Thursday, March 31, 2005

posts so far for parshat Shemini

Year 1:
to be continued...

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Eastern Temple Mount Wall Vandalized

(via PaleoJudaica, who cited this article in JPost and this article in HaAretz)

PaleoJudaica: "The letters, incidentally, are half a meters high."

My reaction: That's *it*?! Brian managed to write *his* graffiti "a hundred times, in letters ten foot high, all the way around the palace!"

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Interesting post by

Michelle Malkin on the ABC poll about Terri Schiavo, and how the phrasing of the question may have led to skewed poll results.

The Letter to Dr. Laura

An analysis. This is a tongue in cheek letter addressed to Dr. Laura Schlessinger, attacking her views on homosexuality. At first glance it seems informed. But upon examination, it is full of inaccuracies. What follows analysis from a Jewish perspective, which is where Dr. Laura was trying to come from. From a Christian perspective, obviously other considerations come into play, such as the nullification of many of these laws.
Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that (Leviticus 18:22) clearly states it to be an abomination.
End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them.
1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev.1:9). The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
What are you doing burning the burnt offering in your backyard? And why are you burning it yourself? Leviticus 1:9 speaks of bringing a burnt offering to the temple, and giving it to the descendants of Aaron, who function as priests. To cite the context:

ה וְשָׁחַט אֶת-בֶּן הַבָּקָר, לִפְנֵי ה; וְהִקְרִיבוּ בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֲנִים, אֶת-הַדָּם, וְזָרְקוּ אֶת-הַדָּם עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ סָבִיב, אֲשֶׁר-פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד. 5 And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD; and Aaron's sons, the priests, shall present the blood, and dash the blood round about against the altar that is at the door of the tent of meeting.
ו וְהִפְשִׁיט, אֶת-הָעֹלָה; וְנִתַּח אֹתָהּ, לִנְתָחֶיהָ. 6 And he shall flay the burnt-offering, and cut it into its pieces.
ז וְנָתְנוּ בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן, אֵשׁ--עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ; וְעָרְכוּ עֵצִים, עַל-הָאֵשׁ. 7 And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay wood in order upon the fire.
ח וְעָרְכוּ, בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֲנִים, אֵת הַנְּתָחִים, אֶת-הָרֹאשׁ וְאֶת-הַפָּדֶר--עַל-הָעֵצִים אֲשֶׁר עַל-הָאֵשׁ, אֲשֶׁר עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ. 8 And Aaron's sons, the priests, shall lay the pieces, and the head, and the suet, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar;
ט וְקִרְבּוֹ וּכְרָעָיו, יִרְחַץ בַּמָּיִם; וְהִקְטִיר הַכֹּהֵן אֶת-הַכֹּל הַמִּזְבֵּחָה, עֹלָה אִשֵּׁה רֵיחַ-נִיחוֹחַ ה. {ס 9 but its inwards and its legs shall he wash with water; and the priest shall make the whole smoke on the altar, for a burnt-offering, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD. {S}

In fact, you have done wrong by sacrificing it in your backyard, outside the Temple, for it may be construed as having sacrificed to the spirits of the fields. To cite Leviticus 17:1-9:

א וַיְדַבֵּר ה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר. 1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
ב דַּבֵּר אֶל-אַהֲרֹן וְאֶל-בָּנָיו, וְאֶל כָּל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָמַרְתָּ, אֲלֵיהֶם: זֶה הַדָּבָר, אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּה ה לֵאמֹר. 2 Speak unto Aaron, and unto his sons, and unto all the children of Israel, and say unto them: This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, saying:
ג אִישׁ אִישׁ, מִבֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁחַט שׁוֹר אוֹ-כֶשֶׂב אוֹ-עֵז, בַּמַּחֲנֶה; אוֹ אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁחַט, מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה. 3 What man soever there be of the house of Israel, that killeth an ox, or lamb, or goat, in the camp, or that killeth it without the camp,
ד וְאֶל-פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, לֹא הֱבִיאוֹ, לְהַקְרִיב קָרְבָּן לַיהוָה, לִפְנֵי מִשְׁכַּן יְהוָה--דָּם יֵחָשֵׁב לָאִישׁ הַהוּא, דָּם שָׁפָךְ, וְנִכְרַת הָאִישׁ הַהוּא, מִקֶּרֶב עַמּוֹ. 4 and hath not brought it unto the door of the tent of meeting, to present it as an offering unto the LORD before the tabernacle of the LORD, blood shall be imputed unto that man; he hath shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people.
ה לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יָבִיאוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶת-זִבְחֵיהֶם אֲשֶׁר הֵם זֹבְחִים עַל-פְּנֵי הַשָּׂדֶה, וֶהֱבִיאֻם לַה אֶל-פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, אֶל-הַכֹּהֵן; וְזָבְחוּ זִבְחֵי שְׁלָמִים, לַה--אוֹתָם. 5 To the end that the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices, which they sacrifice in the open field, even that they may bring them unto the LORD, unto the door of the tent of meeting, unto the priest, and sacrifice them for sacrifices of peace-offerings unto the LORD.
ו וְזָרַק הַכֹּהֵן אֶת-הַדָּם עַל-מִזְבַּח ה, פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד; וְהִקְטִיר הַחֵלֶב, לְרֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ לַה. 6 And the priest shall dash the blood against the altar of the LORD at the door of the tent of meeting, and make the fat smoke for a sweet savour unto the LORD.
ז וְלֹא-יִזְבְּחוּ עוֹד, אֶת-זִבְחֵיהֶם, לַשְּׂעִירִם, אֲשֶׁר הֵם זֹנִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם: חֻקַּת עוֹלָם תִּהְיֶה-זֹּאת לָהֶם, לְדֹרֹתָם. 7 And they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices unto the satyrs, after whom they go astray. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations.
ח וַאֲלֵהֶם תֹּאמַר--אִישׁ אִישׁ מִבֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, וּמִן-הַגֵּר אֲשֶׁר-יָגוּר בְּתוֹכָם: אֲשֶׁר-יַעֲלֶה עֹלָה, אוֹ-זָבַח. 8 And thou shalt say unto them: Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among them, that offereth a burnt-offering or sacrifice,
ט וְאֶל-פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, לֹא יְבִיאֶנּוּ, לַעֲשׂוֹת אֹתוֹ, לַה--וְנִכְרַת הָאִישׁ הַהוּא, מֵעַמָּיו. 9 and bringeth it not unto the door of the tent of meeting, to sacrifice it unto the LORD, even that man shall be cut off from his people.
So rather than being deserving of smiting, your neighbors are correct and you are in the wrong.

In fact, nowadays, since we have no Temple, we can bring no sacrifices, until such time as a Temple is rebuilt. In the meantime, we offer, in place of bullocks, the sacrifices of our lips, via prayer. As the prophet Hoshea said (Hoshea 14:3)

ג קְחוּ עִמָּכֶם דְּבָרִים, וְשׁוּבוּ אֶל-ה; אִמְרוּ אֵלָיו, כָּל-תִּשָּׂא עָו‍ֹן וְקַח-טוֹב, וּנְשַׁלְּמָה פָרִים, שְׂפָתֵינוּ. 3 Take with you words, and return unto the LORD; say unto Him: 'Forgive all iniquity, and accept that which is good; so will we render for bullocks the offering of our lips.
I'd encourage you to follow Hoshea's advice. Besides being more in line with Jewish law, it will make your relationship with your neighbors smoother.

By the way, the "sweet smell" is metaphorical. Since God does not physically require sacrifices, but is pleased for various reasons with them, the verse metaphorically refers to them as a sweet smell before the LORD.

Finally, why do you think that the punishment for disagreement with you over where to put an altar would be smiting? There are many levels of punishment spelled out in the Bible, and smiting is by no means the only punishment, nor is punishment always the course of action.
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in (Exodus 21:7). In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
Firstly, to be clear, you should not, and you may not, sell your daughter into slavery. The first thing to recognize about Torah law is that the 613 mitzvot are not recommendations or really even commandments. Rather, they are 613 aspects of life regulated by the Torah.

In fact, the Talmud does not consider selling your daughter into slavery A GOOD THINGTM, considering it as a last resort in a case of dire poverty, after selling all his fields and his house (See Bavli Kiddushin 20a).

If slavery is bad, why did the Torah not outlaw it? Because it was in many cases a necessary institution. For many centuries since the Torah was given, especially in an agrarian society, if the rain did not fall and the crops failed, one could fall into extreme poverty. The Torah instituted various methods to sustain the poor: Charity, tithes for the poor, lending with no interest, and selling property with the ability to redeem it is one's fortunes picked up. In certain instances, though, one would still not have enough to sustain himself and his family.

What happens to a daughter that is sold? She is not sold as a slave, with all that implies. The concept is more that of a maidservant. She is sent to another Jewish family to work. Her master may not mistreat her - as with other Hebrew servants, if he has e.g. one pillow, she gets it and her master does not. She does work appropriate for her age, which by the way is under the age of 12. This means no backbreaking labor - perhaps more along the lines of helping cook and clean, looking after the kids, etcetera.

This arrangement works to her benefit as well. She can eat well, while she may have starved if she had stayed at home. She associates with the wealthier members of society.

Nor is she then in perpetual servitude. If her father's fortunes improve, he may redeem her early. Otherwise, as soon as 7 years pass, or as soon as she hits puberty, which ever comes first, she goes free. And she need not fear that her master will sell her to some stranger. The Torah explicitly spells out the conditions of such an arrangement, and states that he may not sell her to someone else.

In fact, if you read Exodus 21:7 and on, you realize that what the Torah is doing is accepting the sometimes necessary arrangement of the Hebrew maidservant, and instituting laws to protect her and her rights.

I did not know that you were in such a dire situation that it has come to this! Did you already sell your house? Did you ask for charity, or take out an interest-free loan? - for such is available according to Biblical law, as I am sure, from the erudition you display in your questions, you know.

Were you to sell your daughter, a reasonable price would be the cost of the work she would reasonably perform until the end of her limited term of work.

That said, it still would be forbidden - criminal - for you to do so. Our society is such that there is a social net which catches those who fall. There are homeless shelters, charities, school lunch programs, social services, to make sure she eats, etc., such that it should not be necessary, and such that you would not reach this last resort.

Further, the law of the land (America) forbids child labor as well as slavery. Another Jewish law is dina demalchuta dina, that the law of the land is law. As a result, selling your daughter would be against halacha, Jewish law, as well. (The way dina demalchuta dina works, by the way, violating many laws of the country would be forbidden. However, it would not work to, say, declare homosexuality not immoral.)
3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev.15:19-24). The problem is, how do tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
Frist, why are you touching all these women?

Secondly, these verses are telling you that various people, including a menstrual woman, and a man who is a Zav, mentioned earlier in the chapter, and various other people, can convey a ritual impurity.

While impure one may not enter the Temple, and contact with certain consecrated foods (teruma) will render it impure.

{Whether these verses are mandating avoiding contact with a niddah is a matter of dispute, with e.g. the Rambam saying they do, and e.g. the Ramban saying they do not. However, there are prohibitions of negia regarding touching almost any woman not your wife.

Also, they would agree that the verses you cited don't have to do with a prohibition of touching a nidda. Rather, they look to Leviticus 18:19, where the simplest reading of that verse is that it speaks of sexual relations.}

Now, if you are concerned about contracting ritual impurity, just as you feel you must ask the women about this, you should also ask men about this, so as not to contract their ritual impurity. They would probably also take offense as well, though.

Luckily, though, or unluckily, there is no Temple, and there are few consecrated foods about. So, practically, you would not have to worry about this.

At a time when this is a concern, the people covered under these regulations will know about it, and will take proper precautions, as they have in the past.

Also, from a strictly Biblical standpoint, these verses only refer to Jewish people, with non-Jewish people not carrying the ritual impurities described here (see earlier, Leviticus 15:2 - this is how it understood by both Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel in Masechet Niddah) . Are the women getting offended Jewish? I would not imagine so, as they would not have contact with you anyway under the laws of negiya, which prohibits most physical contact
between the sexes.

Also, are you Jewish? From your questions, you seem to be conflating laws such as this that are specifically intended for Jews with e.g. laws of sexual morality which would apply to all. This is an important distinction, firstly if you want to contrast homosexuality with these laws, and secondly because many of these laws are actually kept in practice by Jews today, and have by no means fallen by the wayside.

As an example, one aspect of the ritual impurity of a menstruating woman, which I did not discuss above, is that a woman's husband may not have sexual relations with her during this time. (Additional laws preventing other things, such as touching, are forbidden under Rabbinic law, to prevent having relations with her.) Such physical intimacy will convey ritual uncleanliness but also is prohibited. As such, many Jewish men do in fact refrain from sexual relations with their wives during this time. A wife does not get offended when her husbands asks her this, for they are both committed to the same ideals.

4. (Lev. 25:44) states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians.Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
You may not purchase slaves, neither of Mexican or of Canadian stock, for the same reason as above - that Jewish law recognizes the law of the land, and since slavery is illegal in Canada, Mexico, and the US, it is forbidden according to Jewish law as well.

Believe it or not, the verse you cite is actually anti-slavery legislation. To cite the paragraph in Leviticus in full:

מד וְעַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתְךָ, אֲשֶׁר יִהְיוּ-לָךְ: מֵאֵת הַגּוֹיִם, אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבֹתֵיכֶם--מֵהֶם תִּקְנוּ, עֶבֶד וְאָמָה. 44 And as for thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, whom thou mayest have: of the nations that are round about you, of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.
מה וְגַם מִבְּנֵי הַתּוֹשָׁבִים הַגָּרִים עִמָּכֶם, מֵהֶם תִּקְנוּ, וּמִמִּשְׁפַּחְתָּם אֲשֶׁר עִמָּכֶם, אֲשֶׁר הוֹלִידוּ בְּאַרְצְכֶם; וְהָיוּ לָכֶם, לַאֲחֻזָּה. 45 Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them may ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they have begotten in your land; and they may be your possession.
מו וְהִתְנַחַלְתֶּם אֹתָם לִבְנֵיכֶם אַחֲרֵיכֶם, לָרֶשֶׁת אֲחֻזָּה--לְעֹלָם, בָּהֶם תַּעֲבֹדוּ; וּבְאַחֵיכֶם בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל אִישׁ בְּאָחִיו, לֹא-תִרְדֶּה בוֹ בְּפָרֶךְ.
46 And ye may make them an inheritance for your children after you, to hold for a possession: of them may ye take your bondmen for ever; but over your brethren the children of Israel ye shall not rule, one over another, with rigour.
That is, there was a specific type of slave - a bondsman and bondwoman. These verses are saying that this slavery is not allowed for fellow members of Israel. It neutrally allows the status quo of slavery for the nations around them.

Slavery was not regarded as a wrong in those days in society in general. The Torah forbids this slavery for Israelites, but leaves the status quo when dealing with others. Now, if everyone would commit to Biblical law, even the people of neighboring countries would be fellow Israelites, and such slavery would be forbidden. (Regardless, since American law outlawed slavery, in practice, such slavery is also forbidden in terms of non-Israelites.)

This is similar in nature to the Biblical prohibition of usury. Usury is regarded as a wrong. In general society, even today, it is not. The Torah forbids usury to Israelites. If general society would forbid it for everyone as well, following the spirit of the ideal Torah law, then usury would be forbidden to all even according to Jewish law, because the law of the land is the law.

Thus, Exodus 22:24:

כד אִם-כֶּסֶף תַּלְוֶה אֶת-עַמִּי, אֶת-הֶעָנִי עִמָּךְ--לֹא-תִהְיֶה לוֹ, כְּנֹשֶׁה; לֹא-תְשִׂימוּן עָלָיו, נֶשֶׁךְ. 24 If thou lend money to any of My people, even to the poor with thee, thou shalt not be to him as a creditor; neither shall ye lay upon him interest.

And in Deuteronomy 23:20-21:

כ לֹא-תַשִּׁיךְ לְאָחִיךָ, נֶשֶׁךְ כֶּסֶף נֶשֶׁךְ אֹכֶל: נֶשֶׁךְ, כָּל-דָּבָר אֲשֶׁר יִשָּׁךְ. 20 Thou shalt not lend upon interest to thy brother: interest of money, interest of victuals, interest of any thing that is lent upon interest.
כא לַנָּכְרִי תַשִּׁיךְ, וּלְאָחִיךָ לֹא תַשִּׁיךְ--לְמַעַן יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכֹל מִשְׁלַח יָדֶךָ, עַל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-אַתָּה בָא-שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ.
21 Unto a foreigner thou mayest lend upon interest; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon interest; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou puttest thy hand unto, in the land whither thou goest in to possess it.
Since the other nations do not subscribe to the idea that it is wrong, you may lend with interest to the foreigner, but solely within the society defined by Biblical law, it is forbidden.

Another anti-slavery law is to be found in the aforementioned chapter of Deuteronomy.

טז לֹא-תַסְגִּיר עֶבֶד, אֶל-אֲדֹנָיו, אֲשֶׁר-יִנָּצֵל אֵלֶיךָ, מֵעִם אֲדֹנָיו. 16 Thou shalt not deliver unto his master a bondman that is escaped from his master unto thee;
יז עִמְּךָ יֵשֵׁב בְּקִרְבְּךָ, בַּמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר-יִבְחַר בְּאַחַד שְׁעָרֶיךָ--בַּטּוֹב לוֹ; לֹא, תּוֹנֶנּוּ. 17 he shall dwell with thee, in the midst of thee, in the place which he shall choose within one of thy gates, where it liketh him best; thou shalt not wrong him.
Thus, ancient Israel would be a safe haven for slaves escaping via Underground Railroad.

Even though this slavery was not forbidden for people from neighboring nations, guidelines were set to ensure the welfare of said slaves.

Now, discipling of slaves under specific conditions was acceptable back then. But, to prevent abuse, we have Exodus 21:26:
כו וְכִי-יַכֶּה אִישׁ אֶת-עֵין עַבְדּוֹ, אוֹ-אֶת-עֵין אֲמָתוֹ--וְשִׁחֲתָהּ: לַחָפְשִׁי יְשַׁלְּחֶנּוּ, תַּחַת עֵינוֹ. 26 And if a man smite the eye of his bondman, or the eye of his bondwoman, and destroy it, he shall let him go free for his eye's sake.
כז וְאִם-שֵׁן עַבְדּוֹ אוֹ-שֵׁן אֲמָתוֹ, יַפִּיל--לַחָפְשִׁי יְשַׁלְּחֶנּוּ, תַּחַת שִׁנּוֹ. 27 And if he smite out his bondman's tooth, or his bondwoman's tooth, he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake.
Thus, excessive abuse of slaves was discouraged by the institution of a law that permanent injury to said slave grants the slave his freedom.

Slaves from other nations also had to undergo a special conversion procedure that obligated them in all Torah laws except for positive time-bound commandments. This conversion had to be done willingly, so if they did not agree to the conversion, one could not keep them as slaves.

Again, though, the Torah outlaws slavery in some forms, creates safe haven for fleeing slaves, though leaves the law in its neutral status quo in terms of other relating to non-Israelites, while innovating protections to ensure the welfare of those same slaves. Nowadays, since slavery is outlawed entirely, it would be forbidden in Jewish law as well.
5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. (Exodus 35:2) clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

Firstly, is your neighbor Jewish? If not, he should not be observing the Sabbath at all! The verses you cite state: (Exodus 35:1-2)
א וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה, אֶת-כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם: אֵלֶּה, הַדְּבָרִים, אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּה ה, לַעֲשֹׂת אֹתָם. 1 And Moses assembled all the congregation of the children of Israel, and said unto them: 'These are the words which the LORD hath commanded, that ye should do them.
ב שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים, תֵּעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי יִהְיֶה לָכֶם קֹדֶשׁ שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן, לַיהוָה; כָּל-הָעֹשֶׂה בוֹ מְלָאכָה, יוּמָת. 2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of solemn rest to the LORD; whosoever doeth any work therein shall be put to death.
These are commanded to the Israelites, and it is to them a holy day. People who are not Jewish can, and should work.

to be continued...

in the meantime, see Rabbi Orlofsky's response.

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?


7. (Lev. 21:20) states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by (Lev.19:27). How should they die?

9. I know from (Lev.11:6-8) that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates (Lev. 19:19) by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev.24:10-16) Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted fan, Jim


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