Rat's Nest
Bloggage, rants, and occasional notes of despair

A letter to Dr. Laura -- and a response

(UPDATE: This joke letter was from here. I got it via booboolina. I really ought to have noted these things the first time around.)

  1. 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?

    You ought not to be making sacrifices at all. It is forbidden to offer any sacrifice outside of the Bet haMikdash. Read tractate Kodashim instead.

  2. 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?

    It depends on whether or not your daughter is a virgin. The "virginís dowry" mandated in the Torah is 200 zuzim (or dinarim). The zuz is reckoned at 0.384g of pure silver; therefore, if your daughter is a virgin, 76.8g of silver is an appropriate price (N.B,: the troy ounce is 31.102g). A non-virgin daughter is not assigned a value in the Torah, but the Sages decreed that she should be valued at at least 100 zuzim.

    If you donít know whether your daughter is a virgin, shame on you for neglecting your parental responsibilities. Fear not, however; Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi figured this out 1800 years ago.

  3. 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.

    The laws of modesty (tznius) forbid the touching of any woman (save oneís wife) in a romantic way (derekh hibba) whether they are menstruating or not.

    If you canít tell whether or when your wife is menstruating, you have non-Halakhic problems that I canít help you with.

  4. 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?

    Actually, it is technically forbidden to own any slave. The reason is that it is forbidden to own any non-circumcised slave (or, in the case of women, who have not been purified in the mikvah). However, a slave who is circumcised (or purified) must them go free in the Sabbatical or the Jubilee Year (Exodus 21:2, Leviticus 25:8-55).

  5. 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?

    You are forbidden to kill him yourself. The death penalty may only be administered by a court of 23 ordained rabbis (see tractate Sanhedrin). Since there are no genuinely ordained rabbis (and wonít be until Elijah returns), no competent court can be convened.

  6. 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?

    Eating shellfish is definitely the lesser abomination. The Talmud and those Rishonim who have commented on the subject agree that there are three mitzvot which may not be violated even under threat of death: murder, forbidden sexual relations, and idol worship. Since the laws of kashrut are not among these, they may be violated for the sake of saving a life (including neís own life).

  7. 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?

    Blindness in one eye (or, of course, both) is considered to exempt one from the positive commandment to approach the altar (in effect, to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem).

  8. 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?

    They will suffer "death by the hand of Heaven".

  9. 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?

    Yes, provided that afterwards you immerse yourself in a valid mikvah.

  10. 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)

You canít do either; see the answer to question e).

You didnít ask, but Iíll tell you anyway: I know youíre trying to be funny. Next time, though, ttry to find some questions that havenít been answered in three thousand years.

John "Akatsukami" Braue Monday, February 25, 2002

Home