The Democratic Ethos in the Book of Leviticus

March 16 2018

This Sabbath, Jewish congregations begin reading the third book of the Bible, which is concerned almost exclusively with ritual matters: sacrifices, purity and impurity, dietary restrictions, and the like. Many of these laws apply exclusively to the kohanim—the members of the priestly caste made up of descendants of Aaron—rather than to the Israelites as a whole. So why, asks Jeffrey Tigay, include them all in the Torah?

One clue seems to be found in Leviticus 21, a chapter that is addressed [explicitly] to the priests: “And the Lord said to Moses: ‘Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them . . .’”. The chapter requires the priests to avoid actions . . . that would disqualify them from officiating. Surprisingly, the final verse of the chapter . . . adds that it was addressed to the people as well: “Thus Moses spoke to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites.” . . .

Moses seems to be informing the people of the rules incumbent on priests in order to [enable] the people to make sure that the priests comply. This enables us to view this chapter, and all the priestly laws, in the larger context of the Torah’s instructions to make all of its laws public.

Making the laws public informs the people not only of their own duties but also of the duties of public officials (priests and prophets, judges and kings), including the limits that God placed on the officials’ rights. [It thus makes possible] public scrutiny and criticism of officials and prevents them from gaining the absolute authority and prestige that they would command by controlling important information known only to them. . . .

[In ancient times], teaching the laws to the entire citizenry was unusual. . . . This aspect of biblical religion was expressed artistically in the frescoes from the 3rd century CE discovered in the ancient Syrian city of Dura Europos. As [the great historian of ancient Judaism] Elias Bickerman wrote, “The sacred books of all other religions . . . were ritual texts to be used or recited by priests. In the temple of Mithras at Dura it is a Magian in his sacred dress who keeps the sacred scroll closed in his hand. [But] in the synagogue of Dura, a layman, without any sign of office, is represented reading the open scroll.”

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Read more at theTorah.com

More about: Hebrew Bible, Judaism, Leviticus, Priesthood, 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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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela