web analytics
August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Confronting A Prominent Writer’s Untruths


It is time to finally inter a malicious libel against Jews and Judaism that is getting increasing attention in the media, namely, that Judaism will not allow for the breaking of the Sabbath to save a non-Jewish life.

Given that Judaism is the religion that introduced the idea that all humans are created equally in God’s image, and the rabbinical sages wrote 2,000 years ago that “even a gentile who studies God’s law is equal to the High Priest” and “the righteous of all nations have a share in the World to Come” (Tosefta, Sanhedrin 13), it would seem incredible that anyone would believe such nonsense.

Yet the latest to repeat this libel is the gifted writer Christopher Hitchens, who, in his book God Is Not Great, writes of Baruch Goldstein, “While serving as a physician in the Israeli army he had announced that he would not treat non-Jewish patients, such as Israeli Arabs, especially on the Sabbath. As it happens, he was obeying rabbinic law in declining to do this, as many Israeli religious courts have confirmed…”

In our second debate on religion, held last week, I asked Hitchens to identify even one Jewish court that would uphold such a thing. As his source he cited not a court but his “dear friend,” the late Israeli writer Israel Shahak.

Research on the incident reveals the following: In 1965, Shahak sent a letter to Haaretz saying he had witnessed an Orthodox Jewish man refusing to allow his telephone to be used to call an ambulance for a non-Jew because it would violate the Sabbath. In the same letter Shahak also alleged that a rabbinical court in Jerusalem confirmed that the man acted according to the dictates of Jewish law.

From the beginning the story was curious. What prohibition could there possibly be in allowing someone else to use one’s phone on the Sabbath? Then, in 1966, the story was investigated by Immanuel Jakobovits – one of the worlds’ leading medical ethicists who later would become chief rabbi of the United Kingdom and a member of the House of Lords – and found to be a hoax.

Writing in the journal Tradition under the title “A Modern Blood Libel,” Jakobovits noted: “Dr. Shahak, challenged to substantiate his personal ‘testimony’ was eventually forced to admit that the Orthodox Jew he had ‘witnessed’ refusing the use of his telephone simply did not exist. The whole incident had been fabricated in true Protocols style. Equally overlooked was the circumstance that the Rabbinate, far from having confirmed Dr. Shahak’s allegation, had in fact ruled that the Sabbath must be violated to save non-Jewish no less than Jewish lives.”

In further refutation of Shahak’s libel, Jakobovits cited a lengthy responsum by Isser Yehuda Unterman, chief rabbi of Israel, who stated unequivocally that “the Sabbath must be violated to save non-Jewish life no less than Jewish lives.”

But such libels about Jews were, sadly, par for the course for Shahak who also alleged that Jewish children are taught “whenever passing near a cemetery, to utter a blessing if the cemetery is Jewish, but to curse the mothers of the dead if it is non-Jewish” (Jewish History, Jewish Religion) and even accused Jews of worshiping Satan.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) calls Shahak “one of the world’s leading anti-Semites,” and as Jewish Press senior editor Jason Maoz noted in his Jan. 25 Media Monitor column (“The Wicked Son”), Shahak’s work is regularly referenced by neo-Nazis and anti-Semites.

Eli Beer, chief coordinator of the United Haztalah Emergency Ambulance Service of Israel, who oversees 1,100 medical volunteers, approximately 60 percent of whom are Orthodox, told me, “If someone would say we won’t save a non-Jewish life on the Sabbath, he is a liar. If he is Jewish, Christian, or Muslim we save everyone’s life on any day of the year, including the Sabbath and Yom Kippur, and I have done so myself. Indeed, as an orthodox Jew it is my greatest honor to save the life of a non-Jew, and I would violate any of the Jewish holy days to do so.”

It would behoove a scholar like Hitchens to remove from future editions of his book this slander of “many” Jewish courts teaching Jews that it is forbidden to save non-Jewish life on the Sabbath, along with other gratuitous attacks on Jews and Judaism that are misleading and inaccurate. Principal among them are his unfortunate statement that Jews are not “blameless” for anti-Semitism and his characterization of the festival of Chanukah as “an absolutely tragic day in human history” without which “the Jewish people might have been the carriers of philosophy instead of arid monotheism.”

About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Confronting A Prominent Writer’s Untruths”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
ISIS in Quneitra
Updates from Kuneitra, Syria [video]
Latest Indepth Stories
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz reviewing maps on the Golan Heights.

The bad news is that ISIS and Al Qaeda are on the Syrian Golan. The good news is that every terrorist in Syria is killing each other.

TorahScroll AoT17

The congregants, Ethiopians spanning generations, were beaming with joy and pride.

Troodler-082914

The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip nine years ago did not enhance Israel’s security.

Eisenstock-082914

How does a soldier from a religious home fall in love with a soldier from a non- religious kibbutz?

In 19th century entire ancient Jewish communities fled Palestine to escape brutal Muslim authorities

Responsibility lies with both the UN and Hamas, and better commitments should have been demanded from both parties in the ceasefire.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

If this is how we play the game, we will lose. By that I mean we will lose everything.

Reportedly, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have formed a bloc that seeks to counter Islamist influence in the Middle East.

One wonders how the IDF could be expected to so quickly determine the facts.

While there is no formula that will work for everyone, there are some strategies that if followed carefully and consistently can help our children – and us – gain the most from the upcoming school year.

We risk our lives to help those who do what they can to kill to our people .

Twain grasped amazingly well the pulse of the Jewish people.

The entertainment industry appears divided about the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

More Articles from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meet in the Kremlin, Nov. 20, 2013.

On the one hand, Putin has been a friend to Chabad and to Israel. On the other hand, Putin is a brutal dictator.

The gradual trickle of self-hatred into the Jewish soul is evidencing itself in the American Jewish public.

Rabbi Schochet wrote the Johannesburg Beis Din: It is totally prohibited and unacceptable to hear someone like Boteach.

If you’re feeling down, stop reading right now. You’re only going to be more depressed.

The world and the United State continue to give Rouhani a pass.

American Jews – especially those working on campus – don’t accept that we have a battle on our hands.

But the most painful part of an otherwise illuminating and extraordinary Forum was Iranian President Rouhani’s speech.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/confronting-a-prominent-writers-untruths-2/2008/02/06/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: