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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


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DEUTERONOMY — 21:11 beautiful

Despite its admiration of beauty, Judaism never developed a beauty cult similar to that of the Greeks and Romans. The struggle waged against paganism and its statuary motivated the strict biblical prohibition of some forms of plastic art (Exodus 20:4). The Judaic attitude to feminine beauty is somewhat ambivalent. On the one hand, there was an instinctive impulse to sing its praises in poetic phraseology. The biblical Song of Songs attests to that inspiration. Yet the Song of Songs Is atypical among the ancient sacred and secular Jewish literary works. Indeed, had it not been for the Rabbinical allegorical interpretation of the Songs of Songs as depicting a romance between G-d and his people, the book would never have been included in the canon. Feminine beauty was greatly admired, but its role in provoking lust, a cardinal sin, imposed a moral restraint upon the free expression of poets and singers. The biblical law regarding a pretty heathen captive of war [this verse] warned of the potential power of beautiful women to defeat religious scruples.

DEUTERONOMY — 21:13 thirty

Respect for man also imposes a respect for his faith and religious practices. The rabbis asserted that "the righteous people of all nations have a share in the hereafter (Tosefta, Sanhedrin 13). Judaism was tolerant of all religions except paganism, with which it was incompatible. At the time when ancient Judea was a sovereign state and the nation had the jurisdiction to enforce its laws within the borders of its country, the practice of idolatry was proscribed. However, Jews never entertained a desire to forcibly root out hedonism in other countries. There were some occasions when, for humane reasons, the practice of idolatry was tolerated even in Israel. A captive pagan woman, brought home by a Jewish soldier, was permitted to continue her heathen worship for thirty days [this verse, Yevamot 48b]. According to Maimonides (Moreh Nevuchim 3:41), this dispensation was motivated by consideration for the plight of the captive woman in a desire to provide her with the solace that you might arrive from practicing her ancestral faith. At the end of thirty days, if the soldier had a change of heart, the woman was free to return to her home, without having been forced to renounce her faith (Nachmanides, this verse).

DEUTERONOMY — 21:18 defiant

[This verse and following] deals in very clear language, so we may think, with the case of a wayward and defiant son… By the time the Mishna – – the collection of oral legal tradition--was codified around 200 C.E. -- the terminus ad quem of the development-- the ethos of the community had rejected the pattern. Yet it was a given of scripture. How did the Aggadah, the ethos of the community, deal with the Halakhah? What is for us clear language is for aroused sensibility far less clear, or perhaps is far clearer than we recognize. First the word "son" is attended to. Exactly when does that term apply? Its specificity indicates exclusion. A daughter is not mentioned but only a son. Carrying the principle of exclusion further, it must mean only during the period when he is not a man, that is, when he is a child. More than that, not when he is a minor, that is, before the age of 13 years and a day, but he is not yet obligated to the commandments. Hence this commandment is effective only during the boy's puberty. It is not necessary to examine in detail the process of definition by which the limitations involved in "glutton and drunkard" are arrived at; the further requirements that both parents--as the biblical text indicates--must lodge a complaint, and must be physically capable of bringing him before the elders, nor the composition of the court, and so on. (See Mishna Sanhedrin, chap. 8, paras 1-5). All that is necessary is to indicate that Aggadah, the sense of existence, has apparently provided fertile soil in which Halakhah – – the thicket of the law, to use that admirable phrase placed in Thomas More's mouth in A Man for All Seasons--may spring up to offer a hiding place even for the wayward son.

DEUTERONOMY — 21:18 defiant

In a number of instances the Rabbis fixed conditions which, to all intents and purposes, made a law inoperative. They did this in the case of the "disloyal and defiant son" (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) Sanhedrin 68b-71b, the law regarding capital punishment, Tosafot, Sanhedrin 15b on aymah liktala, and Sanhedrin chap. 5. Makkot 7a, and the law regarding the excommunicated city (Deuteronomy 13:13-19). Sanhedrin 111b-113a. Note particularly Rabbi Eliezer's opinion 113a, quoted also ibid. 71a.

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