The Torah’s kosher laws prohibit the eating of most animals. The laws are consequential to the prohibition of murder—of people and animals alike. They have nothing to do with impurity. Humans and pigs are equally prohibited for food, and are equally pure. The rabbis, however, consider even the dishes used to serve pork to be unclean, and have developed intricate superstitious rites for handling dishware and even dishwashers. Likewise, cats and dogs are only impure for food out of respect for their lives. To play with a dog or to have one at home is no transgression. Camels and horses are unclean for use as food, but are used and touched extensively.

The quest to make the rules stricter is fundamentally wrong. The Torah intends to make Jewish life not ascetic, but pure. To do that, the Torah eliminates impurities. Impurity is a matter of boundaries: we are allowed sexual experimentation but not homosexuality; to kill animals for food but not to hunt them to extinction; to perform actions on Shabbat but not exhausting work. An approach of eliminating boundary-crossing abominations rather than changing the lifestyle makes Judaism practical.

Talmud says, “Are there not enough prohibitions in the Torah, that you must invent new ones?” Talmudic sages were liberal: they simplified observance and adapted their religion to changing circumstances. Later rabbis, on the other hand, made Judaism consistently stricter, inventing new rules and prohibitions out of thin air.

Rabbis claim additional prohibitions show one’s love to God, the readiness to go an extra mile (yes, a Christian concept, Matthew 5:41). Suppose your lovely wife asked you to buy eight chairs for your house; would she be happy if you bought sixteen? The legal speed limit is 65 miles per hour; would the police praise you for driving at 5 miles an hour on the highway? More is not necessarily better, certainly not when it comes to prohibitions. The beauty of Jewish law consists in keeping the number of prohibitions to the bare minimum necessary for functioning of comfortable society. The Jewish legal system is complex, but balanced; one-sided attempts to boost prohibitions impede the smooth functioning of the system, robbing it of credibility and sense, until it is no longer trusted.

God gave human beings life to enjoy. All opportunities in life are given by God; if he wished to reduce the available options, he would have done so.

The Torah mandates cleansing the Temple vessels and booty taken from pagans in order to rid them of ritual impurities. The first case aims at restoring the highest purity, the second deals with cleansing the lowest impurity. Even so, the Temple vessels are generally cleansed with water, and all types of booty are cleansed. The Torah disallows cleansing cheap earthenware and allows cleansing then-expensive wooden items. Rabbis created a plethora of cleansing rites in direct contradiction of the Torah. They demand the cleansing of household items, something the Torah is unconcerned with; face it, a Jewish house is not the Temple. But rabbis invented much stricter cleansing rituals for household items than was required for the Temple. They “cleanse” dishware with brazing torches and immerse it in ritual mikvah pools. They refuse to cleanse expensive painted dishware and cutlery with plastic parts for no scriptural reason whatsoever. They invented a ridiculous doctrine of metal pots retaining a taste of the food: in their imagination, a pot used to boil milk retains its taste and—even after washing—passes that taste onto meat boiled in that pot; thus the rabbis require two sets of kitchenware. The Jews would have burned Moses at the stake had he proposed that superstitious nonsense.

Many Talmudic prohibitions are not a wall around the Shabbat commandment, guarding it against negligent violations, but a heap of trash that buries the commandment. Rabbis call their superfluous rules “a wall around a wall”—but that’s a prison. Excessive civil legislation causes people to circumvent it, and similarly in religion. Ugly hypocrisy arises, such as the Jews praying loudly in front of Gentiles for someone to turn on the light.

God created during the daytime. In Judaism, “day” is only daytime, not a calendar day. Only daytime work is prohibited on the Sabbath.

Many leniencies are unwarranted. Jews eat caviar despite the prohibitions against killing a mother bird to take the eggs from the nest or boiling a kid in its mother’s milk.

Mishnaic sages creatively interpreted—or rather twisted—the Torah to suit their current needs. Modern Jews have good arguments for relaxing the trifling prohibitions. It is permitted to use on Sabbath a fire that was started before it. If turning a lamp on represents starting a fire, then consider that similar “fire” is always burning at power generation plants and always present in power wires. By pushing a light switch, we only reveal the existing fire; the action amounts to taking a cover off the lamp.

