Dvar Torah Acharei-Kedoshim: Putting Abominations Back into Perspective

Linda Malcor has both a Master’s and a PhD in folklore and mythology, which seems fitting, seeing how easily her surname could have come straight from Harry Potter.

In 2000, Malcor self-published this article online about homosexuality, outlining her opinion of biblical references to abomination as a discussion with (the perhaps proverbial) Mr. Literal, who “insisted in the literal truth of every word in the Bible and was adamant that we cannot choose which laws we will or will not observe…[t]he Bible was the Word of God.”  Malcor makes some really good observations — and I mean that sincerely — but they just don’t hold up when arguing with the Torah observant Jew in 2012 (or even in 2000, when this piece was penned).

Malcor points to this week’s parsha for primary sourcing:”You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman — it is an abomination (to’eiva).” (Leviticus 18:22)

“A man who lies with a man as one lies with a woman — they have both done an abomination (to’eiva).  They shall be put to death — their blood be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13)

To begin, Malcor decries Mr. Literal for picking and choosing which bans on abominations he will consider and which he will ignore, making a particular point about Leviticus 20:13 — apparently, it seems, Malcor doesn’t take Mr. Literal seriously because she foresees that his type is unwilling to execute the homosexual, called for by Leviticus 20:13.  From a Jewish perspective, though, it’s pretty well established that we no longer function in the judicial capacity necessary to carry out corporeal punishments, making this a contrived argument.  In the same way that Malcor wouldn’t expect Mr. Literal to assassinate the murderer or the adulterer, she shouldn’t consider him to be shirking his duties when he merely balks at the homosexual but does not hunt him down.  And if Malcor would ask the observant Jew to be consistent with Leviticus 20:13, he would — homosexual activity, according to the Torah, is deserving of death, like it or not.

Malcor counts abomination 65 times in the Old Testament — for the purposes of this post, let’s just say we’re not interested in what the New Testament has to say about this.  She then mocks Mr. Literal for being inconsistent — and I can’t really understand what she’s saying here, because from her bio, it appears as though she’s an elder and a deacon in the Presbyterian Church and a “Shalom Commission” member of Gay and Lesbians Relations for her church, and I can’t imagine that reading through all the Wikipedia articles on any of these topics can really give me enough clarity for me to perceive the subtleties and nuances with which her particular flavor of Christianity views homosexuality.  But suffice it to say that her’s is a positive attitude and that she does not take the Old Testament at is word (for whatever reason) while Torah Judaism does not take a strong stance on homosexuality, just like it does on adultery and Shabbos.  So while Brad Pitt may have no problem promising Jennifer Aniston that they’ll care for each other for as long as they both shall live and then, while still married to her, engage in an intimate relationship with Angelina Jolie (and the same for these leading ladies), that’s generally not how Torah-observant Jews operate.  Sure, there are exceptions but they speak of the flawed (or hypocritical) nature of people (who happen to be Jewish) and not of the hypocritical nature of Judaism itself.  So while Malcor takes a swipe at all those who cheat on their spouses but point fingers at homosexuals and say, “You’re going to Hell!”, that argument doesn’t hold water against the Torah-observant Jew.

Malcor then takes a lighter tone but maintains her thoughtful and pointed attack on all those who enjoy clam chowder but complain about homosexuality — and it’s a good point, l’shitasa (from her perspective), but again, it doesn’t fit for the Jews who refrain from consuming all of the creatures listed as being abominable.

She quotes Genesis 43:32 and 46:34 for their uses of the term to’eiva and to’eivas, respectively, but as livestock-worshiping idolators, that’s how the Jews would have been seen in the eyes of the Egyptians — I don’t really see what she’s trying to say here.  She quotes Proverbs, but that’s not the Torah.  Sure it’s insightful, but like Psalms, Proverbs is not a book from which we derive any direct insights into how we’re supposed to relate to God because God didn’t compose the book; it’s held in high regard and King Solomon (and any other co-authors) might be speaking from their prophetic lips here, but Malcor seems to be suggesting that there be a hekeish (comparative tie-in) made between the use of the word to’eiva in Proverbs and, again, I just don’t see her point other than just remarking that the same word is used.

