Legalistic Contortions before God

English Section / 14 aprilie

Versiunea în limba română

(The Roman Empire Subjugates the Kingdom of Heaven - Episode 4)


The need for logical discipline in disputatious dialogue arose in the informal war of words, where winning meant abandoning the other, regardless of reason; for instance, if the other person passed away halfway through the sentence, it meant that they would no longer be listened to because the interlocutor was still speaking, and that was what mattered to a discernmentless audience.

No literary text can defend itself against malicious interpretations because, being made of words, "long-windedness grows old" (1), and additional discourse can be added to the initial text to diminish its importance and make the author's intent irrelevant in comparison to the added commentary's meanings. The expansion of the added commentary multiplies the opportunities for diverting the original meaning.

The Bible is in the situation described here, and any commentary, even if well-intentioned, increases the literature dedicated to it, diminishing the holy text's importance in the ocean of exegesis - the dilution of its sacredness - a process complementary to the appropriation of divine meanings (which, in fact, are among the commentators' presumed intentions).

Many Jewish exegetes consider the Talmud and the Zohar sacred texts, along with the Bible, even though they are based on it; taken together with them, the Bible has less weight than it would without them.

Therefore, combating Hillel's arguments by expanding the text around the Scripture (as this entire essay does, in fact) represents a trap that, if not avoided, the reader must be warned about so as to assume the risk of continuing to read at their own responsibility.

The linguistic and logical maneuvers with which Hillel wants to reassure us that the Prosbul does not violate the Law, on top of the fact that each suffers from sophistical fractures, sin through their lack of faith, though they pretend otherwise.

Only through the idolization of words is it possible for a world that deifies Scripture to admit that debt recovery from a debtor does not violate the Commandment to cancel debts, clearly inscribed in the Holy Book, for two thousand years.

It is distressing to realize that God's Commandments have been taken as words and left defenseless against hostile interpretative contextualization; it is distressing how stubborn the exegesis dedicated to this subject has clung to missed arguments; it is distressing how for two millennia we have been fighting against God's Commandments from a position that can only be one of rejection of Him; and it is distressing that this scandal, triggered two thousand years ago, has been fought continuously under the mask of piety.


(1) The expression is used by the sophist Euthydemos in the Platonic dialogue that bears his name, in order to confuse Socrates:

"Although you always understand very well, you will never answer because you keep babbling nonsense and talking like an old man." ("Euthydemos"/Plato/295:c)

This psychological manipulation technique - the elongation of speech - is the first (of four) mentioned by Aristotle in "Sophistical Refutations".

C.1. False Motivation

The Talmud relates (1) that Hillel instituted the Prosbul when he observed that, around the Sabbatical Year (when God commands the forgiveness of debts), some people stopped lending money for fear of losing their loans, thus violating the Commandment in Deuteronomy 15:9, which in English is formulated as follows: "Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near, so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin."

The hesitation to lend money as the Sabbatical Year approaches is therefore anticipated in the Bible, and the Commandment "Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought [...]" may not be sufficient to combat wavering in the case of a "ritual" believer, but sufficient for a humble one.

The gap is not in the Commandment system, but possibly in the fidelity to divinity, which, by forgiving debts in the seventh year, imposes a societal behavior, transgressing individual interest in favor of community cohesion (with benefits for each member, including the creditor), as suggested by the immediately following verse:

"10. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to." (Deuteronomy 15)

In accordance with the Commandments that prohibit interest on loans (2), lending was a "brotherly help," contributing to the mitigation of wealth discrepancies and the easing of social tension, as suggested by the preceding verse:

"7. If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them."

Ridiculously, instead of mobilizing resources to strengthen devotion to the Commandments (Law/God/Community), Hillel - the head of the supreme religious authority - suspends the Commandment of debt forgiveness and claims to have done it "to repair the world"/Tikkun ha olam: people will continue to give loans.

In biblical culture, when fraternal aid is not granted, loans are vectors of enslavement.

