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To make a kiddush Hashem or just do the right thing – that is the question

In yeshiva I found a wallet while riding my bike once, after telling someone, I forget who, possibly a beis medrish guy – he told me some shocking news. He told me that there was a whole gemara about not returning things to non-Jews and not giving them gifts, I was shocked and super happy at the time, years later I regret the whole incident, but my Rosh Yeshiva confirmed the news, he said that the guy could get a new license and the chances of him knowing what a Jew was were slim and that meant that no Kiddush hashem could be made so halachically I shouldnt return it. You cannot imagine the joy of being told as a 15 year old who wondered about the silly stringencies in yeshiva dorm life that it was halachically demanded that I keep a lost wallet, I was overjoyed and told my father who confirmed the Rosh Yeshivas ruling and told me about the gemara, for a split second I thought maybe I would take an interest in gemara, I didnt until my late 20s, but I digress.

I was sitting at the table this past Friday night when an interesting conversation in a similar vein took place. The conversation revolved around doing things because they are the right thing to do, versus doing them for a Kiddush Hashem and that concept really struck me. It struck me how we are constantly being told to do things to make a Kiddush Hashem, not because they are the right thing to do and I personally think thats a pretty crappy way to teach people the difference between right and wrong.

In someone is always paying attyention to making a Kiddush Hashem, basically showing someone that because they are openly Jews they are going to do the right thing, that seems to take away from the whole thing in the first place. If we said to our children do this because its the right thing to do rather than do this because its a Kiddush Hashem it seems to be a much better lesson. If we teach people to do something because its the right thing to do, they will always do it no matter if they can be identified as a Jew or not. I can imagine people doing things that shouldnt be done because they are lacking the public statement of being Jews.

It sounds way nicer and more moral to say something like returning this lost wallet is the right thing to do rather than I will get a Kiddush hashem for returning this lost object.In this case I would have to take the herertical route and go against the Torah, because in my mind keeping the wallet is wrong, regardless of the gemaras teachings, although I dont think its heretical to disagree with something that has some outdated philosophies. I am sure that back in the day, returning a lost object may have been excuse to start a pogrom or something, but these days its likely to spark a nice post on the local craigslist rants and raves section.

{ 247 comments… add one }
  • Anan July 25, 2010, 5:24 PM

    I popped the comment cherry! Wooh!

  • Yechiel July 25, 2010, 5:25 PM

    This is one of your best. Is there anyone out there who does not give gifts to non-jews or wouldn’t return the wallet?

    • Heshy Fried July 25, 2010, 5:35 PM

      I have heard people say they wouldn’t give charity to non-Jews, I’m out of luck because I’m the guy who gives away all of my food at highway exits to homeless guys with “hungry need help” signs – I figure that people will see my Jewish bumper stickers and think highly of Jews (of course if they can’t read Hebrew or understand what frum means – they may have no idea)

      • Anonymous July 25, 2010, 6:11 PM

        Those people should learn halacha. We give Charity to non-Jews along with Jews, darchei shalom.

        • Yochanan July 26, 2010, 1:07 AM

          Aha! Darkhey Shalom (Ways of peace).

          We do things to help Goyim not because we actually give a shit about them, but rather cuz they are powderkegs ready to start a pogrom at moments notice.

      • sergeant J July 26, 2010, 8:20 AM

        That reminds me, as soon as I get my car back to the US, I need to get some Jewish bumper stickers..

    • Julie July 26, 2010, 4:35 AM

      It sounds like BS to me and it’s pretty dumb because if you pay taxes of any sort then you’re violating this supposed “law.” No, it’s not charity exactly but you are helping people of all and no religions through funding 9-1-1 and other public services.

      • abandoning eden July 26, 2010, 8:23 AM

        it’s not charity to pay taxes- it’s paying for communal services. Taxes buy civilization. You don’t pay taxes cause your neighbors might need an ambulance, you pay them so that if you need an ambulance one day there’s one there to come get you.

      • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 1:42 PM

        Taxes aren’t charity. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said

        “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.”

      • Dani July 26, 2010, 2:35 PM

        You pay taxes because it is the law, and against halacha to obey the law in the country in which you reside.

        And on that note, I’ll need to stop jaywalking.

  • John July 25, 2010, 5:34 PM

    This is a concept often lost on you as well as commenters on this blog. allow me to try to explain. We (orthodox jews) dont do what seems to be the right thing to do, we do what God wants. For example we would (in theory) kill every Ameleki man woman and child, because god commanded us to do it, not because it is the right thing to do. It doesnt seem like the right thing to do, yet it is becasue God who defines what is right & wrong, commands us to. Not eating pork, wearing tefilin etc etc, are obviously not things that we do becasue they feel “right” we do them becasue God tells us to. Everything in our religion is like that. Now for our current topic. We return lost objects, not because its right, based on our own intuition, but rather because god commands it.
    God doesnt command us to return it to goyim, thus there is no need, although of course there is still a kidush hashem.
    If this makes any of you feel better, the reason why we arent commanded to return it to goyim is that it is soemthing “above the letter of the law” If someone loses something it’s lost as the old adage goes “finders keepers” why do I have to return it? Yet the torah commands that for jews you do have to go and return it.

    • Little Pom's Mom July 25, 2010, 6:07 PM

      I’m with Heshy. The way you’ve explained it only reinforces the crap logic for me….we should return lost things to WHOMEVER lost them, because it’s the right thing to do. Period. No one is “above the letter of the law.”

      Stupid teachings like this feed the fires of Antisemitism.

      • John July 25, 2010, 7:46 PM

        you said “we should return lost things to WHOMEVER lost them, because its the right thing to do. Period.” you either didnt read or didnt understand my post.
        the fires of anti-semitsm dont need to be fed, they have been burning strong for over 2000 years now

        • mamzer talmid chochom July 25, 2010, 9:24 PM

          Has it occurred to you that anyone who looks for excuses to cheat non-Jews is being a “naval ber’shus hatorah? (Yes I know the phrase is usually reserved for shomrei torah umitzvos who refuse to toe the line.)

          • John July 25, 2010, 9:40 PM

            No, it has not. Though I agree, with you completely

            • Schwartzie July 26, 2010, 1:14 PM

              When he says “above the letter of the law”, it is a translation of the phrase “lifnei mishuras ha-din”, which really means something like “above and beyond the call of duty”. Though we should definitely go above and beyond for goyim as well as Jews.

    • Puzzled July 25, 2010, 6:21 PM

      See, the caricature just writes itself.

    • Julie July 25, 2010, 6:53 PM

      So what happens if you decided that the person whose wallet you took doesn’t belong to a Jew but it actually did?

      • John July 25, 2010, 7:48 PM

        That would be an inadvetant violation of a comandment

        • Julie July 26, 2010, 4:41 AM

          So if you found a wallet, how would determine that it belonged to a Jew?

          • Anonymous July 26, 2010, 8:37 AM

            Well you could assume he’s not jewish if his name is christian thomsan for example. Or ali ababwa or wtvr elsem also if there’s a picture of a baptism inside his wallet or wtvr else you might have that will tell you about the person.

            • tesyaa July 26, 2010, 10:00 AM

              I know more than one Jewish Christopher, so it’s a dumb assumption if you really want to follow the Torah. The thing to do is call and ask the guy if he’s Jewish; if he confirms he’s not, just say never mind. Obviously. 🙁

              • Esther July 26, 2010, 2:49 PM

                Tesya, usually, when I read one of your comments, I’m thinking something along the lines of “right on!” but not this time… I sure hope you’re being sarcastic, because the only obvious thing to do is to return the lost object.

                • tesyaa July 26, 2010, 4:03 PM

                  Esther, I was being sarcastic!!!

                  • Esther July 26, 2010, 4:52 PM


            • Chris_B July 26, 2010, 6:51 PM

              Then you would not know to return my wallet.

    • Bubba Metzia July 25, 2010, 7:28 PM

      What’s wrong with going above the letter of the law on something like this? It should be done because it’s the right thing to do. People go above the letter of the law with stupid chumras like not wearing colored shirts or whatever, but wouldn’t go above the letter of the law on something like returning a lost wallet?

      • Mahla July 25, 2010, 7:39 PM

        Right on! :^)

      • John July 25, 2010, 7:52 PM

        Bubba, you said “It should be done because its the right thing to do” again as i told little Pom’s mom: You either didnt read my comment or didnt understand it.
        It seems like a fairly simple concept to get, Im sorry though i dont think i can explain it better.

        • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 12:43 AM

          I understand it. And I can’t agree with it.

          According to halacha a Jew who kills a Gentile with malice and witnesses isn’t a murderer. A Gentile who accidentally kills a Jew must be put to death and doesn’t get a fair trial by Jewish standards.

          The Universe was created for the benefit of Jews alone, according to the Sages.

          Kill the men. Kill the women. Kill the children. Take a few choice virgins home to rape.

          And so on.

          Sorry, but if that’s holiness and eternal unalterable Torah the only light we are to the nations is the bloody fire of a Klansman’s burning cross. Either we have to take it as a relic from a more brutal cruel time which we have passed beyond, thank God, or we must reject 3000 of Jewish “ethics” in the same way we reject Pol Pot or Hitler.

          If it’s the latter there’s not much more to say. Apologize to Satan for not taking more of his suggestions, maybe. I hear the Sikhs will take anyone. You get cooler hats and can carry a sword.

          If the former we have to subject the whole corpus of Jewish law and tradition to severe scrutiny. We can’t just gibber “Gemara! Shulan Aruch! Minhag!”

          • the other shim July 26, 2010, 12:59 AM

            Jesus, A Nuran,
            I can understand your gripes but you’re being very extreme. Calm down please. Also, just out of curiousity, do you still identify as Orthodox or even Jewish? I’m not being sarcastic, just want to know since you seem to think Jews are a bunch of potential murderers.

            • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 1:04 AM

              Jewish, absolutely. Orthodox, not any more. It was learning that drove me away from observance.

              The sad thing is, every horrible and admittedly extreme thing I mentioned is absolutely halacha.

              • Esther July 26, 2010, 2:56 PM

                I am undoubedly not nearly as learned as you are, but can identify with the concept of learning of things that go against logic, nature and everything that makes sense to you. I’ve been through that and spent at least a decade distancing myself from Judaism as a result. This past Shavuos I had a light bulb go on – a speaker at a workshop listened to my gripes and answered: “Your relationship with G-d is between you and G-d.” Basically he meant that I should not distance myself completely, but rather ignore the negative and do the best I can as a Jew. I think it makes alot of sense, certainly gave me a new perspective. Hope its helpful to you as well.

          • John July 26, 2010, 4:05 PM

            A. nuran im so glad you understood. I have no interest in getting others to agree with me with my comments (at least i know i wont). I just want to get our view across

            • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 7:04 PM

              Fair enough. You won’t mind if I warn Gentiles not to do business with Jews, will you? By your own admission observant Jews are required to be bigoted, racist and rude to non-Jews. And they aren’t required to treat Gentiles fairly or even to refrain from stealing from them. It’s nothing personal. It’s just halacha, and they have to obey it.