A standard rabbinical rejoinder to complaints about obscenely detailed observance is the story of a man who made a minor mistake in writing an address and his letter was not delivered; their moral is, minor things matter. In our case, the postman is omniscient and ignores honest mistakes.
Superfluous religious regulation is not just inconvenient, but directly contradicts the Torah. The lawgiver meant for the Jews to do away with pagan taboos and superstitions. Jews were enjoined to come to the Temple and worship only thrice annually, that’s it. No home altars, no hilltop altars, no extra-Temple worship, prayers, or sacrifices. Jews received simple laws of ritual cleanness which freed them from the superstitious fear that permeated pagan societies. Jews did not associate every strange event with divine threat, every odd object with ritual defilement, or every funny-shaped stone with the divine. The lawgiver deliberately minimized the degree of religiosity in Jewish religious life; Judaism is about building a comfortable, just, moral society. Taboos and superstitions re-entered rabbinical Judaism with a vengeance. No pagan religion has more taboos than rabbinical Judaism. Keep two sinks to wash milk and meat dishes separately, or they will be contaminated with the opposite taste (!) and bring down divine wrath. Observe antiquated modesty laws with no basis in the Torah, or you’re not a good Jew. Don’t take a stroll on Sabbath even if that’s your only holiday. Set a timer to turn off the lights on Sabbath. Blow kisses to mezuzot, kiss Torah scrolls. Many reasonable Jews uncritically accept rabbinical declarations to the effect that their superstitious nonsense is Judaism—and run from such Judaism. Jews who can observe every tenet of the Torah disregard the book because they think it to be of the same standing as Shulchan Aruch. Jews who can surely abstain from melaha—exhausting work—the only kind of activity the Torah prohibits on Sabbath, disregard Sabbath entirely because they know nothing about the ban on melaha, but rather associate Sabbath with absurd rabbinical prohibitions on strolls, driving, shopping, watching TV, turning on electricity, talking on the phone, opening umbrellas, tearing toilet paper, and thousands of others.

Rabbis imagine 613 commandments, deriving most of them by elevating historical precedents into rules. Rabbis strip precedents of important circumstances and generalize them unreasonably. One example is masturbation, which the rabbis claim is a deadly sin—much to the ridicule of secular people. God slew Onan not for masturbation, however, but for refusing to carry out the commandment of levirate marriage.

Expanding the commandments is doctrinally wrong since it limits the scope of available actions and diminishes enjoyment of life. Legal theory postulates that whatever is not specifically proscribed is permitted. A similar approach is applicable to religion. Expanded interpretation of the commandments infringes on free will and life opportunities. The Torah incorporates hundreds of rules. If the lawgiver meant to expand them, he had every opportunity to write down the expanded versions. Since he did not, the rabbis should not take the divine office for themselves and invent new restrictions for Jews. Rabbis don’t do well playing God and making new rules for Jews. Even if the rabbis think they are protecting the Torah with a mass of new rules, that’s a wrong approach. It is enough that people refrain from murder; well-wishers cannot take away firearms or baseball bats or mandate guards for everyone or force every person—a potential murderer—to stay at home. No legal system punishes for trivial offenses; driving a half-mile per hour above a speed limit is not punishable. Even if rabbis believe that kindling fire is prohibited per se rather than as an exhausting work (as it was in antiquity), turning electric lights on is such a trifle that it cannot incur guilt.

Rabbis allege their authority from the Torah’s commandments to “heed a prophet like Moses” and to bring disputes before the town’s elders or Levites (Deutereonomy 15). That rabbis are not like Moses need not be disputed. The Levites’ authority in this case was purely judicial: they didn’t decide religious matters or invent new rules, but decided over especially difficult matters of civil law, “between blood and blood.” That’s besides the fact that rabbis didn’t exist at the time when the Torah was written down. Tanakh passes to us information on pupils of prophets, with no implication of yeshiva-like activities whatsoever.

Rabbinical Judaism, especially Chasidism, is very close to Christianity. The Torah is diluted with a huge body of interpretation. Talmud, and especially later halacha, is essentially a Jewish new testament, reinterpreting the Torah to the point of superceding it. God-Shchinah-Torah parallels the Christian trinity. Rabbinical Jews have a doctrine of afterlife, demonology, and apocalypse. Rabbinical Judaism differs from Christianity only in rituals, not in theology or ethics. The Chassidic doctrine of the divine presence abiding in humans is a direct parallel to the Holy Spirit who ostensibly entered Jesus. The Torah is explicit on this matter: before the Creation, the divine spirit moved above the primordial waters; God is distinct from things of nature and does not abide in humans. Similarly, the Chassidic emphasis on forgiveness copies Christianity and runs contrary to Judaism, which insists on unrelenting justice in pursuit of society’s purity. Judaism lacks the distinction between sentencing and condemnation; morality and the law are the same thing. Rabbinical Judaism, however, criticizes the attitude which condemns someone before walking a mile in his shoes.

The Ten Commandments are given in the second person singular: God addresses the entire nation as a single being. Prophets condemned all Jews for the misdeeds of some. Rabbis concentrate on the ostensible personal improvement of individual Jewish believers rather than on national issues.

