January 28, 2015 (date is off, I know not why; probably was 18)

Rabbi Michael Lerner
Editor of Tikkun Magazine

Dear Rabbi:
Thank you for your thoughtful essay: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-michael-lerner/mourning-the-parisian-jou_b_6442550.html
I am truly sorry you have been the victim of criminal acts because of having voiced an opinion and also victim of what appear to be immoderate verbal attacks.  So also thank you for your courage.  Your essay indicates you are willing to reason from first principles to current reality; such minds are precious to all.

Pardon my flippant tone, but my own first principles remind me of a wonderful sign I saw one rainy night while having a beer in a pub in Wales while the sea lapped at the foot of the cliff beneath the building, which so far as I know contained only the hostess and me.  The sign was round with a picture of a commercial fishing boat making heavy weather of it and a Latin motto running the outside edge.  Depending on where you started, the motto went, “It is necessary to go fishing; it is not necessary to survive,” or “It is necessary to survive; it is not necessary to go fishing.”  So I say, “It is necessary to have moral integrity; it is not necessary to live,” or maybe it’s the other way round.  Both are serious issues, but it is of biological survival that I would speak. 

First, if you would be so kind, I would like you to establish in your mind a safe place, some sort of box in which you can stick what I have to say and can analyze it.  It needs to be air tight so that your own thinking is not contaminated by any part of it if at the end you decide to chuck the whole thing out – that’s fair I should think – and in return do not let your own preconceptions enter the box and start making judgment calls before I finish – and that ought to be fair as well.  I need the forbearance, since I am about to say what will contradict everybody … or at least I think it’s fair to say that everybody who does not find this odious can be counted on the toes of one foot.  Yet it is true and offers a priceless opportunity.  Ready?

If two healthy young people of complementary sex marry, the number of children they have will be determined by their kinship and that of their recent ancestors AND NOTHING ELSE bar war, famine and plague; further, we know inbreeding is dangerous, but so is outbreeding – marrying someone say tenth cousin or more distant.

You promised to reserve judgment, but just in case the notion of race is leaking in, I assure you it is not relevant.  The weight of the evidence suggest that once you have gone past tenth cousin it is no different than marrying someone from the far side of the world.  Think of it like jumping off a building.  If it’s a one story affair you’ll probably be all right.  That is true whether you slip off, step off, take a running jump to blast into empty air on a motorcycle.  It’s not how far out you go; it’s how long you fall.  One story should be OK, two a little less so.  By the time you get up to four or five stories you have a real problem.  Similarly one generation is not aproblem, and neither really is two.  But five generations is dangerous, and if you attempt to go ten generations with no consanguinity at all, your line will go extinct first.  This whole thing can play out in a population of 1,000, hardly an issue where you have any reason to invoke “race,” whatever that is. 

What I have given you is my best guess on the basis of the evidence but with no evidence.  So here is the best summary of the evidence I have been able to put together:
I don’t think a fair minded person could read it and remained unconvinced; if you can and do then I beg of you to let me know where you feel my fallacy is. 

So the rest of the letter will be an attempt to persuade you to check out the facts. 

It should be safe enough to say that one thing we both deplore is the prevalence of hate in the world.  If we could get rid of that, things might look a lot better very soon.  It would be understandable if your safe room leaked and you snorted, “Mayhem the world over, and you are giving me another reason for people to hate outsiders.”  That would be precisely wrong.  I give you nothing.  The reason is already there.  The reason people are so prompt and vehement in hating outsiders is because those who fail to do so die out pretty quickly.  The advantages of cooperating are beyond question in the short run.  It’s only when cooperation entails marrying outside your tight little community that it can hurt you.  It is tempting to lament just how wretched people are prepared to be, but I have the opposite feeling.  Given the powerful incentive for people to shun outsiders, the very fact that there are even people who question doing so is a near miracle.  People are incredibly noble and open hearted if they can even entertain the idea of accepting an outsider given that for as long as we have been human this has always ended in disaster. 

I promised you priceless opportunity, and I am sure you already see it.  Just warn people about the danger of marrying outsiders and emotional distaste for outsiders loses its selective advantage.  Since tolerance still exists, removing the selective advantage of hate means tolerance will sweep the field.  If you can even imagine better news (consistent with reality) I should like to hear of it.

Just a few questions while we are in the safe place.  “Hear, O Israel” (recognize it?  Now there are those troglodytes who say the Twelve were never united, but that only makes the exhortation stronger: it is universal.) “The Lord our God is One Lord: and thou shalt love  the Lord they God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”  (Don’t you suppose that includes sex?  If you have sex, it is for the Lord.  Marry for the Lord.  Seems to me anyway.) “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”  (I kind of think that means this is important.)  “ Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; lest the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.”  (Seems to me marriages used to be religious ceremonies.) 

There follow lines that are blood curdling in the extreme about how horrible to be to outsiders but included are, “thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.”  Then it’s easy.  Do that and you don’t have to do all the horrible stuff. 
Bear in mind that we are not really talking ethnic group or nationality, or at least I’m not.  I suppose we both have problems with the Deuteronomist.  What I’m saying is that this insight about marrying outside of the family may not be new with me. 
Now take a glance at the last bit.  If you like it fine.  If not, throw it out and never concern yourself with it at all.  Then decide about the rest.  Have I made a strong enough case for you to go back to the link and look at the facts?  Would what might be gained be worth it?  If not, don’t bother, but let me know what you think.

M. Linton Herbert MD

FOR SITE READERS: The rabbi was kind and courteous enough to reply.  He offered a sally of wit but I hesitate to post it without his explicitly permission.  I am not totally convinced he got the whole gist but I am convinced he read it, and I cannot ask for more.

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