The following section is based on an extensive interview with Rabbi Cohen which began at a North London synagogue and was concluded at his home, 30th September, 1992. (10)
Questions begin A Baron:
Answers begin Rabbi Cohen:
Note: indicates where I have pried into the Talmud and other reference books.
This section also contains important background material on the Jewish religion and the schism between Torah and Zionist Jewry.
A Baron: I have here two books The Six Million Reconsidered and Four Small Candles, both of which contain large quantities of anti-Semitica, but Iím only interested here specifically in the Talmudic forgeries. (11) Iíll come back to these later, but first of all Rabbi Cohen, Iíd like us to go over some background material about Judaism and what it means to be Jewish in a religious sense. Can you tell us what is the Talmud? Most Gentiles donít seem to appreciate exactly what it is.
Rabbi Cohen: The Talmud is the basic foundation of our oral tradition. When the Torah or the Law was handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai, it was composed of not only the Scriptures or the written element, but there was an even greater element containing the oral instruction and so on which was originally transmitted verbally and was only centuries later committed to writing in the form of the Talmud.
Note: Talmud = talmud Torah, literally the study of the Torah.
A Baron: So the Talmud goes back to the time of Moses?
Rabbi Cohen: It wouldnít have been known as the Talmud in Mosesí time, and it wouldnít have been in a written format, but essentially the knowledge goes back to then.
A Baron: When was it first written down?
Rabbi Cohen: The Talmud itself consists of two major components: the Gemara and the Mishnah. The two of those were written in totally different periods in history. The time the Mishnah was first written down would have been roughly about the Second Century.
A Baron: Mishnah and Gemara go together, donít they?
Rabbi Cohen: Yes, thatís right. Initially, when it was decided that some commitment to writing was necessary in order to save the knowledge from being lost, the bare minimum was written down. But as the persecutions got worse and the times got harder, the Gemara had to be added to it. Originally, the Mishnah was the headings and it was possible just by having that in writing to be able to recall the rest.
A Baron: The Gemara was written by individual rabbis over a period of...?
Rabbi Cohen: Itís a collection of discussions, discourses and traditions which were probably gathered together over a period of centuries. Before the Mishnah and the Gemara were written down, they were compiled in a verbal form, the Mishnah being compiled by Rabbi Judah the Prince and the Gemara by Ravina and Rav Ashi. After the compilation they were actually committed to writing, but for the whole process weíre talking about a few centuries.
Note: Rabbi Judah is usually credited as the compiler and editor of the Mishnah (c200AD), but the work was actually brought together over the course of about two centuries.
There are actually two Gemaras: the Babylonian and the shorter Palestinian which, together with the Mishnah, comprise the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds. The Palestinian Gemara was completed c400AD and the Babylonian Gemara, c500AD.
A Baron: What is a Tosafoth?
Rabbi Cohen: The process Iíve just described continued even after the Gemara itself was written down and, when expounded verbally by the schools of disciples, had to be written down in more and more detail over the centuries of the Middle Ages. Over the earlier Middle Ages, up to about roughly the 1500s, Tosafoth [were written] by not one author, but a collection of authors, who wrote a sort of compendium, and it was intended to bring out questions on the text in a contrasting way to Rashi [Rabbi Shimon Yitschaki]. They tend to complement Rashi in their own way but between Rashi and Tosafoth, these are the two most basic commentaries on the Talmud.
A Baron: So we can say that the Talmud is not one book, rather it is a collection of the works of literally hundreds of rabbis?
Rabbi Cohen: That is correct. There are in existence literally hundreds of commentaries on the Talmud, and these commentaries span a period of upwards of fifteen hundred years, and it is still on-going.
A Baron: So if there are any anti-goy comments or anti-heathen comments in the Talmud, they are not necessarily accepted by all Jews at all times?
Rabbi Cohen: I would prefer to answer that as a theoretical question because I donít believe there are any such passages, but if there would be, these passages would certainly be very closely scrutinised and taken to pieces in the course of examination by these commentators.
A Baron: What I mean is that over the centuries, all peoples have been at each otherís throats; we can see this in Northern Ireland where we have two supposedly highly intelligent, highly cultured and indeed culturally similar communities, so called Christians who have been bombing the hell out of each other for the past twenty odd years. (12) Bearing this in mind, and the fact that the Jews appear to have suffered more persecution than most, it wouldnít be too surprising if now and again a rabbi were to say something that was less than friendly towards a particular tribe, race, religion, or indeed against Gentiles in general.
