‘Sinner’ singer given 39 lashes by rabbis

To anyone who knows Jewish life, or Israeli life well, this is laughable in its ‘fringiness’. This is not a serious trend. That having been said, it raises many red flags for me. There is a consistent multi-decade trend for Orthodox Jewry, as well as Israeli Jewish life in general, to descend deeper and deeper into its own peculiar expression, in other words, to spurn universal values and to re-surface peculiar and unique, often extremely reactionary trends and customs.

This joins a global pattern of indigenous re-discovery of uniqueness in a post-colonial and post-Cold War Age. But not all that is indigenous is good, and in fact much is awful. In fact the entire reason that otherwise patriotic Europeans of all nationalities came up with transnational, or universal values, is because they were disgusted by just how low and racist societies can become if all they ever think about, if their only arbiter of value is ‘what is ours and no one else’s’.

Welcome to the thirty nine lashes, a tradition so Jewish that there is a full volume of the Talmud on it, a volume that has been dutifully and enthusiastically studied for thousands of years, along with all the other volumes. I myself spent an entire summer on it in my youth.

So Jews, and everyone else, have to make decisions about all their indigenous peculiarities, all their ethno-national weirdeness, all their religious ‘treasures’. What stays and what goes? And what is to stop all of their treasures to emerge as dominant if the liberal, secular, shares state is not the sole form of governance in all states of the world.

That is why I am convinced we are living on ‘borrowed Enlightenment time’. We are launching headlong into ethno-national and religious revivals that are chipping away at the universal model of social contract and shared society offered by the Enlightenment. We had better get our act together as global citizens and citizens of our respective states, unless of course we want to look forward to being tortured righteously with blessings for singing in front of men and women.

Let me just state for the record that I am very proud of Jewish rabbinic tradition, for its countless bits of wisdom, for its amazing insights into human nature, for its bold and highly advanced engagement with social justice for the poor which, if followed, may be preventing much of the violence and degradation of the globe today.

So why share dirty laundry? Why cast aspersions on a whole tractate of Talmud, which after all, is also filled with much wisdom? A. Because Jewish life in Israel is truly in danger. This malignant hatred of universal values, all things goyish, by some segments of the population–and not just religious Jews–will bring sorrow not only on Palestinians but on Jews themselves. They will split apart into a thousand pieces just like what happened the last time they tried to govern 2000 years ago. Universal values are essential to any and every social contract. B. because I want to provide a model of penetrating self-examination. How can we dare critique other cultures and religions without facing our own.

Sinner’ singer given 39 lashes by rabbis


08/27/2010 02:45

Punishment for performance in front of “mixed audience.”

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A singer who performed in front of a “mixed audience” of men and women was lashed 39 times to make him “repent,” after a ruling by a self-described rabbinic court on Wednesday.

Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak, founder of the Shofar organization aimed at bringing Jews “back to religion” (hazara betshuva), has made it his recent mission to fight against musical performances for both men and women.

His “judicial panel,” with Rabbi Ben Zion Mutsafi and another member, sentenced Erez Yechiel to 39 lashes in order to “rid him of his sins.”

In a video clip of the court posted on the Shofar Web site, Ben Zion said that those who make others sin (mahtiei rabim), such as artists who make men and women attend performances or dance together, have no place in the world to come.

He displayed a leather strip he said was made by his father from ass and bull skin, with which Yechiel was to have been whipped.

Yechiel, who said, “I accept upon myself the lashing for my sins,” was ordered to stand by a wooden poll with his head facing north (“from whence the evil inclination comes”), his hands tied with a azure-colored rope (“a symbol of mercy”), and served his “sentence.”

via ‘Sinner’ singer given 39 lashes by rabbis.

© Marc Gopin