Religion is not merely another facet of our lives. To someone who takes their religious belief and practice seriously, religion forms a complete worldview. That does not mean that, for example, all Jews share a similar set of political beliefs or worldview. But all Jews who take the text seriously must necessarily share key elements of the same worldview – in the much the same way that devout Catholics broadly believe in “Truth” and a logically derivable Natural Law.
Some elements of the text are pretty universally acknowledged: all who follow the Torah believe, for example, that murder is wrong, that the Sabbath day is important, that we are commanded to love others and show kindness to the stranger, the orphan, and the widow. But what if the text is actually more freedom-loving than one might initially imagine?
I believe that the Torah offers a profound sense of where mankind’s domain begins and ends.
Here is my argument: the Torah gives us red lines in the text. There are a number of things we might do that the Torah tells us are worthy of the death penalty. The specific language is mos yumoss, “you shall surely die.” This phrase appears no fewer than 22 times in the Torah (24 counting the future variant)! And yet the death penalty always seems to be the consequence for one underlying cause of action: invading a domain that is not yours!
I submit that this is a precursor to the more-modern notion of “your rights end where my nose begins.” Of course, given that this is the Torah (the guidebook to holy relationships between G-d and individual, as well as between people), the forbidden domain is predominantly taking the life of another. But the category also encompasses sexual relations with animals, as well as intruding into the realm not given to us by G-d (the forbidden fruit and Sinai).
Here we have limitations on mankind’s domain embedded in the text of the Torah. Which seems to tell me that the text of the Torah includes what could be seen as a much-more modern paradigm for rights and responsibilities.
[an @iwe, @eliyahumasinter and collaborators work!]
P.S. Note that a great many things that are forbidden (e.g. prostitution) do not trigger this same language.
In table form, here are the verses from the text, with my summary of relevance to the thesis:
|But as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.”||G-d’s domain|
|[To Abimelech] Therefore, restore the man’s wife—since he is a prophet, he will intercede for you—to save your life. If you fail to restore her, know that you shall die, you and all that are yours.”||Mos tamoos. Someone else’s wife. A direct warning.|
|You shall set bounds for the people round about, saying, ‘Beware of going up the mountain or touching the border of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death||G-d’s domain|
|One who fatally strikes another party shall be put to death.||Another’s life|
|One who strikes one’s father or mother shall be put to death.||Parental domain|
|One who kidnaps another party—whether having sold or still holding the victim—shall be put to death.||Stealing a person|
|One who insults one’s father or mother shall be put to death.||Parental domain|
|Whoever lies with a beast shall be put to death.||Separation from animals|
|You shall keep the sabbath, for it is holy for you. One who profanes it shall be put to death: whoever does work on it, that person shall be cut off from among kin.||G-d’s domain – in time|
|Six days may work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a sabbath of complete rest, holy to G-d, whoever does work on the sabbath day shall be put to death.||G-d’s domain – in time|
|And the Lord said to Moshe, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.||G-d’s domain – in time (Shabbos violation)|
|Say further to the Israelite people: Anyone among the Israelites, or among the strangers residing in Israel, who gives any offspring to Molech, shall be put to death; the people of the land shall pelt the person with stones.||Another’s life (murdering a child for idol worship)|
|If anyone insults either father or mother, that person shall be put to death; that person has insulted father and mother—and retains the bloodguilt.||Invading space that is not for you|
|If a man commits adultery with a married woman—committing adultery with another man’s wife—the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.||Another’s wife / violating sacred boundaries|
|If a man lies with his father’s wife, it is the nakedness of his father that he has uncovered; the two shall be put to death—and they retain the bloodguilt.||Another’s wife AND space that is not for you|
|If a man has carnal relations with a beast, he shall be put to death; and you shall kill the beast.||Not your space|
|and one who also pronounces the name G-d shall be put to death. The community leadership shall stone that person; stranger or citizen—having thus pronounced the Name—shall be put to death.||G-d’s domain. The power of the spoken Name.|
|No human being who has been proscribed can be ransomed: that person shall be put to death.||G-d’s domain|
|Anyone, however, who strikes another with an iron object so that death results is a murderer; the murderer must be put to death.||Another’s life|
|If one struck another with a stone tool that could cause death, and death resulted, that person is a murderer; the murderer must be put to death.||Another’s life|
|Similarly, if one struck another with a wooden tool that could cause death, and death resulted, that person is a murderer; the murderer must be put to death.||Another’s life|
|or if one struck another with the hand in enmity and death resulted, the assailant shall be put to death; that person is a murderer. The blood-avenger shall put the murderer to death upon encounter.||Another’s life|
|You may not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of a capital crime; [a murderer] must be put to death.||Another’s life|