Saturday, August 19, 2017

Friend or Food, Food or Friend?

The long queue of animals stretched all the way down the platform until it was lost to view. Sheep and cattle stood anxiously next to dogs, horses, pigs, ducks, chickens, and pigeons. Cats attempted not to get trod underfoot and hissed angrily at rabbits who attempted to move away from the cats....without much success. men with electric prods and whips kept the line tight, yelling and shouting in a strange language the animals did not understand.
What's going on up there a heifer asked a large bull next to him, can you see anything?
The bull shook his head irritably and blinked his bloodshot eyes. He'd not had any sleep in the cramped cattle trucks which had brought them to this barren place, which had a strange, unnerving smell in the air.
"Nothing" he lowed, "just a wall with a big gate in it."
A turkey gobbled something unintelligible. An anxious foal turned to her aunty and said
"have you seen my mamma? Its been two days and she never leaves me alone for this long."
Slowly the line inched forward.
A group of men in stained blue overalls stood next to some tables on which was a jug of water and some glasses. All the animals looked thirstily at the water, but if any of them moved towards it they immediately received a painful shock, or a blow from the whip.
When the foal arrived at the table a man roughly grabbed her head and pushed her lips back to examine her teeth.
Ow, neighed the foal, you're hurting me...but the man paid no attention.
Don't touch me said thje foal, but the man was now raising her front leg to examine her hooves.
Excuse me, said the foal, turning to a man who was also dressed in the blue overalls stood, but seemed to have a kinder face. Have you seen my mama. She's maple coloured, and about 13 hands high...
The man gave her a long look. When she spoke the foal realised it was a woman, with her long hair tied up in a net.
"To the knackery" said the woman, "he's got a fracture in the rear right leg. Next"
The foal did not understand but a sharp stinging blow made him hobble forward, towards a group of animals on the left, which included pigs, dugs, chickens, cows, some turkeys and rabbits.
Follow me, said another man, and with shouts and blows the group began to move towards a large building which did not smell very good. Men with hoses sprayed muddy water onto a thick red liquid that ran in big gutters at the side of the building.
I can't breathe said a chicken who had managed to fly up onto the broad back of a sow.   

Thursday, August 17, 2017

She made me do it officer

The Talmudic imagination: you got to love it...they boldly went where no men had gone before. One of the Taludic sages Rava ( literally 'the great one' )says in Tractate Yevamot folio 53b, that a man can never be considered forced to carry out a sex act, because an erection comes only willingly. In response Rabah, R. Chiyah and others conceive of bizarre alternative circumstances, such as a man falling from a roof with his erect penis (erect because he was planning on sex with his wife) landing in another woman's vagina. Or someone literally inserting the man's penis (erect because he planned on sex with his wife) into another woman.

Sadly, perhaps, I have not experienced either of these possibly delightful scenarios, but they cum to mind because there is another Jewish legal principle "“ones Rachmana patreh” — that the Torah does not hold a person accountable for an involuntary act. With same sex marriage on the public agenda in Australia at the moment, what is the halachic take on it? Well of course that depends on which authority you ask, and if you shop around Jewdiciously enough you will find one that confirms your world view. ( As is the case with all religions and their adherents.) So if for one individual same sex attraction is involuntary, hard-wired, genetic, then the Torah's explicit prohibition and punishing of homosexual intercourse - presumably penetration - would not apply, but would apply to someone who is bi curious and can seemingly 'choose' between hetero or homosexual relationships.

Rava's claim is that erections are always voluntary, and therefore the male who penetrates another male's body is liable for sanction and punishment. The other rabbis attempt to come up with scenarios where penetration was not a voluntary act. ( "He made me do it officer")
What has always fascinated me about these 1800 year old texts is how all subjects are discussed with equal gravitas, and how creative the arguments and counter arguments are.