Friday, November 1, 2013

Shmuley - Get your facts straight!

This week on Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's favorite Shabbos morning talk show - we are having polygamy Shabbos.  No, we are not encouraging polygamy.  We have with us special guest Rabbi Dr. Moshe Goldfeder - one of America's foremost experts on ancient and contemporary polygamy - and he is going to talk to us about polygamy in the Torah and in contemporary society.  

Shmuley Boteach is doing polygamy Shabbos next week in Mexico.  He was invited to the City of Ideas conference in Mexico to debate the case for monogamy against some strong pro polygamist.

City of Ideas features some of the brightest, most eloquent and articulate speakers in the world.  It is no surprise that Shmuley is among them and I am glad that he is going to be there to represent Torah values.

Shmuley recently posted on facebook some of his arguments against polygamy.  I was reading them with Dr. Goldfeder and he says that Shmuley must sharpen his arguments as the arguments he presented have some grey areas.

I want to be clear that this is not in any way a criticism of Shmuley, a rabbi that I greatly admire.  The fact is that he was the Rabbi that was asked to promote and defend Torah values in Mexico at a conference that will have international attention and is attracting some of the most highly regarded public intellectuals of our day.  I am rooting for Shmuley 100% and I want him to be as prepared as possible before he enters the arena and defend Torah values against those who oppose them.

Shmuley writes,
humans are also possessed of a soul which seeks precisely the opposite, namely an intimate sexual relationship based on primacy and exclusivity.
Dr. Goldfeder says that a solely religious argument against polygamy is hard to support.   Many of the major world religions even those in the Western tradition have had, supported, condoned, and at least acknowledged and allowed for the practice of plural marriage, usually polygamy.  The Bible records at least 40 men by name with multiple wives.  Confucianism, Islam, Hinduism, and Mormonism also support plural marriage. While Catholicism clearly bans it, other forms of Christianity are somewhat less opposed.

Shmuley goes on,
Indeed, against all the scientific research, there is the clear fact that even in an age where marriage is being treated as an outmoded institution which has passed its sell-by date, monogamy continues to be the chosen norm for the vast majority of people in cultures throughout the world, even if it is serial monogamy outside the framework of marriage.
Dr. Goldfeder says that as of 2012 it was estimated that over 3 billion people in the world believe in plural marriage and over 2 billion people actually live in plural marriage settings.  Studies report that plural marriage is legal in over 150 countries.  In places like South Africa, Egypt, Eritrea, Morocco, Malaysia, Iran, and Libya it is legal, and other places like Israel Chechnya and Burma it is illegal but the laws are not regularly enforced. It is present even in countries we tend to think of as being against plural marriage. An estimated 100,000 people in the US practice plural marriage secretly with another 500,000 living in long term committed polyamorous relationships.  In monogamous western Europe there are at least 100,000 polygamous marriages.

According to the ethnographic data in the 1998 atlas of world cultures, 1041 out of the 1231 societies in the world feature plural marriage in one form or another.

Of 1154 societies described int he human relations files 93% recognize some degree of socially sanctioned polygamy and in 70% of all cases polygamy is the preferred choice.

Anthropologists believe that polygamy has been the norm throughout human history.

So Shmuley actually has his work cut out for him.  The case for monogamy is harder than it seems, especially when it has to be made against people who will be armed with statistics and studies that prove that it is more the norm than an anomaly.

I wish Shmuley the best of luck in this high profile debate.  Rabbi Goldfeder said that he is happy to assist Shmuley in his prep work over the week.  Hashem should bless Shmuley with success and I hope that his polygamy Shabbos goes as well as ours on Good Shabbos Nebraska, every Shabbos at 10 am ONLY at Beth Israel!