Rabbi Cohen: I donít know how close one can draw this analogy, but what I could say is that if there was a particular group of say idolaters who were causing a lot of trouble to the Jewish people through persecutions or religious repression or whatever, and there may have been certain measures taken against this group, then, in later centuries, when these measures were no longer necessary, later authorities would have come along and pointed out that these measures were only directed against such and such a group, and that these measures are no longer relevant.
A Baron: The essence of anti-Jewish propaganda is that all evil is Jewish or that the Jews are somehow more evil than the rest of us. You are saying though that the Talmud, which reflects the spirit of Judaism, is no more disparaging about us heathens than say the Christian Bible or the Koran?
Rabbi Cohen: Iím not too qualified to speak about this, but from what Iíve read, and heard on the radio, it seems to me that the Talmud is, in relative terms, very accommodating and broad-minded towards followers of other faiths.
A Baron: It doesnít issue fatwas against people? Like Salman Rushdie?
Rabbi Cohen: Definitely not, that is totally against our way of thinking.
Q: So if a Jew were to write The Talmudic Verses as opposed to The Satanic Verses, he wouldnít have to go into hiding or anything like that?
Rabbi Cohen: No, the very worst that could conceivably happen would be that people would ostracise that person. Violence is totally unheard of.
[This sounds a little like wishful thinking. In 1991, when a sex scandal rocked Stamford Hillís highly insular and largely devout Hassidic community, there were tales of windows being put in and serious public disorder. However, in comparison with the normally feisty, ďpolitically correctĒ and at times tiresome Zionist ďJewsĒ who are as militant as they are paranoid, Torah Jews are indeed a benign bunch.]
A Baron: The Torah is what?
Rabbi Cohen: Depending on the context in which it is used, it can be a number of things. It can be the actual text of the Bible, or alternatively it can be used as a general term denoting any and all of the books of our religious faith, of Jewish study.
A Baron: Does this include the New Testament?
Rabbi Cohen: No, I donít include the New Testament because the New Testament was never accepted into our faith.
A Baron: None of it?
Rabbi Cohen: No.
A Baron: And what do Jews think of Jesus, generally?
Rabbi Cohen: Heís not seen by us as being the Messiah; heís seen by us as being one of many people who rose up from among our nation, made an impression upon the world and gathered a following around him. But, some of his ideas were not in keeping with our tradition, so in a sense he went his own way.
A Baron: Can you be a bit more specific about that?
Rabbi Cohen: I think itís fairly well known that he did question the word of the sages and what I referred to as our oral tradition. There were many who did question the oral tradition, but those who did were seen to have branched out of our faith, because according to our teachings, the oral tradition is just as much a part of our faith as the written Bible. For example, we had the Saduccees and later on the Carites who denounced the oral tradition and who were henceforth treated as a separate sect and not as part of our race or nation.
A Baron: So Jesus was a Revisionist?
Rabbi Cohen: Yes, that is correct.
A Baron: You donít believe he rose from the dead or that he performed miracles? (13)
Rabbi Cohen: We donít believe he rose from the dead; as for performing miracles, itís not all that exclusive to be able to perform miracles; the question is, how do you come by the power to perform miracles? It is possible to be a prophet and to draw on the power of the Almighty in a very direct way to perform miracles, but there are other ways as well.
A Baron: Through the Devil?
Rabbi Cohen: Not necessarily. Take Balaam, according to our tradition, he was able to perform miracles, and he had a number of channels he could call upon to do so. But as far as Jesus is concerned, we donít accept him as being one of our prophets, and therefore, any miracles which he may have performed (and he probably did) are not of particular interest to us. In fact, if you look at the text itself, the Bible actually warns us not to be too impressed by people who go around performing miracles, and that there is more to being a prophet of God than that, and that we have to look at what the prophet is preaching and not simply be impressed by his power of miracles.
A Baron: Iíve heard it said by anti-Semites that Jews donít really believe in God.
Rabbi Cohen: I think thatís about as ridiculous a statement as you can make unless youíre defining God as some sort of outside god or idol, or Devil worship. If you look back historically, Abraham was the first person to recognise God in a civilisation that had totally lost its way and were idolaters through and through.
A Baron: When we talk about God, are we talking about one supra-conscious being, creator of the universe?