              • John July 26, 2010, 7:51 PM

                Absolutely not. Required to be bigoted, racist and rude? where on earth did you get that from? As for stealing, Its absolutely forbiden to steal from them as explicitly stated in shulchan aruch.

                • Julie July 26, 2010, 9:10 PM

                  Insular Medieval-era attitudes are manifest as bigoted, racist, and rude in our present day. The circumstances are not the same. These attitudes and interpretation have no place in Judaism today. (Unless you enjoy being bigoted, racist, and rude–which some people do.)

                  And it’s still stealing if you don’t return their wallet because you’re “not required” since they are not Jewish. The intent to take something that does not belong to you is still there.

                  • A. Nuran July 27, 2010, 12:48 AM

                    That’s a problem right there. If the attitudes are outdated and belong to another time we have to evaluate all the authoritative voices from Hillel to Joseph Caro in terms of their times and preconceptions. Suddenly these aren’t Torah which to disobey is to disobey God. They’re legal rulings by scholars which are subject to criticism like any other texts.

                    Much more becomes matters of conscience.
                    Much less demands absolute unthinking obedience.

                • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 10:07 PM

                  Where did I get it from? From halacha.
                  Finding someone’s property and keeping it for your own is stealing if you can return it.

                  Belief that Jews are superior to everyone, that Gentiles aren’t fully human with real souls, that the life of a Gentile is worthless compared to that of a Jew, and that we shouldn’t be polite, warm or friendly to them is straight out of Gemara, various poskim and so on. That’s absolutely racism and bigotry. I’m not even counting Rambam who says we should assume that all Gentiles are rapist-sodomites.

                  I could go on but would prefer not to. Of course, there are Gemara, opinions and Shulan Aruch which rule otherwise, sometimes contradicting the above. Do you get to pick and choose?

                  • John July 26, 2010, 10:57 PM

                    “we shouldnt be polite, warm or friendly to them is straight out of Gemara, various poskim and so on” care to provide a source please?

        • Mahla July 26, 2010, 3:27 PM

          Hey John, I just wanted to let you know that I have read your comments and that I totally understand what you are saying.

          About your “it would be an inadvertent violation of a commandment” point, on accidentally not returning a wallet to a non-Jew. Isn’t that a good reason to return it?

          If there’s a commandment to return the wallet to a Jew, and no commandment AGAINST returning the wallet to a non-Jew, shouldn’t you therefore go out of your way to return someone’s wallet unless you are 100% certain they are not Jewish?

          And even if you are 99% sure they’re not Jewish, how could you really know? Say the ID is all you have to go on and their name is Joseph O’Malley, or even Faisal bin Laden. People often have a patrilineal surname, but Judaism is passed through the mother, so that means nothing. They might have a Jewish mother or grandmother.

          • John July 26, 2010, 4:14 PM

            Thanks for that, its sometimes hard to convey thoughts eloquently in a comment while keeping it short enough not to bore everybody.
            There are rules about uncertainties in Judaism as well, (surprise surprise) For example if a product is labeled Kosher by an organization we trust, we can safely eat it although there are many times when things are mislabeled and thus we cant be 100% certain it is kosher. Basically we can rely on a majority if it can be safely assumed that 51% of people named Joseph O’Malley or Faisal bin Laden are not Jewish then we are allowed to assume this wallet was lost by a member of that majority

            • Puzzled July 26, 2010, 10:32 PM

              Well, then – if I fail to return a Jew’s wallet, is it an issur d’oreisa or d’rabanan?

            • Mahla July 27, 2010, 1:54 AM

              Thanks for explaining, John.

      • MonseySixPack July 25, 2010, 8:04 PM

        Because you transgress the laW “lo seichuneim”. This is not something that you can machmir on.

        • JT July 25, 2010, 9:23 PM

          Not a halakha I’m familiar with. Pasuk / source / translation?

          • Anonymous July 25, 2010, 9:38 PM

            It was read yesterday. go be mavir sedra again.

            • JT July 26, 2010, 12:02 AM

              Oh, did you mean “lo T’chanen”? You don’t have to be rude about it. I was man enough to come to you and admit my ignorance; clearly, you are more learned in the ways of horribly mistransliterating Hebrew than I, so what kind of Jew are you to turn me away when I seek guidance?

    • frumskeptic July 25, 2010, 10:46 PM

      Hashem also ordered we respect the law of the land we are guests in, and the law of the land, currently holds the concept of PRIVATE property. And unless that wallet holds no form of identification of the owner (clearly it does if you *know* he’s a goy), you give it back.

      its rather plain and simple. but people like you wouldn’t understand such a thing, because Rabbis forget how to teach the public to think…

      • Anonymous July 25, 2010, 11:32 PM

        You have absolutly no idea as to the rules of dina demalchusa

        • JT July 26, 2010, 12:05 AM

          And you have poor middos.

          • Anonymous July 26, 2010, 12:19 AM

            Agreed which is why I dont give an ethics class, and frumskeptic shouldnt qoute halachas when he doesnt know when they apply.
            Is it just me or do you find it odd that you didnt find frumskeptic;s statment “its rather plain and simple. but people like you wouldnt understand such a thing, because Rabbis forget how to teach the public to think” to be lacking in middos?

    • perel July 25, 2010, 11:00 PM

      good luck explaining that to G-d when you get to shamayim.

    • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 12:18 AM

      “Torah” and “halacha” have little to do with what God wants. Most of it is the interpretations of fallible if learned men, informed by the prejudices and culture of their time. Unfortunately, at some point in the past our ancestors decided that those particular mens’ opinions were to be treated as if the Almighty had decreed it personally. The standards for changing anything became so ludicrously unlikely as to be impossible in the real world.

      Take the Shehechiyanu. God didn’t command us to light the holiday candles. In fact, God didn’t command us to have communal prayers of any sort. They aren’t bad things, especially since sacrifices would be expensive. They are innovations created at specific times by men who then said that it was a Divine decree.

      What’s worse, anything that was done at some point becomes minhag and darned near the equivalent of the Word of God. Even rulings set for a specific time become permanent because it was decreed in the past.

      What we’re talking about here isn’t piety and an eagerness to carry out God’s Will. It’s raising men to the status of God. Any good monotheist should recoil in horror from that sort of blasphemy.

    • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 12:29 AM

      Of course, insofar as you believe that Hillel was worth listening to you might want to consider the following:

      “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”

      Now, certain disgusting commentaries like Tanya hold that Gentiles aren’t really human the way that Jews are. And the revered Maimonedes believes that all Gentiles are promiscuous sodomite rapists. It’s in Kedushah. Look it up. I choose to believe that Moses Ben Maimon was smart but imperfect. And Tanya can be consigned to the dustbin of theology.

      What’s at work here isn’t God. It’s the human return injury for injury, hate for hate. Listen to the VINites talk about all Muslims, all Arabs and all Persians. It’s all about hatred, genocide, the virtue of killing random members of these groups who haven’t actually hurt anyone.

      Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur even wrote The King’s Torah which holds that killing Righteous Gentiles down to suckling infants is a mitzvah on the “Nits make lice” theory and because they might hurt a Jew some day. This is straight up Nazi filth which we absorbed from the Czars and Dolf’s All Boy Marching Band.

      • the other shim July 26, 2010, 1:04 AM

        Is that “King’s Torah” book considered mainstream by ANYBODY? I highly freaking doubt it.

        • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 1:06 AM

          It was a best seller in Israel for the better part of a year. One of the reasons I stopped going to a certain shul was the rabbi saying it was a little extreme but within the Law. I wasn’t just shocked. I was speechless. And that takes some doing.

          • Anonymous July 26, 2010, 6:40 AM

            well he has been arrested for incitement for that. i don’t agree with him, his opinion is disgusting but the israeli court system is out of control. more than usual recently. :-/

            • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 11:45 AM

              Thank God. He should be locked up.

              • Puzzled July 26, 2010, 1:22 PM

                Well, I agreed with everything you said up until here.

                • the other shim July 26, 2010, 3:40 PM

                  A Nuran,

                  When frum Jews start killing goyim in mass pogroms you can get back to me.

                  • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 4:16 PM

                    TOS, we’ve already had a few Jews arrested for murdering random Arabs. The Charedim and Religious Zionist press gushed praise for these defenders of Judaism and damned to government for treating the killings as crimes.

                    Ha’Aretz and the JP have reported on increasing incidents of Jews cursing, spitting on and in some cases stoning Gentiles just for being Gentiles.

                    What’s your take on those? Good yiddishkeit? Just the sort of crime we should know better than to engage in having been on the receiving end so many times?

                    • the other shim July 26, 2010, 7:05 PM

                      Links please?

    • Frumsatire Fan July 26, 2010, 1:01 PM

      I see your point but I disagree. Not all mitzvot are like “not eating pork or wearing tefillin”. And if the Prophets say things like tzedek tzedek tirdof, it seems they take exactly the view that you’re criticizing.

  • ZZTop July 25, 2010, 5:42 PM

    So did writing this post seem like the right/moral thing to do or like you were making a kiddush Hashem? I’d guess it’s neither. Hypocrite.

    • Mahla July 25, 2010, 5:48 PM

      What upsets you about this post, ZZTop? What do you think is hypocritical about it?

    • abandoning eden July 26, 2010, 8:31 AM

      since when is questioning things you were taught wrong/immoral? You must have a completely different moral system than I, cause in mine, NOT questioning, following others blindly, and repressing questions of others, is immoral.

      • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 11:40 AM

        To the Fundamentalist questioning dogma is THE ultimate sin.

        • Dani July 26, 2010, 2:39 PM

          @A.Nuran – that is a great quote. I’d like to use it.

          • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 4:29 PM

            Feel free.

  • Philo July 25, 2010, 5:48 PM


    Right and wrong is a human concept. It is frivolous to say just because an omnipotent deity says something, it means it must be the morally correct thing to do, since you nor no one can understand metaphysical priority, if there even is one.

    • John July 25, 2010, 5:58 PM

      Your argument is circular. We believe there is a omnipotent deity, and he told us what is right and wrng in his torah. If you dont believe that then of course my comment makes no sense. However if you do believe it or are willing to accept it for argument’s sake, (since it is the view of orthodox judaism, which is the religion behind the original post.) my comment isnt frivolous at all.

      • Puzzled July 25, 2010, 6:22 PM

        Why would (hypothetically) the ability to do anything (=omnipotent) make one an absolute authority on what ought to be done?

        • Philo July 25, 2010, 6:31 PM

          The Torah does not make a moral argument for its claims. Something is not right because someone says it’s right (no matter who or what it is), it’s because you feel it’s right. The definition of moral or right contradicts the very idea of an unbacked universal principal of morality. If God exists, he only has omnipotent power of something synthetic, not analytic. No matter how hard God tries, he cannot draw an accurate right triangle in where the hypotenuse squared is not equal to the sum of the legs, squared.

        • John July 25, 2010, 7:45 PM

          Again, because that is our belief. I am in no way trying to convince you of it, but it shouldnt be hard to follow.

