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What Is The Reason: Scary Parts of Torah Print E-mail

Ask the RabbiI am not sure how I started getting your emails once a week, but they are meaningful to me and I appreciate them.  I am given to understand that we accept the whole Torah or no deal.  One can't pick and choose.  How does one accept things like Deuteronomy 22-13, reminiscent of Iran and the like, incidents where a woman is not a virgin (never mind about how that may have happened--possibly force and against her will) is to be stoned at her father's step).  Stuff like this just nauseates me....really. I would appreciate your thoughts on this as I have a lot of respect for your insightful and sensitive outlook. Anonymous


I wrote a Newsletter as an introduction to my response, “Pulled in Two Directions; Samson, Sotah, and Sinai” but Anonymous was displeased:

“With all due respect, Rabbi Weinberg, this does not really address the question, either specifically or even generally. I am told that one either accepts that the whole Torah is from Hashem who is perfect, omniscient, omnipresent, and that it is a Torah for all times and ages AND perfectly just. Either this premise is untrue or many of us are so distant that we cannot possibly see justice in this example or myriad other examples, particularly when it comes to women. Because of this, I am told, if you believe in 612 mitzvot, and not 613 you are an unbeliever. This is different than the difficulties presented in your newsletter, where people are not unbelievers, yet they are human, with human failings. Today is a good day, tomorrow not so much. Much different scenario. I hope you see this difference. If not, I will express myself better in a further email.”

Dear Anonymous;

I regret the delay in my response, but illness interfered, and your question is so fundamental that I only wanted to respond when at full strength.

I’ll leave the Newsletter for later. Let’s begin with some basics:

  1. A person who rejects one of the 613 is not considered an unbeliever, or Apikorus, but a Min, one who has distanced herself from Torah.
  2. We are obligated to ask about laws we do not understand, or even find offensive. The Talmud and Midrash are filled with comments by great Rabbis who struggled with the seeming unfairness of certain laws, such as Mamzer, the status of a child born as a result of the adulterous affair of a married woman, “An eye for an eye,” and the same laws that bother you.
  3. The Min is a person who doesn’t bother to ask and search for an explanation.
  4. You are therefore, by virtue of your asking, neither an unbeliever or a Min, but an engaged Jew, Higher than one who doesn’t care enough to consider the fairness of the laws.
  5. The engagement with the Mitzvah is one of the most important aspects of the Oral Law.
  6. A person who rejects this aspect of the process of Oral Law is more likely to be considered an unbeliever than the person who finds a certain Mitzvah repugnant.
  7. Torah study is a relationship and therefore demands that we are fully connected to our feelings even when negative.
  8. Guilt is not a Jewish emotion. We deal with responsibility, not guilt. One should never feel guilty about an emotion.
  9. We have to take advantage of the Oral Law that considers the same issues as you, to find answers.


  1. I will, bli neder, try to edit or have edited a class on the Six Hundred and Thirteen Concepts that addresses some of your issues (Anyone care to sponsor?). It currently is transcribed word for word and is difficult to read. Please give me some time.
  2. A relationship with God demands that we take a careful look at the law, its context, application, and general message.


  1. Such issues cause dissonance in our relationship with God. The dissonance is not only natural, but good and productive.
  2. We all fluctuate between moments of believing and doubting.
  3. It is dangerous to not have issues, moments of doubts and distance.

I leave you with a thought that always makes me think:

The late American philosopher Robert C. Solomon observed: “What we call justice would not have been recognized as such in Homeric Greece or in the Athens of Plato and Aristotle 400 years later. It is very different from the sense of justice that one would find in feudal France, in the Florentine renaissance, or in the bourgeois London society of Jane Austen. It is very different, indeed, from the sense of justice one finds in contemporary Japan or Iran.”

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