Rabbi Cohen: Thatís correct, thatís certainly how we would define God, and in Western and from what I know of Moslem culture as well, we are essentially talking about the same God.
A Baron: What do you call God?
Rabbi Cohen: Thatís a very difficult question because in a way we see God as being indefinable, not only indefinable but impossible to comprehend properly. We have certain guidelines as to what he isnít, for example we would say that he has no physical form and no physical limitation, and that he always has existed and always will exist, that heís all-powerful and created everything within the world, and every living thing is within his power. Interestingly, that includes evil things as well.
The Devil for example is himself sustained through the power of God. The Devil exists for a function; when the time comes when that function is no longer applicable, the Devil will cease to exist. The other thing I can say that might go some way towards answering your question is that we try to conceive of God through those attributes of his that we are able to comprehend such as mercy, compassion, that sort of thing. So in this way we can try to latch on to some idea of what He is.
A Baron: Does this tie up with the concept of free will?
Rabbi Cohen: Yes, this forms the role of mankind within this world as far as we see it...everything in this world is a test, a trial. Itís a test of choosing between good and evil and following what we know to be good...to some extent, we are all a product of our upbringing and our environment... but nevertheless, at any given level at which a person may be, everyone is able to have some idea of what, relative to his or her own position, is right and what is wrong. And we are expected to follow what is right, or at least to make the effort to follow what is right, to overcome our evil inclinations. Thatís what weíre here for, that is the whole purpose of our existence, thatís what differentiates between us and angels, and if we do succeed in this trial, and over a lifetime prove that we have had the strength and the courage to do what is right and to overcome our inclination to sin, then that puts us on a level that is actually higher than the angels. The angels are only capable of doing what is right, of following the Almighty to the letter.
A Baron: Do you call God Yahweh or Jehovah?
Rabbi Cohen: That is one of his many names, [Yahweh is the same as Jehovah in Hebrew] but we would never pronounce that name because as far as weíre concerned it is too holy for us to be allowed to pronounce. There are several names of the Almighty, some of which we would only pronounce in the context of reading the Bible, some and/or in the context of prayer; some being so general they could be used in everyday conversation, but others, that being one prime example, which we would never, ever utter or pronounce in that way.
A Baron: You donít even write the word ĎGodí, you spell it G space d. [Ie G-d].
Rabbi Cohen: That is correct, G space d. In addition we have to be careful about using Godís name in speech; one of the Ten Commandments is of course that thou shalt not take the name of God in vain. Also we are careful not to allow Godís name to be profaned in writing. Imagine youíre writing a letter to a friend and you want to make a reference to God; that letter may end up in the dustbin, and if it has Godís name in it, that will bring about a profanation, therefore we do try to be careful in writing as well.
A Baron: Of course, Orthodox Jews observe many more commandments than just those related to the Deity. You live under how many codes?
Rabbi Cohen: There are six hundred and thirteen commandments which are Biblical in their origin. In addition to that, there are supplementary rabbinical decrees, there are branches and details within each of those commandments which are - I wouldnít say infinite - but which make up several times that number of rabbinical decrees. The six hundred and thirteen is the root of it but in fact the branches go a long way in complementing it and broadening that scope.
A Baron: We all know that Orthodox Jews donít eat pork, and that they eat Kosher and that they donít work on Fridays; what are some of the other main commandments that affect your life?
Rabbi Cohen: Your question reminds me of the Gentile who went along to say Shammai and then Hillel then offered to convert to Judaism on condition that they taught him the whole of the Torah while he stood on one leg. In other words, itís a very difficult if not impossible question, but I will just highlight a few major areas which come to mind:
There is the observance of the Sabbath and the festivals, which is a very major area.
There are the dietary laws, as you mentioned.
There are marital laws.
There are laws concerning how we are supposed to conduct ourselves in business.
There are all sorts of law in terms of prayer and worship.
In fact, there is so much that I would like to illustrate a point in this way. One of the most common terms for Jewish law is Halakhah. The Hebrew word for Halakhah is actually taken from the word halakh, which is the root for ďgoingĒ. The reason why that word is used to denote Jewish law is to make the point that if youíre an Orthodox Jew you canít go anywhere, you canít take a step, without having to apply Jewish law, and that will, hopefully, give you some idea as to how extensive it is. Itís not a code of law as such, itís a way of life.
