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Misquoting the Talmud

I recently stumbled on an anti-Semitic website and they had a whole list of Talmud sayings that sound very non-PC. One example was: "It is permitted to marry a 3-year-old girl," which they said means that Judaism condones sexual abuse of a young child. Another example was: "The best of the Gentiles, kill." Does the Talmud really say this stuff?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Misquoting Talmudic texts or taking them out of context is an age-old method used to incite anti-Semitism.

In the example that you cite, that a Jew may marry a 3-year-old girl, it simply means that under the age of 3, a "marriage" contract has no validity. Beyond that, any "marriage arrangement" made at above the age of 3 must be accepted and validated by the girl herself at such time that she attains maturity. The Talmud is discussing a technical legal point, not condoning abhorrent sexual activities.

As for: "The best of the gentiles, kill," the context here is very crucial. The question was raised, how could there be any horses chasing after the Jews with chariots (in Exodus 14:7), when they were all killed in the plague of hail (Exodus 9:19). The Midrash (Tanchuma – Beshalach 8) answers that the horses were owned by those who heeded God's warnings and locked his animals indoors (Exodus 9:20).

The Midrash concludes that these God-fearing Egyptians -- the best Egyptians – turned out to be the ones that gave their horses to chase the Jewish people. In other words, in this particular instance, even the best Egyptians turned out to be oppressors, too. Yet even they – "the best of the gentiles" – were deserving of death.

The Torah states unequivocally that ALL men were created in the image of God (Genesis chapter 1). In fact, the Talmud emphasizes that Adam was created from the dust of all four corners of the earth (so to speak), so that no one nation could claim superiority. And of course, it is forbidden for a Jew to kill a Gentile. (source: Talmud Sanhedrin 57a; "Taz" Y.D. 158:1).

So you see, one can change the meaning of anything by taking it out of context. And better not to waste time refuting these points one by one. God's Torah is morally perfect, and if something ever sounds otherwise, it is because it is not understood properly.

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