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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.

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

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