Credo #59: It takes an honest man to live outside the “law”

Posted: April 14, 2010 in Credo, For brothers

Consider why the Pharisees, the object of Christ’s scorn, had all the rules and regulations they did. Were they just self-smug individuals trying to lord it over people’s lives who thought too highly of their self-imputed righteousness? Well, that’s part of it. Some of it was well intentioned, a means of erecting a “fence” around behaviors that were forbidden by Levitical law. I will draw on a modern example to help illustrate this. If you should be familiar with the kitchen of a kosher-observant Jewish family, you would know that dishes that are used with milk products are separately handled than dishes that are not used for milk products. The reasoning behind this is an ancient prohibition against cooking a calf in it’s mother’s milk, which apparently was a culinary practice of some of the peoples surrounding ancient Israel. It is not clear why this was a moral issue than perhaps a way to distinguish between the cultures; but I leave that aside. By erecting rules — such as handling the dishes separately — one erects a “fence” that surrounds the “law” such that by obeying the fence of rules one will not be capable of breaking the “law”.

Now, we have “laws” that are there for our own good – the speed limit, for example; one I personally struggle with betimes from the driver’s side of my two-seater. Other examples would be building codes that keep the structure we are living in upright, or the internet protocols that allow you read this essay; regardless of the type of computer you are using or your choice of browser.

My point? If you read this blog, and these Credos, you know that I have a very, very low opinion of pastoral ding-dongs who do such things as try to scare you with hellfire to get you to tithe, or use the King James version only, say; or who actually think and teach, as this man does, that the bible requires you to go through a lady’s father or a church elder to take her out; which I gather includes such things as adult ladies who are CEOs or Doctors.

My point: It takes an honest man to live outside the “law.”

  1. The problem with boiling a kid in its mother’s milk is that the milk was originally intended for the nourishment of that calf. It is one thing to kill an animal to eat it ~ for some of us, our bodies seem to work better with animal protein. It is another thing to unnecessarily dishonor an animal, as occurs when you boil it in its mother’s milk. Some people believe that some of the other kashrut prohibitions, specifically pork and shellfish, had their roots in health concerns about trichinosis and, I think, salmonella, but the original point of the prohibition you cite was ethical. The animal has given up everything; you can give up something.

    Unfortunately, the enthusiastic halachic extension of the prohibition to animals like chickens, which do not lactate, loses some of the point.

  2. PS King James: lovely poetry, lousy translation. “Thou shalt not kill”? As this commandment is being delivered, there is also an order in place that any Hebrew other than Moses who sets foot on Mount Sinai is to be put to death. [I can’t remember if a particular unpleasant method is specified.] A slight contradiction here? A friend with, I believe, good Hebrew tells me that the word is “murder”. Death is a physical fact, tho’ the new definition of “brain dead” has been introduced within the last hundred years. In some cases, the killing which caused the death is so evident that only the most extreme philosopher would bother to argue causality. But murder is a social construct, and one of the few reasons to hold out much hope for our species is that as the millenia roll on it gradually comes to include more and more types of killing.

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