Then, l’shitasa, we get to the real kicker — dietary laws.  Again, I can’t really speak about her take on this because, as a Jew, I’m an outsider to her faith.  I don’t know what she maintains as truth and what she maintains as significant.  All I can say about this is that she seems to mock Mr. Literal for not being nearly as careful about “swarming creatures in the water” (Leviticus 11:10) and eating nosar and/or piggul (Leviticus 19:6-7) doesn’t even make use of the term to’eiva, which sort of reveals the inadequacy of her argument, I thought.  I mean, at least get the words right, lady — now I have to count them all myself to see how many more she miscalculated by.  And then there’s pork and ham and bacon, which she’s assuming Mr. Literal enjoys for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  What does she say to the Mr. Literal who actually maintains a ban on all abominable things?

Then there’s her section on idolatry, on which the Torah observant Jew also maintains a strict ban, and the metaphorical usage of the term in Proverbs also makes a lot of sense, as do the bans on adultery and machzor grushaso (halachic wife swapping ala Deuteronomy 24:1-4).  Her 3rd citation there, however, from Leviticus 7:21 doesn’t actually contain the word to’eiva.

The reference to fair trade in Deuteronomy 25:13-16 fits in very nicely with how the Torah seems to be consistently defining to’eiva — things that deviate from how the Torah perceives things should proceed are seen as objectionable and abominable.  So you may disagree with the Torah and permission is granted (Avos 3:19) — but if you’re interested in following the Torah, that’s what it says.

Then she quotes bans on gender-bender attire (Deuteronomy 22:5) and esnan zona and m’chir kelev (hmm…let’s call them “funds of ill-repute, Deuteronomy 23:18) which she presumes Mr. Literal pays no attention to, but to which Torah Judaism maintains strict adherence.  Then there’s a whole list of references from Nach which we’ll skip because they’re largely irrelevant for our matters here.

She concludes that no one pays attention to any of the bans except for homosexuality, even though the term to’eiva appears by all — funny, though, how we caught her at least twice when her citation doesn’t use that word in the original Hebrew (Leviticus 7:21 and 19:6-7).   And she concludes quite abruptly there with a very tedious chart comparing translations from 6 different English versions of the Old Testament — none of which has any bearing on the issue at hand, for if we consider for just a moment the Mr. Literal who’s actually sincere about things, her argument amounts to much about nothing.

So maybe she’s a big dope — I don’t know.  What type of person gets a PhD in folklore and mythology?  I can’t say.  Or maybe she’s very intelligent but just doesn’t think straight.  Or maybe she’s actually quite astute and this was just some silly thing she wrote up and didn’t mean for it to be dissected and evaluated point-by-point.  Either way, she does make reference to Jews directly once in the article, questioning if there are any Christian, or Jewish, for that matter, congregations that slaughter animals on an alter — but again, she doesn’t really have a point.

So perhaps this is a very good argument against those who inconsistently apply the Old Testament to their daily lives.  But to Torah observant Jews, this write-up doesn’t really express any meaningful content.

So what are we to do with the homosexuals?  Well, perhaps that’s presumptuous — what are we to do with the cross dressers, Shabbos violators and the adulterers?  One’s an abomination, one’s deserving of death and the third is both?  Well, frankly, we do nothing.  We don’t flog them and we don’t kill them.

Apparently, there’s a contingent of otherwise Torah observant Jews who practice homosexuality and there’s an even larger contingent of those who practice nothing because of the ban instituted in 1312 BCE at Sinai and its environs.  I don’t know what to say on the issue because I can’t imagine that something ought to be said on the issue.  People are who they are and feel what they feel and the Torah makes demands and if one is inclined to adhere to such rules they will.  I just thought it’s interesting to point out that what Mrs. Malcor thought was a piece worth writing to Mr. Literal is necessarily directed at the non-Torah observant position, which can be taken to task for being consistent to that end.

Have a good Shabbos!

 

For more on esnan zona and m’chir kelev, please see 4torah.com.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Yochana

    Torah observant Jews are not the target of the article, but rather Christian fundamentalists who don’t consider the “old testament” binding in any way unless it’s banning something they disagree with. Or do you know a lot of Torah observant Christians?

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:DRosenbach DRosenbach

      I think we can all agree on that Malcor wrote this for fellow Christians, much like what I write is for fellow Jews. But she does mention Jews in her off-the-cuff comment, which makes me wonder about her attempts to generalize her opinion to where it’s obviously not pertinent.

