The musings of a previously unemployed Jewish Freemason. I write about the job search, about Judaism, and about Freemasonry.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Acharei Mot: The Holiness Code

In this Torah portion, the observance of Yom Kippur is discussed, as well as a discussion of the sacredness of blood. Various forbidden sexual practices are discussed, including one of the only lines of Leviticus many Christian Fundamentalists read and observe. After listing a series of forbidden incestuous relationships and somewhat incestuous relationships like marrying your stepmother or marrying two women who are sisters. Other sexual sins are listed, like having sex with a menstruating woman (yeah, I know. Read the previous blog post), and committing adultery with your neighbor's wife. Then, suddenly, the rhythm of the passage falls off a cliff: "And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD." [Leviticus 18: 21]. What?

There was a practice in Semitic paganism of sacrificing children to Molech, a god worshipped during that time. It was thought that an iron statue of Molech with its arms outstretched was heated with fire, and the infant was placed in the arms of Molech until it burned to death. By so doing, the person believed that they could transform their fortunes for the better. What does this have to do with the previous rules? The Egyptian aristocracy had incestuous marriages, and the Philistines had child sacrifices. Moses is commanding the Israelites to behave differently than the Egyptians and the Philistines. And it is in this context that we can put the next verse: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." [Leviticus 18: 22].

It's right there in the Bible, right? What else does the Bible refer to as תֹּועֵבָה (to'evah), or abomination?

  1. The Egyptians regarded shepherds as to'evah.
  2. Hebrew animal sacrifice in the land of Egypt was to'evah.
  3. Idolatry
  4. Remarrying a person you have divorced.
  5. Haughty eyes
  6. A lying tongue
  7. Hands that shed innocent blood
  8. A heart that devises wicked schemes
  9. Feet that are swift in running to mischief
  10. A false witness who utters lies
  11. One who spreads strife among brothers
  12. Incest
  13. Adultery
  14. Temple prostitution
  15. Money earned from prostitution
  16. Child sacrifice
  17. Transvestism
  18. Cheating in the market by using crooked weights
  19. Dishonesty
  20. Eating non-kosher food
  21. Stealing
  22. Murder
  23. Breaking covenants
  24. Usury
  25. Armed robbery
  26. Oppressing the poor and needy
This list includes behaviors we still take as taboo, like murder, child sacrifice, armed robbery, and incest. But eating rabbit makes this list, as does lying (which appears three times on the list). While transvestism was shocking years ago, nobody picketed the Milton Berle show for the occasional comic drag scene.

Maybe those who are so affronted by homosexuality should go after the other items on this list. When was the last time you saw a demonstration against usury? When was the last time that people waved Bibles in the air to protest the oppression of the poor and needy? When indeed.

Incidentally, the next line goes after bestiality, which is why some Fundamentalists equate homosexuality with bestiality. And yet they never equate homosexuality with adultery, like in the previous line. Go figure.

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