Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Who is a Jew?

From time to time we are informed by the media about DNA research which allegedly will reveal finally who is who?
Results of such research will not tell as about person’s merit or character, his accomplishments or spirituality, it may inform us however about which DNA pool he comes from. But will Jews use this data, to determine who is a Jew?

The Torah teaches us about the 70 descendants of Noah. These descendants were the protoplast of all nations of the world. Due to the adaptive character of DNA through the years peoples skin color and other natural characteristics changed. Different genes allowed for variety of populations to adapt to diverse environments. DNA allows these changes to happen. These changes are also called ‘micro evolution’ within the specie. The same DNA however doesn’t allow one specie to change into another specie because  DNA mutations are always harmful to the new organism that come to existence with the mutated/broken DNA. The changes that do occur within the specie only happen by using and combining different, healthy ‘ingredients’ of DNA, received from common ancestors. This rule applies to fauna and flora as well.  

Within the last 4000 years most of the nations of the world mixed and intermingled one with another. The tradition of the Jewish sages tell us, that after King Sancheriv resettled entire groups of people within his Assyrian empire, there remains no trace of those original nations. Even our “cousins” the Ishmaelim or Edomim have no distinct connection to their original ancestors. Their lineage is more a matter of agreement, tradition and certain cultural and religious aspects characteristically common to those two civilizations rather than real lineage as descendants of their ancestors.

Is Jewish lineage and its connection to their ancestors different then the other nations of the world? Much different. Due to the fact that a Jew was defined not only by his national membership in the Jewish nation but due to his faith that prohibited him to marry a non Jewish person there exists to a much greater extent the possibility to talk about something which we can call - Jewish DNA pool.

It is necessary however to remember that this ‘Jewish DNA pool” has overflowed or  drained into the bigger “World DNA pool” through our history by voluntary and compulsory conversions to other religions. Maybe it will be possible with future advances in science to actually discover how many non Jews are in fact descendants of the four emahos (Sarah, Rivka, Rochel and Leah) but will it change anything regarding their Jewishness, will it make them  Jewish?
According to Halacha – the Jewish code of law it will not. Jewish Codex of Law defines who is Jew and who isn’t from the time of Moishe Rabeinu i.e. the establishment of the Jewish nation until the beginning of XIX century. However since the time of Haskala – the so called Jewish enlightenment’ there is a lot of confusion regarding definition of who is a “Jew” or “Jewish” 

The theory of race is not a new invention. Already in ancient history there were people who maintained superiority over other parts of humanity. In the XIX century however modern racism was reinvented especially after the publication of Charles Darwin’s book. It became popular to believe that different people stepped down from different trees at different times, and their undergoing different evolutions made them naturally more talented and capable or less talented.

Racism does have however, great supporters among the adherents of the Bible including the Bible’s own people –the Jews. As was said above, there is such a thing like a ‘Jewish DNA pool’ but does it make the Jewish people into a Jewish race? Such a theory was promoted by some of the scientists of racism in that crucial XIX century, some of them Jewish some of them not. Among the people believing in racial theories were such luminaries of existential philosophy as Emanuel Kant and Friedrich Hegel (not Jews).
But it was their adherent Martin Heidegger who was a member of the German Nazi party who believed in the practical application of those theories. And we all know how harmful   these practical applications of race were for the Jews.

Now new theories of race are emerging based on DNA. The Jewish Newspaper claming to be orthodox asks in its title “Who is a Jew? DNA can hold a key.”

Just stunning! A so called orthodox newspaper!

Would DNA be a key to find about the Jewishness of Moishe Rabainu sons? Or Pinchas ben Eleazar who (Eleazar) married  Moishe Rabenu’s wife sister?  Pinchas who is is Eliahu HaNavi as our tradition tells us, is the grand son of Yisro the ger? How many of us could even imagine that, Eliahu Hanavi is a son of person who was not born with complite Jewish DNA!? What about the mitochondria of King’s David’s great grandmother Ruth?
Shemaya, Avtalion, Onkelos, Rabbi Meir bal HaNess, Rabbi Akiva, Abraham baal Ha Toisfos…

Again and again in these types of discussions I mention the names of a few of the greatest Jewish sages just to shock people into thinking and not just regurgitating ideas completely strange to their ancestors, ancestors who perhaps also have some of the DNA from out of the “pool”.
The  Bobover Rebbe, Reb Shloimie Halbershtam once said to Jewish  convert – “I also have blood of Gerim in my veins. I can trace my ancestry all the way to King David and his Great grand mother was a Moabite.”

We will continue this topic in a future essay.

Matys Weiser


Cosmic X said...

Good post!

Anonymous said...

Isn't DNA testing considered to be witchcraft which is specifically prohibited in the Torah?

Matys Weiser said...

No Science is prohibited by Torah and Science is not prohibited by Torah.
Lie is prohibited by Torah. When the facts are being distorted by contemporary wizards calling themselves scientist in service of their anti Torah ideology, that’s what is wrong. But this is topic for different essay.
This essay however is about attempts to designate who is a Jew based solely on DNA research. That is also non Torah idea.
DNA testing is one of the major scientific achievements of our age.
In fact thanks to organization “Dor Hayeshurim”, the DNA study on orthodox Jewish population is one of the most advanced DNA research programs in the world.

Matys Weiser said...

Shuloim to you.
As it is stated at the end of the essay, I-H I will come back to this topic in the future.
I hope, then, the issue of “Who is a Jew’ will be closer to clarification.
At this time I’m traveling again and have no access to my library which without help of few “good books” my answer would be incomplete.
Best regards.

Shlomith said...

I'm so inspired by you sharing your journey with us! Thank you so much Mr Weiser.

Todah rabah and many many brachas.