The Mysterious Episode of the Blasphemer

While this week’s Torah reading of Emor, like most of the book of Leviticus, is concerned primarily with law and ritual, it includes an odd narrative passage in which a man with an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father gets into a fight with an Israelite, and then “blasphemed the name of the Lord, and cursed.” He is immediately arrested, after which Moses inquires of God about the appropriate punishment. God responds by commanding that “all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him.”

As Mark Glass points out, the crime committed by the unnamed son of an Israelite mother (whom Glass dubs Ben Shelomit) isn’t so much blasphemy in the usual sense but uttering the ineffable name of God in order to curse another person. Glass examines various anomalies in the story, including the strange biographical detail about the blasphemer’s parentage, and observes:

The onlookers, those who witnessed Ben Shelomit’s fight with a Jew, must lay their hands upon him―in recognition of their guilt, as though he is an offering on their behalf. Because the only reason Ben Shelomit resorted to his act was the onlookers’ failure to help him or break up the fight. The crowd stood around watching―perhaps simply unwilling to intervene, or perhaps with a more vindictive mentality: enjoying an Egyptian being attacked by a Jew for a change.

Had anyone from the crowd stepped in, Ben Shelomit would never have uttered God’s Name and called on Him to strike his opponent. Thus, his sin is―in part―their blame. Ben Shelomit must suffer the ultimate consequence of his actions, but the onlookers must accept their role in his sin. Indeed, the entire people must lay their hands on him and take part in his execution to reinforce their collective responsibility for one another.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Hebrew Bible, Leviticus


While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy