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Contemporary Hllahkic Problems..Eye-Opening Insights on Jewish Teachings Behind the “Cadaver Affair” in 1920s Poland: A Dual Morality on the Sanctity of Corpses

jan peczkis|Wednesday, November 1, 2017

This work discusses many topics, of which I mention a few. There is reference to Jewish religious opinion, notably that in the Talmud. I encourage the reader to look up the passages in the online Babylonian Talmud (halakhadotcom), as I did. It is a rewarding experience.


The Talmud (SANHEDRIN 47b) forbids the deriving of benefit from the cadaver of a Jew. (p. 184). As for the cadaver of a non-Jew, the opinions of leading Jewish thinkers were mixed. (p. 187).

Bleich remarks, “On the other hand, Ramban [1194-1270], KETUBOT 60a, advances an opposing view in remarking, ‘I know of no prohibition with regard to a non-Jew since we derive [the prohibition] from Miriam.’” (p. 187. That is, from the customs surrounding the burial of a Jew. See also p. 184).

The Talmud (BECHOROTH 45a) has the famous account of the body of an executed criminal dissected for the purpose of studying anatomy. This led to the question of whether the scientific knowledge gained had been sufficient to offset the exploitation of the corpse. HATAM SOFER [1762-1839] stated that this was a moot question, since the body had not been that of a Jew. Bleich comments, “HATAM SOFER resolves the problem by commenting that the subject of this experiment was undoubtedly a non-Jewess from whose corpse it is not forbidden to derive benefit.” (p. 186).

Other Jewish sources that affirmed the fact that there is no prohibition in exploiting the body of a GOY included SEFER YERE’IM [d. 1175] no. 310 as well as TOSAFOT, BABA KAMMA 10a (p. 187) and, more recently, MISHNEH LE-MELEKH [~1731]. (pp. 184-186).



I now go beyond the immediate contents of this book for the purpose of deeper analysis.

Consider the “cadaver affair” for which Poles are nowadays exclusively blamed. In interwar Poland, the Jewish community, based on ostensible religious grounds, failed to provide Jewish cadavers for Jewish medical students to dissect (except when compelled). Instead, Jewish medical students freely dissected the bodies of Polish Catholics. Nowadays, Poles are blamed for (what else?) being anti-Semitic in objecting to this arrangement. In other words, Poles refused to comply with this transparently racist Jewish system that treated Polish cadavers as less sacred than Jewish cadavers and—guess what—now Poles are the problem!


Cultural memes can survive for many generations after they had last been generally verbalized. Just because most Jews today are irreligious and Talmud-uninformed does not mean that the considerations raised in this book have died out. They evidently live on in secularized, modernized forms, as discussed below.

During the Auschwitz Carmelite and Cross controversy, the Poles wanted to end the standoff by proposing that Auschwitz would “belong” to the Poles and Birkenau would “belong” to the Jews. However, this reasonable compromise was rejected by the Jews on the basis of the fact that Jewish ashes are found everywhere at the site of the former Nazi German death camp. Polish ashes did not enter into this equation at all. Evidently, Jewish ashes are sacred in a manner that Polish ashes are not.

In recent years, neo-Stalinist Jan T. Gross has gotten a great deal of adulatory media coverage of his accounts of the desperately-poor postwar Poles robbing the cremains of Jews. Needless to say, there was no such consternation about Jews robbing the graves of other Jews, of Poles robbing the graves of other Poles, or of other war-traumatized peoples engaged in similar odious behavior. Instead, there was an almost-obsessive demonization of Poles as a "nation of thieves" that had "exploited the Jewish dead." It is not hard to figure out why.

The unequal treatment of GOYIM dead and Jewish dead evidently encompasses the victims of genocide. This partly accounts for the Holocaust supremacism that permeates much of western culture. In other words, the genocide of a GOY is not as significant as the genocide of a Jew.

The foregoing applies not only to the mystification of the Holocaust but also extends to a mystification of the Jewish dead under normal circumstances. Thus, a big deal is made of Poles repurposing old, unused Jewish cemeteries, but there is no excitement about the repurposing of old, unused non-Jewish cemeteries throughout the former Soviet bloc. Once again, the Jewish dead are sacred in a manner that the non-Jewish UNTERMENSCHEN are not.



I now return to the immediate contents of this book.

Until fairly recent times, Jews insisted on having their own courts (kahals). More recent versions of such particular Jewish courts, however partly secularized, became part of the Jewish demands for special rights, in the so-called Minorities Treaty, that was partly-successfully imposed on 1918-era Poland.

The original religious basis, for this form of Jewish separatism, is expounded by Bleich, “Fundamentally, idolatry is renunciation of God and His Torah. Hence recourse to non-Jewish courts, even when the law administered by such courts is not derived from idolatrous cults, does not involve a novel prohibition but constitutes a form of idolatry, e. e., the heresy of denying the applicability of the Law of Moses to adjudication of the matter of dispute. Thus, the prohibition against supplanting the Law of the Torah by another legal code is subsumed under the prohibition against idolatry and does not constitute an independent transgression.” (pp. 12-13).


