Sunday, October 12, 2008

Jewish Genetics

Hillel Halkin, who always has interesting things to say, discusses what the rather new science of genetic genealogy apparently tells us about the Jews. Bottom line: yes, the Jews came originally from the Middle East, just like they always said they did. But while they were away, there was a substantial amount of intermarriage with locals, whether through conversion, rape, or simple hanky-panky. Which isn't surprising either, human nature being what it is and always has been.

Traditional accounts of Jewish history, it would appear, are part true and part myth. Despite their dispersion in space and time, the Jews have continued to be that most curious (and in the eyes of many, preposterous) of combinations: at once a people or nation, fellow communicants in the world’s oldest monotheistic religion, and a family or tribe belonged to only by those born or married into it. They could not have remained such an amalgam had they not clung to strict rules of membership and admission.

Yet these rules were not observed everywhere or always. There were periods and places in which a blind eye was turned to them, most often when violations were not remediable. Had a rabbi arrived in Yemen or Bukhara soon after the founding of its Jewish community, he might have been able to insist on the halakhic conversion of its handful of Jews. But this would no longer have been practicable after several generations had gone by, especially since Yemenite and Bukharan Jews would have forgotten by then that their maternal progenitors were not halakhically Jewish and would have reacted with resentment to such a demand. Similarly, Khazars identifying themselves as Levites were accepted as such without inquiries into their past. It is an old rabbinic adage that one does not inflict demands on the public that the public is incapable of meeting. Better a tolerated myth than an intolerable truth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I have curved pinkies. One of my aunt's also had them. Only later did I discover this was a Mongolian trait. And, I do suppose that some of my ancestors were in Russia. (Beyond the Pale.) And, some later migrated back to Poland.

The finger? Well, I've heard of "White RUssians," and "Red Russians." But I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the "red" stood in for Asians. And, that the "pot has been mixed very well."

Given today's propensity for travelers to lurk about just everywhere in our world, it's possible in a few hundred years THERE WILL BE NO WHITES! Because there are enough mixed births, already.

And, yes. Sometimes genetics throws you a clue.

For instance. Did you know that BLUE EYES are dominant? If a White and Black have children, together. And, one of them has BLUE EYES, the kids will NEVER have brown eyes. They'll have variations of green. Most people have already seen this on light skinned Blacks. But didn't know it was due to a dominant eye color trait. (Brown didn't win the contest.)

Anyway, White is the color that can find itself so well-mixed, ahead, people will wonder what all the feelings of superiority were all about? You just never know. But in nature, to be free of disease. To be able to fend off major killers, by having better immune systems, may, in fact, be the real genetic key? Without health, whole groups die off.

And there are still billions of Chinese and Indians coming through the flood gates, ahead, too.

As to "myths," you'd be surprised how well hidden some stuff could be! There was, of course, the famous closet. But until the 1960's, people didn't even discuss alcoholism. They discussed NOTHING that occurred behind their bedroom doors. And, you can almost be guaranteed that some moms? Weren't impregnated by their husbands! Only that the law said the husband was the father "no matter what."

Lots of truth escaped unnoticed.

Heck, even now!

I still think one thousand years from now, the world will be seeing SPINOZA, and EINSTEIN, as the humanists they were. As a matter of fact, all that's not in place, yet, is the tendency to deny reality; and "hug those myths."