A Baron: What we refer to as Orthodox, with black hats and black caftans and such, this goes back to the Sixteenth Century, I believe?
Rabbi Cohen: There is some confusion here because people put labels on things, but if youíre referring to the Hassidic way of dress, then yes, that goes back for three, four or five centuries to the dress of the Polish nobility. But you will also find other Orthodox Jews who are not...Hassidic, who tend in their own way to wear a particular style of dress, essentially you could define it as being fairly dark and formal.
As far as Halakhah is concerned, the essential element is that Jewish people should dress in a way which distinguishes them as Jews. In other words, weíre not meant to hide what we are, we are here to fulfil a function in the world; people should be able to say: Look, thereís a Jew - and we should be able to live in such a way as an example to the other nations of the world. That applies even in times of persecution. Exactly how this concept is fulfilled may vary according to the custom of different communities. The Hassidim have their way of dress and other communities have their way of dress, but from the Jewish law point of view, that is the underlying element of it.
A Baron: Do you watch TV? Obviously thereís nothing in the Talmud about watching TV, but I gather itís not as simple as that.
Rabbi Cohen: No. Unfortunately, the state of the Jewish community today is a little bit strained. You see, the essence of our tradition and the way we live is that our sages and rabbis guide the community as to how to interpret Godís word and to apply it in our day to day lives. As each generation finds itself experiencing its own unique conditions and circumstances and faced with new innovation and so on we turn to our sages and rabbis to teach us and point out to us, through their interpretation, how these things may come under references in the Talmud and the Torah and so on, and how we are to relate to them. The trouble is that in this generation, things have reached the stage where the community has become a little bit divided, but I can tell you that the essential, Orthodox mainstream would consider the television to fall under the Talmudic ban of ďOne should not bring an abomination into oneís house.Ē (14)
The reason for this is that although, depending on what programme is on and what programme one is viewing - the programme may be fairly Kosher itself - the fact that it could just as easily be very, very treifeh (15) makes the receptacle as such, a vehicle for bringing unsavoury and treifeh influences into the Jewish home. It has therefore been declared by virtually all of the leading Orthodox authorities of our time as being forbidden, not only to watch, but to bring into the home even without watching it.
A Baron: This is totally at odds with the idea widely held by anti-Semites that Jews control TV.
Rabbi Cohen: That would seem to be rather bizarre according to what Iíve just said, yes. (16) The only people [among Orthodox Jews] that I know of who do insist on bringing the TV into their homes and watching it are those who find that their lifestyles are fairly modern and they find that they canít get by without certain things.
One sometimes looks round for what are called hetarim or permits to be able to have certain things or do certain things. But I would certainly have thought that the elements of the Orthodox community which fall into this category are the minority, and therefore it would seem rather bizarre to suggest that Jews control the television.
A Baron: Does the same thing apply to radio or is this only because the TV has images?
Rabbi Cohen: Radio is not as bad; the more Orthodox in the Orthodox community would tend to not have radios, but it wouldnít be as widespread an issue.
A Baron: What about the State of Israel? There is this great idea among anti-Semites that all Jews are, if not ardent Zionists, then for the State of Israel.
Rabbi Cohen: Iím glad youíve brought that up because it has been a source of great pain and sadness to me when the authorities in Israel disgrace our people, that most people tend to associate these actions with the Jewish people as a nation. I would like to take this opportunity to clarify this point. First of all, the early Zionists and pioneers of the Zionist movement, were offshoots of the Haskalah movement, which was itself a branch away from orthodoxy. The argument of the exponents of the Haskalah, movement was that we can keep the Jewish law fully, but why not make ourselves more aculturalised, then weíll be able to get on better with our Gentile neighbours, there wonít be anti-Semitism and so on. (17)
That movement was a complete flop and failure because a couple of generations afterwards, the children of all these pioneers (including those of Mendelssohn himself), all started marrying out. It was seen to be a failure; there was obviously something missing from the ideology. Then Zionism came about.
The idea of Zionism was similar to that of the emancipation only this time they said weíll give it a bit more of a framework. What they really wanted to do was to take a concept which has been part of our religious faith, namely that we do look to the Holy Land as one to which we will eventually return, but to which we will return under the guidance of the Almighty and its Messiah and strip it of any religious connotation, turning it into a nationalistic movement. At that stage, Zionism was denounced by all the religious sages and leaders of our people. (18)
A Baron: All of them?
