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What Does the Bible Say About..Questions Ridiculing the Law of Moses?

The following list of questions has been published in various places, including an open letter to Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Because someone asked me about them, I decided to give a more complete answer now that I have the whole list.

1.. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord --- Lev. 1:8-11. “ 8 He shall remove all the fat from the bull of the sin offering-the fat that covers the inner parts or is connected to them, 9 both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the covering of the liver, which he will remove with the kidneys- 10 just as the fat is removed from the ox [1] sacrificed as a fellowship offering. [2] Then the priest shall burn them on the altar of burnt offering. 11 But the hide of the bull and all its flesh, as well as the head and legs, the inner parts and offal.” The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

2.. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. 7 "If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

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. 19 " 'When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. 20 " 'Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. 21 Whoever touches her bed must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. 22 Whoever touches anything she sits on must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. 23 Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, he will be unclean till evening. 24 'If a man lies with her and her monthly flow touches him, he will be unclean for seven days; any bed he lies on will be unclean.” The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4.. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.” Provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Why can't I own Canadians?

5.. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath --- Exodus 35:2. “2 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD . Whoever does any work on it must be put to death.” The passage clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

6.. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination --- Lev. 11:10, “10 But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales-whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water-you are to detest it”-- is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7.. Lev. 21:20 “20 or who is hunchbacked or dwarfed, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles 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 thought this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. 27 "'Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” How should they die?

9.. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 “6 The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. 7 And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. 8 You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.” 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 19 " Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.” 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. “10 Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. 11 The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) 12 They put him in custody until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them. 13 Then the LORD said to Moses: 14 "Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. 15 Say to the Israelites: 'If anyone curses his God, he will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death.” 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 14 " If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you.”

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


Following are responses to each of the raised points. Keep in mind that some of my responses are “tongue in cheek” as some of the questions are phrased that way as well.

1. There is no need to smite them. Most courts have ruled that the odors from backyard barbeques are not a nuisance, so you should still be able to burn your steaks. (Note: Unless your altar is in the Temple in Jerusalem, you are not allowed to offer sacrifices. Since the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD there have been no sacrifices in accordance with the Law. Therefore, it is not your neighbors that should be smitten, but you for offering an improper burnt offering.)

2. A fair price would be market driven. It would depend on where you live, and what the market is willing to pay. Note, however, that even the translation you use does not say slavery, but service. This was an indentured service. Normally it had an end date within seven years; however, in the case of daughters the release after that time was not allowed because the service was essentially an engagement for marriage.

3. This is never a problem for an observant Jew. If you are married to the woman, you know. If not, you don’t need to know. If you are not Jewish, this (and the other laws you mention) don’t apply to you anyway.

4. You rely on just any friend for decisions on halacha? If he says you can’t keep Canadians, he is wrong. If you wish to legally hire a Canadian servant, if you can find one who is willing to work as a servant, that would be as acceptable as hiring a Mexican servant.

5. No, you can not kill him yourself. He must be taken before the Bet Din (Rabbinic court) to determine whether or not he has violated the Sabbath. The Bet Din will then determine whether the death penalty is warranted. Note also that if your neighbor is not Jewish then he does not fall under the Law of Moses and is not required to keep Sabbath.

6. If degrees of punishment indicate degrees of abomination, then yes, there may be different degrees. On the other hand, abomination is abomination. If God hates it, he hates it. It is equally a violation of the law of the state of New Mexico if I speed or commit murder. The punishments are different, but the fact remains that the law has been violated. In a similar vein, I detest licorice and I detest coconut. Which I detest more is simply a matter of which one I accidentally have eaten at the time.

7. If you could prove direct descent from Aaron (as the part of the scripture you fail to quote says) it is unlikely that you would be selected to be high priest anyway, with your lack of understanding or will to conform to the Law of Moses. If you were selected as High Priest it wouldn’t make any difference today whether poor vision would disqualify you from making sacrifices, since there are no more sacrifices (see question 1).

8. Death is not the penalty for violating this passage. Many scholars say that this verse goes with the immediately following verse, and prohibits such activity only as part of mutilating oneself for the dead. Yours must be an interesting community if most of your friends are Jewish but don’t care to be observant. Usually non-observant Jews don’t choose to live in predominantly Jewish communities.

9. Yes, you may still play football, with or without gloves. That is because a football is not made from pig skin. If it were, then it would probably be halachically improper to touch it, even if you were wearing gloves. The gloves, like anything you would be wearing, would probably be considered part of you. For a proper ruling, consult a reliable halachic authority.

10. Stoning is not the prescribed punishment for shatnetz (wearing clothing made of two fibers, etc.). If he is such a poor farmer that he actually mixes crops, I wonder how he harvests them. Obviously it would have to be by hand. Otherwise the crops would be mixed up in the mechanical harvester. I am not sure of the halacha on a cotton/polyester blend, since polyester is technically not a fiber (that is, a plant or animal fiber). Even if it qualifies as shatnetz, death is not the appropriate penalty. As to the question of blasphemy, again as in question 5, this is a question for a Bet Din, not for an individual to decide to impose punishment. There may be a difference between what you call cursing and blaspheming and what this passage considers blasphemy. If he uses God’s name to curse others, that may be wrong but doesn’t violate this scripture. Only if he curses God does this passage apply.

Rarely have I seen such a collection of ridiculous questions based on misquotes or partial quotes of scripture misapplied. A text taken out of context becomes a mere pretext to do whatever you want. To do the same with the law of the land and expect a judge to agree would be to ask for considerable fines for contempt of court.