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A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

'Cut Off" in the Bible

Many of the Torah  rituals, customs and taboos  (i.e Yom Kippur, Passover, menstrual taboo, dead uncleanliness taboo, food taboos, bitter waters,  incense, anointing oil, animal sacrifice, temple, priests, circumcision...)  have parallels in the ancient near east (ANE) and other cultures (this has been documented in the academic literature and on this blog spot). 

The Torah obsessively codifies numerous ancient near east parallel rituals, taboos, and customs. Some of the Torah’s may come with the warning - it shall be a statute forever or the death penalty / being ‘cut off’  for their violation. 

All this strongly suggests the Torah was not making mere accommodation to pagan rituals, customs and taboos. Rather these rituals, customs and taboos had significant importance in and of themselves to the Torah authors, and most likely for similar reasons they were important to other ancient cultures.

This post will not discuss the original true meaning(s ?) of the Torah 'cut off' punishment. But it was a serious threat since it was mentioned as a punishment along side the death penalty, for example Sabbath {ETA 3/4/2014 - an actual case is recorded in the Torah see item 4 below}. If it meant being excommunicated from your tribe it would have severe repercussions in ancient tribal societies.  It may have meant death by divine agency or the extinction of one's blood  line. The purpose of this post is to document some of the Torah violations that merited being ‘cut off’. These being considered serious violations to warrant a drastic punishment. Let the reader decide if any of these should be considered such serious violations as to merit being ‘cut off’ by divine agency or otherwise..

1) Eating leavened bread on Passover

Exodus 12:15 Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; howbeit the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses; for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. 

2) Making the holy anointing oil or putting it on a stranger. 

Exodus30:31 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying: This shall be a holy anointing oil unto Me throughout your generations. 
32 Upon the flesh of man shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make any like it, according to the composition thereof; it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you.
33 Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, he shall be cut off from his people.

3) Making the holy incense. 

Exodus 30:35 And thou shalt make of it incense, a perfume after the art of the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy.
 36 And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before
the testimony in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with thee; it shall be unto you most holy.
37 And the incense which thou shalt make, according to the composition thereof ye shall not make for yourselves; it shall be unto thee holy for the LORD.
 38 Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereof, he shall 
be cut off from his people.

4) Working on Sabbath

Exodus 31:14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore, for it is holy unto you; every one that profaneth it shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.

Numbers 15:32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks upon the sabbath day.
33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.
34 And they put him in ward, because it had not been declared what should be done to him. 35 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.'

36 And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died, as the LORD commanded Moses. 

5) Eating part of a Sacrifice while being unclean

Levit 7: 20 But the soul that eateth of the flesh of the sacrifice of 
peace-offerings, that pertain unto the LORD, having his uncleanness upon him, that soul shall be cut off from his people.

6) Eating  Fats (suet) from an offering (JPS page 221 notes "The Israelite is commanded to abstain from the 'food' of the Lord even when no sacrifice is made". [Levit 3:16 "...All Fat is the Lords".]

Lev 7: 23 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: Ye shall eat no fat, of ox, or sheep, or goat.
 24 And the fat of that which dieth of itself, and the fat of that 
which is torn of beasts, may be used for any other service; but ye shall in no wise eat of it.
 25 For whosoever eateth the fat of the beast, of which men present an offering made by fire unto the LORD, even the soul that eateth it shall be cut off from his people.

7) Eating Blood (ETA 3/2/2014 Here is an interesting parallel - "Some Indian tribes of North America, 'through a strong principle of religion abstain in the strictest manner from eating the blood of any animal, as it contains the life and spirit of the beast' ". Page 265 The Golden Bough by  James Frazer Volume I abridged edition 1922, 1979 - fifteenth printing.)


Lev 7: 26 And ye shall eat no manner of blood, whether it be of 
fowl or of beast, in any of your dwellings.
27 Whosoever it be that eateth any blood, that soul shall be cut off 
from his people. 


Lev 17: 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life.
12 Therefore I said unto the children of Israel: No soul of you 
shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood....
14 For as to the life of all flesh, the blood thereof is all one with the life thereof; therefore I said unto the children of Israel: Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh; for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof; whosoever eateth it shall be cut off. 

8) Sex with a Menstruate. It is an abomination. It is listed along with other sexual violations like incest and adultery !

Levit 18 : 18 And thou shalt not take a woman to her sister, to be a rival to her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her lifetime.
19 And thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her 
nakedness, as long as she is impure by her uncleanness.
20 And thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to 
defile thyself with her......
27 for all these abominations have the men of the land done, that 
were before you, and the land is defiled...
29 For whosoever shall do any of these abominations, even the 
souls that do them shall be cut off from among their people.

Levit 20: 18 And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness--he hath made naked her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood--both of them shall be cut off from among their people. 

9) Unclean Priests approaching holy things 

Levit22:2 Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, which they hallow unto Me, and that they profane not My holy name: I am the LORD.
3 Say unto them: Whosoever he be of all your seed throughout 
your generations, that approacheth unto the holy things, which the children of Israel hallow unto the LORD, having his uncleanness upon him, that soul shall be cut off from before Me: I am the LORD. 

10) Violating Yom Kippur

Levit 23: 26 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
27 Howbeit on the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of 
atonement; there shall be a holy convocation unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls; and ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
28 And ye shall do no manner of work in that same day; for it is a 
day of atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God.
 29 For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same 
day, he shall be cut off from his people. 

11) Not bringing Passover sacrifice

Number 9:13 But the man that is clean, and is not on a journey, and forbeareth to keep the passover, that soul shall be cut off from his people; because he  brought not the offering of the LORD in its appointed season, that man shall bear his sin. 

12) The unclean defiling the tabernacle 

Numbers 19: 13 Whosoever toucheth the dead, even the body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself--he hath defiled the tabernacle of the LORD--that soul shall be cut off from Israel; because the water of sprinkling  was not dashed against him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him. 

{ETA 9/28/2104 Page 92 sixth printing The Interpreters One Volume Commentary on the Bible. "The belief that pollution results from contact with a corpse is common in many cultures." }

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JPS  - Jewish Study Bible 2004 Berlin and Brettler

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