Thursday, July 28, 2005

Adventures in Jewish Bigotry

The Godol Hador has been discussing this issue lately, so I guess I'll jump on the bandwagon and discuss it too.

So. I have a friend. Let's call him "Magz". Magz has very little formal Jewish education. Magz is also a horrible bigot. He also has the amazing ability to take any piece of information and twist it to fit his, well, twisted worldview. Because of this ability, actually, during college we had a communal enactment that it was forbidden to teach him anything new except for the purpose of disproving one of his immoral fantasies.

His favorite seifer was The Midrash Says. Or maybe it was even The Little Midrash Says. Anyway, he was definitely one of those people who R' Moshe ben Maimon described as idiots for taking aggadic stories at face value instead of trying to get at their deeper meaning.

One of the aggadic stories he claimed supported his racist delusions was the following Alexander narrative from the Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 91a:
When the people of Afriqiya came before Alekhsanderos Moqedon to bring a case against Yisra’eil, they said: "The Land of Kena‘an is ours, as is written, 'the Land of Kena‘an according to its borders'." And Kena‘an was their ancestor.

Geviha ben Pesisa said to the Sages: "Give me permission and I will argue with them before Alekhsanderos Moqedon. If they beat me, you can say 'you have only out-argued a layman' — and if I beat them, you can say 'the Tora of Moshe has beaten you'." They gave him permission, and he went to court against them.

He said to them: "From where are you bringing proof?"

They said to him: "From the Tora!"

He said to them: "Then I will also only bring proof from the Tora — it says, 'and [Noahh] said, "Cursed is Kena‘an! He will be a slave of slaves to his kinsmen!",' and when a slave buys property, who do the slave and the property belong to? And after all, for so many years you haven't been serving us!"
[In other words, y'all're our slaves, and everything you own belongs to us — oh, and you owe us back-labor for the past few thousand years or so!]

King Alekhsanderos told them: "Give him an answer."

They said to him: "Give us time!"

He gave them three days, and they checked but couldn't find a response. Immediately, they ran away and abandoned their just-planted fields and vineyards; and that year was a
shemita year.

Magz's conclusion from this agada — "Look! It says that Blacks should be our slaves! They were cursed by Noah! Quit it with all your liberal leftist hippy 'civil rights' nonsense, bring back the plantations!"

Sigh. Stupid people make my pancreas ache.

How do we know that Magz is an ass who didn't know squat?

Exhibit A:
Who gets cursed in the story of Noahh?
Was it Kush (Ethiopia)? No.
Was it Mitzrayim (Egypt)? No.
It was Kena‘an. Canaan. Where did they live? Oh yeah, Canaan. Israel. Palestine. Lebanon. Not Nigeria. Not Mozambique.

Exhibit B:
Check out this map of Africa in the Roman Empire. The Ancients didn't have the same concept of "continents" as we have today. Europe was only a part of what we call Europe today. Same with Asia. And Africa [known to us Judeans as Afriqi(ya) or Ifriqi(ya)] was only a small segment of the North African coast. No sub-Saharan dark-skinned Yoruba, Khoi-San, Zulus, or whoever else involved.

Africa was Carthage.

Carthage, or Qart Hhadasht — Qirya Hhadasha (New City) in Hebrew — was a Phoenician colony that itself became an empire in North-Africa, centered on what is today Tunisia. As you can see from their name, they spoke a language ("Punic") closely related to Hebrew, both being from the Canaanite branch of North-West Semitic. After all, the Phoenicians were Canaanites themselves, and both them in their homeland, and the Carthaginians in Ifriqi, called themselves "Canaan" and worshipped all those Canaanite baby-eating deities we love so much.
In short, the People of Ifriqiya = Carthage. Not Black Africans.

There is no excuse for being a Jew and being racist against Africans and people of African descent. If you're going to hate an ethnic or 'racial' (since 'race' is bogus anyway) group, at least pick one that makes sense. One that you have a legitimate grievance against. White people, for instance. The Holocaust, the Inquisition, Expulsions, Crusades... all perpetrated by White people. What the hell did Subsaharan Africa ever do to you?!