  • danielGA

    you did a pretty good job of gutting this woman’s argument, but considering she didn’t even direct it at jews, i honestly don’t see the point. she’s directing it at conservative christians, who unlike orthodox jews, pick and choose what they like and what they don’t in the bible, and chastise anyone else who picks differently than they do. for example, they proudly eat pork, many have a reputation for telling particularly nasty rumours about fellow congregants, refuse to “give alms” to the poor based on “laziness”, etc., but if someone points out to them that their behaviour is explicitly banned by the torah, they just get mad at you.

    but i don’t see the point here, you might as well be picking apart an argument directed towards republicans about how ronald reagan initially supported higher taxes, it just doesn’t relate to the subject at hand, it’s a non-sequitur.

    although, if the point of the article was to show how christianity is notoriously inconsistent and judaism is consistent, i might be able to see the point, however i would argue that judaism has its fair share of inconsistencies as well, such as the noachide code on torturing animals directly contradicting the machzor where a goat is tied to a tree and then thrown off a cliff, splitting it apart brutally.

    of course if you view the torah as written by G-d, then clearly the machzor is in the wrong because it’s “not a book from which we derive any direct insights into how we’re supposed to relate to God because God didn’t compose the book”.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:DRosenbach DRosenbach

      Well, it was as soon as I saw here reference to Jewish people and their alter slaughter that I chose to write about Malcor’s article. In her haste to condemn the Christian she failed to recognize Judaism’s consistency.

      And I don’t think the goat of Azazel is a contradiction at all — unlike Christianity, Judaism is established on a fairly rigorous system of textual derivation and talmudical hermeneutics and even implicit directives that contradict otherwise forbidden activities trump what would otherwise be considered inconceivable, let alone explicit ones.

      Or perhaps I’m misunderstanding your goat-cliff example…what ‘machzor’ are you referring to?

  • anon

    ok liberal Jews gay not ok

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:DRosenbach DRosenbach

      It’s not even OK for them.

  • Anonymous

    Can’t you just write a d’var torah? Honestly, i realize this person offended you or whatever so you felt the need to “respond” but we don’t care. You bring up the point that this week’s parsha discusses the gay issue. Then give over something about that! Not a response to an article no one read about a shiksa no one cares about!

    BOO URNS!

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:DRosenbach DRosenbach

      This person doesn’t offend me. Her article was meant to, as she put it, but abominations into perspective but what she really did was take it out of perspective. I thought it would be interesting to actually put it where she wanted it to be.

  • Anonymous

    I am very familiar with Linda Malcor and her work in folklore (focused on deriving the legend of King Arthur from Sarmatian folklore among other things). She specializes in making arguments which are soundly and universally rejected by everyone in the field and then picking up her marbles and going home when she can’t convince anyone. Frankly I was gobsmacked to see her turning up here on Frumsatire.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:DRosenbach DRosenbach

      How does it feel to be gobsmacked?

  • Catholic Mom

    The woman is an idiot and a liberal Presbyterian. But I repeat myself.

    Honestly, does she think the Christian world has not figured out HOW TO READ/RECONCILE THE OT with Christian practice in the 2,000 freakin’ years they’ve had to do it? So she sits there and makes up some kind of chart to try to figure it out herself? And from this she concludes that forbidding homosexuality is pretty much like forbidding clam chowder so if you tell people not to engage in homosexual behavior on the basis of Leviticus then you should also tell them not to eat clam chowder? I mean — we’re all just randomly choosing which parts of the OT to listen to, so pick the parts you like and ignore the rest? Because even the fundamentalists do it?

    Read like ONE BOOK on the subject. Make it easier on yourself – read ONE WIKIPEDIA article. Gosh– is it just a complete random accident that Christians eat shellfish and don’t care how many different kinds of fabrics are in one garment but they *d0* care about sexual behavior? I mean, they just went “eeney meeney miney mo” and picked out which verses from the OT were going to be important and which weren’t?? Or — her point of course — they just don’t LIKE homosexuals whereas clam chowder is delicious? (New England style, of course, “Manhattan” clam chowder should be outlawed in every religion.)

    It is not worth wasting electrons refuting her nonsense because you can’t argue with a person who doesn’t know the first thing about a subject.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:DRosenbach DRosenbach

      1) The Jews don’t pick the parts we like and ignore the rest or were we not included in your fundamentalist category?

