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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.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Explanations of Pagan Customs in Judaism with some notes on Maimonides Part 3



It is essential to read this post Explanations of Pagan Customs in Judaism with some notes on Maimonides Part I before proceeding.


Sources and Documentation are listed throughout or at the end of this post.

This post will continue with-

Some Torah and Pagan comparisons; A critique of some of Rambam’s explanations; Related Issues


See Part 1 and Part 2 for Items A thru R


S) Tabernacle


Exodus 25:8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.9 According to all that I show thee, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the furniture thereof, even so shall ye make it.

22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will speak with thee from above the ark-cover, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.


The Tabernacle is no accommodation to pagan practice. It states in verse 22, God will dwell in it or meet there. This is similar to other ancient near east (ANE) cultures. Even the plans are similar to other ANE cultures.

The Biblical Ciphers Unsealed Dale Robertson 2001

Beginning page 117 - Regarding the portable Israelite Ark

"We find evidence of an ark-like container in the religious practices of people throughout the near east". Evidence of an ark roughly the same dimensions as the Hebrew ark is found in the worship of Isis and Osiris.


The Anchor Bible Exodus 19-40 William Propp 2006 discusses the Tabernacle on page 704:

In Ugaritic literature speaks of tabernacles as a tent in which the gods gather in ‘meeting’ (m’d) . Also as the tent inhabited by the head Deity of the pantheon. “It stands to reason that the biblical ‘ohel moed’ meeting tent in which Yahweh resides on earth draws from the well springs of Canaanite mythology, since in many other respects the figure of Yahweh is rooted in the imagery of Ilu. (Cross 1961b:224;1973:44-75; Smith 2002; see also p. 787).”

Kugel page 284 - “A temple in the ancient Near East was essentially the house of the deity”. “Of course, in the ANE , the deity was not thought to exist just in that one place: he or she might also be somewhere else in the natural world or in the sky, or simultaneously in another temple...”
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T) Eating Fat is Prohibited

Levit 3:16 And the priest shall make them smoke upon the altar; it is the food of the offering made by fire, for a sweet savour; all the fat is the LORD'S.

Leviticus 7:22 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:

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.

Rambam suggests the prohibition is because fat is an unwholesome food (page 370). Yet the reason the Torah provides (for example verse 16) is all the fat is the LORD'S. As if to emphasize this, eating it requires being cut off.

If the Torah was truly meaning to provide healthy diet suggestions, there was no need for it to write the food is the Lords’s nor to provide such a serious punishment as being cut off. {ETA 3/23/2014 And if Torah was intending to educate about a healthy diet it could write fat was bad for your health, instead of it being for the Lord.}

U) Regarding "unclean" In Leviticus 15:1- 15

2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When any man hath an issue out of his flesh, his issue is unclean. {JPS page 241 explains it as urethral infections and not only gonorrhea. They did not know it was transmitted by sexual contact. } In verses 13 And when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue, then he shall number to himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes; and he shall bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean....

14 And on the eighth day he shall take to him two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, and come before the LORD unto the door of the tent of meeting, and give them unto the priest.
15 And the priest shall offer them, the one for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD for his issue.

So sacrifice for infections. This is found among other ANE cultures - see Sparks below.

V) The Menstruate taboo all too common through the world. An abnormally long period requires sacrifices and atonement.

Levit15:25 And if a woman have an issue of her blood many days not in the time of her impurity, or if she have an issue beyond the time of her impurity; all the days of the issue of her uncleanness she shall be as in the days of her impurity: she is unclean.
26 Every bed whereon she lieth all the days of her issue shall be unto her as the bed of her impurity; and every thing whereon she sitteth shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her impurity. 27 And whosoever toucheth those things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. 28 BUT if she be Cleansed of Her issue, Then she shall number to Herself seven days, and after That she shall be clean.
29 And on the eighth day she shall take unto her two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest, to the door of the tent of meeting.
30 And the priest shall offer the one for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her before the LORD for the issue of her uncleanness.


And a reason for all this is Leviticus 15:31 Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness; that they die not in their uncleanness, when they defile My tabernacle that is in the midst of them.


{ETA 3/31/2014 -4/1/2014 - The Torah codifies superstitions and moreover requires a sacrifice as atonement. Why kill animals - how can this possibly help ?