          • Puzzled July 25, 2010, 11:03 PM

            What kind of belief is it if you can’t explain the answer to a simple, direct question? What I asked was why a particular conclusion followed from the stated belief. If you need to bring the conclusion to the level of assumption too, I wonder just how many things count as conclusions rather than articles of faith.

            • John July 25, 2010, 11:31 PM

              I am not sure what question i havent answered. Jews believe there is a God and he gave us the torah instructing us how to live our lives. (i assume you knew that is that news to you? You are obviously not a religious Jew? Are you jewish? did you grow up religious? (your answers to these questions will help me avoid assuming you know the basics) Which part is giving you trouble? Id be more than happy to answer your question

              • Puzzled July 26, 2010, 1:25 PM

                I am an OTD Jew. I did not grow up religious. I went to yeshiva. Here’s my question – you stated as a rock-bottom, so to speak, your belief in TMS. Fine, assumed for the duration of the discussion. My question is: assuming TMS, why should I believe that I ought to do what God says? You’ve explicitly said it’s not because it’s right. Now, you did mention omnipotence, leading me to think that maybe I should do what he says because of that. But omnipotence does not (without an explanation, anyway) make one an expert on what I ought to do. It does enable an omnipotent deity to punish me, but I can choose to accept punishment because of some other belief – such as that genocide is wrong.

                • John July 26, 2010, 4:02 PM

                  We believe that our ancestors made a covenant with God in which we agreed to abide by his torah. About which we are told many times that it is good (for example Deuteronomy 30:15) Im not sure what you mean by ” an expert on what I ought to do” He created us wouldnt that make him an expert?

                  • Puzzled July 26, 2010, 10:36 PM

                    Why is a covenant by ancestors binding on me? I didn’t consent to it.

                    As far as creation – well, let’s think it through. There are scientists and philosophers who believe in strong AI. If I build a strong AI device, will I be an expert in how it should live it’s life? Will I be able to make odd demands – wrap this leather around your arm every day, live in a tent for a week, and you can eat these two things, but don’t mix them – and make promises I don’t keep (see Elisha ben Abuyai) – and be infallible?

                    • John July 26, 2010, 11:02 PM

                      >”Why is a covenant by ancestors binding on me? I didnt consent to it.”
                      we believe that you did, all souls were at har sinai

                      >”If I build a strong AI device, will I be an expert in how it should live its life? ”
                      Yes if you are All-knowing

                      >”Will I be able to make odd demands wrap this leather around your arm every day, live in a tent for a week, and you can eat these two things, but dont mix them ”
                      Those are instructions for how to live our lives properly, no different than the comandment to return lost objects.
                      Think of it as telling your AI device not to get wet if water will damage it

                      >”and make promises I dont keep (see Elisha ben Abuyai) and be infallible?”
                      That one I dont have a good answer for, though it is way off topic

            • Aussie July 26, 2010, 12:15 AM

              John answered your question puzzled. The conclusion is our belief meaning that, yes, it is also an assumption. John also never said that omnipotence implies absolute authority on morality. He said we believe there is an omnipotent deity AND he told us what is right and wrong in his torah. I count two articles of faith in that statement, and just so there are no surprises, I’ll tell you now that there are many more in Judaism.

              • Puzzled July 26, 2010, 1:26 PM

                Actually, he explicitly denied the morality part in his first post – he started out by saying that we do what we do not because it is right, but because God said so. If he wants to change his position, fine.

          • Julie July 27, 2010, 3:37 AM

            So if something (from an ancient religion with Medieval commentary) doesn’t hold up to the standards of modern science and someone decides to disregard that belief, are they wrong?

            • Puzzled July 30, 2010, 5:48 PM

              But it didn’t even hold up to the standards of empiricism as they were in that time! The Torah requires that in the 7th year, we not plant or reap – and promises an extra yield in the 6th year to make up for it. Well, in the book of Maccabees (which the orthodox are, coincidentally enough, forbidden to read) it records that there was a famine because they weren’t planting in the 7th year, and there had been no surplus in the 6th. The Torah twice promises long life – for sending away the mother bird and honoring your father and mother. Elisha ben Abiyau saw a father ask his son to climb a tree, take eggs, but first send away the mother bird. The son listened – and fell from the tree and died. Elisha stopped believing – and the Talmud proceeds to call him names at every opportunity.

        • Drew Mazanec July 25, 2010, 8:30 PM

          I’ve interviewed a number of frum Rabbis on the following issue: do our moral intuitions accurately reflect objective moral reality? In general, the Haredi rabbis tended toward the “no” category, and the Modern Orthdox tended toward the “yes” category. There were numerous exceptions on both sides, usually Haredi rabbis tending toward “yes.”

          So let’s not get carried away saying that Halacha condones Seinfeld-esque behavior. This is not such a cut and dried issue.

        • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 12:47 AM

          Because Might makes Right.
          Comply or die.
          That’s where almost all arguments of this sort end up.

  • ghottistyx July 25, 2010, 5:56 PM

    Now perhaps my family is a bad example, but my mother would always have us give our busdrivers, mail-carriers, housekeepers, and others Christmas cards with a bit of money in it. She always said it’s the right thing to do. Similarly, whenever they went to the carwash, they’d always leave a tip, and they’d make a point that they were doing it so they don’t say that Jews are cheap (even when one of the guys was openly speaking Hebrew to my parents and had a Magen David tatoo!)

    I’ve gotten into some arguments with some who insist that it’s assur to give a non-Jew business. This one dude was giving a friend and I a ride, needed gas, and pointed out that he wasn’t going to go to a certain gas station because it wasn’t shomer shabbos. This story took place in Midwood, which has its share of shomer shabbos everything! But really, I couldn’t help but argue with him.

    If I remember correctly, the Gemara in Baba Metzia somewhere brings up the notion that it may even be halakhicly okay to attack a non-Jew! I still remember being the one who raised his hand and asked why the Gemara would even consider such an opinion! I don’t remember fully out the answer, but I was assured that halakha does not hold by this. I was still perturbed that such an opinion would even exist to begin with! But they are out there.

    • Mahla July 25, 2010, 6:03 PM

      I have heard that some Jews believe it is assur to save the life of a known non-Jew if saving his life would mean breaking the Sabbath.

      • ghottistyx July 25, 2010, 6:50 PM

        There are those who wouldn’t even violate the laws of negiya if a woman is choking to give her CPR. When I was in yeshiva, I had a shoe’l u’mayshiv who was a student of Rav Aharon Soloveichik for 20 years! He sent his daughter to a chareidi school, but she was thrown out when they learned that he was also having the daughter take CPR classes. See, frum as this sho’el u’mayshiv was, he still thinks it’s important for EVERYONE to know CPR!

        So much for V’Chai BaHem.

        • Bubba Metzia July 25, 2010, 7:43 PM

          That’s very strange. The first being the obvious, pikuach nefesh. But also, when I learned CPR (in a public high school) it didn’t even violate shomer negiah, we learned on test dummies.

          • ghottistyx July 25, 2010, 8:08 PM

            We used resusci-Annie too. I believe most places practice on the dummy. In fact, for the Heimlich you need to, as doing the Heimlich on someone who could harm them; if they needed it, you are protected by the Good Samaritan Law (i.e. if you break their ribs while performing Heimlich on them), but if you were to do Heimlich on someone who didn’t need it and broke their ribs….well, that’s a lawsuit.

            I’m not sure if it’s learning it that’s the problem so much as being able to do it if necessary. Similar to not allowing women to drive, etc. It’s all that subversive stuff.

        • G*3 July 26, 2010, 8:41 AM

          > There are those who wouldnt even violate the laws of negiya if a woman is choking to give her CPR.

          I hope that’s nto true, given that the gemara’s archytypical example of a chossid shotah is a man who won’t rescue a drowning woman becuase touching her would violate negiah.

      • Tired of Jew Bashing July 25, 2010, 10:14 PM

        I heard that Islam encourages lying and killing infidels. I’m just saying.

        • Puzzled July 25, 2010, 11:02 PM

          And then the religious accuse the non-religious of ‘moral relativism.’

        • Mahla July 25, 2010, 11:48 PM

          Tired of Jew Bashing, I was definitely not bashing Jews nor anyone else. That is not something that I would do, and I’m very sorry if you felt attacked in any way.

      • chosid July 25, 2010, 10:37 PM

        This is indeed the law. The reasoning for violating the sabbath at all is that one sabbath will be violated by two people so that one person can keep many more.

        When a Jew, upon whom the Sabbath is incumbent, violates the Sabbath to save a Non-Jew, no more Sabbaths will be observed as a result. Thus the violation will have been in vain.

        The point is that in all cases it is the Sabbath, not human life, which takes precedence.

        • ghottistyx July 25, 2010, 11:12 PM

          Do you hear yourself? No more Sabbaths will be observed by whom? By the one who did the saving? Or by the one who never observed Shabbos to begin with? And so what if this person never would observe the Shabbos even if his life was saved? Obviously, he was put on this world for a reason! Remember, the goyyim have their 7 mitzvot they have to observe. And who are you to decide that it is this person’s time to go just because they would not observe the Shabbos?

          Let me turn the question on you. I am a Jew, but non-observant. I was raised Shomer Shabbos, most of my family is Shomer Shabbos (though very mixed: I’ve got family from every end of the spectrum of frumkeit). So if you saw me choking on Shabbos and you were the only one there, you would not dial 9-1-1 or try to save my life? I can understand you not wanting to share wine with me as it may be Yayin Nesach (even though I am atheist, so I assure you I won’t be using my wine to sanctify any foreign deities anytime soon), but when it comes to life and death, you’d still let me go just because I don’t keep your Sabbath?

          If your answer is what I think it is, then don’t wonder too much what caused me to turn to the sitra achra…Next time you feel like asking a person who ventured off the derech what happened, refer back to this post and let it serve as one of the big things that turned me–and many OTDs I know–from “the straight and narrow path”.

          • Aussie July 26, 2010, 12:45 AM

            Don’t attack someone for citing what they know as halacha ghottistyx. Either cite a conflicting halacha or make an argument for why our own moral intuition should trump halacha. You haven’t really done either in this post (the fact that the non-jew was put in this world for a reason is not halacha but Jewish philosophy and I can easily bring another piece of Jewish philosophy that contradicts this “put in this world for a reason” idea – Amalek). On a side note, the moral intuition you are using right now to deconstruct chosid’s post is probably not intuition at all but something you developed from the religion you grew up with (if you had grown up exclusively in a culture that condoned human sacrifice for religious purposes would you be as outspoken against this religion as you are now? I doubt it).

