Torah Portion Shemini (Leviticus 9:1-11:47)

This week’s Torah portion is Shemini (Leviticus 9:1-11:47). Watch.

* God lays down a lot of demands on the Jews. A less intelligent and less diligent group of people simply could not keep up with these demands. They wouldn’t have a clue. Mexicans have many wonderful qualities, but can you imagine God laying down these demands on a group of two million Mexicans or Africans or Arabs in the desert? I don’t think it would work. Less intelligent Jews over the past 2,000 years have probably converted out to the less demanding religions of Christianity and Islam. This has had a eugenic effect on Jews. Smart ones reproduce. Losers fall away.

* Jews talk a lot about “tikkun olam” aka improving the world. Like every group with spirit, Jews tend to think of themselves as the center of the world and as morally superior. Australians, Muslims, Chinese, Japanese, and every other group I know of thinks the same way. When I lived in Australia and watched Australian news, it was always underlain with the supposition that Australians had a superior morality to the rest of the world and if the rest of the world could only be more like us, it would be better off. When I was in England, there was a widespread assumption that English morals and English tele were superior.

Growing up a Christian, it was simply taken for granted that being “Christian” was the best identity one could take on and that Christianity was the world’s greatest moral system. When we saw problems in the world, the solution we thought of first was that these wrongdoers needed to become Christian. Jews don’t seek to make the world Jewish, but we tend to think we have more moral acuity than other groups. Jews tend to feel comfortable critiquing the non-Jewish world but we don’t like being critiqued by goyim. Most groups are like this. I assume the Japanese and Muslims and blacks and Christians don’t like being evaluated by outsiders. A person with a high IQ however finds it relatively easy to put himself in the shoes of another and to look at the world from another’s POV.

On this show, we’re critiquing the world from a Torah perspective, but with a little effort, we can look at Torah and at Jews from an outsider’s perspective. Different groups have different interests and these interests often clash. With a little moral imagination, we can sense what life looks like for blacks, for Chinese, for Muslims and Arabs and Australians and Russians. We can also use our moral imagination to look at the Jewish past and to understand where the actions of Jews contributed to anti-Semitism. Mastering our history is not easy. Blacks don’t like to look at where black behavior causes anti-black sentiments and Muslims don’t like to examine where Muslim behavior causes anti-Muslim animus. Once we decide to look at the world as rational, we can seek out the causes for why peoples act as they do.

When most Jews talk of tikkun olam, they refer to left-wing politics (empowering minorities at the expense of the white majority).

* Would the Israelites have been a stronger group if they had more diversity? If they were 10% Mexican and 10% African and 10% Egyptian and 10% Arab and 10% Persian and 10% Chinese etc? I don’t think so. If diversity would not have made Israel stronger, why would anyone think it makes America or France or Australia stronger?

I had a few years where I did much, perhaps most of my writing reminiscing about my past relationships. One day in writing class, my teacher gave me an assignment that changed my life. She suggested I write about my relationship from my GF’s point of view. I did that and then I had my GF write about how we met from her point of view. It was fascinating and destabilizing of my prejudices.

* If HaShem had given the Mexicans the Torah, there would be hundreds of millions of Jews in the world today.

* I’ve met rabbis with single-minded dedication abd a lack of humanity. Everyone they meet is just fodder for Torah. They’re not interested in people qua people, but only as fodder for the cause. It’s very rare I’ve been invited to someone’s home for a Sabbath meal and the hosts have no interest in me except as fodder for Torah, but it has happened on occasion. I notice this among BTs (Baalei Teshuva) more than FFBs (Frum From Birth).

The most dynamic public speakers tend to be cold in real life. Hitler watched an autopsy performed on his beloved niece. That’s cold blooded.

* You can’t posken a shaila if you are drunk.

I’m often around drunk Orthodox Jews celebrating simchas (happy occasions). It’s not easy for me. I’m used to sober Seventh-Day Adventists. WASPs tend to extend you more body space than do Orthodox Jews.

