Is That a Jewish Expression?
Is That a Jewish Expression?
Recently I heard a committed Jewish man address a synagogue congregation. Included in his comments was a reference to “The Old Testament.” Jews tend to use such expressions although they depict a view derived entirely from another religion.
There is no “Old
Testament” in Judaism, not only because there is no testament but also because
“Old” implies that there must be a “New” testament, if any.
“testament” is usually translated from the Latin to mean a will left by a
deceased person for the benefit of his descendants. In a
religion other than Judaism it is held that a deity lived as a man on
this earth and, upon his departure, left the “Old” and “New” testaments
behind. Some identify the “Old” testament with our Torah which is of course
not old at all. It is current and lives now. It is not superseded by any other
Torah and therefore it is not Jewish to refer to the Torah as old.
word “testament” is also quite un-Jewish. Its origin lies in two Latin
i.e. the male reproductive gland and
mens meaning hand. It was customary in
the ancient world for men to swear an oath in court on the testicles of their
fathers. This may seem gross and uncouth to us. However, the ancients knew that
their survival depended on the reproduction of food from the earth. Therefore
they swore by the reproductive gland.
Now take a
look at B’rayshit, Chapter Vayyechi, i.e. Genesis XLVII verse 29. This reads
in part: …”Sim –no yodcho tachat yraychi” or, “put, I ask of you, your
hand under my thigh.” Israel had his son Joseph swear that he would bury
him in the Holy Land and not in Egypt.
un-Jewish expression we should avoid is the use of the abbreviations B.C.,
meaning “before Christ”, and A.D., meaning Anno Domini or year of our lord.
We use B.C.E., i.e., Before the Common Era and C.E. or Common Era.
no “wailing wall” in Yerusholayim. There is however, a Western Wall which
the Israelis call Kotel Hamaariv. “Western Wall” is the exact
translation of those two Hebrew words used by those who live there. The
expression “wailing” is an anti-Jewish epithet implying that Jews “wail”
like coyotes or other animals.
all people, sometimes express their exasperation by various comments. It is not
Jewish, however, to shout out the name of a deity associated with another
religion in such circumstances.
is the effort of some Jews to explain the “kosher” laws to themselves and
others by claiming that these laws are antiquated health measures. Nothing could
be further from the truth. The ancient peoples, including our ancestors, knew
nothing about germs and contamination. Beef was as infectious under some
circumstances as pork or other meat. The reason for the “kosher” laws was to
teach self control and a humane attitude towards the slaughter of animals. That
is still the case. Therefore we need not excuse ourselves for observing these
laws. Furthermore it is not true that “the Jews don’t eat pork” . The fact
is that we eat only those animals which have a cloven hoof and chew the cud.
Therefore, the pig is only one of many animals we cannot eat. This is not merely
a “Jewish aversion.” The kosher laws are found in the Torah.
find it “quaint” if not ridiculous to observe food laws forget that in
California it is illegal to sell horse meat, that we never eat dogs and cats and
snakes as do the Chinese and that the idea of eating grub worms as do the
natives of Australia is so disgusting to us that the mere thought makes us ill.
In short, the rejection of some foods and the acceptance of others is a common
folkway among all mankind. Surely the refusal of Hindus to eat the cow is
respected by us. Then why not exhibit some self-respect and not disparage the
customs and laws of our own people?
also avoid the words shiksa and shagetz. Those words are Hebrew for
“abomination.” Surely we do not call a human being an abomination.
need to recognize that “goy” is not a pejorative and does not mean non-Jew.
It means nation or people. The Torah repeatedly refers to “Goy Israel”, the
people of Israel.
that we are Jews. We are Jews, i.e. descendants of Judah. We need not say
we are of “Jewish descent” as if it is somehow shameful to say with Jonah
(Jonah I :9) Ivri Onauchi, I am a Hebrew. Of course, Ivri
means Hebrew. We, of course are not Hebrews because we do not speak that
language in our daily lives. The Israelis are Hebrews. We say Yehudi Onauchi, I
am a Jew.
British prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, prided himself on having been born a
Jew and actually campaigned for a seat in parliament by telling the voters that
he was more aristocratic than his opponent who was a Lord. He claimed that being
a member of the People of Israel was the most distinguished aristocracy one may
claim on this earth. The voters agreed with him. He was elected and later was
knighted as Lord Beaconsfield. We Jews need no such titles. The title Jew is
more than enough.