            • ghottistyx July 26, 2010, 3:46 PM

              …yes, I have just as much trouble justifying “Zecher Amalek”. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

              If I grew up with a belief that condoned human sacrifices, would I be as outspoken against it? As my grandfather used to say, “If my Grandmother had wheels, would she be a garbage truck?” Sarcasm aside, I am against such beliefs now. Would I be against such beliefs if I were raised with them? Who knows where I’d be now if I was raised in such a background. But hypothetics aside, I am against such beliefs now, and I can’t understand how any decent human being can believe in them to begin with. In fact, I’m probably a bit more outspokenly against them than the Judaism I was raised with because at least Judaism–the way I understand it–adheres to a moral code to begin with. I may not agree with many of the finer points of this moral code, but at least it’s there. I consider myself along the lines of Freud: that I don’t believe in it myself, but I wouldn’t condemn those who do believe in it so long as it’s keeping them “moral”. Freud saw Religion as fulfilling the role of the parent once person moves out of the house, telling us what’s right and wrong when we no longer have a parent to do such. Though he wasn’t a God fearing man, he still believed that religion served a purpose for the greater good, and thus didn’t rally for its demise (like Marx, et al).

              As for your initial request…do I really have to get into an ethical debate with you? Because nothing you say will convince me that halakha is the alpha and omega of morality. I quote Woody Allen here from the movie “Crimes and Misdemeanors”: If you had a choice between the Truth and [the traditional belief in] God, which one would you pick? Woody Allen, in perhaps one of his greater self-hating Jewish moments ever, had the frum Jewish father pick God only to be ridiculed by his family.

            • ghottistyx July 26, 2010, 7:20 PM

              I begin by retorting against your last parenthetic statement: If my grandma had wheels, would she be a garbage truck? Sarcasm aside, I don’t know what I’d be like if I were raised, chas v’shalom, amongst those who did human sacrifices. But I will say that status quo, I am more against those who practice human sacrifice than I am against Judaism as an ethos. As an ethos, Judaism does have a lot of good to offer. Though I do disagree with many of the finer points–i.e. the discussion at hand, our very jealous God who comes across as a kid shining a magnifying glass on an anthill, and zecher amalek–I still think Judaism has plenty of good to it, and don’t reject it as a whole. But to those parts of it I find repulsive, I will disagree. I don’t think Halakha is the Alpha and Omega of morality. Sometimes, what halakha prescribes may not be the most morally sound thing (i.e. what you do when you conquer a nation and desire to marry one of their women).

              Rather, I take a Freudian approach. Though I do not believe in God, the Torah, or Halakha as a whole, I believe that all 3 serve their purposes as fulfilling the Superego’s role for adults. This role is filled for the child by their parents, teachers, etc. Once they are no longer under the control of their parents, it is Religion that serves as the giant finger pointing from the sky keeping most adults from returning to a State of Nature. So like Freud, I don’t perceive that I need these rules to tell me what’s right and wrong, but seeing that many humans do, I’m not pushing for a complete atheistic existence. Though I do think that one day humanity will move beyond a need for religion, I don’t think they’re ready for it yet.

              As a final point, between morality and halakha, I will take morality any day. As Woody Allen asked in “Crimes and Misdemeanors”, if you had a choice between God and the Truth, which would you take? (Need I say which one Mr. Allen took? Okay, given his moral ambiguity, bad example). So please explain to me, halakha aside, why it is wrong to save a person’s life on Shabbos if they’re not Jewish? Do you really consider a person’s life null and void just because they have not been chosen?

              Just to clarify, I am not a fan of Zecher Amalek either. My rationale is similar to the above.

              • chosid July 26, 2010, 10:28 PM

                As I mentioned in the other comment, life is not null and void because they are not “chosen.” Life kneged the Torah is effectively null and void anyway – disconnected from the Source of life. A goy can and is in fact obligated to live life according to the Torah’s precepts of sheva mitzvos bnei noach. Such a life is very much worthwhile and meaningful.

                But my lens for morality is not relative to that of secular philosophers, but the absolute truth of the Creator.

                I daven that the Almighty grant you a refuah shleima, a refuas hanefesh bkarov mamosh, bsoch shaar klal yisroel, bkarov mamosh.

                • ghottistyx July 26, 2010, 11:59 PM

                  And I reciprocate the prayer for you as well, that you shall merit to open your eyes and see that the real disease amongst us is not refusing to cling onto the traditions of yore, but the refusal to let go and move on with the rest of the world.

                  Now just one slight kasha here. So a goy who follows the 7 mitzvot b’nei noach is worthwhile, right? So tell me. WHICH ONE OF THESE 7 LAWS COMMANDS THE GOYYIM TO OBSERVE THE SABBATH? Last I checked, none of those laws had anything directly to do with the Sabbath at all. So even if they do follow these laws, their lives are not worth saving on the Sabbath just because they don’t keep it themselves?

                  Side point: What about 7th Day Adventists, who unlike many Christians observe the Sabbath on Saturday, and also keep Kosher? I’ve had convos with plenty of them, and trust me when I say, they probably come as close to any group of Christianity to keeping Jewish tradition as any I’ve ever met. And don’t tell me they’re not following Shabbat KeHilchata; the fact is, they set aside the 7th day as a Sabbath, and for a goy, that is more than what our God has asked of them.

                  • Puzzled July 30, 2010, 5:50 PM

                    If I read the appropriate sections in the Talmud correctly, for that they would merit the death penalty.

              • Aussie July 29, 2010, 1:01 PM

                Can you please explain to me on purely logical grounds why it is right? You cannot, and no one can, because morality at its base is not logical. So where do you get the authority to tell me what is right and wrong? Perhaps, you can appeal to a nebulous universal morality and take refuge in only the most basic moral principles like don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t rape. But if you just do a little research on something even as simple as “don’t murder” you will quickly find that it’s not as universal as most people believe. What you would call murder, many others would call justice. So which is it murder or justice? Without logic, both parties must simply have faith that their belief system is the right one. I have faith that halakha with all its complexity is the path to a moral life (morality defined here as what G-d wants not secular morality which has no definition). I wonder where you put your faith. I hope it’s not in “universal morality” since there’s really no such thing and I hope it’s not in how you feel since a world in which everyone did whatever they felt was right (with right never being defined) would be a terrifying world. I also hope you have already given thought to this question since to quote you quoting socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

          • Puzzled July 26, 2010, 1:28 PM

            Oh wait, I know, it was illicit sexual desires, right?

            • ghottistyx July 26, 2010, 4:12 PM

              molech. definitely molech

            • ghottistyx July 26, 2010, 7:05 PM

              no, it was molech. definitely a ta’avah for molech.

          • chosid July 26, 2010, 10:18 PM

            Almost every not-frum jew today has the din of a tinok shenishba. Even someone with your background. We are meikel in these inyanim by reasoning that it was your chinuch that was flawed. The fact that you don’t know this simple and widely known halocha is evidence of a flawed chinuch. No fault of your own. There are no true minim or apikorsim today. Does that answer your question?

            Life to me has value only in so far as it is lived to strengthen Torah and fulfill ratzon haelyon. If the hora’a of the Torah is not to be mechalel shabbos to save a goy, then that trumps anything else. It’s not for you or me to decide what the purpose of people’s lives are.

            • Puzzled July 26, 2010, 10:39 PM

              I appreciate your willingness to find a loophole to save my life.

            • ghottistyx July 27, 2010, 12:03 AM

              “The unexamined life is not worth living”–Socrates.

              That’s all I have to say about that.

        • Esther July 26, 2010, 3:16 PM

          The last line of your comment is telling of the fact that you are fully aware of exactly of what you’re saying…

          the violation will not have been in vain – a human life would have been saved.

      • Debbie Far Rockaway July 25, 2010, 10:55 PM

        Actually, the halacha is you save non-Jew, but not for the same reason you save a Jew. You break the Shabbos to save a Jew so he may live to observe another Shabbos. You break the Shabbos to save a non-Jew for Shalom Olam (peace with the world). Either way the result is the same, the life is saved, but the legalistic rationale is different.

        I say, anyone who has to stop and ask a she’eilah before saving someone’s life is using halachah to mask sociopathic tendencies.

        • Frumsatire Fan July 26, 2010, 1:19 PM

          Isn’t there a category of “pious fool” (or something like that) to describe the behavior of people who bury their common sense in moral scruples like that?
          I thought the halacha about breaking Shabbat was about pikuach nefesh, full stop, and therefore applying also to non Jews.

          • the other shim July 26, 2010, 3:45 PM

            Kind of like that story of the two kohanim who were running to the mizbeach and one stabbed the other one to death. Then the father of the dead kohen goes “hmm I wonder if the knife is still kosher or not.”

  • Anonymous July 25, 2010, 6:12 PM

    I think that the whole point of “kdoshim tihiyu” is to do these nice things not specifically commanded by the Torah. God can’t dictate every single moment of our lives. And that’s what distinguishes a truly menschy Jew from just an observant one.

  • shim (Shimon) July 25, 2010, 6:46 PM

    Hey Heshy!
    are you making a foray into profound philosophical discussions? I LIKE!
    keep up the good work man!
    by the way though (in my opinion at least) the rabbi who told u you didnt need to give it back was wrong from a halachik perspective too, which makes sense if we believe that the torah teaches how to live good and right lives–if its right it probably what is right from the torah (but even if its not in the torah its still right usually like u said)

  • bkl July 25, 2010, 7:26 PM

    One should always do the right thing. Just because the Torah might say you don’t have to return the wallet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

    But once again, this is one of the HUGE problems I have with yiddishkeit. Last year I was told that if a Jew sees a non-jew drowning, but there’s no one around to see, then he doesn’t have to save him. It proves some of the hypocrisy in Torah, because of course, if anyone was around to see the Jew NOT save the person, it would look bad. So, of course, you only have to do the right thing if it might look bad if you don’t. Sickening.

    • Bubba Metzia July 25, 2010, 7:55 PM

      But even viewing it from that perspective, saving the life of that non-Jew would be a big Kiddush HaShem. So the person should be saved regardless of the reasoning.

      • bkl July 25, 2010, 9:45 PM

        But the gemara is saying: don’t save his life, unless someone is watching. THAT is NOT a kiddush hashem.

        • Bubba Metzia July 25, 2010, 10:02 PM

          But if you saved that life then the person would be very grateful and would possibly tell other people that a Jew saved his life and those people he told would have a better opinion of Jews.

          I don’t think it’s saying to not save the person, just that it’s not necessarily required.

    • Puzzled July 25, 2010, 10:58 PM

      Worse than saying you don’t have to, though, is saying that you may not. I’ve heard at least one shiur which suggested if you know the non-Jew to be a Christian, then you may not return the wallet.

    • Yochanan July 26, 2010, 1:25 AM

      You should of been like “There’s always someone watching. God!”

  • Nachum Kanovsky July 25, 2010, 9:07 PM

    Never thought I’d be leaving a comment… But I like your posts, so here goes.

    There are so many types of Jews, and that is a great thing. So many Jews can be orthodox and good people, those aren’t mutually exclusive even though it feels like it at times.

    I went to the same Yeshiva as Heshy, and I can say that we had an openly racist Rabbi, a Rosh Yeshiva that would smoke on campus and in his office with students, and many bochurim who believed kindness to non-Jews was not required. I spent many years there and I was always questioning attitudes and opinions. When our janitor wasn’t given a day off for Christmas, I got into a huge argument with the Rosh Yeshiva, who responded that the janitor would get huge rewards in heaven for working for Jews. I wasn’t soothed by that.

