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A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Origins of some Torah/Bible laws and the Jewish Chosen People Idea


This post is inspired by Theodor Reik's  book  Mystery on the Mountain 1959. 

Reik was a Jewish Psychiatrist who was a student of Sigmund Freud who Reik called his master, his teacher. Freud also wrote a book called Moses and Monotheism which is also worth reading. Both of these eminent psychiatrists provide psychological, historical and academic based  explanations of the origins of Judaism and both are worth reading, even though they are a bit dated. (Side Note: Freud's theories have been unjustly criticized as William Propp explains in The Anchor Bible Exodus.) 

Origin of Some Torah Laws

 Leviticus 18:3 After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do; and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their statutes. 

We see in the Torah a rejection of many Egyptian practices: polytheism, mother goddess, sorcery, divinity image making, class society and, belief in a hereafter. (There is no mention of a hereafter in the Torah and it is most likely a much later addition to Judaism).  {ETA 7/13/2014 - The Torah rejected the Osiris and other cult initiation rites and  replaced it with an initiation into the Yahweh cult}. The origin of these laws can be explained as a severe reaction by Moshe and the Israelites to a change in Egyptian political policy. 

Initially the Ancient Israelites were welcome in Egypt, they began to assimilate  and even rose to government positions. Then Egyptian policy changed and the Israelites were enslaved and were treated very harshly. This caused an extreme distaste for certain Egyptian religious practices, societal norms and organization. 

{ETA 7/12/2014 Or perhaps the rejection occurred because of religious, political, national  differentiation similar to numerous countries having there own religious brand or like the numerous different Christian, Islamic, and Jewish denominations today. Or perhaps the Ancient Israelites were by trial and error attempting to find the best way to worship Yahweh/EL. }

{ETA 8/2/2014 Egypt was a competitor, larger and more powerful than the ancient Israelites. Even without an Israelite bondage in Egypt, the conflict with Egypt could provide the Torah authors  with motivation to reject Egyptian practices. In addition, Egyptian agriculture relied on the Nile, while the Israelites relied heavily on adequate rain. This may also provide motivation for alternative ways to worship.}

Origin of the Chosen People Idea

Note Exodus19:6 and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.' 

Reik explains  on Page  145 "Thus far in the present chapter, we have attempted to trace the origin of the election concept [chosen people] back to intensive reactions of the Hebrews and of their leader Moses to the idea of a divine king and of the privileged Egyptian priest-caste [and magicians]. The abolition of those concepts was accompanied by the elevation of the whole nation of the Hebrews to the rank of priests." 

Reik also explains the Israelites saw themselves not as chosen, but rather as separate, just like the Egyptian priests and Kings  were separate from the common folk.

Page 144 "The Hebrews inherited from the Egyptian 
priests the separateness of a privileged class in which they [the Hebrews] were promoted to the rank of the ‘chosen people.' " 

Page 147 "It seems to me that the expression 'chosen people' originally had a character similar to the "title" of the West African secret societies and was later transferred from a tribe or grade to the federation of Hebrews tied together by the covenant. 'Chosen' thus originally meant, 'separated' from the mass of the 'profane,' and the term is applied to a person who is initiated into the totem-mysteries or into a secret society. The Essenes and the early Christians considered  themselves in this sense 'chosen.'  " {ETA 7/13/2014  "The title 'kingdom of priests and a holy nation' is an extension also in the sense that it was transferred from a few dans or tribes to the whole people who had entered into the covenant." }

[I will add- in Egypt  circumcision was associated with the priests, while Israelites had all males circumcised, since they saw themselves as all being priests. This is consistent  with Reik’s interpretation of chosen and Exodus 19:6]

{ETA 7/12/2014 Contrary to Reik, Freidman (Page 232 Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation 2001 by Richard E, Friedman)  explains the intent was that Israel was to be in a special consecrated state as opposed to just separate. I will add  if the Egyptian Kings and Priests saw themselves also as in a consecrated state, Reik's insight still applies. } 

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