Orthodox rabbis accuse Reformists of abandoning the commandments, but liberal Talmudic sages also abandoned many commandments. In a stroke, Mishna abrogates most commandments for women with the absurd doctrine that women are not subject to time-fixed commandments. The idea was liberal: women cannot always abandon their house duties to perform religious duties, and so the housework takes precedence. Though liberal, the notion is atheistic: for the sake of convenience, rabbis abrogated divine commandments which, addressed to the entire Israel, doubtlessly apply to women as well as to men. Just like medieval poets, rabbis ostensibly exalted women while in fact denigrating them. Women don’t have to pray, Maimonides explains, because they are sufficiently close to the divine realm. Oh, yeah? Then how come Moses, Joshua, David, and the prophets prayed? Were the high priests more removed from God than housewives? Rabbis declared that women don’t even have to wear tfillin, claiming it to be a time-fixed obligation. How so? Even according to the rabbinical logic, tfillin is worn at flexible times: waking up, going to sleep, on the road. Nothing precludes women from waking up five minutes earlier and going to sleep sfive minutes later to both fulfill the commandment and do their household work. It is well known that Rashi’s daughters wore tfillin, but modern rabbis chuckle at the suggestion of women putting on tfillin. Rabbis even declared tzitzit a time-fixed commandment. How could a commandment to wear fringes on any clothes all the time be time-fixed? Women are bound to perform all the commandments just like men.

Rabbis abrogated many commandments for all Jews. There is a major commandment to wear fringes with blue thread. The commandment was deemed so important that it was declared equal to the sum of all others. Jews were commanded to wear a slightly but conspicuously distinct royal blue dress at every moment in our lives. Rabbis first replaced fringes with long tassels, which made the Jews look like imbeciles and provoked a verbal attack on the “long fringes of Pharisees” from the famous reformer. Then the rabbis abrogated blue thread ostensibly for the difficulty of procuring it, and suitably invented an absurd story of Hebrew crowds in Sinai coloring their fringes with shellfish dye, which was available in minuscule quantities, rather than similar and widely available indigo dye. When the Roman restrictions on trade in blue dye vanished along with the Romans, Ashkenazi rabbis refused to reinstate this major commandment. They heeded the opinion of the ancient sages who had temporarily abrogated the requirement of blue thread more than the commandment of God; rabbis went along with sages rather than with God.

Rabbis responded to the absence of capital crime jurisdiction in the Diaspora by inventing an unworkable due process which precluded sentencing criminals and deviants to death. The rabbis rationalized their temporary inability to punish the offenders by inventing an Oral Law which made sentencing impossible. In modern Israel, rabbis refuse to reinstate Sanhedrin on a flimsy theological pretext; the Second Temple Sanhedrin equally lacked theological basis, but dispensed punishments nonetheless. The absence of capital punishment allows thousands of Jewish and Arab criminals to live happily in Israeli jails.

Most rabbis are atheists who fear government rather than God, and prefer political correctness to divine service. They exiled God to synagogues, and offend him even there by sitting Jewish thugs in the front row, kissing the best Torah scrolls that dirty donations can buy in the way Orthodox Christians kiss their icons, and selling the right to dance with Torah scrolls the way aborigines ritually dance around fires. Most shamefully, rabbis instituted seated prayer. David and the high priests kneeled at prayers, but Orthodox Jews deem it below their dignity to kneel before the God of mass-printed prayer books.

The original rabbinical view, espoused by Shimon ben Gamliel and supported by Rambam, was that a Jew should not say something like, “I hate pork,” but rather, “I’d love to eat pork, but what can I do, since my Father in Heaven forbade me?” A person who abstains from pork because he detests it doesn’t violate the commandment, but neither does he fulfill it. That’s sort of a rich person abstaining from robbery because he doesn’t need to rob: he is not fulfilling the commandment; it is moot for him. Rav Shimon’s position emphasized loving the commandment: a person who has strong evil impulses but abstains from evil is doing so because of the commandment, and thus shows it the utmost respect. The stronger is his evil inclination, the stronger must be his love of the commandment. Later, when Jews moved to the Diaspora, distancing from pagan habits became more important than showing off one’s submission to God. Rabbis, therefore, switched the emphasis. In order to avoid praising Gentile habits, they prohibited publicly wishing for pork or similar banned products and activities. Theirs is also a valid concern. Thus we see the rabbinical law adapting to changing circumstances rather than rigidly heaping on new prohibitions, as has been the fashion for the last century. The over-rigid Essenes died out even though they were reportedly the oldest and the largest sect, with a documented history of about a thousand years. Pharisaic rabbis survived because of their flexibility, their willingness to adapt the law. It would be good for them not to lose their flexibility now.