June 30, 2006


Worries Build As GOP Seen Pushing Bills To Rally Base (Ori Nir, June 30, 2006, The Forward)

In the face of Republican efforts in Congress to rally the party's conservative base, Jewish organizations are stepping up efforts to push liberal positions on several legislative fronts. [...]

On reproductive rights, several Jewish organizations are joining forces to put pressure on the Food and Drug Administration to legalize the over-the-counter sale of the so-called "Plan B" contraceptive. Last week, senior executives with several Jewish influential organizations — including the National Council of Jewish Women, Hadassah, the American Jewish Committee, the Union for Reform Judaism and the JCPA — circulated a letter around Capitol Hill. The letter called on House members to sign on to a letter to FDA Acting Director Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, urging him to make a decision on the drug that is also known as the "morning after pill."

In 2003, two FDA advisory committees recommended that the drug be made available without a physician's prescription. Women's rights groups and other advocates have since joined Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the maker of the drug, in urging the FDA to act on the committees' recommendations. Named for its purpose to prevent pregnancy when conventional contraceptives fail to do so, or following unprotected intercourse, the drug reduces chances of pregnancy by 89% if taken within 72 hours after sex.

Under pressure from conservatives, the FDA has put off a decision on allowing universal access to the drug. Plan B proponents emphasize that preventing pregnancy during the short hours that follow intercourse could help avoid a risky, morally controversial and emotionally traumatic abortion later on. "Now it is time for [the FDA] to do its job and issue a decision regarding this important advance in women's health," said the president of NCJW, Phyllis Snyder, in an interview with the Forward.

Jewish organizations are also at loggerheads with conservatives over the Pledge Protection Act, a bill that would ban federal courts from hearing challenges to the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Their motto is Jews for a Culture of Death.

Spinoza: Hero, Infidel, Celebrity: a review of Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity By Rebecca Goldstein (Daniel B. Schwartz, June 30, 2006, The Forward)

Betrayal haunts the image of 17th-century philosopher Baruch (Benedictus) Spinoza like no other Jewish historical celebrity. For centuries, the name of this radical pantheist, pioneering biblical critic and defector from Judaism — once described as "the first Jew to separate himself from his religion and people without a formal religious conversion" — has been synonymous with infidelity. His caustic treatment of Judaism in the "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus" has made even some of his greatest Jewish admirers in modern times uncomfortable, while causing enemies like German Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen to accuse him of "humanly incomprehensible betrayal."

Yet if Spinoza could speak today, he might well charge his Jewish interpreters with betrayal — perhaps especially his apostles. Since the start of Jewish Enlightenment and the Emancipation in the late 18th century, when a Jewish identity outside Jewish law emerged as a possibility, Jews have increasingly claimed Spinoza as one of their own. With the advantage of hindsight, he has come to be seen as "the first modern Jew" and specifically as a precursor for an array of rival movements, ranging from Reform Judaism to secular Yiddishism to Labor Zionism.

A Jew freed from the Law isn't Jewish.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 30, 2006 10:02 AM

As the old joke go, Spinoza's not really a Jew, just kind of Jew-ish.

More seriously, though, the Shinto are quite astounded that he's not Japanese. (They may have even given him honorary Japanese citizenship.)

How's that for betrayal?

Posted by: Barry Meislin at June 30, 2006 11:03 AM

The support for challenges to the Pledge of Socialism isn't such a bad thing.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at June 30, 2006 12:01 PM

Let's not be too judgmental--a Jew freed from the Law is just as Jewish as Episcopalians are Christian...

Posted by: b at June 30, 2006 12:13 PM

Quite. They're rationalist/liberals--not Judeo-Christians/conservatives.

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2006 12:18 PM

A Jew freed from the Law isn't Jewish. What then is he?

Posted by: erp at July 1, 2006 8:54 AM

a rationalist/liberal

Posted by: oj at July 1, 2006 8:59 AM

Why can't he be an irrationalist conservative?

Posted by: erp at July 1, 2006 2:43 PM

All conservatives are irrational.

Posted by: oj at July 1, 2006 2:48 PM

Possibly, but could a Jew freed of the Law be one or must he be, as you posit above, a rationist liberal?

Posted by: erp at July 1, 2006 4:40 PM

In rejecting the Law he embraces Reason.

Posted by: oj at July 1, 2006 4:45 PM

Someone, anyone help!

Posted by: erp at July 1, 2006 8:24 PM

In rejecting the Law, he embraces insanity. And then death. Look what happened to Korah (among many others). The history in the OT, from Moses all the way to Malachi, is a story of rejection.

Rejecting the Law always seems liberating at first - but it never ends well.

Posted by: jim hamlen at July 2, 2006 12:44 AM


My first comment was too glib.

The Big Lie about the Law is that it is oppressive, negative, and burdensome. A roadblock to human development, a ball-and-chain keeping us from FREEDOM. And God is a heartless judge, or a nasty busybody.

To the contrary, the Law is a gift - it is a reflection of the character of God (the law flows from the law-giver).

Consider Psalm 19:

"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much find gold."

Psalm 119 (the longest 'chapter' in the Bible) is a paean to the Law. But not just to the words - imagine someone writing a poem praising the Federal Register! - but a song to God for the perfection of his character, as revealed in his Law. One of my favorites is Psalm 119:32 - "I will run in the course of your commands, because you have set my heart free".

The Law is not anti-Reason. It is eminently rational (and reasonable) because it comes from God.

But when man rejects the Law, he has to deal with the void and with the guilt. So he justifies, Reasons (with a capital R), and tap dances. And it never works. In short order, evil is pronounced good. And suddenly, there is child sacrifice (an ancient example) or Cambodia (a modern example).

It didn't start with Spinoza, although he was quite meticulous in trying to twist away from the Law. But his 'system' was no more successful than Nietzsche's.

People invest a lot of energy in fighting the Law. All the lies in our lives are attempts to get around it. Some people seem more successful at the evasion, but we don't know how tortured they are inside (or how empty they become as the years go by).

The Law isn't talked about much in church these days, and secular society ignores (or mocks) it. But it is always there, declaring (as Paul wrote in Romans 1), "the divine nature and eternal power of God".

Posted by: jim hamlen at July 2, 2006 2:14 AM

Jim, It's a given that believers, i.e., all those within the law, are better off than non-believers, however, my question is why particularly Jews outside the law must be rationalist liberals, or is every and anyone not a believer in Judeo-Christian monotheism (a definition which really should include Islam) also doomed to be so called?

Posted by: erp at July 2, 2006 7:51 AM

If you reject received Truth in favor of your own opinion you are a rationalist by definition.

Posted by: oj at July 2, 2006 8:49 AM

Okay, but must I also be a liberal?

Posted by: erp at July 2, 2006 10:41 AM

No, you're just a Christian in denial.

Posted by: oj at July 2, 2006 10:43 AM

Can Jews be in denial?

Posted by: erp at July 2, 2006 10:56 AM

Yes, if they accept the Law but imagine they derived it themselves, as you do.

Posted by: oj at July 2, 2006 11:11 AM

oj. What a riot. That's the best one yet.

Posted by: erp at July 3, 2006 3:11 PM