Stoning the Blasphemer: A Biblical Tale with a Message of Inclusiveness

At the very end of this week’s Torah reading of Emor, we find a brief narrative passage (Leviticus 24:10-23) that seems oddly placed amid laws concerning holidays and sabbatical years and regulations pertaining to priests and the Tabernacle. The story involves a man, the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father, who gets into a fistfight with “a certain Israelite” and then invokes God’s ineffable name in cursing his opponent. When Moses hears of this he has the son of the Egyptian father incarcerated and awaits divine instruction. God explains that the punishment for blasphemy is death by stoning, and the people duly inflict this punishment on the blasphemer. In attempting to read the episode in context, Adriane Leveen finds a surprising message:

[One] key theme in this episode that connects it to [the previous chapters] is that of the ger, or stranger, [generally understood to be a non-Israelite who comes to live among the Israelites]. The term ger appears twice in this passage . . . : “The entire assembly shall stone [the blasphemer]; the ger and the citizen alike. . . . One rule shall be for you; the ger and the citizen alike.”

In general, the latter half of Leviticus has a lot to say about the ger and the remarkable attempt to integrate [strangers] partially into Israelite society by obligating them to observe some commandments and granting them certain benefits. Thus, they are explicitly included in rules of Yom Kippur and sacrifice and exhorted to keep God’s laws. They are allowed to gather fruit fallen from a vine and to glean the edges of fields along with the Israelite poor. Lest readers fail to grasp the implication of these insistent rules, Leviticus 19:33-34 states: “And if a ger sojourns with you in your land, do not wrong him; like a citizen among you shall be the ger to you . . .”.

The inclusion of the ger [in the passage on blasphemy] highlights what could be called the negative side of this equation. The ger is to be punished for violating the sanctity of Israel’s God just as an Israelite would be.

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More about: Conversion, Hebrew Bible, Leviticus, Religion & Holidays

 

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela