The Many Deceptions Of Aish Ha-Torah

The Many Deceptions Of Aish Ha-Torah December 12, 2010

I have yet to write about a Jewish organization that, as diplomats say, I hold in minimal high esteem.  Aish Ha-Torah is the organization that famously presents the Discovery Seminar (which I once participated in and hosted in my more naive days):

The backbone of the seminar is a series of classes called “Failsafe”. They include classes on the unique signs of Kosher mammals and fish that they say could not have been known about at the time they claim the Torah was written. The seminar is based on a date of Torah authorship many centuries earlier than given by mainstream biblical scholars.

Another presentation is on the historical claim of a national revelation that the Jewish people experienced at Mount Sinai. And, perhaps most controversially, a presentation on the academically contested and ridiculed hidden codes in the Bible.

As for the hidden codes of the bible, this is well-established idiocy.  You can find excellent refutations and hysterical satires on these codes in English and Hebrew all over the web.  With respect to the Torah’s great insight into kosher mammals that “could not have been known about at the time they claim the Torah was written,” I’d like them to explain this:

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: These are the living things which you may eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.  Whatsoever has a parted hoof, and is wholly cloven-footed, and chews the cud, among the beasts, that you may eat.  …And the rabbit, because she chews the cud but whose hoof is not parted, she is unclean unto you.  (Leviticus 11:2-6)

Ah, yes, the famous cud-chewing rabbit.  Well, that just proves that the Torah is full of extraordinary scientific knowledge.

Rabbi Adam Jacobs is the hip young managing director of the Aish Center in Manhattan.  He is what Undercover Kofer and others have called a “kiruv clown” (kiruv being the Hebrew for “bring closer” or, in other words, outreach and missionizing non-observant Jews).  He has written on HuffPost about how wonderfully “pro-woman” the Torah is:

There is a common (and unfortunate) misconception in the world at large that the Torah is anti-women. The reality is that a simple examination of the actual text and a little research into some of the major commentaries reveal just the opposite. No modern apologetics are required to prove the truth — that Judaism is, and has always been, exceedingly pro-woman.

After which he reviews all the many wonderful depictions of women in the bible, from Sarah to Esther, and a midrash from Lurianic Kabbalah about “the primal drive of the universe…to restore woman back to her place on high.”

Then, with more than a touch of arrogance (something that I can also be accused of from time to time), he states:

There are, and have always been, a great many people interested in speaking in the Torah’s name. When these voices, who generally have neither the training nor the licensure to explain it, are allowed to direct the narrative, a twisted and forlorn version emerges.

Putting aside my own umbrage at this remark, how does he account for the reality before our very own eyes?  We can begin with the Talmud, where women are depicted as lazy, gossipy, greedy and vain.  Oh, and as witches.  (There’s also a little positive stuff in there.  It’s a big book after all.)

More to the point, we can continue with the halakhic proscriptions on women as witnesses, legal authorities and communal leaders.

Then we can round it out with the actual treatment of Jewish women in the 21st century where they are blotted out of existence by the religious press, held hostage by vindictive husbandsarrested for praying at the Wall, forced to sit in the back of the bus, have acid spilled on them for violations of “modesty,” and are generally segregated in every aspect of life.

The treatment of women by “Torah observant Jews” is getting worse, not better.  Jacobs’ post is phony apologetics at its lowest.

But I suppose I lack the training and licensure to point this out.

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