nobody goes back in. The drop-off rate has been tremendous.

And if you can stand it, here's a recent story about circumcision.

I was at a family celebration, recently, where my ex's brother flew in from New Jersey. My ex is a cardiologist. His brother, OB/GYN. And, since I mentioned to my son years ago, that he is circumcised because his dad thought not doing this would be foolish ... I got to learn that my son's dad is now "not so sure" of the health benefits. And, that's the question I then asked his brother.

So, his brother told a story.

Let me set it up, first. During the 1960's, because of the Vietnam War, my ex's brother was in the BERRY PLAN. Meaning? As long as the USA didn't draft him, he'd be allowed to complete medical school. BUT he'd owe time to the army. Which took him in at a Captain's level. And, he practiced medicine for the army.

That's why he chose OB/GYN. He knew the likelihood of being sent to Nam was slim. And, he was right. He served his 3 years in Kentucky.

And, here's the story.

Christian men began coming into the base hospital asking to be circumcized. And, a Jewish doctor, who was the base's urologist, at first didn't question WHY, but did the procedure. However, there were more and more requests. And, the doctor finally got "angry" at one of these patients, and asked him for the REASON. Here the reason was given. It seems women don't like to give blow jobs to men when they're not circumcised.

Sure. "News to me." But I'm Jewish. I don't run into uncircumcized men. However, as soon as I heard this story, it clicked.

Up until that time, all I had was my ex-husband's medical evidence that many men aren't particularly clean. And, they get "adhesions." This alone explains why I accepted the idea that circumcisions made sense.

In the 1980's, when AIDS came along it also became apparent that circumcized men were less likely to get the illness. But the statistical evidence is still a "mixed bag."

And, yes. Non-religious reasons do abound. But at least parents can actually think about it.

While in Israel? The Russian immigrants, I am told, by and large eschew circumcision.