Why did God create the human race from only one original individual? ...In order to promote peace among humanity, so that no one could tell anyone else, "My Daddy's bigger than your Daddy!"...
— Mishna, Sanhedrin 4:5


Anonymous Anonymous said...

whew what an adventure!
historical, geographical, and moral education all in one.
i approve.
not very controversial though... :)
-big brother
ps: i guess you're leaving larger issues of "why bigotry is against judaism" to the wordwarriors at google hador's place

7/29/2005 9:22 AM  
Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

i've head that 'afriqi' might be 'phrygia' in the balkans, but you'd know better whether there were phoenician colonies there.
well done.

7/29/2005 9:32 AM  
Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7/29/2005 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I followed the link to Wikipedia's article on Carthage - I had no idea they were so awesome(ly connected to the Canaanites of the Tanach)!

I knew they were derived from the people of Sidon and Tsor, but hadn't been presented with the explicit fact that they worshipped the old gods of canaan by the same names, and even called their rulers Shoftim like we did! That's incredible. It just makes me want to know more. Someone needs to invent a time machine. There's nowhere near enough info about life in the ancient mid-east around today to satisfy.

I'd always just assumed that with the arrival of the Greeks everything around the mediterranean was completely changed and Hellenized, but our cousins and rivals were still being themselves into the roman era! That's so great(ly shocking that they were so bad)!
-Alan Scott (of many names around here)

7/29/2005 10:16 AM  
Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

you only qualify people like that,by arguing with them.
do you know any good german jokes?
{and schvatza was used to make a point}

7/29/2005 11:55 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Exactly. I may yoink some quotes from GH's place and post about them, though.

This and other maps at don't seem to indicate any Canaan~Balkan connection.

German jokes? Not really... i think i used to know some, though. Does the fact that my Yekke roommate in college used to be finished getting ready for Shabbos 2 full hours before candlelighting count?

7/29/2005 12:22 PM  
Blogger Yoshi said...

good post

8/04/2005 8:46 PM  
Blogger Sholom said...

So I'm over a year late on this one, but have some two cents anyway.
Several months prior to my enlistment, I got into an argument at the Shabbos table one Friday night with my brother Avremel, who's almost as clueless about reality as Yossi. Also, he works in the fully-corrupt Kashrus industry, but I digress...
Anywho, his point was that according to Shulchan Aruch Harav, black people are inferior to white people. He claims that this is proven by the "requirement" to say the Brocho of Meshaneh Habriyos upon seeing a "Kushi".
My point, not like it has any actual relevance or anything, was that a black person was rarely seen in 18th century Russia. Additionally, the Brocho is only said the first time a strange-looking person or animal is seen. Dos Heist; if the elephant-nosed, lobster-tailed, three-eared, polka-dotted woman lives next-door, you say the Brocho when the neighborhood welcoming committee brings over a cake; but not when you're borrowing a cup of sugar.
Needless to say, the argument escalated into my throwing a tantrum, leaving the house, and going to the village to cruise.

The preceeding tale further validates my assertion that "homo sapiens" is a misnomer.

12/02/2006 2:16 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...




Your point makes complete sense, and that's how i've always understood the requirement for that brakha; an Ethiopian Jew living in a society of Ethiopian Jews would probably be required to say meshaneh haberiyot upon seeing someone as pale as me for the first time!. And since, after all, the brakha literally means "Who Makes people different", there's nothing intrinsically objectifying about it. It's all in the attitude of the brakha-maker. Although when it comes to the Shulhhan ‘Arukh Harav, i wouldn't put it past him to have been racist against black people; after all, he had a very low opinion of all Non-Jews. (see Tanya).

What would you prefer over "homo sapiens"? "Homo screws stuff up"? ;-)

12/02/2006 5:56 PM  

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