How should I respond to Dr. Kauffman’s clever and humorous attack on Dr. Laura when she says that, as a Jew, homosexual behavior is blasphemy to God? [Editor’s note: Kauffman’s criticism is contained in the response]
I will have to say that I agree that this letter is clever, but I am not sure I agree it is funny. Unfortunately, it is disrespectful of a wonderful religion and of millions of people who have held to that religion, which is not really all that funny in my opinion. Perhaps one will say that satire is a good thing and that people should not be so sensitive, but my response is that this humor is misplaced, it is misinformed and it distorts the truth in a way to make fun of an entire group of religious people, and therefore I do not find it very funny. My friend asked me to come up with a humorous response. I cannot do this. This is not a funny topic when people’s religion is riduculed, so I will be giving a rational rather than a humorous response. First of all, here is the piece, and then I will respond below:
In her radio show, Dr Laura Schlesinger said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.
The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, written by a US man, and posted on the Internet. It’s funny, as well as informative:
Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law.
I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can.
When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination … End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.
1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are 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?
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?
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 offence.
4. 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?
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, or should I ask the police to do it?
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? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?
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?
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?
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?
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)
I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I’m confident you can help.
Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.
Your adoring fan.
James M. Kauffman, Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,
Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education
University of Virginia
PS (It would be a damn shame if we couldn’t own a Canadian
A few comments:
First of all, these commandments are taken from the Law of Moses which was a covenant between the God of Israel and the people of Israel. No Jew would require any of these laws to be obeyed or forced on a non-Jew. It is part of a covenant agreed to between parties. If a person agrees to a covenant, then they are held by that covenant, and to humorously imply that this means James Kauffman must be killed for breaking a Sabbath is disingenuous and disrespectful.
Second, these laws were given to a people living 3500 years ago in a world so unlike ours that the standards we might apply today simply could not have worked in ancient times. Full stop. Period. We know from everything the Bible says about God that to him slavery and warfare are evils that he totally rejects, along with divorce, which he only allowed for the Jews because of their hardness of hearts, by the way (Mathew 19:8). It is sincere and observant Christians such as William Wilburforce who finally led to the abolition of legal slavery across the world, much to the applause of our Creator, I am sure! What God allowed 1500 BC in primitive and violent times as an expediency for his earth-bound people should not be held up to in the light of the modern situation. Not that this difficult question should be ignored, but that it should be looked at in its context.
Third, as any educated Rabbi (which is redundant) will tell you, laws about cleanness during a woman’s period were for the purpose of avoiding infection and death. Many Hebrew women were saved from premature death due to this law–one which I believe that most Jews today would understand for what it was and not legalistically observe today. Unfortunately, Dr. Kauffman holds this up to sarcastic ridicule.
Mr Kauffman is not required to sacrifice bulls. Neither are Jews today, as the temple in Jerusalem does not stand. He also is perfectly free to work on the Sabbath if he wants, as he is not a Jew. By the way, I know of no time in all history that Jews actually killed someone or violating Sabbath. Rabbis and Jewish elders have always, wisely, found less draconian ways to help Jews come into obedience to this command, but to the absolutely completely rebellious Jew who refused under any influence to obey God, this punishment was, in principle, included in the covenant that the Jews had made with their God.
About the eating of shellfish, Dr. Kauffman incorrectly implies that this was an abomination–equal to homosexuality. This is a gross distortion of the truth in the Bible. The eating of shellfish was about ceremonial cleanness. It certainly was not an abomination–equal to homosexual behavior. In the Law of Moses, many things were a matter of ceremonial uncleanness, but very few of the laws in the Old Testament describe anything as an abomination, and all of these things that are described as an abomination are still described as sinful in the New Testament. It is a gross error to confuse the two categories. Homosexuality is an abomination in God’s eyes, and it is definitely sinful as described in the New Testament (Romans 1:24-27). I am sure Dr. Kauffman knows that
Examples #7,8 were rules which were about the symbolic need for holiness or perfection for priests who represented the people to God. Although Dr. Kauffman may not understand the underlying symbolism of this law, and although he mocks this, Jews understand the metaphor of purity and holiness underlying these laws for priests. Also, Kauffman implies that the penalty for not obeying these laws was death penalty. This is simply a lie. Perhaps he justifies his misrepresentation–“I was only joking.” I do not feel this lie is funny.
About two crops in the same field and two materials in the same clothing, please remember that this was a rule for those in the Mosaic covenant only. Rabbis “get” what these requirements were about. They served as a metaphor for Israelites mixing with other people. God wanted Israel to be holy, which means set apart and unmixed, and he used these regulations as a physical example to illustrate the spiritual principle that God’s people should remain unmixed with the world. Joking about this law without understanding its meaning seems disrespectful to me, not funny.
It is true that Leviticus 24:10-16 does legislate the death penalty for blaspheming against God. In Israel, repeated and unrepentant blasphemy could lead to the death penalty, although there is little evidence that this penalty was applied often at all. In nearly all cases, Jewish leaders disciplined blasphemers in a way so that they could repent and stop their behavior. Kauffman’s flippant attitude toward this, again, is disrespectful in my opinion.
I will agree that Kauffman is being clever here, but as a professional educator he should know that to inaccurately characterize a world religion and to publicly ridicule and disrespect the devotion of a people to a religious covenant they voluntarily submit to is extremely inappropriate and not funny at all. Kauffman should be ashamed of himself.