      2) I was unaware that she is, as you say, an idiot — that wasn’t in either her blog bio or her Wikipedia article.

      • Catholic Mom

        From Wikipedia, the font of all human knowledge:

        “Fundamentalism as a movement arose in the United States, starting among conservative Presbyterian theologians at Princeton Theological Seminary in the late 19th century. It soon spread to conservatives among the Baptists and other denominations around 1910-1920. The movement’s purpose was to reaffirm key theological tenets [the "fundamentals" of Christian belief] and defend them against the challenges of liberal theology.”

        Obviously, by this definition, Jews are not “fundamentalists.” Yet one of the “fundamentals” defined by this movement is the “inerrancy” of both the OT and NT. [I should say that Catholics hold the Bible to be "inerrant" but in a way which is more sophisticated than the fundamentalists do -- or, they would say, which involves more sophistry.]

        Orthodox Jews are certainly “inerrantists.” Both Orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Christians, however, have a way of understanding the OT which does not require them to believe that they are bound in the present by every instruction in the OT. Of course Christians and Jews differ in the theological bases by which they determine which laws are binding today, but the point is that they don’t just flip open the book and run their finger down the text going “like, like like, HATE, like like” etc.

        BTW, this woman could have made a much better and mercifully shorter argument by pointing out that all Christians DO believe that they are bound by every word of the NT. And one of the “words” which is directly from the mouth of Jesus and not St. Paul is “he who puts away his wife and takes another commits adultery.” Yet all the Protestants now allow divorce. (“Really sad and all that but things happen in life yada yada”) So a much better point would be “why do fundamentalists now allow divorce which Jesus forbade but forbid homosexuality about which the only NT comment comes from St. Paul?” But that would make liberals too nervous about their own behavior. So they much prefer what has become unversally known as the “shellfish argument.” This woman is just deluded in thinking that she’s the first person to come up with it.

      • Anonymous

        Let’s just say that when Linda Malcor opens her mouth, all the respected scholars in the field say Oy Vey.

    • http://beismedrash.blogspot.com Lex Luthor

      Honestly, does she think the Christian world has not figured out HOW TO READ/RECONCILE THE OT with Christian practice in the 2,000 freakin’ years they’ve had to do it?

      I agree with this point, very much.

      • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:DRosenbach DRosenbach

        It’s not difficult to reconcile anything with the Old Testament when one of your options is to say that any particular thing in the Old Testament no longer apply.

        • Catholic Mom

          But they’re not RANDOMLY saying this! It’s the whole point of Christianity which appears to be a big surprise to her!

          Christians divide the “history of salvation” — that is, the history of God’s relationship to man – into different historical periods. So there is the period between Adam and Noah, the period between Noah and Moses, the period between Moses and Jesus, the period between Jesus’ death and his “coming again,” etc. It’s really not worth going over all this, but suffice it to say that each period has a different character in the sense that in each period God increasingly reveals himself to man and enhances the basic framework of the relationship.

          In the 60 second version — in the Mosaic period his revelation is exclusively to the Jews and is based on the covenant of law and “chosen-ness” between God and the Jews. The “new” covenant which begins with Jesus is universal and is not based on a “quid pro quo” (if you will) relationship, but on a “parental” relationship of unqualified love. Therefore, there is no set of “laws” which God requires man (even the Jews) to follow in order to be “his people.” For that was the legalistic relationship between hired servant and master, but now we have the unqualified relationship of father to children.

          However, God wants man to be spiritually perfect, to become like God in spiritual perfection (notwithstanding that that is impossible this side of the grave). That was, of course, his purpose in putting Adam and Eve into Eden and it is to that perfect state that he wants man to return. All moral instruction in the OT is therefore of great value and importance for this purupose. Eating clam chowder is not considered to be a moral/spiritual issue. Sexual immorality is.

          This is way more than anybody here want to know, but the point is, the Christians don’t just randomly paw through the OT picking out their favorite verses. There is a highly developed theology behind it. The problem with liberals is not that they refute orthodox teaching — the problem with most of them is that they’ve never heard of it. This causes them to sound like idiots every time they open their mouths.

          • Catholic Mom

            Sorry — I should have said: Adam to Noah, Noah to Abraham, Abraham to Moses. Anyway, everybody knows Catholics don’t actually read the Bible. We just accept whatever our leaders say it says. :)

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