Ron Unz, 57, is a Jewish American software entrepreneur, author
"Essentially almost everything I had known--
or thought I had known--about the religion of Judaism,
at least in its zealously Orthodox traditional form,
was utterly wrong."
By Ron Unz
(excerpt by henrymakow.com)
Throughout my entire life, there have been very, very few times I have ever been so totally astonished as I was after I digested Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, whose text runs barely a hundred pages.
In fact, despite his solid background in the academic sciences and the glowing testaments provided by prominent figures, I found it quite difficult to accept the reality of what I was reading. As a consequence, I paid a considerable sum to a young graduate student I knew, tasking him to verify the claims in Shahak's books, and as far as he could tell, all of the hundreds of references he checked seemed to be accurate or at least found in other sources.
Even with all of that due diligence, I must emphasize that I cannot directly vouch for Shahak's claims about Judaism. My own knowledge of that religion is absolutely negligible, mostly being limited to my childhood, when my grandmother occasionally managed to drag me down to services at the local synagogue, where I was seated among a mass of elderly men praying and chanting in some strange language while wearing various ritualistic cloths and religious talismans, an experience that I always found much less enjoyable than my usual Saturday morning cartoons.
Although Shahak's books are quite short, they contain such a density of astonishing material, it would take many, many thousands of words to begin to summarize them. Essentially almost everything I had known--or thought I had known--about the religion of Judaism, at least in its zealously Orthodox traditional form, was utterly wrong.
For example, traditionally religious Jews pay little attention to most of the Old Testament, and even very learned rabbis or students who have devoted many years to intensive study may remain largely ignorant of its contents. Instead, the center of their religious world view is the Talmud, an enormously large, complex, and somewhat contradictory mass of secondary writings and commentary built up over many centuries, which is why their religious doctrine is sometimes called "Talmudic Judaism." Among large portions of the faithful, the Talmud is supplemented by the Kabala, another large collection of accumulated writings, mostly focused on mysticism and all sorts of magic. Since these commentaries and interpretations represent the core of the religion, much of what everyone takes for granted in the Bible is considered in a very different manner...
JUDAISM NOT MONOTHEISTIC
On the most basic level, the religion of most traditional Jews is actually not at all monotheistic, but instead contains a wide variety of different male and female gods, having quite complex relations to each other, with these entities and their properties varying enormously among the numerous different Jewish sub-sects, depending upon which portions of the Talmud and the Kabala they place uppermost.
For example, the traditional Jewish religious cry "The Lord Is One" has always been interpreted by most people to be an monotheistic affirmation, and indeed, many Jews take exactly this same view. But large numbers of other Jews believe this declaration instead refers to the achievement of sexual union between the primary male and female divine entities. And most bizarrely, Jews having such radically different views see absolutely no difficulty in praying side by side and merely interpreting their identical chants in very different fashion.
(Left, Israel Shahak)
Furthermore, religious Jews apparently pray to Satan almost as readily as they pray to God, and depending upon the various rabbinical schools, the particular rituals and sacrifices they practice may be aimed at enlisting the support of the one or the other. Once again, so long as the rituals are properly followed, the Satan-worshippers and the God-worshippers get along perfectly well and consider each other equally pious Jews, merely of a slightly different tradition. One point that Shahak repeatedly emphasizes is that in traditional Judaism the nature of the ritual itself is absolutely uppermost, while the interpretation of the ritual is rather secondary. So perhaps a Jew who washes his hands three times clockwise might be horrified by another who follows a counter-clockwise direction, but whether the hand-washing was meant to honor God or to honor Satan would hardly be a matter of much consequence.
Strangely enough, many of the traditional rituals are explicitly intended to fool or trick God or His angels or sometimes Satan, much like the mortal heroes of some Greek legend might seek to trick Zeus or Aphrodite. For example, certain prayers must be uttered in Aramaic rather than Hebrew on the grounds that holy angels apparently don't understand the former language, and their confusion allows those verses to slip by unimpeded and take effect without divine interference.
Furthermore, since the Talmud represents a massive accretion of published commentary built up over more than a millennium, even the most explicit mandates have sometimes been transformed into their opposites. As an example, Maimonides, one of the highest rabbinical authorities, absolutely prohibited rabbis from being paid for their religious teaching, declaring that any rabbi who received a salary was an evil robber condemned to everlasting torment; yet later rabbis eventually "reinterpreted" this statement to mean something entirely different, and today almost all rabbis collect salaries.
Another fascinating aspect is that up until very recent times, the lives of religious Jews were often dominated by all sorts of highly superstitious practices, including magical charms, potions, spells, incantations, hexes, curses, and sacred talismans, with rabbis often having an important secondary role as sorcerers, and this even remains entirely true today among the enormously influential rabbis of Israel and the New York City area. Shahak's writings had not endeared him to many of these individuals, and for years they constantly attacked him with all sorts of spells and fearful curses aimed at achieving his death or illness. Many of these traditional Jewish practices seem not entirely dissimilar to those we typically associate with African witch-doctors or Voodoo priests, and indeed, the famous legend of the Golem of Prague described the successful use of rabbinical magic to animate a giant creature built of clay.