Why do things become unclean when the women touches them ?
I sincerely doubt there is any physical basis for
for transference of uncleanliness as described in the Torah.

A plausible explanation for the abnormally long period concerns: When this happened it was treated as an abnormality or illness resulting because of a sin. Often ANE cultures associated illness or evil with offending the Gods. God therefore needed placating via an offering. This was serious because of verse 15:31.

Thus the taboo relates to supernatural fears and superstitions.}


W) Exodus21: 20 And if a man smite his bondman, or his bondwoman, with a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall surely be punished.

21 Notwithstanding if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his money.


Verse 20 seems reasonable. But verse 21 does not.

Why should the Master not get punished since he was the proximate cause of the death ?

X) Citing Rambam Page 339

“....the first-fruit (Exod. xxiii. 19), and the first of the shearing (Deut. xviii. 4).For the first of everything is to be devoted to the Lord ; and by doing so man accustoms himself to be liberal, and to limit his appetite for eating and his desire for property.”

Devoting the first of thing to the gods is a widely attested religious practice. Here is are two examples of many others. Page 460 Frazer - VI On the Island of Cos farmers brought the first fruits of the harvest to Demeter. Page 500 At a Mexican harvest festival the first fruits of the season were offered to the sun.

The post is continued here Part 4

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Sources additional Documentation and Information - REPEATED from Part I.

Beginning Page 207 Ancient Texts For The Study of The Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005)

Regarding Leviticus 11-15-

The dietary laws: Clean .vs. Unclean - very close to ancient near east views. The Clean species - animals of domestic flock and herds. The unclean - Dog, swine in Hittite.

Body fluids discharges - Normal biological or Illness creates ritual uncleanness in The near east.

Hittite priests - if engage in sex it creates unclean and needs a ritual bath. Similar to Leviticus 15:16-18

Skin Infections, Fungus on things - like the ANE neighbors you consult a priest. Mesopotamia and Israelites - priest diagnoses based on fungal color and prescribe treatment and PERFORM elimination rites like in Levit 13:47-50, 14:33-57

Regarding Levit 17,21,22 "Hittite priestly instructions include many rules of this sort as well as similar warnings about DIVINE PUNISHMENT THAT WOULD RESULT IF THE RULES ARE CONTRAVENED". [My capitals]

Regarding Levit 24:1-9 perpetual presentation of 12 loaves of bread. This pa parallels to Mesopotamia practice a) 12 loaf offerings b) presenting meals to gods on trays
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Religions of the Ancient Near East - Helmer Ringgron (TRANSLATED by J. Sturdy) 1973

Page 159 - "A number of Temples display a ground plan similar to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem"

Page 121 REGARDING Assyrian and Babylonian religion:

" It is known that life or the BREATH of life is a gift of the gods, who also have the power to take it back." [My capitalization. Such a notion is found in Genesis ...]

Page 160 From the Ras Shamra texts of the Baal myths - To give authority he needs a house or place usually called Bait or Bet the usual word for Temple. "This shows clearly that The Temple was treated in The first place as the dwelling of the god or his official residence". Like the jews, the Temple Atargatis held 2 sacrifices per day.


Page 166 From the Ras Shamra texts - Baal has Khnm priests like Kohnim Hebrew. Kohen in Phoenician and Punic inscriptions.
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Religions of the Ancient Near East - Helmer Ringgron (Translated by J. Sturdy) 1973

Page 159 - "A number of Temples display a ground plan similar to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem"

Page 121 Regarding Assyrian and Babylonian religion:

" It is known that life or the BREATH of life is a gift of the gods, who also have the power to take it back." [My capitalization. Such a notion is found in Genesis ...]
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JPS - Jewish Publication Society Jewish Study Bible 2004 Berlin and Brettler

OTP - Old Testament Parallels by Victor Mathews and Don Benjamin

Frazer VI - The Golden Bough by James Frazer Volume I abridged edition 1922, 1979 - fifteenth printing.)

Kugel - How to Read the Bible by James Kugel 2007

Rambam - Maimonides (Rambam 12th century) in his Guide for the Perplexed ( my edition translated from the original arabic edition, revised throughout (Eighth Impression) second edition published 1904, reprinted in 1956)

Sparks - Ancient Texts For The Study of The Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005)



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