This refers to SANHEDRIN 58b. (p. 149). There are so many proposed “answers” to this question that it becomes obvious that all of them are speculative and exculpatory in nature rather than some kind of “correct” understanding of the Talmud.

Rabbi Ha Me’iri [1249-1310] attempted to account for this harsh teaching in terms of what now is called cultural misappropriation, as described by Bleich, “Proficiency in Torah and observance of SHABBAT are the unique hallmarks of a Jew. According to Me’iri, the fundamental concern underlying this prohibition is that a non-Jew who becomes proficient in Torah or who observes SHABBAT is a coreligionist and hence they may seek to emulate his conduct in other areas as well.” (p. 158). [Similar concerns about cultural misappropriation were voiced by the much-condemned Endeks. They were skeptical of potential large-scale Jewish assimilation, notably in terms of insincerely- and incompletely-Polonized Jews and their inimical influences on Polish culture.]

Other rabbinic teachings about SANHREDRIN 58b go far beyond potential cultural misappropriation, and are far less charitable to the GOYIM. These revolve around the supposition that the gulf between the gentiles and Chosen-People Jews is so fundamental that each is governed by nothing less than a qualitatively different set of cosmic rules. For instance, Rabbi Meir Dan Plocki [b. 1866 or 1867) referred to the Talmud (SHABBAT 156a and NEDARIM 32a), which teaches that Jewish Chosenness extends to the privilege of Jews being governed directly by God. In contrast, the GOYIM, unlike the Jews, have to settle being governed by the constellations and by natural forces.

The position of Rashi (1040-1105), the famous French rabbi, is instructive in this regard. He states that, just as celestial bodies must unfailingly perform their orbits, so also must non-Jews unfailingly fulfill their destined role in the universe. Therefore, any GOY who deliberately abstains from productive labor for a full twenty-four hour period is, in effect, violating his “place” in the created order of things (p. 160), and, worse yet, is usurping the status of the Jew.

Author Bleich specifies, “Thus the comment of the Midrash describing a non-Jew who observes SHABBAT as an interloper interjecting himself into the unique relationship between God and Israel is equally applicable to a situation in which a non-Jew observes any day of the week as a day of rest. In observing any day as a day of rest, the non-Jew, in effect, announces that he does not emulate the celestial bodies because he is not dependent upon them as the conduits of providence but enjoys the unmediated guardianship of God as do the people Israel.” (pp. 160-161). 1 comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse| Permalink   Comment Jan Peczkis5 days ago Report abuse .
All of the following are Jewish-authored works, not anti-Semitic hatchet jobs on the Talmud:

For a detailed analysis of the Talmudic view of the overall supremacy of Jews over gentiles, especially in terms of the Creation and everyday function of the world, please click on, and read my detailed review, of:

 Jewish Identity in Early Rabbinic Writings (Arbeiten Zur Geschichte Des Antiken Judentums Und Des Urchristentums, Vol 23).

See also my detailed reviews of:

Everyman's Talmud: The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages

The Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakot


For more on the dual morality that governs Jews and the GOYIM, see my reviews of:

The Other in Jewish Thought and History: Constructions of Jewish Culture and Identity (New Perspectives on Jewish Studies)

Persecution, Polemic, and Dialogue: Essays in Jewish-Christian Relations (Judaism and Jewish Life)


On the thorny question of when Jews can cheat gentiles, see my reviews of:

Tradition and Crisis: Jewish Society at the End of the Middle Ages (Medieval Studies)

Goyim: Gentiles and Israelites in Mishnah-Tosefta (Brown Judaic Studies)


Apologetic exculpatory arguments are contradictory, and tell us more about the imagination of the writer than about the "real" meaning of the controversial passages:

The Jews Amongst the Nations: In Defence of the Talmud


It is doubtful if medieval halakhic decisions, that rejected Christianity as idolatrous, were widely held among the rabbis of even that time, let alone among the Jewish masses. Please click on, and read my detailed review, of:

The Pride of Jacob: Essays on Jacob Katz and His Work (Harvard Center for Jewish Studies).

The following book (click on it and read my review) is by a French Jew. He rejects the argument that the antigoyism in the Talmud applied only to the pagans of Talmudic times, and not to Christians:

Antisemitism: Its History and Causes

Finally, many Jews considered Christians to be idolaters even to very recent times. See the detailed, free, online book: TRADITIONAL JEWISH ATTITUDES TOWARDS POLES, by Mark Paul. (Check out the May 1, 2016 edition, or a more recent one, if it is available by the time you read this.)


There are definite, pointed uses of these controversial verses even today, including specifically against modern Christians. For examples, please read my reviews of the following items:

The Rav: The World of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Vol. 1.

Rejoice O Youth: Rational Approaches to God's Existence and the Torah's Divine Origin.

Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History. (My review, now deeply buried, is dated June 24, 2015).
I invite the reader to study the Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) for himself/herself, as I did. It is available online at www(dot)halakhah(dot)com.
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