Torah Portion

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Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Isaiah 54:1–10

A Woman Who Seizes a Man’s Testicles During a Fight, Her Hand Is Cut Off

A Woman Who Seizes a Man’s Testicles During a Fight, Her Hand Is Cut Off

A wife who intervenes in a fight to save her husband by grabbing his opponent’s testicles is punished by having her hand cut off (Deut 25:11–12). What is the nature of her offense? Why isn’t her intent to save her husband a mitigating factor? What is the relationship between the punishment and the crime?

Dr.
Hilary Lipka
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Marrying a Beautiful Captive Woman

Marrying a Beautiful Captive Woman

If an Israelite wishes to marry a woman taken captive in war, she becomes part of the Israelite polity and is protected from future re-enslavement. Uncomfortable with the Torah’s permitting this marriage, the rabbis declare it to be a compromise to man’s “evil impulse,” an idea reminiscent of Jesus’ claim that the Torah allows divorce as a compromise to humanity’s “hard heart.”

Prof. Rabbi
Shaye J. D. Cohen
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Dr. Rabbi
Zev Farber
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A Corpse Left Hanging Overnight Is a “Cursing of God”

A Corpse Left Hanging Overnight Is a “Cursing of God”

The body of an executed criminal is hanged but must be buried on the same day, כִּי קִלְלַת אֱלֹהִים תָּלוּי, “because a hanged body is a cursing of God” (Deut 21:23). What does this phrase mean?

Prof. Rabbi
Marty Lockshin
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Do Biblical Laws Reflect a Tribal Society?

Do Biblical Laws Reflect a Tribal Society?

Was Israel ever a tribal society? Although some scholars accept the Bible’s depiction of Israel’s pre-monarchic society as a confederation of tribes, others have dismissed this as ahistorical. Can a study of biblical law help us resolve this question?

Prof.
Rami Arav
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Remarrying Your Ex-Wife

Remarrying Your Ex-Wife

Why can’t a man remarry his wife once she has been married to someone else?

Dr.
Eve Levavi Feinstein
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The Law of the Disrespectful Son and Daughter

The Law of the Disrespectful Son and Daughter

The law of the ben sorer umoreh poses a number of problems. Like the rabbis, Josephus interprets the law, but his conclusions are quite different.

Prof.
Michael Avioz
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Keeping Excrement out of God's Presence

Keeping Excrement out of God's Presence

The Torah requires all Israelite soldiers to carry a shovel with them for covering their feces, outside the war camp, because God is in the camp. Jewish interpreters have grappled with the meaning of this law: the Qumranites and Karaites assume feces must be impure, the rabbis extend the law to prayer and Torah study, and some medievalist interpreted the law homiletically, as a goad towards maintaining human decency at all times, even during war.

Prof.
Alan Cooper
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What Is Wrong with Charging Interest?

What Is Wrong with Charging Interest?

The Torah prohibits lending to poor people with interest. Why did Jewish law include business loans and how did this effect the law’s original purpose?

Prof.
Michael L. Satlow
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Gleanings for the Poor – Justice, Not Charity

Gleanings for the Poor – Justice, Not Charity

The agricultural allocations for the poor outlined in Leviticus and Deuteronomy are a series of negative commandments, in which God forbids Israelite householders from gathering some of their produce and requires them to leave it for the poor. The rabbis took these laws a step further, granting the poor property rights over the allocations even before they are gathered.

Dr.
Gregg E. Gardner
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The Priestly Repudiation of Yibbum

The Priestly Repudiation of Yibbum

Deuteronomy commands a man to marry the childless widow of his brother (yibbum). And yet, a close look at the Priestly text of the Torah shows that it did not have the option of yibbum.

Dr. Hacham
Isaac S. D. Sassoon
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Does the Birthright Law Apply to Reuben? What about Ishmael?

Does the Birthright Law Apply to Reuben? What about Ishmael?

Deuteronomy 21:15-17 requires a man with two wives to recognize the birthright of his firstborn son, even if his mother is the less favored wife. This law is intertextually linked to Jacob’s giving Reuben’s firstborn rights to Joseph in Genesis, but it can also be read as a response to Abraham’s disinheriting Ishmael in favor of his younger son, Isaac.

Dr.
Kristine Henriksen Garroway
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The Prohibition of Joining the Assembly of the Lord

The Prohibition of Joining the Assembly of the Lord

Deuteronomy prohibits certain groups from “enter[ing] the assembly of YHWH,” לא יבואו בקהל י-הוה, which likely reflects a ban on citizenship. Nevertheless, the oldest and most commonly known explanation for the term is as a prohibition against marriage, an interpretation already found in Kings and Ezra-Nehemiah.

Dr.
David Glatt-Gilad
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What Does Deuteronomy Say about Homosexuality?

What Does Deuteronomy Say about Homosexuality?

“Let there be no kadesh among the sons of Israel. You shall not bring the fee of a harlot or the pay of a kelev (dog?) into the house of YHWH” (Deut 23:18-19).

Dr. Hacham
Isaac S. D. Sassoon
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When Is a Man Allowed to Divorce his Wife?

When Is a Man Allowed to Divorce his Wife?

Deuteronomy’s description of the circumstances of divorce is ambiguous. Thus, the Mishnah (m. Gittin 9:10) records three different opinions on when a man is allowed to divorce his wife. What can we infer from the biblical text?

Dr.
Eve Levavi Feinstein
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Marrying Your Daughter to Her Rapist

Marrying Your Daughter to Her Rapist

Are the Torah’s laws perfect or do they reflect biblical times and can adapt as society develops? The punishment of a rapist is a good test case for thinking about morally problematic biblical laws.

Dr. Rabbi
Zev Farber
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Ki Teitzei

כי תצא

Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19

...וְכֵן תַּעֲשֶׂה לְכָל אֲבֵדַת אָחִיךָ אֲשֶׁר תֹּאבַד מִמֶּנּוּ וּמְצָאתָהּ לֹא תוּכַל לְהִתְעַלֵּם

דברים כב:ג

...and so too shall you do with anything that your fellow loses and you find: you must not remain indifferent.

Deut 22:3

Deuteronomy

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