Saturday, November 1, 2014

Were Chazal liars?

In a Facebook thread, someone angry about the distortions he was fed by Judaism referred to "Chazal's crimes" and that their "lies" are what shaped most of the religion.

This really bothered me.

"Chazal's crimes"? Their "lies"? That's a worse distortion than what Chazal did. Were the ancient Greeks' misunderstandings about reality being composed of four elements "crimes" and "lies"? Was Aristotle trying to fool people when he maintained that the earth was at the center of the universe?

They were men of their time who had at their disposal only the tools they were given. The very concept of empirical scientific proof hadn't been invented. They deeply believed in the divinity of the Torah and of the truth of the work they were doing. It's OK to still respect them and the remarkable work they did, while acknowledging that they were technically wrong. It's a distortion of history, shows a lack of understanding of context, and betrays arrogance to accuse them of "crimes" and "lies".


  1. Maybe the person is very emotionally upset and can't lash out at the real sources of his or her pain - teachers, parents, rabbis etc. Maybd they're angry at what people did to them in the name of chazal. Hopefully they'll be able to confront the real sources of their pain at some point.

  2. That's very understanding, tesyaa, and benevolent.
    But words are important, especially angry, judgmental words. People who lash out wildly, harshly mischaracterizing others whenever they're angry, do much real-world harm. Some of those who call Israel "worse than the Nazis" are also angry & frustrated.