Rabbi Cohen: Yes. At one time this was well known, but people are so mixed up now that they donít realise this. There was one exception to that, and this particular individual was seen as having strayed on this particular issue.
A Baron: Who was that?
Rabbi Cohen: That was Rabbi Kook. (19) Essentially, all the other sages were against Zionism, and they all fought against it. (20) Some of them dedicated their lives to fighting against it. What happened, sadly, was that once the state came into being, the Zionists had the upper hand because the religious Jews who had been living there under what was known as the Yishuv or the Settlement, from centuries before, had less clout, if you like. The Zionists dreamed of indoctrinating a whole generation of Jews, those Jews who had settled in the land largely through their own acts of sabotage. They incited anti-Semitism which forced Jews to flee the countries where they were domiciled.
A Baron: Youíre saying that Zionist Jews incited anti-Semitism?
Rabbi Cohen: Yes.
A Baron: Wilfully?
Rabbi Cohen: Thatís correct. In fact, some of them were very close collaborators with the Nazis.
A Baron: This is a tenet of anti-Semitic propaganda; anyone [ie any Gentile] who mentions this is denounced as an anti-Semite, generally speaking. But it is true? (21)
Rabbi Cohen: I certainly believe it to be true, and there are many others like me. Unfortunately, weíre in the minority because what I was about to say is that as the Zionists managed to gain the upper hand and succeeded in indoctrinating a whole generation of our people, not only did this take hold of the communities within Israel, but throughout the Diaspora, their propaganda became so effective that whole communities, many of whom considered themselves to be Orthodox to some degree or another, fell under their influence, and itís now become very, very unfashionable, to put it mildly, to say one word against Zionism.
I have had to keep a very, very low profile in this respect in most circles, and the very little I have said has caused me a great deal of aggravation. So I know, sadly, that much as Iím pained by the evils of Zionism, I have to be very careful what I say. Thereís not a great deal I can do about it. Itís very, very sad, but the stupid irony of it is that people who are ignorant and who donít know what theyíre talking about, claim now that to be a proper Jew in the religious sense, you have to be a Zionist, and that anyone who is anti-Zionist or is not Zionist enough, is failing in his Jewishness, which is really a complete turnaround on what was the prevailing view a few years ago.
A Baron: When you mention the evils and atrocities of Zionism, what exactly do you mean?
Rabbi Cohen: The real doctrine of Zionism, which of course is hidden, and which you wonít find people admitting to very easily, is that they want to rebel against traditional Judaism and against God himself. They want to turn the Jewish nation into a completely secularised nation, and because in the past, traditional Orthodox Jewry viewed the Diaspora as being a means for the Almighty to bring about divine retribution against our people when they tended to stray away from the traditions of our faith, therefore the Zionists declared in having their own homeland that they would form their own army, and any time the nations of the world would try as it were to bring them to task, they would use their might and their power to destroy these nations.
That is their doctrine, and therefore, the whole nature of what the Diaspora was, has been perverted. By Diaspora, I mean those Jews living in the Holy Land as well, because according to religious doctrine, as long as the Messiah hasnít come, even those Jews living in the land of Israel are living in a state of Diaspora.
The meaning of the Diaspora was supposed to be that we have sinned, our sins have brought about the destruction of the temple and our being taken into captivity, into exile. And as long as we are there, which means as long as the Messiah hasnít come, we are living in a land belonging to strangers, and we are kept in check as it were by the Almighty, by the medium of anti-Semitism, so that whenever we get out of step, the nations around us will turn against us and will use force to do us harm which indirectly will cause us to repent and find our way back to the Almighty.
Zionism and all it stands for seeks to declare war on that, and everything that is associated with that. What is associated with that is that we see our role in the Diaspora and amongst the nations in which we live as a passive role, one of humility, of keeping a low profile, of maintaining friendly relations with the nations around us, and doing what we can to be as accommodating as possible. In other words weíre a guest in someone elseís house, that is the way we see our position. And the furthest you can get from that is to actually start declaring war on these nations, which is what the Zionists are doing. They are declaring war on the Arab nations around them, they are chastising and ill treating the Arab nations living within the boundaries of Israel. Not only is this contrary to our total doctrine, not only does it bring death and destruction to those nations and to those Jews living in Israel, but it endangers the existence of the entire Jewish community throughout the world. (22)
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