re. the talmud: i've been tempted at times to procure for myself a copy of the complete talmud. the jewish bookstore in the city sometimes has the whole set (about 9000 pages in 12 tomes IIRC) in offer for about EUR300.
my problem with even buying it is this: i own a book with selected passages from the talmud translated into german, which i procured myself to 'get a taste' w/o shelling out lots of money for a book i'd probably never read thru. i was browsing thru this book trying to find some of the passages which are mentioned in writings critical of the talmud for exactly the reason mentioned above: extreme racism towards non-jews. i found exactly none of these passages in my book.
but, i found a passage from gittin 61a which i found incredibly beautiful when i first read it. here it is, quoted from the english translation of the babylonian talmud:
THE POOR OF THE HEATHEN ARE NOT PREVENTED FROM GATHERING GLEANINGS, FORGOTTEN SHEAVES AND THE CORNER OF THE FIELD, TO AVOID ILL FEELING. Our Rabbis have taught: 'We support the poor of the heathen along with the poor of Israel, and visit the sick of the heathen along with the sick of Israel, and bury the poor of the heathen along with the dead of Israel, (10) in the interests of peace'.
this was some years ago. in that time i had loose email exchange with somebody from israel, and wrote him more or less this: how is it possible that there are people reading all manner of hateful things into a book which has so beautiful and compassionate passages ? he wrote back and told me that the interpretation of this passage is implied in that remark at the end: 'in the interests of peace'
. i did not understand what he meant, and wrote back to ask. he explained to me that this fragment means to say that jews should show mercy to goys to the extent that it serves jewish interests. to help goys 'in the interest of peace' means to give them exactly as much as is needed to prevent them from going against jews, but not more. that explanation was more a shock than an eye-opener.
you may note that there is a reference a footnote for the quoted fragment, which i bolded. if it interests you, go and read all of gittin 61a at the link below. then check that footnote, and with that in mind, read the passage again. you'll probably read something that has nothing at all to do with misericordy or helping neighbours in dire straits or giving to the needy.
the talmud quote is from here:http://comeandhear_dot_com_slash_gittin_slash_gittin_61_dot_html
re. censorship of the talmud. what i've read is that, once the talmud started becoming available more widely, due to invention of the press, interested people of course started reading it and drawing their own conclusions, not always favorable to jews, to put it mildly. most well-known among the critics of the talmud is one Johann Andreas Eisenmenger
(1654-1704) with his book "Entdecktes Judentum" (roughly "Judaism Discovered"), in which he more or less quotes - with deep moral displeasure - passages from the talmud and other judaistic scripture which went pretty much against moral consensus in christian europe of the 1600s. things seem to have become so bad that the rabbis decided to revise their scriptures, to make versions "for official use" and others "for public dissemination", to use weasel words to hide the real meaning of certain passages, and all sort of things aimed at defense from the certain wrath of the goy society around them. The (probable) result of this is writings like above-quoted Gittin tractate, which reads almost the opposite of what it is supposed to say.
I have my own issues with some of the interpretations given to certain passages of the talmud by its critics. Two examples which come to mind are a) the tale of the gored ox, which is about who should compensate whom when the ox of one neighbor gores the ox of another, and b) the explanation of how, according to the talmud, it is another thing to rape an under-three-year-old than to rape an over-three-year-old. i read both passages online, and did either not understand the logic of the tractate in question or understood something else than those imputing 'badness'. let me just say that, to me, reading and trying to understand the talmud has been far more difficult than doing the same with either the bible, the quran and texts of civil and penal law. i am a layman in both religious matters and law, but i read enough in three languages to know how to understand most of what i read.
my personal conclusions about talmud et.al. reached long ago are that - first - i have better things to do than trying to understand texts obviously written to make it difficult to understand them. second, the old testament is vile, but it compares to the talmud as the neighborhood soccer team compares to the national league. not for nothing the talmud is seen among theologians as above the torah and the bible. it is said that in order to understand the bible, one must first have understood the talmud. third, people more qualified than I have engaged in criticizing judaic scripture, most probably on good grounds, and have not changed anything but made them engage in a giant excercise of PR and become more sneaky about their teachings. fourth, the whole talmud looks like a written-down example of epic proportions of what Lobaczewski calls conversive thinking.
On Eisenmenger: http://en_dot_wikipedia_dot_org/wiki/Johann_Andreas_Eisenmenger