Emor is an explosive portion. Within these four chapters commandments and prohibitions for or against everything from grooming, honor killing, mixed marriages, who to eat with, and what to do with a rabble rousing blasphemer are laid out. True, Emor’s target audience is the priestly cast and their families but the role of public opinion is modeled here and yet this week’s portion ends with restitution being paid in a suitable way by societal standards. Does this mean being Torah observant today prohibits daughter burning and blasphemer stoning? The answer to that is an unequivocal YES!
In this modern age we do not live in a tribal nomadic society drawn from ethno-religious lines. Jews can be found living just about everywhere in the world and our racial features are literally across the board. While we are all Jews our Jewish stories vary widely but this was not the case thousands of years ago. For example, if I were to be in an accident caused by another which resulted in the lose of an eye I do not want that person’s eye I would rather have my medical bills and any special needs taken care of financially. Because of the place and time an ancient Hebrew in the same situation was not in a position where monetary retribution for pain and medical treatment could easily happen.
Retribution is about making wrongs right not feeding a craving for vengeance.
While reading this week’s portion I’m reminded of something that happened to a very close friend of mine, we will call him H. In our hometown there was a punk infused heavy metal band associated with a large Born-Againer Christian Church. The metal fans in the area really weren’t into their style of metal and the local punks weren’t into their style of hardcore, this meant there fan base were only fellow congregants.
H gets invited to a birthday party where this band is booked to play, now H is not a Christian nor is he extremely religious he’s a mild mannered tattoo artist who finds solace chanting the Maha Mantra at the local Hare Khrisna farm. He shows up at this kid’s house and the place is full of people from this church, from small kids all the way to middle aged adults. As he told me this story he pointed out how uncomfortable he felt from basically being eye ball judged because of his heavily tattooed appearance.
As the band plays the chorus to one of their songs the word restitution is screamed in regards to J.C.’s crucifixion this causes something inside H’s head to snap and he reacts. As the chorus nears a second time H runs towards the make shift stage parting the sea of people in half, reaching out he grabs the mic, places his mouth over it and as clear as the moon on a cloudless summer night yells PROSTITUTION! Needless to say if looks could kill. . . kill they would have.
As an opened minded Jew I found H’s proclamation hilarious and while not blasphemous towards Judaism it is towards Christianity. Despite being in an enclave of the “saved” no one had a right to stone or burn H. In our society we can afford disinters because we are not nomadic, our resources are stable, and because of education it is harder for a rabble rouser to seriously challenge the moral and religious belief system that makes and keeps us Jewish.
In what other ways has the passing of time changed societies views on restitution? Leave a comment below or send me a message.
Jeremiah@punktorah.org Twitter: @circlepitbimah