Friday, April 4, 2014

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Stealing

We’re turning to a verse we skipped around, sort of, Exodus 21:16: “Whoever steals a man to sell him and he is found in his hand mot yumat.
You were also supposed to read Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17, and Deuteronomy 24:7.  We already looked at “thou shalt not murder.”  Now look at the words right after that.
The urban legend is that these two of the Big Ten mean that property theft is illegal.  So they ought to go with the discussion last week about the thief caught in the house at night.
Not in Jewish law.
Remember Jewish forensic argument looks at the entire context and decides what it means based on that.
The words “thou shalt not steal” come after “thou shalt not commit murder” and also after “thou shalt not commit adultery.”  Both murder and adultery are crimes that carry the death penalty.
Property theft is not; verses for that include Exodus 21:37 and 22:3.
After “thou shalt not steal” comes “thou shalt not torment your neighbor with false testimony.”  I already said that false witnesses can be flogged and that can be deadly. 
Jewish law looks at the verses in Exodus and Deuteronomy and says, they have something in common, what is it?  The answer the rabbis came up with is “death.”  So “thou shalt not steal” doesn’t mean property.  It means what Exodus 21:16 means, and also Deuteronomy 24:7.
Exodus 21:16 – “whoever kidnaps a man to sell him and he is found in his hands, mot yumat.”
Deuteronomy 24:7 – “when a man is found kidnapping…that kidnapper shall die.”
Slaving is a capital crime in Jewish law.  Other legal systems never did catch up with this and unfortunately we get news stories every year about people being found enslaved by force.
These verses show that the Bible absolutely does not support what happened to Africans who were brought to America.  Not only were they kidnapped, their masters could injure or even kill them with impunity.  There are other problems with this part of American culture which I will demonstrate next week. 
But the masters pretended to use the Bible to justify what they did.  This is a constant theme in history.  People claim to be acting according to the Bible, and the Bible is condemned for what they do, but the fact is they do not obey Jewish law.  They just pick and choose what they want to do and then claim it comes from the Bible.
The other part of the urban legend is what the word eved really means in Jewish law.  Read Leviticus 25:39-40, Exodus 21:1-11, andDeuteronomy 15:12-18 for next week.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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