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No longer take comments. Post's 'labels' are unreliable for linking or searching. Use the INDEX OF POSTS instead. A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview and understanding of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. 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. IF YOU GET A MESSAGE THAT THE POST IS MISSING - LOOK FOR IT IN THE INDEX or search or the date is found in the address.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

'Cut Off" in the Bible

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

{ETA 3/3/2014  From Page 206-207 Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible by Kenton Sparks 2005 Regarding Leviticus 8-9,21,19,44  Priestly ordinations - these have similarities to Mesopotamian rituals and the rituals at Emar: Sacrifice, Water Washing, Oil anointing, Ritual meals, Ritual Periods of 7 days, Physical Perfection of Priests (Levit 21), Priest hair grooming (Levit 19 and 44). [see also The Bible - The Priest- The Female - The Disabled]}

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." }

JPS  - Jewish Study Bible 2004 Berlin and Brettler

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Bible, The Priests, The Female and the Disabled

Sources at bottom of post unless otherwise shown

Leviticus 21:16 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
17 Speak unto Aaron, saying: Whosoever he be of thy seed throughout their generations that hath a blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God.
18 For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath any thing maimed, or anything too long,
19 or a man that is broken-footed, or broken-handed,
20 or crook-backed, or a dwarf, or that hath his eye overspread, or is scabbed, or scurvy, or hath his stones crushed;
21 no man of the seed of Aaron the priest, that hath a blemish, shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire; he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.
22 He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy.
23 Only he shall not go in unto the veil, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not My holy places; for I am the LORD who sanctify them.
24 So Moses spoke unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel.

There are numerous similarities between the Israelite ‘Temple’ (portable or otherwise),  Israelite ‘Temple’  rituals and other ancient near east religions. Even the Torah term Kohanim (the priestly class) was a common name for priest guilds in the ancient near east. Some of these similarities have already been discussed in my prior posts, but for now the focus will be on the verses cited.

First - Females are disqualified from service. ( But surely there were tasks that females could have performed.)  Milgrom discusses the female exclusion. “Women were excluded from priesthood probably out of fear of menstrual pollution, a reason that is expressly cited for Ethiopians....”.

Second, the Torah is not punishing the blemished or disabled -  see verse 22.

Thirdly, the physically blemished or disabled are excluded from this service. This is not about workers compensation. No accommodation of the tasks are made for the disabled. The Torah was not aware of  American with Disabilities Act and non discrimination. Just having certain  blemishes regardless of ability to perform tasks is disqualifying from certain services.

Fourthly - the Torah glaringly fails to list Moral blemishes. Milgrom wrestles with this issue, and I will not pursue it in this post.

Fifthly the ‘twelve listed blemishes’ are expanded to 142 blemishes by the Talmudic Rabbi’s.(Milgrom)
[I suppose the Rabbis  could not leave well enough alone.]


Sixthly - Before we are quick to judge this discriminatory practice, it probably was a feature of many ancient near east cultures.

Page 233 Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: “One of the problems uncovered by the Diviners was that the Temple precinct had been defiled by invalids and mutilated people who had entered it’s doors” This had caused  the gods to be angry at Hatti. “The notion that physically impaired people could defile the sacred precinct should be compared to II Samuel 5:6-8, Leviticus 21:16-23, Deuteronomy 23:1" 

[He is almost certainly referring to Deuteronomy 23:2. It is not certain  Deut 23:2 fits in the same category as Levit 21:16-23]

Regarding the Leviticus verses : “The requirement that priests bear no physical blemish is not limited to Israel but is attested universally.” (Milgrom)

{ETA Page 206 Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005 - Physical perfection of priests - is also found in Mesopotamian and Emar  rituals.}



The Torah missed a ‘golden’ opportunity to repudiate discrimination and superstitions regarding females, the blemished and the disabled.  Surely, that is what they must have been for other cultures. Instead the Torah codifies discrimination and superstitions.


Milgrom  - The Anchor Bible Volume 3A Leviticus 2000 by Jacob Milgrom. Regarding Leviticus 21:16 - 24

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Kalam Cosmological proof of God repudiated by Theology

UPDATED THRU 3/23/2016

(Sources unless stated are at bottom of post)

A common formulation of the Argument:

Premise 1) Everything that began to exist has a cause for its existence.

Premise 2) The universe began to exist.


 3) Therefore, the universe had a cause for its existence.

This argument can be refuted or repudiated for logical reasons, scientific reasons and theology.

This post will mainly discuss the theology.

The Kalam is used by some Theologians and Apologetics to ‘prove’ the Bible story of Genesis 1:1,2 is true.

I.E. The Universe was created ex-nihilo, (out of nothing) and by God. 

Here is one translation from the Jewish Publication Society's 1917 edition of the Hebrew Bible in English

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.  

