The piece "Why can't I own a canadian" has been going arround the internet a lot lately, basically arguing (through humor and sarcasm) that the Torah contains many things that should not be accepted and therefore the rules regarding homosexuality should also be ignored. While I have no objection to homosexuality, I do object to beating up on the Torah, especially when many of the points are bogus. Anyone looking for detailed analysis on homosexuality should look elsewhere -- it shouldn't be hard to find entire boks, complete with citations in holy works, modern data and coherent analysis.
Meanwhile, here are my answers to the 'questions' posed in this piece. I've re-ordered it slightly to put related points together. I'm sure someone who knows more than I do could add to this, but it should do for a start.
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:
When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
What are you thinking? you shall only offer sacrifices at the place the Lord chose
[Deut 12:5]. We don't know all the factors that went into that decision (or any divine choice), but airflow and neighbors probably factored in. In any case, since The Lord allowed the Romans to destroy that place, we cannot offer sacrifices until a new one is pointed out (though some argue that with the fall of Jerusalem the site reverted to its previous location at Shiloh, and have organized regular sacrifices there -- a reasonable distance from people who will dislike the smell).
Now that you recognize the problem, your immediate concern should be your neighbors, whom you presumably love as yourself. Remember, transgressions directly against The Holy One are always forgiven, but to be forgiven for transgressions against another human being, you must first make peace with that human being. May I suggest an apology-gift of several dozen perfectly-barbecued steaks? I bet you're having trouble eating the entire animal in three days anyway.
Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
First, remember that altar in this context means sacrificial altar. As discussed in my previous answer, this shouldn't be an issue yet.
However, planning ahead is always acceptable, so should the temple be rebuilt in your lifetime, and you be a male-line descendant of Aaron (and able to prove it) and you meet all the other requirements, then the exact meaning of t'valul (the word used) becomes important. It derives from the root "to mix", and Rashi holds that it refers to a condition in which the iris and white of the eye intermix, such as white streeks through the iris. So your nearsightedness would probably be ok, but check with the high-priest to be sure.
I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
I fear I cannot find a citation for this, but as I recall, you may not sell her to foreigners, but only at a market governed by the full halakhik rules regarding the protection of slaves (including sabbath, jubilee freedom, and exemption from sexual duties). Since the last such market shut down thousands of years ago, there is no market price.
I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
That's really their issue and you'll just have to trust them to take care of it. Certainly asking (much less investigating) goes contrary to the principles of human dignity, which are recognized by almost all major biblical interpreters as taking precedence over matter of ritual purity. If this isn't enough for you, simply observe shomer negiah
, and you'll be fine. You should also remember that the corrective action if you discover that you have become unclean this way is to bathe and was your clothes, so you might get in the habit of doing that regularly just in case. Your neighbors might appreciate it too.
Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
Presumably because they aren't for sale. Remember that you may have them if you purchase them legally, and even so they are protected by all the biblical protections on slaves, including jubilee freedom.
Incidentally, I was not aware that Mexicans were selling themselves into slavery. Remember that it is an indebted person's option to sell himself to settle the debt, not his obligation.
A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?
Sadly, I cannot. The same word to'evah
(abomination) is used in Lev 11:10 to refer to anal intercourse between men (not to all homosexuality -- see Rashi on this, I don't want to reproduce his arguments) and in Deut 14:3 to refer to things that shall not be eaten. However, immediately after this commandment, Deuteronomy lists the things which may not be eaten (including shellfish) and describes each as tameh
(unclean), which is generally understood to be less severe than to'evah
. It's not clear whether the act of eating anything which is itself unclean is an abomination or if certain unclean things are also abominal.
I hope the lack of an answer isn't too devastating for you. Should you ever be forced to chose between homosexual anal intercourse and eating shellfish, with no way out of it (and I do not think this likely) consider the perspective of the other man involved in the intercourse and let that be your deciding factor (as it will almost certainly involve more important principles).
I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
Gloves aren't really an adequate protection here, as football is a chaotic game and you never know what body part may come in contact with what. Furthermore, gloves are not guaranteed to stay on when you are tackled. Playing with a synthetic ball (and most are), is an acceptable solution.
As to the more general issue, most interpreters hold that the ban on touching carcasses only holds when there is a special need for purity, such as by cohenim or on holy days. I can't fully trace their logic (I gave up after the third level of citations), but there is the simple fact that if a pig (or, more likely, a horse or camel) should wander into the village and die, somebody had better remove it. This probably doesn't help you, since you've indicated (by your intention to make burnt offerings) that you are a cohen. That honored position has its personal sacrifices, and perhaps football with real pigskin is one of them.
I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
Lay off the bloodlust! It is not the death of sinners G-d seeks but that they turn from their ways and live!(Ezek 33:11)
In any case, there are plenty of restrictions on execution. There's to be a fair trial, including an opportunity to defend himself and present mitigating circumstances. There must be two eye-witnesses, who are so confident they are willing to lead the execution themselves. A variety of other circumstances must be met. The talmud states that any court which hands down multiple death sentences in a 70 year period is excessively bloodthirsty. (Christians may ask why they should pay attention to the talmud here. They should recognize that even if it is not holy to them, it is still the accumulated wisdom of generations who actually practiced everything in the Torah.)
Also, remember that the Torah is not a universal set of commandments. The entire purity code is a matter of being a holy people, and is not required to be accounted righteous. Even in the days of Moses and Joshua, there were outsiders who were not asked to uphold these codes. The Edomites, for example, routinely ate unclean animals, ignored the sabbath and engaged in homosexuality, and yet the commandment is explicit "do not abhor the Edomite" (Deut23:8).
As a general rule, when in doubt about the Torah's view on something, remember rabbi Hillel's famous summary: "What is hateful to you, do not do to another person. The rest is commentary, go and learn it." I'm sure you'd hate to be stoned to death, but the second part is important too. Go and learn it. If you wish to argue against the Torah, learn it first so that you can argue against it, and not a straw-man (and, in the process, give it a fair chance and see if maybe you don't oppose it as much as you thought you did). If you wish to follow it, learn it so you can do so correctly. And if you wish to demand that others follow it, and your mistakes will effect not just yourself but millions, then you'd better learn it, and thoroughly. Go now.