Friday, March 6, 2015

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Leviticus 21:7,9,13,14

Your assignment for this week was to study Leviticus 21:7 and 9, 13 and 14.
That’s because I know that for the last few weeks you’ve been bursting to say “but what about the priest’s daughter that had to be burned.”
The daughter of a priest who profanes herself for prostitution, profanes her father, she shall be burned with fire.
There are two issues about that.  The first one is that of course this was a capital crime and therefore required due process, witnesses and all.
The second is that the rabbis discussed this for decades or centuries, and they came up with the concept that this could only be a married woman who committed adultery.  No unmarried woman who has sex with a man can be executed.  The man has to marry her unless her father absolutely refuses to allow it.  We already went through that in detail.  The rabbis did too.  They insisted that the woman in the verse in Leviticus committed adultery.
This was one of only two transgressions which could result in “burning,” the other being a man who slept with a woman and also her daughter.  Regardless of whether it was his daughter or not.  By the way, notice that the man gets punished for sleeping with a woman and also with her daughter.  Nothing happens to the women unless it’s a case of adultery.  And as a capital crime, etc., etc., etc.
What’s more, the Mishnaic definition of “burning” is to have a burning thread put down one’s throat, not to burn a person alive on a pyre.
So “burning at the stake” was not part of Jewish law – such a case is discussed in Mishnah but the rabbis said that the court which ordered that execution was not expert.  They didn’t embarrass the members of the court by naming them, all the more so as it happened only once in the long memory of Jewish law.
So people who execute witches by burning at the stake were not obeying Jewish law.  A male or female witch is subject to execution by being thrown off a height and then pressed between stones, after due process etc. etc. etc. 
Next I’m going to discuss prohibited marriages for which there is no discussion in Torah, it’s all in Mishnah.  I’ll give you the citation because it says something important about Jewish history and explodes another urban legend, Mishnah Kiddushin 4:1.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

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