Let see what the Rambam says -

The Guide for the Perplexed by
Moses Maimonides translated from the Original Arabic Text M. Friedlander, Phd Second Edition, Revised Throughout (Eighth Impression)  Second edition published 1904

Page 199 
"We do not reject the Eternity of the Universe, because certain passages in Scripture confirm the Creation ; for such passages are not more numerous than those in which God is represented as a corporeal being ; nor is it impossible or difficult to find for them a suitable interpretation. We might have explained them in the same manner as we did in respect to the Incorporeality of God. We should perhaps have had an easier task in showing that the Scriptural passages referred to are in harmony with the theory of
the Eternity of the Universe if we accepted the latter, than we had in explaining the anthropomorphisms in the Bible when we rejected the idea that God is corporeal."

{ETA 2/16/2014 -2/17/2014  - Rambam 'interprets'  Tenach passages that suggest God's corporeality as not meaning or suggesting God is corporeal.

The Rambam quote is used to show that the Tenach verses regarding creation can be 'interpreted' to mean 'Eternal' if needed. 2) The Rambam quote does not mean the Rambam believes the Universe is Eternal. 3) The Rambam quote in my blog can be deleted without changing one iota of this blog post. 4) In the same chapter of the quote  Rambam has a Plato Eternal and an Aristotle Eternal.  He appears to be saying the former would somehow be compatible with the Tenach, while not the second.


JPS on page 12 has this translation:

1 When God began to create heaven and earth 
2 the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind ...

{JPS also offers an alternate translation 

1 In the beginning God created  heaven and the earth.}

The translation “1 When...” suggests the notion as follows:

On page 13 JPS comments “In the Midrash, Bar Kappara upholds the troubling notion that the Torah shows God created the world out of preexistent material. But other Rabbis worry acknowledging this would cause people to liken God to a king who had built his palace on a garbage dump, thus arrogantly impugning His majesty (Gen Rab 1.5). In the ancient Near East, however, to say a deity had subdued chaos is to give him the highest praise.”

{ETA 7/20/2014 Page 1538 Regarding Job 26:10 "Here as in Gen.1.1-3; Ps  104.6-9; Prov 8.27, creation is described as God's making order out of an already existing chaos, which consisted of a watery abyss."}

{ETA 3/23/2016 From the book Note to the New Translation of the Torah - Harry Orlinsky Editor 1969

Beginning Page 49 Translates  “When God began to create...” Regarding genesis 1-3 The book provides cogent reasons why the verse should not be translated “In the Beginning God created...”, some of which include Rashi’s reasons.  It finally concludes “The Hebrew text tells us nothing about ‘creation out of nothing’ (creation ex nihilo) or about the beginning of time.”}

 World renowned Bible Scholar Friedman translates and explains as follows:

1 In the beginning of god’s creating the skies and the earth
2 When the earth had been shapeless and formless, and darkness was on the face oft he deep...

He says: The Torah’s Hebrew means the earth had already existed in a shapeless condition prior to creation. Based on current  understanding of Biblical Hebrew tenses the “Creation of matter in the Torah is not out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) as many have claimed”.  

{ETA 3/23/2016 Understanding Genesis by Nahum Sarna 1966

He translates Gen 1:1 “ When God began to create the Heaven and Earth..”

Beginning Page 2 Regarding Genesis Creation stories:

“It is obvious” none of the stories are based on human memory, nor are they modern science accounts of the physical world’s origin or nature. The stories are Non Scientific. It is a naive and futile exercise to attempt to reconcile Bible creation stories and modern science.  Any “correspondences” discovered or ingeniously established are nothing more than coincidence.  

The book also provide many points of contact with ancient near east mythology with Genesis creation. stories. Beginning page 39 The  Flood story - The Torah used very ancient traditions adapted for it’s own purpose. }

The Anchor Bible - Genesis E.A, Speiser 1964 translates and explains as follows:

Page 3 

1 When God set about to create heaven and earth
2 the world being then a formless waste, with darkness over the seas....

Page 10 - the bible creation story is closely related to traditional mesopotamian beliefs and it may be safely posited the Babylonians did not take over these views from the Hebrews. He argues  the genesis account goes back to Babylonian prototypes.  

Page 13 Biblical writers repeat Babylonian formulation on sentence one, and Speiser elaborately justifies his translation.
{ UPDATE 2/18/2014 Page 53 Reading the Old Testament - by Barry Bandstra 1995 offers 2 translations of Genesis 1:1-23

Ex-Nihilo Genesis1:1  In the begining Elohim created heaven and earth

Creation from an existing material Genesis 1:1 When Elohim began to create heaven and earth 

Bandstra then says "The second option seems more consistent with the rest of the account and is the one we follow here" }
{Update 2/26/2014 Page 3 in Robert Alter's  book Genesis (1996) his translation of Genesis 1:1-2 as follows

When God began to create heaven and earth , and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep..