Manfred Davidmann writes: "This struggle was about position, influence, and control over communities, about changing benevolent behavior rules so that people could be oppressed and exploited." (3)

The path to slavery through increasing indebtedness seems to be characteristic of life in ancient Rome (the Romans had a word dedicated to this process: nexum - "debtor's slavery", which, although abolished as a practice more than 300 years BCE and stigmatized society of the Empire), so by eliminating the relief valve of debt forgiveness, the Prosbul articulates Judaea to the Roman Empire.

Hillel is a collaborator of the Roman occupier and a tool of the Hellenizer Herod, without whose support he probably would not have dared to suspend God's Commandments.

Hillel continues the Hellenistic aggression - Seleucid, Egyptian, and Roman - against the Jewish way of life, modeled by the Commandments.

And he triumphs.

In subsection "B.3.I) He did not keep the Law," it became evident that Hillel did not keep the Law, as God commanded everyone; but here it became evident that not only did he not keep the Law, but, as Jesus says, he corrupted it, with a boldness that betrays disbelief, echoing among his fellow countrymen, the Babylonian scholars of over two centuries - Samuel bar Abba and his disciple Rav Yehuda.

Hillel precedes the principle "the law of the land is the law" (dina d'malkhuta dina) attributed to the Babylonian Samuel - only Samuel had formulated it in Nerhadea, that is, in exile.

The essential difference is that Hillel made room for Roman law not in exile but in Eretz Israel, collaborating decisively in the annulment of national identity, that is, losing the Torah, he gave up the land, as Jeremiah imagines (4).

The divine commandment "Take heed to thyself that thou enter not into thy heart a wicked thought" becomes somewhat ridiculous, as it seeks to prevent an unfounded fear after the institution of the Prosbul, rendering it pointless. Furthermore, the claim that the institution of the Prosbul "repaired the world" (Tikkun ha olam) implies the idea that Hillel corrected God's mistakes - a grotesque apotheosis.

This seems to mark the end of the process of human emancipation in relation to God, as the Jews were directed to integrate into the economic and social system of ancient Rome, abandoning the commandments in favor of the Roman Empire instead of the Kingdom of God. Thus, as Roman rules became established, the commandments became utopian.

This ending opens the alternative of recovering piety, as Jesus undertook in the first century, facing the deepening impiety up to the repudiation of the Law, formulated in a convoluted (but expressive) way in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, in solidarity with the rejection of the Divine Voice (Bat Kol) in rabbinic debates recorded in the Talmud, corresponding to the second and third centuries.

It is not surprising that at that time, Rav Yehuda dared to include imaginary stories in the Talmud to justify his creativity in interpreting the Law and showing signs of disrespect for divinity.


(1) Gittin 36a:11:

"The mishna teaches that Hillel the Elder instituted a document that prevents the Sabbatical Year from canceling a debt [prosbol]. We learned in a mishna there (Shevi'it 10:3): If one writes a prosbol, the Sabbatical Year does not cancel the debt. This is one of the problems that Hillel the Elder instituted because he saw that people of the nation refrained from lending during the Sabbatical Year because they were concerned that the debtor would not repay the loan, and they would violate what is written in the Torah: 'Beware that there be not a wicked thought in thy heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought' (Deuteronomy 15:9). So, he arose and instituted the prosbol so that the collection of those debts could still be possible, ensuring that people would continue to lend."

(2) Biblical verses against usury:

Deuteronomy, 23:

"19. Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury"

Exodus, 22:

"25. If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury."

Leviticus, 25:

"35. And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee.

Take thou no usury of him, or increase [...]"

Psalm 15:

"5. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved."

Ezekiel, 18:

"7. And hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment;

He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase [...]"

Proverbs 22:

"26. Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts."

(3) "At the Time of Jesus, This is What Actually Happened in Israel: The Truth about Hillel and his Times" by Manfred Davidmann

(4) Jeremiah/Chapter 9:

"12. [...] why hath the land perished and burned up like a wilderness, that none passeth through?

And the Lord saith, Because they have forsaken my law which I set before them [...]"


This essay proposes an interpretation that does not exclude established ones, but rather adds to them; the critique developed on certain religious texts is nothing more than the critique of some texts; readers are warned that the author of the essay did not intend to attack faith and is aware that this would not be a useful or achievable objective.

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