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.


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

The Palestinian Prime Minister Rails against Peace at the Council of Foreign Relations

On November 17, the Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, appeared at the Council on Foreign Relations, America’s most prestigious and influential foreign-policy institution. While there, Shtayyeh took the opportunity to lambast Arab states for making peace with Israel. Dore Gold comments:

[Perhaps Shtayyeh] would prefer that Bahrain, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates declare the end of their conflicts with Israel only after all Palestinian political demands are met; however, he refused to recognize that Arab states have a right to defend their vital interests.

Since 1948, they had suspended these rights for the sake of the Palestinian cause. What Shtayyeh ultimately wants is for the Palestinians to continue to hold their past veto power over the Arab world. Essentially, he wants the Arabs to be [like the] Iranians, who supply Palestinian organizations like Hamas with weapons and money while taking the most extreme positions against peace. What the Arabs have begun to say this year is that this option is no longer on the table.

Frankly, the cracks in the Palestinian veto of peace that appeared in 2020 are undeniable. Shtayyeh is unprepared to answer why. The story of that split began with the fact that the response of the Palestinian leadership to every proposal for peace since the 2000 Camp David Summit with President Clinton has been a loud but consistent “No.”

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Palestinian Authority, U.S. Foreign policy