Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Parshat Kedoshim, (Leviticus 19:15-19:22), 4/14/14

My friend commented on my last post, “lots of laws.” And so I started thinking about all the laws we have, and then I started thinking about all the harm that is done even with the laws that we do have. Could we do without laws? Sometimes Judaism doesn't seem like a religion. Rather, it is just a bunch of laws so that we conduct ourselves well. What is the religious part? Where is that in the Torah?

These laws are justified because they came from G_d. It is not that they are not good laws, but I feel uneasy following something just because they were told to Moses by a voice. How do we know that Moses didn't just make this stuff himself?

Here are the laws in this parshah:
  1. You should not be a corrupt judge. I keep thinking that things are brought up because the Jews had experienced a corrupt world.
  2. You shall not favor a poor person or a rich person. How often I do this. Probably a lot. And it is clever how it just doesn't say that you should't not just favor a rich person. 
  3. Judge your fellow favorably (give her the benefit of the doubt).
  4. Don't gossip.
  5. Don't stand by while someone is being hurt.
  6. Don't hate your brother.
  7. Don't embarrass someone in public. If you have something critical to say, say it in private.
  8. Don't take the blame for something that you didn't do (to help someone else out).
  9. Don't take revenge or bear a grudge.
  10. Love your neighbor as yourself.
  11. Don't crossbreed livestock, mix seeds, or make a garment a mixture of wool and linen.
  12. If you make love to a woman who is not emancipated then you shouldn't be liable to the death penalty, but he should bring a guilt offering. (This seems a little odd to be here. It doesn't fit with the others). 
I can see that a society will function better following these “laws.” But the added benefit will be to the individual. Imagine how tall the person could walk. But it would be hard not to adopt a “holier than thou” attitude.
According to this view, the key to getting lots of strangers to work together is not to create an endless stream of new laws or institutions but to create a set of shared values. Laws are something you merely obey. Values are something you feel. Once internalized, values function just like other forms of hot cognition – fast, automatic, unconscious, wu-wei. Looked at this way, we can begin to see how the paradox of wu-wei emerges as a kind of natural consequence of our transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers and city dwellers.—From Edward Slingerland, Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity
As suggested by Slingerland, when we obey these laws as values, we are becoming a different and better person rather than a robot or a good soldier.


  1. I am partial to shirts and pants with a mix of cotton and dacron. H.

  2. Yes and... if we followed all the laws of the Torah we'd be in big trouble. All the sacrifices have been replaced with the reading of the Torah.


Thanks for commenting. One cannot study the Torah alone.