    Anyhow, my point here is that some Jews like to say that the Torah puts them above the law, both civil and moral. So long as the Torah (which includes the original 10 commandments, the written Torah, and the oral laws) doesn’t mandate kindness to non-Jews, then kindness isn’t required to non-Jews. I can’t argue with these Jews because they have no moral compass. Nor can they be swayed by logic. The Torah (the version they believe in) says that they don’t have to return a wallet to a non-Jew, therefore they don’t have to. The Torah says that I must only respect Jews, and therefore I can disrespect anyone who isn’t a Jew.

    There have been some noticeably good Rabbis throughout the generations. Those who were good people above and beyond what is taught by some today. And yet those lessons are forgotten by Jews who use the Torah as a shield against morality.

    Jews say that God will take care of them. If that is true, then why not return the wallet. Will God remove that money from your allotment because it was meant for you? Or perhaps God couldn’t come up with another way to take money away from a non-Jew. (In that case, perhaps you should burn it! At least you can’t question your reasons…)

    God sees into our hearts, right? Does anyone believe in a God that would punish you for doing that thing that feels right, and which doesn’t go against the Torah?

    This to me is the real issue. When there is a conflict between Torah and moral or civil imperatives, I can understand the claim that you must do what the Torah mandates, but the examples shown in the Yeshiva that Heshy and I attended makes me wonder. Racism, smoking, not respecting and not being kind to non-Jews, there can’t be a God that encourages these things.

    • Mahla July 25, 2010, 9:20 PM

      Nachum, what an honest and heartfelt comment. I hope you will post more often. :^)

    • MonseySixPack July 25, 2010, 11:28 PM

      I don’t knoW What version of Torah you beleive in, but according to Torahs Moshe We indeed HAVE to be racist (i guess to keep separation) , alloWed to smoke or drink beer (Weed) and not returning the Wallet because its our money (G-d mafkir it on Sinai). Our Torah not about humanist feelings, its ultimate dictatorship. More you learn it, more you understand it.If you dont like it i cry to see you go.

    • MonseySixPack July 25, 2010, 11:41 PM

      We’re gozer gezeira to be machmir in isurim and not to be motzie yiddishe gelt (hamotzie mechaveiro alav haraya)

    • Moshe July 26, 2010, 12:07 AM

      Nachum i went to the very same school and wow you are dead on!!! The people who hide behind the words of the torah as an excuse to be jerks to some and good to others are terribly confused and i only hope they can change their ways and realize that attitude is what contributes to the darkness of hatred in our world

      • Esther July 26, 2010, 3:26 PM

        It took me a long time to realize that Jews, Orthodox Jews, are people – some good people and some rotten to the core. It used to shock me because I assumed if they believed in the Torah and the Torah teaches to be good people, then they must be good people. But of course, rotten people will interpret everything to their own rotten benefit. It took a long time to learn to ignore and not assume that just because a man is wearing a black hat and has peyos and tzitzis, he is automatically a decent human being.

  • Anonymous July 25, 2010, 10:14 PM

    either your rosh yeshiva and kollel buddy don’t know halacha or you misunderstood them, while there is no obligation to return the object, you don’t violate any prohibitions by doing so, as a matter of fact, when the person sees that an orthodox jew is returning it, a kiddush hashem is made, your rabbi may have said that there would be no chilul hashem and therefore no obligation to return the wallet. I would disagree as i believe that jews should go out of their way to create kiddushei hashem. As for the guy that said that his family gave presents to his non-jewish friends on Christmas, that also is totally okay because he is benefiting from the relationship that he is building. in essense baal tachinem is almost impossible to violate because on some level you are always getting some sort of benefit from your action, be it in developing a better relationship with others or even in the ” I just did a good deed” feeling that ensues
    PS. I know that you hate it when people say this but this is a chillul hashem, not because these are things that shouldn’t be said if one believes that they are wrong, but rather because you posted a halachic decision that seemed wrong to you without first confirming that you indeed did remember the story correctly, or that you didn’t get a mistaken psak.
    Whew that was a long first post

    • Puzzled July 25, 2010, 11:00 PM

      There is a shita that if you know the owner to be a Christian, then you should presume the money will be used for Christian icons or whatever, and since there is a shita that this counts as idolatry…

      • Yochanan July 26, 2010, 1:32 AM

        Yeah because nominal Christians who only go to church on Christmas and Easter just buy loads of statues.

        • Puzzled July 26, 2010, 1:30 PM

          It’s not my teaching.

  • Anonymous July 25, 2010, 10:20 PM

    Great post. The lack of discussion in some circles of right and wrong has always bothered me. It’s not that hard to figure out. Just ask yourself if it was my wallet would I want the finder to contact me? How would I feel if someone didn’t return my wallet because the driver’s license indicated it was a jewish name?

    I will never forget when I was a little girl and accompanied my mother to the bank back in the days before ATM’s and direct deposit and everyone stood on long lines on Friday to cash/deposit their paychecks. My mother got her cash and then went to one of the ledges in the bank to count the money again before putting it in her puse and learned that she had received one dollar too much. She made us wait on line again for another hour to return the overpayment. When I complained that the bank would not would miss a dollar, she said it was wrong to keep what wasn’t hers and that the teller would get in trouble when her drawer did not balance at the end of the day. She didn’t care if the teller was jewish or not (she wasn’t) or if the bank was owned by jews (it wasn’t). She cared about right and wrong and setting an example for me.

    • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 12:54 AM

      And THAT is a great Kiddush Hashem. Not only did she do what was right, she gave her child a powerful lesson that will be passed on for generations.

  • YY July 25, 2010, 10:30 PM

    One medieval Rav ruled that this halacha no longer applies:


    See also this (Sefer HaBris on loving all humanity):


    And Rebbe Nachman writes in Likutei Moharan: Every person must say that the world was created for my sake. Since the world was created for me it follows that I must look carefully, delving at all times into how I can rectify the world through filling in what is missing in the world and praying for them.

    • YY July 26, 2010, 12:37 PM

      While I think I like the medieval Rav’s argument that these discriminatory rules no longer apply, I still think it’s good that there’s no absolute requirement to return a non-Jew’s lost object. If Hamas, or the Iranian government, or some other hard-core anti-semite lost an object, great!

      But if anyone in the world who is not a real anti-semite loses something, by all means we should return it. Not just because of kiddush hashem but because it’s the right thing to do according to the Torah. The Gemara says, Just as Hashem is merciful and compassionate, so should you be merciful and compassionate, bestowing free gifts to all. We should emulate G-d. Just as He provides for all living things, so should we. We shouldn’t harm a single living thing in the whole world, unless there is a good reason. See Tomer Devorah ch. 5.

  • Yechiel July 25, 2010, 10:47 PM

    Let’s try and remember that many non-jews read this blog.

    • Puzzled July 25, 2010, 11:01 PM

      Here’s a radical idea – how about rejecting religious teachings that are racist rather than just trying to keep them quiet?

      • sergeant J July 26, 2010, 7:59 AM

        Oh, yeah , next you are going to say we should out child molesting Rabbis that the community leaders are letting work with kids (knowing about the child abuse) to the goyim to actually be prosecuted..
        But seriously, Racist and sociopaths in Judaism, especially in the higher echelons when they appear, are so very sickening.. It’s like they are trying to prove the theory that Judaism brought a concept of morality to humanity wrong..

    • Julie July 26, 2010, 12:47 AM

      But I really enjoy when the Christians come out and get mad about something like, “Oh, those pogroms were just because the Christians were jealous of the Jews’ high status banker occupations (which we had forced them into but nevermind that)!”

  • DrinkingTea July 25, 2010, 10:59 PM

    I am not a scholar by any stretch, but there are so many rules in Judaism ‘just in case/fence around the Torah’ that may seem like overkill to some. In this case, it would seem logical that it would be required to return the wallet. Even if the right thing to do isn’t a factor, who is to say the other person isn’t a Jew? What if the person undergoes conversion between the time they lost the wallet and it was found? Or that person might be Jewish and not be aware of it yet (who knows, maybe their mother is keeping it a secret until next year). Just to be on the safe side, it would make sense to return the wallet.

    • MonseySixPack July 26, 2010, 12:05 AM

      Were gozer gezeira to be machmir in isurim and not to be motzie yiddishe gelt (hamotzie mechaveiro alav haraya) Here i intended to leave this reply not earlier.

      • JT July 26, 2010, 12:14 AM

        Who wants to translate the yeshivish for those of us unschooled folks who feel that Hebrew should be Hebrew and Yiddish, Yiddish?

        • DK July 26, 2010, 12:21 AM

          Ignore it, comments you cant understand arent meant for unschooled folks

          • MonseySixPack July 26, 2010, 12:32 AM

            Its not true. i wish everyone would understand what i said . ijust too lazy to translate it…. anyone?

          • Chris_B July 27, 2010, 8:36 AM

            You could try not being unpleasant. Some of us study gemara in languages other than Yidissh.

            • DK July 27, 2010, 11:25 AM

              a. his comment wasnt meant for those people
              b. the only yiddish in there was “yiddishe gelt”
              you obviously know what yiddishe means. do you really not know what “gelt” means?

        • Julie July 26, 2010, 12:41 AM

          It says purple monkey dishwasher

          • JT July 26, 2010, 12:57 AM

            we are decreed a decree to be stringent on prohibitions, and not to be taking out(?) Jewish money (he who takes from his friend upon him is the smell)…..close at all?

            • Anonymous July 26, 2010, 1:05 AM

              very close! you get a B.
              But I agree with DK, they are simple common talmudic phrases, if you dont get it let it go

              • JT July 26, 2010, 1:10 AM

                Point of order: nowhere in the Talmud is the phrase “yiddishe gelt” used.

                • DK July 26, 2010, 1:21 AM

                  Try Jackie Mason

                  • JT July 26, 2010, 1:35 AM

                    Dude, irrelevant. If I’m going to be slammed, at least be accurate in your statement. I have no patience for Jews who believe that the only valid mesorah came out of Vilna or Lvov. It’s possible to know a great deal of yahadut without being conversant in Yeshivish / yiddish.

                    • DK July 26, 2010, 8:38 AM

                      Mamon yisroel is a phrase used in the talmud. you dont have to be conversant in yiddish to know what yidish gelt means. (ironically in your translation above you DID know what it means)

  • the other shim July 25, 2010, 11:13 PM

    From what I know, Heshy is right about the halacha here. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good thing to return lost items to a non Jew and I myself certainly would. Going by the strict letter of the law specifically at times when it benefits you is what is called a “naval birshut hatorah”.

    • Anonymous July 26, 2010, 1:32 PM

      he’s wrong in that he says that you shouldnt return it not that you dont have to

  • Debbie Far Rockaway July 25, 2010, 11:15 PM

    Anyone who says that we have no halachic obligation to be kind to non-Jews doesn’t know their halacha. There is a halacha of Kavod HaBrios, respect to Hashem’s creations, which all people–regardless of race or religion– fall under.

    And (as I think others before me have also commented), lack of halachic obligation to perform an act does not mean an act is not allowed. (This would bring us back to a previous blog regarding women’s obligations. E.g., just because a woman is not obligated to go to shul on Shabbos to daven where there is a minyan does not mean that she is not allowed to as long as, of course, there is a proper mechitzah.)

