Saturday, 4 May 2013

Religion Showing Its Face


Last Saturday, exactly a week ago, happened to be my last day at Israel.
One thing I had to do before returning home was return the local SIM my friend gave me, the SIM that allowed me to remain in constant touch with the world via the Internet. As I approached my friend's house I saw this guy standing right next to the house's outside fence, looking around but doing nothing. The guy was wearing a Kippa.
As I got close to the apartment building's electric door so that my friend could buzz me in I noticed I was being followed. The guy stood ten centimeters behind me. Once buzzed in, he sneaked in right after me, then followed me up the stairs. His destination was the apartment right next to my friend's, where he was greeted.
Let me translate to you what happened here. This guy was a religious Jew, and as such he took it upon himself not to mess with electric circuits on a Saturday. This includes the circuit that buzzes an apartment from below as well as the circuit that opens the electric door at the building's entrance. In similar fashion, the people whom the guy was visiting were not allowed to buzz him on or even get down to open the door for him. They were locked inside, he was locked outside, and only a heretic - someone like yours truly - could save their day. If that is not stupid, if that is not dumb, then I don't know what is.

Now you could dismiss the above as stupidity that is limited to Judaism alone, but I beg to differ. Sure, Judaism has some soft spots when it comes to stupidity, and the forbidding of all dealings electric is a sure sign of Bronze Age rules failing to predict the future. However, it is not like other religions are exempt: to one extent or another they all have their special rules, designed to generate that cozy feeling of group belonging.
Christians may not watch out for the Sabbath as fanatically as a Jew, but they still spend the best part of their weekend at church. Both are wasting their precious time upon this earth.

A good question was thrown at me when I was telling this story at work. If the Sabbath is so restricting, I was asked, what does a Jew do if a person's life is in danger? Someone quickly stepped in to explain that in such a case the Sabbath can be broken. I, however, did throw another complication in.
I let my colleagues know there is some severe debating amongst believing Jews on the matter of breaking the Sabbath in favor of saving the life of a non Jew. Such questions arise, for example, in the Israeli army: something happens and an Arab gets hurt on a Saturday. Should a Jewish medic break the Sabbath to help the Arab?
In a manner that would turn most people into antisemites, I can report here that whereas any sane human being would argue that helping someone whose life is in danger should be at the top of anyone's agenda, numerous rabbis have ruled the Sabbath is more important than the life of a gentile. Even worse, many of those who ruled in favor of saving the gentile's life do so not because of the humanism in their veins but rather in order to avoid the generation of antisemite perceptions (yes, they do explain themselves in detail).
If that is not stupid, not dumb and not ignorant, I don't know what is. And it could have only come through the wonder of religion.

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