* If family unfriends you on FB, would you take it as a spiritual lesson to mend your ways?

* Being tribal is not the typical white’s idea of a good time. Whites are the least tribal people around. When you have a dominantly white society, whites don’t have to get tribal. When you create a multiracial society, you set off uncomfortable tribalism among whites and they start seeking their own group interest (just like all other groups do automatically).

* The Pope just recognized the Armenian Genocide, something the ADL failed to do for many years because it valued Israel’s relationship with Turkey.

Just ask with these things — who benefits and who gets hurt?

Groups supporting Israel for many years did not want to recognize the Armenian Genocide at the hands of Turkey because Turkey was an important ally of Israel. Once Israel and Turkey fell out, Jewish groups had no problem recognizing the Armenian genocide.

Are Jewish groups evil because they think strategically? Not at all. Every group should think strategically. Ignoring the consequences of your choices to live out an ideal is not necessarily moral.

Every nationalism has a victimology and every victimology has a nationalism.

Why are there so many Holocaust museums and so few victims of communism museums? Who benefits?

Peter Novick wrote a great book in 2000 — The Holocaust in American Life. Since the 1960s, the Holocaust has become the sacred religious focus for many Jews. Until the 1960s, it was widely thought that the Nazis carried out the Holocaust. Then this religion of the Holocaust started and Germans got the blame, then all white Christians. This fuels an anti-white, anti-goyim animus among some secular Jews (chiefly of Eastern European origin who lived for centuries in a state of mutual loathing with the goyim).

By contrast, traditional Orthodox Jews don’t build special commemorations to the Holocaust and their religion has no more to do with the Holocaust than with other tragedies in Jewish history, such as the destruction of the ancient temples in Jerusalem.

So many Jews grow up with the idea that the Holocaust (and with it hatred of goyim) is central to Jewish identity.

Mark Arax writes in 2010:

Some of the most powerful leaders in the American Jewish community have stepped forward in recent days to acknowledge the 1915 Armenian Genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turkey.

On the surface, this would seem unremarkable. As victims of the Holocaust, Jews might be expected to stand beside the Armenians and their tragedy. After all, the massacres and death marches across Anatolia during the fog of World War I became a model for Hitler himself.

But this sudden embrace of the Armenian Genocide actually marks a shameless turnaround for the major American Jewish organizations. For decades, they have helped Turkey cover up its murderous past. Each year, the Israel lobby in the U.S. has played a quiet but pivotal role in pressuring Congress, the State Department and successive presidents to defeat simple congressional resolutions commemorating the 1.5 million Armenian victims.

Genocide denial is not a pretty thing, they now concede, but they did it for Israel. They did it out of gratitude for Turkey being Israel’s one and only Muslim ally.

Now the game has changed. Israel and Turkey are locked in a feud over the Palestine-bound flotilla that was intercepted on the high seas by Israel. Turkey is outraged over the killing of nine of its citizens on board. Israel is outraged that a country with Turkey’s past would dare judge the morality of the Jewish state.

So the Armenian Genocide has become a new weapon in the hands of Israel and its supporters in the U.S., a way to threaten Turkey, a conniver’s get-even: Hey, Turkey, if you want to play nasty with Israel, if you want to lecture us about violations of human rights, we can easily go the other way on the Armenian Genocide. No more walking the halls of Congress to plead your shameful case.

If I sound cynical about all this, maybe I am.

In the spring of 2007, I wrote a story that revealed how genocide denial had become a dirty little pact between Turkey and Israel and its lobby in the U.S.

The story, as it turned out, was my last story at the Los Angeles Times, the only story in my 20-year career that was killed on the eve of publication.

Three years later, I can still hear myself framing its contours to one of our editors in the Washington bureau:

A rift over genocide denial has begun to crack open inside the Jewish community. If you listen closely, you can hear the stirrings of a debate.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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