    Being a frum Jew means that fulfilling basic halachic requirement is in the job description, and like any job, one who wants to excel, be noticed by “the Boss” and get promoted (in the case of a frum Jew, to reach greater spiritual levels) should not forever be satisfied with only the basic requirements, especially when it comes to how one treats people. ALL people.

    I think that sometimes frum people have trouble distinguishing between the idea of getting too friendly with non-Jews (which is halachically frowned upon and is the basis for many halachot, including the need for wine not to be touched by non-Jew unless it is m’vushal) and treating non-Jews with basic courtesy and decency. It may stem from the tendency of those who are not well-versed in the fine points of halacha to make everything assur because it’s easier just to say something’s not allowed than to learn the sources and find out that it actually is allowed, or under what circumstances it would be allowed.

    And, finally, I think frum Jews sometimes forget that Hashem loves all the people he created, not just frum Jews.

    • Puzzled July 26, 2010, 1:34 PM

      Woman, know your place, how dare you consider talking to God without the wall the rabbis ordered you to use? By the way, speaking of common decency, how about the death penalty for a non-Jew who kills a Jew and no penalty for the Jew who kills a non-Jew?

  • Nachum Kanovsky July 25, 2010, 11:18 PM

    Surprising how many people are worried about non-Jews reading this. I, for one, am completely open about my history and what I saw and experienced in Yeshiva, and I tell stories to lots of people. Some good stories, and some bad ones.

    Perhaps we can call a Beis Din and get a p’sak that I’m no longer allowed to reveal Jewish secrets!

    Although there is another option. But, I’m having a hard time remembering it because I’m busy beating my wife and children in private. And making racist jokes.

    • ghottistyx July 25, 2010, 11:35 PM

      Shhhhh…d0n’t tell them about us sacrificing Christian children and using their blood for matzo!

      And especially make sure to make no mention that it was the Jews who really killed the Dinosaurs!

  • ghottistyx July 25, 2010, 11:32 PM


    As a kid, one of my favorite stories was “The Longest Pesach”, I had an audiotape version of the story done by Shmuel Kunda.

    The story, for those who haven’t heard, involves R’ Yechezkel Landau, AKA The Noda B’Yehuda, who was the Chief Rabbi of Prague during the 18th century. One day, as he’s headed home in the late afternoon, he sees a gentile boy sitting in the street corner crying. He asks the boy what’s wrong.

    The boy explains that he works for his uncle, who was a baker. Every day, his uncle would send him out with a basket full of his baked goods, and remind him that he has to sell everything, and that if he doesn’t, he will get beaten. On that day, the boy sold all of the produce very early, but then as he was about to head home, he realized that he had dropped the money somewhere, and was about to go home penniless, and his uncle was sure to give him the mother of all beatings. So Rabbi Landau told the boy to come with him. The boy was hesitant, as his uncle was a huge anti-Semite who would never listen to a rabbi. So Rabbi Landau took the boy into his home, asked him how much money it was that he lost, and then happily gave him all the money, and promised him that he doesn’t need to worry about paying him back.

    Many years passed by. Pesach was winding down, and Rabbi Landau was sitting in his study, when he got a knock on his door. He saw a young gentile standing at his door, looking like he just ran all the way across town. The gentile identified himself as the boy who Rabbi Landau gave the money to all those years back, and said that he had come to pay the Rabbi back for helping him. The Rabbi reminded him that the money was a gift, and that he didn’t expect payback. But the boy said the news he had could save the life of every Jew in Prague.

    As it turns out, every Jew in Prague frequented his uncle’s bakery every Isru Chag. This is because Jews are not allowed to make any fresh chometz the day after Pesach, but the ruling (I think by the Noda B’Yehuda himself) is that you can buy chometz from a goy on that day so long as you trust that there are no treif ingredients used. So the boy said that on that day, his uncle planned on poisoning all of his bread, so every Jew who went to the bakery that day would die. The Rabbi asked the boy how he could thank him. The boy said no need, as he already saved him years back with the money, so this news was the least he could do for him.

    After thinking long and hard, Rabbi Landau came up with a plan. That day, between Mincha and Ma’ariv, he was supposed to give a drasha for all of the Jews of Prague. So that day, he made a very important announcement, that he was going through his calculations, and discovered a very important mistake in the calender. Pesach, he announced, was not supposed to start when he thought it would, but one night later, and Baruch Hashem he discovered this mistake before it was too late. So, he announced, the next day would still be Pesach, everyone was to go to shul, and there would be absolutely NO eating any chometz for that day.

    So the next day, everyone was in shul acting like it was Yom Tov, except for Rabbi Landau. Then, as Musaf was about to start, someone in the shul spotted Rabbi Landau heading downtown with the Chief of Police. So the Police Chief came into the bakery, where the baker was clearly having a bad day. On that day, he was supposed to have been making a killing selling bread to Jews, but all the Jews just kept walking past his store claiming it was “still Passover”. The Police Chief started to interrogate the baker, who denied everything. So the Police Chief then brought out a dog, and had them feed a roll to the dog, who dropped dead within the minute. So it was, the bread was taken for evidence, and the baker was arrested.

    And so, Rabbi Landau went back to the shul to explain to everyone what happened. The moral of the story, I suppose, was that this one random act of kindness, even though the Rabbi could just as easily have turned away from the boy and not done anything, the Rabbi still helped him out anyway. And later, this act ended up saving all the Jews of Prague. You never know, this goy whose life you saved…who knows how it will come back to you?

    • Stan July 25, 2010, 11:38 PM

      The story is made up. Im so sorry you had to find out this way

      • tesyaa July 26, 2010, 11:13 AM

        But the tape is great. It’s hysterical. And the idea of keeping Pesach for an extra day is beyond hysterical. Of course the story is made up because no one would do such a ridiculous thing.

        • ghottistyx July 26, 2010, 3:34 PM

          Nu, there are those out there who also believe in the Golem…

        • ghottistyx July 26, 2010, 7:03 PM

          …then again, there are those who actually believe in the Golem. But it’s a good story, no?

          • Stan July 26, 2010, 7:48 PM

            Great story. I especially loved the songs

            • tesyaa July 26, 2010, 8:44 PM

              I definitely prefer Shmuel Kunda to Rebbee Hill , though both have been retired in my house b”h

    • Mahla July 25, 2010, 11:53 PM

      This was such a lovely story. :^) We truly never know how our actions will reverberate down through the years or even down through the ages. :^)

      • Yochanan July 26, 2010, 1:46 AM

        Whenever I donate blood, I wonder what the chances are of being saved by my own donation.

        • Mahla July 26, 2010, 1:52 AM

          Join the Tour de France & you can know for sure. Sorry, that was not only potentially mean but also extra-contextual comment. Still though.

        • Julie July 26, 2010, 1:59 AM

          I tried to do the right thing and donate blood last month only to have them claim that I had Hep C antibodies (but no Hep C?!) and couldn’t donate ever again. I guess I know my chances!

          • MonseySixPack July 26, 2010, 9:26 AM

            Guess i have to Watch out When iam dealing With you….BTW i have TBC stuff in my blood.

            • ghottistyx July 26, 2010, 7:29 PM

              you mean THC?

            • Julie July 26, 2010, 8:55 PM

              It was a false positive, but what is TBC? THC?

              • ghottistyx July 26, 2010, 9:28 PM

                THC is the chemical compound that is the active ingredient in Marijuana, Hashish, and other Canniboids. Since MonseySixPack seems to think that we are required as Jews to be allowed to smoke weed (unless i’m misreading his previous comments), I wouldn’t be surprised if he meant he’s so high that he can’t even type properly.

    • Anonymous July 26, 2010, 4:01 AM

      that boy didn’t save the jews because it was morally right, only because he owed 1 rabbi a favour. if the rabbi didn’t help him, would he let his uncle kill the whole population?

    • Puzzled July 26, 2010, 1:37 PM

      Sorry, I don’t like it. The rabbi was right to help the boy because helping the boy is right. Telling stories like this encourages people to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. And what about the boy? He’d let everyone die if not for the money so many years before?

      • Esther July 26, 2010, 3:39 PM

        Huh, and I just read it as a positive story… Rabbi did a good deed for the sake of doing a good deed. The boy, years later, knew exactly where to go since he’d been to the Rabbi’s house all those years ago… seems like a good deed to me and repaying for kindness with kindness is a positive thing and a good lesson to learn. There is nothing anywhere in the story that supports the conclusion of “He’d let everyone die if not for the money so many years before?”

        • ghottistyx July 26, 2010, 7:37 PM

          “The greatest thing you can do for someone is a favor”–Kalonymous Kalman of Piaseczna, Chief Rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto.

          The Rabbi was not expecting a reward at all. We shouldn’t either. Does it not say in Avoth that Antigonus ben Socho said that we should not be as ones who serve the masters for the sake of a reward? It just so happens that because he did this good deed, all the Jews were saved. What would the boy have done if Rabbi Landau didn’t give him the money? That’s like asking what would have happened if Hitler never failed out of art school. WHO KNOWS?!?!?!

          • Puzzled July 26, 2010, 10:43 PM

            So, would the story carry the same message if you cut it off in the middle? What extra content does the ending carry? Just tell the story about a rabbi who stops and helps a boy by giving him money.

        • Puzzled July 26, 2010, 10:42 PM

          Well, why did the boy save the Jews? Was it not out of gratitude for the rabbi’s intervention earlier? Isn’t one point of the story that we should take opportunities to do kindness because the person we help might help us later? That certainly supports my conclusion.

          • ghottistyx July 26, 2010, 11:51 PM

            If this is how you choose to look at the story, then sure, it all makes sense. In this story, this is how it ended up. This boy was put in a unique position to save the Jews, and thanks to this kind deed done to him by Rabbi Landau, he knew who he could turn to in order to do such. What he would have done if Rabbi Landau never showed him kindness…would he have followed in his anti-Semitic uncle’s footsteps? Or would he have felt for the Jews but not had as good a way to help them?

            But no, I don’t advocate a system where one should do good deeds ONLY because they should expect something in return. I’m no believer in what John Lennon called “Instant Karma”. But rather, I feel that one good deed inspires others to do good as well. I feel the same way when I see church groups doing good stuff as well. I have joined several groups who first did a Bible Study, prayer, and then went around feeding the homeless in Washington Square Park. But I wasn’t in it for the prayer or for the studying (you can say I half phased those out). For me, I saw them as a very nice group of people who are trying to bring light into other peoples’ lives, and I joined them as such. And it permeates. Just seeing them in action, their kindness, the way they smile at everyone, even though I would never bring myself to become a Christian, they still inspire me to want to do good deeds myself.

          • Esther July 27, 2010, 8:58 AM

            Puzzled, you are not making a distinction that needs to be made. The point of the story and every other story like it is that kindness leads to more kindness, not that good deeds should be done with future rewards in mind.

            • Puzzled July 30, 2010, 5:54 PM

              Then it should be just as effective to tell a story where a man does a good deed and dies unfairly.

  • Charles Curtis July 26, 2010, 12:07 AM

    It’s funny, for the longest time I just didn’t understand antisemitism. I couldn’t understand why people could hate Jews so much that they’d commit pogroms and then the Holocaust. I grew up with a few Jewish friends, and found their Jewishness to be a plus – it made them more interesting- you know, ethnic, with good food, and sometimes neurotic in funny ways.

    That was before I started running into the Orthodox. Now, most of you guys are cool. But some of you ain’t. I went to Israel for the first time back in 2005. Tel Aviv was great fun, and I was treated with some of the most open kindness I’ve ever experienced from strangers. Free drinks with meals, a gift of an umbrella at a store during a downpour, stuff like that.. Then, I went to Jerusalem.

    There, the Jewish quarter was these least interesting part of the old city – too modernized, too clean, too touristic – all the defaced Arabic and Roman script on signs, the store front where they displayed plans for the rebuilt temple after they’d razed the Dome of the Rock – all the carbines and pistols prominently carried.. Zionism in action, I thought. Cool.

    Then, I rented a car and took a roadtrip. As is my custom, I picked up every hitchhiker I came across, and there were lots. I drove into the West Bank into one of the settlements, for example, and was stopped by four guys with M-16’s at the gate. After bitching me out in thickly accented English, they bummed a ride off me to Tel Aviv. I had nothing better to do, so I gave them one. The entire trip they just oozed dislike. When I dropped them off, they didn’t even thank me. That was typical of my experience with the dozen or so hitchhikers I picked up. No conversation (despite me trying) and coolness, often obvious distaste from them. Not cool.

    After I got back, I read more about Judaism. Very interesting stuff, much of it inspiring. But I often come across stuff like this, and it made my experience in Israel make sense.

    I get it, the hatred, bigotry and unkindness can go both ways. Now, I understand why people with slovenly souls can so easily hate Jews. If you were around that type of disdain all the time, it wouldn’t be too hard to just get lazy and return the dislike and hatred wholesale.

    • Stan July 26, 2010, 12:25 AM

      The Jewish quarter looks newer because much of it was razed between 1948 -67. Im so happy you can finnaly understand antisemitism after all hatred does go two ways so after centuries of Jewish led pogroms against christians and our killing 6000000 of them would sould we expect thanks for helping us all understand it as well.

    • Julie July 26, 2010, 12:39 AM

      You’re an idiot. You run into some Haredi nutjobs and you can rationalize the Holocaust as a result? Okay, Martin Luther!

      • JT July 26, 2010, 1:00 AM

        “rationalize the Holocaust”? Were you reading?

        • Julie July 26, 2010, 1:37 AM

          Hello? “I couldnt understand why people could hate Jews so much that theyd commit pogroms and then the Holocaust.” … “That was before I started running into the Orthodox.”

      • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 1:03 AM

        Let’s see. His experience with most Jews has been fine.
        His experience with True Torah Jews was bad.
        So he isn’t kindly disposed towards True Torah Jews.

        You could have pointed out that these don’t represent all observant Jews or even all Charedim. There are plenty who are grateful for kindnesses, warm, friendly and polite. You could have said “I’m sorry you ran into these clowns.” But instead you exaggerate what he said out of all recognition and toss in a few insults. Now he will be more likely to believe that Jews are asses.

        Congratulations, Julie. You have just won your A Darkness Unto the Nations award.

        • Stan July 26, 2010, 1:13 AM

          A. Nuran and JT allow me to help:
          Charles begins with “Its funny, for the longest time I just didnt understand antisemitism. I couldnt understand why people could hate Jews so much that theyd commit pogroms and then the Holocaust.”
          then after describing his experience with rude hitchhikers he conclues with: “I get it, the hatred, bigotry and unkindness can go both ways. Now, I understand why people with slovenly souls can so easily hate Jews. If you were around that type of disdain all the time, it wouldnt be too hard to just get lazy and return the dislike and hatred wholesale.”
          That sounds like a rationalization of the Holacaust
          (reread both quotes if you dont see it)

          • JT July 26, 2010, 1:19 AM

            One attempting to rationalize the Holocaust would explain reasons why it was logical (and even justified) for the Nazis to systematically wipe out a people. Charlie was attempting to explain his awakening to the reality that some Jews behave in a way that could cause other people to dislike or distrust them. The leap between dislike (or even hatred) and genocide is one you made yourself.

            • Stan July 26, 2010, 1:24 AM

              Are you high. I linked them? reread Charlies’ comment or just the beggining and end

              • JT July 26, 2010, 1:33 AM

                I read it. I still don’t see what he did as rationalizing the holocaust. If you believe that anyone who finds some Jews irritating and rude (especially Israeli haredim) is a Nazi, maybe you’re the one who needs to ease off the meth.

                • Mahla July 26, 2010, 1:42 AM

                  Oh my gosh you guys, seriously, if you guys were to [try to] visit Mecca you could develop really awful thoughts about frum Muslims, beginning with national traffic signs that literally indicate that anyone who’s not a Muslim cannot legally take any exit beyond Y exit. With legal enforcement thereof. :^(

                  In every community, even the most apparently pious & fundamentalist, there are everyday people with backward attitudes who are still just everyday folks just trying to live their everyday lives.

                  They’re not bad human beings, jut not educated & not exposed to other ways of thinking. :^(

                  • the other shim July 26, 2010, 3:54 PM

                    I thought you couldn’t enter Saudi Arabia unless you were Muslim or looked it at least. Or is that just for us Jews? Actually I live close to the Mecca in “chutz laaretz”, Dearborn, MI:)
                    And I would seriously be afraid to let my kids walk around in their yarmulkas around there.

                • Stan July 26, 2010, 8:35 AM

                  Ok JT it seems your reading comprehension skills are really subpar so I’ll break it down for you even further : “I couldnt understand why people could hate Jews so much that theyd commit pogroms and then the Holocaust. … “Now, I understand …”
                  Do you see it now? he wonders how the holacaust could occur but based on his experience in Isreal he “understands” . All the nazis did was “return the dislike and hatred wholesale”

                  • JT July 26, 2010, 10:50 AM

                    So like a fundamentalist to selectively quote only the textual evidence that backs his case. The full citation: “Now, I understand why people with slovenly souls can so easily hate Jews.”

                    Clearly, a man rationalizing the Holocaust would denigrate the Nazis even while giving credence to their behavior. Except Charles did the former, and not the latter. Again, as I wrote, he “understands” the origins of hatred. You made the leap to allowing for genocide. And, while you may question my reading comprehension skills, the College Board, LSAC, and PBK all respectfully disagree.

                    • Dk July 26, 2010, 3:51 PM

                      Who cares what the College board says. again I qoute “I couldnt understand why people could hate Jews so much that theyd commit pogroms and then the Holocaust. That was before I started running into the Orthodox.
                      Do you really not see it? or are you pretending

                    • JT July 26, 2010, 5:03 PM

                      Agree to disagree? Nowhere is he apologizing for enumerating rationales for genocide. At most, he is rationalizing instances of anti-Semitic attitudes, not actions.

                    • Stan July 26, 2010, 5:20 PM

                      Ok I’ll agree although in his very first line he introduces the rest of his comment as a retionalization of genocide again as several people poited out “I couldnt understand why people could hate Jews so much that theyd commit pogroms and then the Holocaust. That was before I started running into the Orthodox.
                      (ie after he started running into orthodox , he does understand “why people could hate Jews so much that theyd commit pogroms and then the Holocaust.”)
                      Incidently I got a big kick out of your last comment you ask agree to disagree, and then reiterate your inabillity to follow the flow of his comment

        • Julie July 26, 2010, 1:42 AM

          I could have, but we can’t all be perfect.

        • anon March 22, 2011, 10:12 AM

          The problem with Curtis’ post is that he makes a generalisation out of a few negative experiences. And that is racism.

          As it happens, a few days ago a rampant leftist verbally abused me for the “sins” of the settlers. (The truth is that it must have made her day to actually meet one in the flesh, but unfortunately for her I was exceedingly polite, which only seemed to enrage her.) I said to her that she doesn’t know me or anything about me, and that she was just projecting her generalisations onto me, and that I am just a person, not representing anyone other than myself. Yet she could not see or hear a human being in front of her, but only a caricature. And that is dehumanisation and racism.

          Curtis himself says “Now, most of you guys are cool. But some of you aint.” And that is true of most populations anywhere. When I was in Thailand, one man molested me, another told me that the Jews are a disease, and a third man drove me to the hospital and waited with me and drove me back, taking six hours out of his day, and then just slipped away. Do I go around talking about the disgusting people of Thailand, understanding why people would hate them? Or do I think that everywhere you go there are all sorts of people?

          Nuran, your comment and blaming of Julie is part of the racist problem. No one represents all of anyone, and thinking that they do is racist.

      • Charles Curtis July 26, 2010, 1:11 AM

        Look, Julie, Stan and everyone else reading this, I’m not trying to be a troll here, and as I re-read my post, I wish I’d been more diplomatic and phrased a few things more elegantly.

        I just want to be clear, though: what Heshy is talking about in this post really bothers me.

        Being a more or less liberal American, weaned on Leon Uris and Herman Wouk and the history of WW II, as well as a Catholic (not Lutheran, sorry) who is delving into the Jewish roots of my Faith, I am a hugely sympathetic to Judaism. I also have a non-practicing Jewish sister in law, and two nieces who (I suppose) would be also (therefor) Jewish. I’m hugely pleased and mystified by this blessing.. One of the many reasons I’m trying to understand Judaism.. One of the reasons I read and dig this blog.

        I used to be a uncritical Zionist, too, by the way, but that’s changed over time, since I’ve lived in Turkey and Egypt and (as I say) visited Israel.

        My experience in Israel was mixed – very complicating. I came back with a real love for the place and its people, but also with some serious negative emotions and thoughts, due mostly to the experiences I sketch in my initial post.

        I really haven’t worked that negativity through, or expressed those thoughts, basically because I know what the reaction will be..

        I’ll be insulted, and called a bigot or worse.

        Like when Yechiel says above, “lets try and remember that many non-jews read this blog..” I admire Heschy for airing this stuff opene;y. It’s a good thing to work all this out in public.

        Please just be patient with poor goys like me who come wanting to join the conversation, be honest, and not pull punches..

        Even if we come off seeming offensive and ignorant. I beg your tolerance.

        • michal July 26, 2010, 1:19 AM

          Take impressions of Judaism from this blog with many grains of salt. Many commenters have nothing but contempt for their observent bretheren, and fill their comments with half-truths, misrepresentations, ignorance and often blatant lies.

          • Anonymous July 26, 2010, 3:37 AM

            mind your own business. why do you need to either support or attack ‘The Jews’?? if you hang around jewish websites so much it should be clear we don’t agree with each other about anything and we don’t care what you think. philosemitism is just another form of antisemitism, 1 can easily change to the other. there is no reason to have an opinion of ‘the jews’ as such or ‘the blacks’ ‘the arabs’ etc. i recommend you read adorno if you want to understand antisemitism.

            altho i would return your wallet if i found it. there’s no law i know of we are commanded to steal lost wallets. people should be able to use their own judgement this case isn’t a matter for halacha.

