“The rabbis neither “saved” nor “democratized” Judaism. They couldn’t have. Historians have quite clearly established that the rabbis were marginal — in some settings, even irrelevant — to the way Jews (religious and secular) of Second Temple times or Late Antiquity lived. The destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. was rhetorically constructed by rabbinic texts as a catastrophe for Jews and Judaism several centuries after the actual event because that construction helped justify their (religious) narratives (and authority). And when we employ words like “democratize” about the rabbis of the first six centuries of the Common Era, we should remember an obvious fact: Rabbinic Judaism was the product of a self-selected male elite.” – Rabbi Dr. Barbara Thiede, professor in Religious Studies, UNC-Charlotte – clarifying parens are mine.
Let’s read further,…
“Was the ancient diaspora marked by loss and longing? No. Jews had been living in the diaspora for centuries before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. They had built synagogues in Egypt, in Rome, on the North African coast, in Cyprus, Greece, on the Aegean Islands, in Asia Minor. Seth Schwartz’s “Imperialism and Jewish Scociety, 200 B.C.E. to 640 C.E.” and Erich Gruen’s “Diaspora” and “Heritage and Hellenism” point out — in detail — the richly variegated nature of Jewish life — most of it devoid of rabbinic influence. Those Jews who held positions of influence and power went by different titles, including archontes (chiefs), ethnarch, genarch. The rosh of a synagogue could be a wealthy donor or benefactor — and wasn’t necessarily male. Synagogues served a multitude of functions — from fundraising to adjudicating the emancipation of slaves, to offering meeting space for burial societies. Rabbis were not at the helm.”
Correct, ancient synagogues were *not* houses of daily chanting and supplication, of worship to human-imagined legendary gods. To say that they were is the myth that is religiously promulgated to distort the synagogue’s inherent historical purpose. Secular Jewish synagogues survive just as well as religious ones, and without the presence of the Torah within them.
#Judaism #Rabbinical #JewishSociety #Israel #Diaspora
Is Modern Rabbinic Judaism Based On A Myth?
Rabbis across denominations continue to promulgate the mythology that justifies their position and power. But clinging to Yavneh creates an impossible, unrealistic and univocal vision of what Jews should be doing (let alone what they ever did). It shortchanges Jewish history and Judaism. It shortchanges Jews.
“What is served by perpetuating the myth that the rabbis “saved” Judaism other than rabbinic prestige, self-confidence, and power? What do rabbis win by castigating their people for supposed ignorance and apathy? Do Jews benefit when rabbis insist that rabbinic Judaism is the Judaism they must aspire to, because without it, Judaism must die?
Jews have lived without the rabbinic system before. … Non-rabbinic Judaism was never absent from the historical landscape.”
Yep, yep! When you’ve grown up indoctrinated in the myths of religious Judaism, and it’s central relevance to the survival of the Jewish people … it’s hard to see the historical truth, to recognize the fuller history of who is a Jew and what is a Jew … that is until existential crisis sets in and breaks away the indoctrination!