So we see Alter's translation follows creation from an existing material, and not ex-nihilo}

{ETA 3/8/2014 From the book Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra's Commentary on the Creation - Translated and annotated by Michael Linetsky 1988 

Genesis 1:1 uses the hebrew word BARA (bet - resh-aleph) typicaly translated as create. On page 4 note 16  Regarding the word BARA  "Ibn Ezra is merely out to show that this word is generally applied to creation from existent material and that there is no evidence in scripture that would show it to mean creation ex-nihilo.";  And on page 4, Genesis1:27 the same word BARA is used in relation to the creation of man, which the Torah teaches was from preexisting matter.}  

{ETA 3/8/2014 And from the book Judaism and the Doctrine of Creation by Norbert Samuelson 1994 on page 137 "Basing himself exclusively on the grammar of the terms within the Hebrew scriptures, Ibn Ezra rejects the claim that "BARA" must mean bringing something into existence out of nothing"}

{ETA 5/30/2014 Ramban interprets Ibn Ezra's opinion as on the first day ONLY LIGHT was created: " the beginning of creation of heaven and dry land there was no habitable place on earth; rather it was unformed and void and covered with water and G-d said, let there be light. According to Abraham Ibn Ezra opinion only light was created on the first day." In contrast Ramban holds there was creation Ex-Nihilo, creation out of nothing. Page 22 Ramban on Genesis by Rabbi Chavel 1999}

{ETA 9/28/2104 Page 42 The Oxford Bible Commentary 2001 "[Genesis] 1:2 refers to the situation before God's creation action began. There is no question here of a creation Ex-Nihilo, 'a creation out of nothing'. The Earth (haares) already existed, but it was a formless void (tohu wabohu) - not a kind of non existence but something empty and formless, without light and covered by the water of the deep (tehom). There are echoes here of Near- Eastern cosmologies." }
{ETA 12/13/2014 The book Jewish Philosophy by Aaron Hughes 2005, writes Gersonidis holds the world was created from a pre-existent and formless body. And from the Book History of Jewish Philosophy Volume II 1997 Editors Frank and Leaman page  363 "Gersonides disagreed with Maimonides claims, both that creation of the world was indemonstrable and that the world was created Ex-Nihilo."and on Page 381 "For Gersonides , one cosmological theory is true - creation out of Eternal matter..." }
ETA 12/27/2014 - Rashi explains Genesis as follows:

The plain meaning is "At the beginning of the Creation of heaven and earth when the earth was without form and void and there was darkness, God said let there be light."

We see Rashi reads translates Genesis like many, (probably most)  modern academic scholars.


Given that the Torah probably means no creation ex-nihilo, the  Kalam argument would actually disprove the Torah.

Theologians and Apologetics seem to be  left with two choices. Repudiate the Kalam. Or argue against all the Bible scholarly evidence for no creation ex-nihilo per the Torah and say the Torah really means creation ex-nihilo. 

There are creation myths from around the world that support creation ex-nihilo or creation from some prior substance and so which ever option the  Torah really meant proves nothing.

Even if we accept the premises, and assume the logic of the Kalam is sound, we can only  infer the universe has a cause, not that god or gods or alien beings are the cause. Nor can we infer the cause is some version of a Judaeo-Islamic-Christian god. The cause may be a monster. Consider life on earth operates on the concept of mutual consumption, and in common parlance the survival of the fittest. Also the earth with all it’s natural disasters and difficult conditions is a very inhospitable and dangerous place for living things.

 The cause may have been a quantum fluctuation or quantum tunneling or some other natural phenomenon.  Perhaps as scientists resolve the science in the very early universe the cause may become apparent.

Related posts are my 

Kalam Cosmological Proof of God - Premises and Conclusion repudiated    6/11/14, includes Laws of nature from God ?

Proof of God from Big Bang  9/8/13

Genesis and the Big Bang  9/10/13 Some discrepancies between Genesis and modern cosmology  and why they are irreconcilable in intellectually honest manner.



Friedman - Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation 2001 by Richard E, Friedman

JPS  - Jewish Study Bible 2004 Berlin and Brettler

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Bible, the Brother, and the Widow

Deuteronomy 25:5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not be married abroad unto one not of his kin; her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother unto her. 6 And it shall be, that the first-born that she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother that is dead, that his name be not blotted out of Israel. 7 And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate unto the elders, and say: 'My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband's brother unto me.' 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him; and if he stand, and say: 'I like not to take her'; 9 then shall his brother's wife draw nigh unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face; and she shall answer and say: 'So shall it be done unto the man that doth not build up his brother's house.' 10 And his name shall be called in Israel the house of him that had his shoe loosed. 

It seems the living brother is shamed in the community if he resists this obligation. The living brother is thus encouraged to add an additional wife or marry for the first time his deceased brother's wife.  Some men would welcome the opportunity while others would resent it.

