Posts tagged " Leviticus "

How does isolation fit in a Biblical worldview?

April 7th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

I live in California. The governor just ordered a shelter in place because of the coronavirus. What does ancient Jewish wisdom say about what to do about sick people in society?

John M.

Dear John,

While this is not the right venue for us to answer your question comprehensively, we thought that you and others might find  this Biblical thought on illness interesting and perhaps useful

A great deal of the book of Leviticus speaks of illnesses that are often poorly translated into English as leprosy or some other contagion. The repair for these problems involves removing oneself from the camp and being isolated. Many of us can relate more to those verses today than we could just a few weeks ago.

These illnesses were not of a physical, but of a spiritual variety. In the days where the relationship between God and His people was on a heightened level, spiritual flaws drew quick physical responses.

The study of psychosomatic disorders which is when mental or spiritual distress presents as a physical phenomenon on the body is relatively recent but it helps us understand the close bond between our spiritual and our physical beings. The fascinating efficaciousness of placebos again reinforces how closely tied are our bodies and our souls. 

We no longer benefit from that same level of closeness and interaction between the physical and spiritual worlds. Yet, we are nonetheless very aware of holistic medicine which hints at how every part of the body impacts every other part. Today, we (correctly) would never suggest that individual A is ill because of personal sins or individual B is healthy because he is righteous. Yet we do understand that what and how we think does have an effect on our physical well-being.  Optimism and happiness undoubtedly contribute to physical health as well as to speedy recovery.  The Biblical worldview extension of that is that what and how we think and behave affects the health of the world around us as well.

Taking care of the ill and needy is a priority in a Biblical world. So is behaving in ways that protect and improve life for those among whom you live. It is unacceptable to be absorbed only in one’s own life. One of the effects of isolation as described in Leviticus was a renewed appreciation for being part of a community, with all the responsibilities and demands that go along with that privilege. We can hope that today’s virus is reminding us all how fortunate we are to live in a world where we are not alone.

Stay healthy,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Never Marry Your Grandmother

February 5th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

“My boyfriend is driving me crazy! Does he want to get married or not?”

“My husband and I were both thrilled when I became pregnant. But when I mention the baby, he sometimes gets this terrified look on his face. Is he happy about our baby nor not?”

The answer is…drum roll please…Both! The author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, wrote,

The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold

two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time,

and still retain the ability to function.”

People are complicated and since most of the joy in life as well as most of the problems come from dealing with others, it is helpful to gain greater understanding into human relationships, particularly between men and women.

Take a look at Scripture’s list of prohibited sexual relationships. It starts with close relatives and ends with bestiality. (Leviticus 18:6-23)

Pretty straightforward. Except, we are perplexed to discover that one and a half chapters later the entire list is repeated. This time, however, it starts with adultery and ends with close relatives. (Leviticus 20:10-21) Is it repeated to help folks with short memories?

(more…)

Cows or Corvettes?

September 14th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

In late 1964, after five years of construction, the Verrazano Bridge connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island opened to traffic.  It was made of steel and was then the longest suspension bridge in the world.  In order to prevent corrosion from the sea air, it is painted, using about 12,000 gallons of paint.  Since rust would quickly weaken and destroy the bridge, the paint is kept in good shape.

The default condition for iron and even steel is to rust and deteriorate unless steps are taken to inhibit the oxidation process.  The default condition for many foods such as meat is to deteriorate and go bad unless the process is inhibited by refrigeration.  The default condition for most animals is to flee humans unless cornered.

Humans have several troublesome defaults.  (more…)

Never Marry Your Grandmother

February 24th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

“My boyfriend is driving me crazy! Does he want to get married or not?”

“My husband and I were both thrilled when I became pregnant. But when I mention the baby, he sometimes gets this terrified look on his face. Is he happy about our baby nor not?”

The answer is…drum roll please…Both! The author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, wrote,

The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold

two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time,

and still retain the ability to function.”

People are complicated and since most of the joy in life as well as most of the problems come from dealing with others, it is helpful to gain greater understanding into human relationships, particularly between men and women.

Take a look at Scripture’s list of prohibited sexual relationships. It starts with close relatives and ends with bestiality. (Leviticus 18:6-23)

Pretty straightforward. Except, we are perplexed to discover that one and a half chapters later the entire list is repeated. This time, however, it starts with adultery and ends with close relatives. (Leviticus 20:10-21) Is it repeated to help folks with short memories?

No. The purpose of the Torah is to teach us how the world REALLY works and that includes understanding sexual relationships. Relationships between men and woman are complicated because they are driven by complex and often conflicting forces.

Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals relationship secrets while resolving the problem of the two lists in two almost adjacent Biblical chapters. It turns out that the lists are similar but not identical. They list the prohibited sexual relationships in different sequences, thus hinting at the two chief forces driving sexual attraction.

The first list in Leviticus 18, encapsulates our innate drive for reproduction. It is not just women who experience ‘baby-hunger.’ While women tend to experience it earlier (playing with dolls offers a clue) men also eventually yearn for the immortality that a child can confer. Most men want their children to be like them. The first list starts off with the relationships that would theoretically most appeal when reproduction is at the forefront of men’s minds.

The surest way to conceive children who resemble oneself would be to reproduce with a mate from one’s own family. While this sounds strange to our ears, focus on the concept rather than picturing it. So this list mentions prohibited family members first. It concludes with alternatives less tempting to someone focused on reproduction such as another man’s wife in which case the child would belong to someone else. Finally come homosexuality and bestiality where no offspring can possibly result.

The second list expresses men’s urge for sexual pleasure. It offers its own sequence in descending order of appeal. Most attractive is another man’s wife. Many men perversely find themselves attracted to married women whom they would totally ignore if the same ladies were single.

Forbidden fruit powerfully attracts so it constitutes the first prohibition in Leviticus 20:10. Continuing to look at the world through the eyes of a man who is only interested in a sexual relationship with no other component whatsoever (like reproduction or companionship and growth) we find the powerful sexual attraction of homosexuality and even of bestiality. These prohibitions are next in the list. (Leviticus 20:13-15) Finally, given that most men are not sexually titillated by close relatives, the list ends with those.

Now the two lists no longer suggest redundancy but, taken together, they reveal an exhilarating glimpse into reality. It isn’t surprising that relationships between the sexes frequently lead to heartbreak when not only do we not instinctively “get” each other, but we often don’t even “get” ourselves.

What seem to be redundancies or simple stories in Scripture actually lay out deep insights into how God built us. I realize this might sound self-serving but I can think of few more valuable ways for anyone interested in male/female relationships to spend two hours than listening (perhaps with someone you love?) to my Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Secrets of Marriage audio CD set. It remains on sale for another 24 hours. You will be amazed at the practical insights which spring off the page of God’s word and out of the Hebrew language.

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