            • Charles Curtis July 26, 2010, 3:45 AM

              Here, yet more Frum Satire. Only unintentional, I hope.

              Look, dude, you need to think about your pronoun usage, some.

              • Anonymous July 26, 2010, 3:57 AM

                i’m not frum but english is not my first language. i’m sure you understand perfectly well what i mean. i regret i gave YOU the benefit of doubt.

                • Charles Curtis July 26, 2010, 4:07 AM

                  Anonymous, your fluency is excellent. I’m just saying you should think about your categorical usage of “we” and perhaps “you.” I’m very heroically (give me a prize) resisting the temptation to clump all “Jews” into one category and dislike and despise “them” all based on the behavior of some people I met in Israel.. What I’m venting here is my own inchoate reaction and half baked thoughts about that experience, as catalyzed by Heshy’s post here. I’m trying to process my congenital philosemitism with my later disillusioning encounter with Jews who apparently despised me for the fact that I am a gentile, or goy, if you prefer.

                  Carry on, blessings upon your head.

                  • Julie July 26, 2010, 4:27 AM

                    Well, you can find hope in the fact that there’s always someone who will hate you for being something or not being something else. Those guys are the Jewish equivalent of the evangelicals who think you are going to hell because you’re not “saved.”

                    • Anonymous July 26, 2010, 5:49 AM

                      and you hate them because you disapprove of their interpretation of their own religion, so you are eqivalent to them hating you, which makes you eqivalent to a christian. wow, maybe people are just eqivalent to people and should be taken as individuals.

            • Anonymous July 26, 2010, 3:50 AM

              PS- is there any secular law in america that people have to return wallets? if you find a wallet and keep it, the police won’t arrest you. it isn’t necessary to make a law, most people would probably return the wallet because it is morally right, the courts don’t need to get involved. Some americans would keep the wallet and justify because it is not against the law, so is that proof americans are wallet theives, can’t be trusted, deserve pogroms and genocide? does this make you want to form an opinion of law abiding american people in general and withdraw your support from the usa government?

  • the other shim July 26, 2010, 1:12 AM

    I seem to forget who said this but it’s something to the effect where true equality and tolerance for minorities means that a particular minority has the right to have a few jerks among its ranks without the whole minority being deemed as “bad”. If you run into a few creeps who happend to be frum Jewish/black/Hare Krishna, etc and judge the whole group that way, you were a bigot to begin with.

    • Mahla July 26, 2010, 1:44 AM

      That’s such a great comment.

      • the other shim July 26, 2010, 4:07 PM

        thanks Mahla:)

    • sergeant J July 26, 2010, 8:01 AM

      I do not judge “Frum Jews” as racist sociopaths, just the literally hundreds I have met that behave that way. The thousands I have met that are not, however, seem to accept the rest, and have been known to come to their defense from time to time.. For other examples, look up.

  • G*3 July 26, 2010, 9:00 AM

    > It sounds way nicer and more moral to say something like returning this lost wallet is the right thing to do rather than I will get a Kiddush hashem for returning this lost object.

    This sounds like a version of the Euthyphro dilemma: Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?”

    Here we could ask it as: Does God wish us to keep halacha because halacha is that which is moral, or is that which is moral defined by halacha?

    It seems that most people intuit some kind o objective morality, and then assume that halacha is the best guide to that morality. Thats why halachos that we consider immoral are so jarring.

    • John July 26, 2010, 9:58 AM

      To me its kind of both. God wants us to keep that which is moral. Therefore halacha (which we believe is god’s will) defines morality. Take an admittedly extreme example: wiping out Amalek, it is hard to view it as moral, yet it must be because God commanded it.

      • JT July 26, 2010, 10:53 AM

        Unless one questions the faithfulness with which God’s will was transcribed and transmitted across the generations.

        • John July 26, 2010, 3:48 PM

          That goes against Orthodox thought. One of Maimonidies’ 13 principles of faith is that the torah we have was delivered to moshe at sinai directly from God.

          • JT July 26, 2010, 5:04 PM

            And one can’t be Orthodox except by following shitat ha-rambam on all matters?

            • John July 26, 2010, 5:15 PM

              nope, only on those matters involving basic tennets of faith, as accepted by normative orthodox judaism

              • JT July 26, 2010, 8:47 PM

                So Kugel’s outlook makes him a non-normative OJ?

              • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 10:15 PM

                Recall that Maimonedes was considered a heretic by some for requiring belief and faith as opposed to practice. Considering his background it’s not surprising.

                He spent his life in the Muslim world when it was the greatest and most advanced place on Earth. Islam places great emphasis on belief. One becomes a Muslim by saying “I believe there is no God but God…” It’s not much of a leap to guess he was strongly influenced by his Gentile neighbors.

                • John July 26, 2010, 10:26 PM

                  By some, yes not by normative jewry today

                  • JT July 26, 2010, 10:47 PM

                    There is no normative jewry today. Maybe there’s a normative Orthdox Judaism, but even that’s debatable (see: Emmanuel). Millions of Jews with strong Jewish identities fail many of the Rambam’s theological acid tests. Is that problematic? Perhaps. But it indicates, at least, that the time at which such belief was “normative” is long in the past, or never was.

                    • John July 26, 2010, 10:55 PM

                      we arent talking about them. heshy went to an orthodox school, that is what this post is about.
                      And besides as you must now the vast majority of Orthodox Jewry doesnt view those Jews who fail the rambam’s tests as authentic expressions of Judaism

                • ghottistyx July 29, 2010, 2:19 AM

                  Also, there are those who say that during the undocumented period between when the Rambam was running away from Spain to the time he arrived in Israel (he was living in Morocco, but clearly traveled the span of N. Africa to arrive in Israel), he was publicly living as a “converso” to Islam for his protection. It would make sense given that he said that between Christianity and Islam, one should pick Islam because at least it still is a Monotheism. I don’t think there is any actual evidence that he ever did this, but I’ve read speculations.

  • G*3 July 26, 2010, 10:17 AM

    John, it seems you are taking the second appraoch (halacha defines morality) wihout being aware that you are doing so. Read this:
    It’s an interesting question.

    • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 4:32 PM

      Philosophers and theologians have been breaking their teeth on it for thousands of years.

      • G*3 July 27, 2010, 8:01 AM

        > Philosophers and theologians have been breaking their teeth on it for thousands of years.

        Yes, but thats because theyre using faulty premises. The answer is that there is no objective morality: morality is merely a set of evolved instincts and cultural norms that exists because they help maintain societies and societies help propagate the species. Religion is in part an attempt to declare moral rules by fiat.

    • John July 26, 2010, 4:33 PM

      Im going with Aquinas “God commands something because it is good, but the reason it is good is that “good is an essential part of God’s nature”. So goodness is grounded in God’s character and merely expressed in moral commands. Therefore whatever a good God commands will always be good. Which is to say that God is good by definition in a way he has no choice because it is simply in his nature to be that way. And he commands others to be good as well. ”
      although youre right, between the two options I guess i lean more towards the second.
      Thanks for the link it is a very interesting question, ive never heard of it.

      • G*3 July 27, 2010, 8:05 AM

        > Which is to say that God is good by definition

        Circular reasoning.

        We know God is good because everything He commands is good, and we know everything He commands is good because God is good.

        • John July 27, 2010, 11:21 AM

          I never said God is good because everything he commands is good, all i said (actually I copied it from wikipedia) is “good is an essential part of Gods nature” This is a belief.
          Upon further reflection though, the question is flawed. I’ll give you an example although its not perfect, to ilustrate my point.
          Are smart people smart because they have higher IQ’s or do they have higher IQs because they are smart. With a definition such as smart = high IQ, neither is causing the other, it is just a definition. so back to the question at hand “Does God wish us to keep halacha because halacha is that which is moral, or is that which is moral defined by halacha” Its really both, God = Good, thus everything he commands us to do is good (or halacha defines morality), and everything that is good he commands us to do ((ie keep halacha because it is moral)

    • Yosh July 26, 2010, 5:40 PM

      One of my favorite shiurim ever was from a chain smoking kabbilist yeshiva rebel on this question exactly.

      His take was that the definition of good boils down to unity (in the big picture, cosmic sense) and that what’s “good” is Good because it leads towards bringing Creation towards ultimate unity.

      There’s also a good vort on this in parshas Devarim. Hashem commanded Moshe to attack the Amorites and in the very next line, Moshe sends messengers to try to offer them a peace deal. Ramban says it’s out of chronological order, but Rashi says that this is Moshe using what he’d learned from Hashem’s previous actions to go beyond God’s basic command and use his judgment to take on an even higher level. The point is that when we can and should try to go beyond the basic halachic requirements and use our brains. It’s not a BAD thing to return the wallet to the non-Jew, it’s what Hashem is trying to teach us even if it’s not explicitly required.

      • Esther July 27, 2010, 9:09 AM

        Fantastic comment! You’re basically saying that people need to learn to read between the lines and stop being so literal.

  • Anon July 26, 2010, 4:13 PM

    This Rosh Yeshiva is very misguided (and possibly worse) for many reasons.

    There is much to say and too much for a blog comment but here are a few points. First, how can he say that the there was only a “slim” chance of making a Kiddush Hashem? He could have returned it in person with his yarmulke on, or he could have told the person that he is returning it because that it is the proper course of action according to his Jewish religion. It seems like this RY is looking for a way to tell the guy not to return the wallet. Forget about the money — it is pretty heartless not to return the license, credit cards etc. in light of all the difficulty that the person would have in replacing those items. Second, there is an endless number of great gedolim and poskim who paskened that one is obligated to return lost items to contemporary gentiles (either because DMD requires one to do so or because contemporary gentiles have a different status). Would he disregard all of those gedolim on a hilchos shabbos issue or a tznius issue? Finally, almost all poskim and gedolim in the recent centuries have held the Gemara about not returning lost objects to goyim does not apply in contemporary times (again, there are many different explanations for this — too much for an email). However, when it comes to goyim and financial issues, some people always search for a way to allow cheating. How sad!

  • Yosh July 26, 2010, 5:28 PM

    If we took things like returning lost wallets to non-Jews on as chumrahs (instead of, say, not eating spinach) we’d be in a MUCH better place as a people.

    • the other shim July 26, 2010, 7:07 PM

      Right on.

    • A. Nuran July 26, 2010, 7:10 PM

      But aren’t the color of women’s stockings and filtering invisible bugs out of drinking water much more important than honesty and ethics?

      • Esther July 27, 2010, 1:30 PM

        Hahhahahaha. Love the invisible bug thing! It gives new meaning to the term meshuganah!

  • ghottistyx July 27, 2010, 9:26 PM

    AAAAH, so sorry about the many double posts before. I typed up responses on one computer, none went through, so I then did them again on my home computer, not realizing that the originals must have been sitting in some sort of spam filter.

  • xploderGames November 19, 2010, 12:58 PM

    Cool post lols 😛

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