In some instances it is possible such an institution may be beneficial to the widow, for example if she unable to support herself, yet that does not seem the primary motivation of the law - see verse 6. Also see verse 5, she is  not free remarry anybody she chooses, since she is prohibited from marrying outside her husbands kin, even an outside wealthy man.

See : Marriage with a brother's widow. This custom is found among a large number of primitive peoples, a list of which is given by Westermarck ("History of Human Marriage," pp. 510-514). In some cases it is the duty of a man to marry his brother's widow even if she has had children by the deceased, but in most cases it occurs when there are no children, as among the Hindus ("Institutes of Manu," v. 59-63).)]. 

JPS page 422 states Biblical, Near Eastern and Roman inheritance law assigned special responsibilities to the husband's brother - to continue the deceased line of the childless widow.

Are we to understand this law is handed down from God at Mount Sinai ?

It seems much more probable that levirate laws were extant or developed among the ancient Israelites and then ascribed to divine authority.


JPS  - Jewish Study Bible 2004 Berlin and Brettler

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Bible, The Husband, and The Virgin

Updated 2/10/2014

Deuteronomy22:13 If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, 14 and lay wanton charges against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say: 'I took this woman, and when I came nigh to her, I found not in her the tokens of virginity'; 15 then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate. 16 And the damsel's father shall say unto the elders: 'I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; 17 and, lo, he hath laid wanton charges, saying: I found not in thy daughter the tokens of virginity; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity.' And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city. 18 And the elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him. 19 And they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel; and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days. {S} 20 But if this thing be true, that the tokens of virginity were not found in the damsel; 21 then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die; because she hath wrought a wanton deed in Israel, to play the harlot in her father's house; so shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee.

The Torah commentator Rashi explains - 'and they shall spread the garment' -  This is a figurative expression, meaning: they shall clarify the matter as [“clear”] as a [new] garment, [Sifrei 22:92, Kethubah 46a]

The Torah commentator  Ramban (Nachmanides - Deuteronomy - Translated by Rabbi Chavel 1974-1976  page 274) says Rashi is wrong. It means literally examine the cloth as it was a custom in former times in Israel. He cites Kethuboth 10a - bring me the sudar (cloth) and Kethubah 46a.


From Kethuboth 10a "Some one came before Rabban Gamaliel the 
son of Rabbi [and] said to him, 'My master, I 
have had intercourse [with my newly-wedded 
wife] and I have not found any blood.' She 
[the wife] said to him, 'My master, I was a 
virgin.' He said to them: Bring me that 
cloth. They brought him the cloth, and he 
soaked it in water and he washed it and he 
found on it a good many drops of blood. 
[Thereupon] he [Rabban Gamaliel] said to 
him [the husband]: Go, be happy with thy 

From Kethuboth 46a "..according to the Rabbis what [could be the 
sense of the instruction,] And they shall 
spread the garment? — R. Abbahu replied: 
They explain [the charge] which he 
submitted against her; as it was taught: 
'And they shall spread the garment' teaches 
that the witnesses of the one party and those 
of the other party come, and the matter is 
made as clear as a new garment. R. Eliezer b. 
Jacob said: The words are to be taken in 
their literal sense: [They must produce] the 
actual garment."


So some Rabbis took the Torah text more literally, others less so. It seems clear that by the time of the Talmud codification the so called ‘unbroken’ oral tradition  was ‘broken’, (and not just for this issue.)

Friedman -  the garment of the wedding night or the cloth under the couple as virginity evidence.

JPS-JT - bedding garment or bridal garment.

Sex and the Bible 1983 by Gerald Larue page 66. "The writers of the bible lay great emphasis upon the importance of virginity in women, no such emphasis is laid on virginity in males". "So important was the unbroken hymen the parents of the bride saved the blood stained sheets from the daughters wedding night as proof of her nuptial virginity". 

JPS page 416 - "There was little conception of the women as a free agent, either in legal or sexual terms."  So it was in the Ancient Near East and the Torah.  An examination of the cloth which the husband and wife consummated the relationship. "There is scant medical support for the underlying assumptions: that intercourse would cause the first perforation of the hymen and that such perforation would cause bleeding upon the bedding, which is here held up in public display as legal evidence". 


What if a women marries a man and the man is adulterous with an unmarried women, is he punished  ? No. see my post on Suspected Adultery   

What if a women marries a man and the man is not a virgin, is he punished  ? No. See Larue for example. 

There are instances in the Talmud where the Rabbis note that there are causes (for example famine and others)  for non virginity other than sex. 


JPS - Jewish Study Bible 2004 Berlin and Brettler

JPS-JT The Jewish Publication Society Torah Commentary Jeffrey H. Tigay 1996

Friedman - Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation 2001 by Richard E, Friedman