“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your G-d, am holy’.” (Leviticus 19:1)
Most commandments written in the portion of Kedoshim have already been written, sometimes word for word, in other places in the Scripture. Nachmanides brought in his commentary on Leviticus 19:4 the words of the midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 24:5), “Rabbi Levi says…because the Ten Commandments are included in it.” Ibn Ezra wrote similarly on 19:2, “And the reason for mentioning this section….and it is the Ten Commandments mentioned here.” For even the commandments enumerated in the Ten Commandments are repeated here.
We will bring two examples, and you can examine the portion and find that most of it is like this:
“Do not gather the gleanings of your harvest” (Leviticus 19:9)
“Do not gather the gleanings of your harvest” (Leviticus 23:22)
“You shall keep my sabbaths and venerate my sanctuary: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:30)
“You shall keep my sabbaths and venerate my sanctuary: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 26:2)
Nachmanides wrote: “There are many warnings about the Sabbath, as there are about idolatry.” Since there are many warnings scattered all over the Scriptures about one prohibition, our rabbis disagreed on the matter. Maimonides, in the ninth root of Sefer Hamitzvot, wrote that the multiplication of warnings was for emphasis alone: “Let us not look at the multiplication of commandments on this issue…for they are merely for emphasis, for sometimes the matter will be repeated with warning after warning, for emphasis.”
According to Maimonides, the repetition of warnings is not meant to add extra prohibitions for which one would received flogging, but is for emphasis only. But since he found that sometimes our rabbis demanded two sets of flogging, he wrote: “And it is impossible to know whether a replication of a positive or a negative commandment has come to add something to the matter [that is, another prohibition] unless such interpretation was given by the Teacher and received by them [the Sages] OBM.” The duplication of flogging is not something which can be learned from what is written explicitly in the Scriptures; it is an oral tradition.
But Nachmanides, in his commentary on Maimonides’s roots of SeferHaMitzvot, disagrees with the opinion above and claims that one can be given two or more punishments for a single act: “But he (Maimonides) had already made a great mess of this issue, for all he said about many negative utterances relating to a single prohibition and therefore requiring a single punishment, is not so.” Later on he brings an example of this matter: Were it written, “the nakedness of your daughter-in-law you shall not uncover, the nakedness of your son’s wife you shall not uncover,” a person would earn two punishments (floggings or sacrifices) though he did only one forbidden act in being with his daughter-in-law, his son’s wife. Nachmanides even saw problems in his own view: “It should not be difficult for you that we give floggings for [violating prohibitions about] insects based on the negative utterances written elsewhere in the Torah and repeated in Deuteronomy but we do not do so for the non-kosher animals and birds [whose prohibition is repeated, once in Leviticus and once in Deuteronomy]…” And he explained, “There are many completely unnecessary negative utterances, and therefore one is given lashes for them according to their count, while the others are not for replication and multiplication, but to teach us, as is written in the Gemara, chapter ‘And these are the treifot‘ (Chulin 63b), ‘Why were the animals repeated? Because of theshesua…’.” So, only if replications are without excuse or special reason is one punished according to their number, but where there is a reason or excuse for the duplication one is not punished based on their number.
According to Nachmanides we have an incomprehensible situation: imagine, if a country’s law stated, “If there’s a stop sign before you and you do not stop, you will pay 100 shekel,” and a few sections later it said, “If there’s a stop sign before you and you do not brake your vehicle you will pay 100 shekel.” The law means (according to Nachmanides) that anyone who does not stop at the sign must pay 200 shekel. And any reasonable person would find such code of law ridiculous, yet this is how Nachmanides treats the divine book of law. But Maimonides, guided by common sense, dismisses this entirely.
Our opinion about the replication of warnings will be explained below.
Another thing repeated in the portion of Kedoshim is the section about the forbidden sexual relations, written in the portion of Acharei Mot–Leviticus 18–and in the portion of Kedoshim–Leviticus 20. What did our rabbis say about this? Rashi (on Leviticus 20:2) wrote, “‘And to the children of Israel say’ — the punishment for the prohibitions.” Similarly did Nachmanides write on Leviticus 20:10, “The Scripture mentioned some of the prohibitions of sexual relations, to teach us that they are punishable by death.” This is what Chazal said in many places, “the Scripture does not demand punishment unless a warning has been stated in it before.”
But the question remains: why does did the one who authored the Torah divide between the warning and the punishment, placing them in two separate sections? They could have been written in one place, something like, “Do not fornicate with a married woman or both adulterous parties will be put to death,” and thereby save us a whole chapter of duplication. Chazal, in Tractate Pesachim 3b wrote: “One should always teach his disciples in the shortest way possible.” This is a good rule, but the Torah does not use it and does not take a short path as should be expected of an orderly book of law.
This is not the only difficulty; we have found in many places that the Scripture demands punishment without issuing a warning before. Thus wrote Maimonides in his introduction to the count of the commandments: “Sometimes the warning will not be said with an explicit negative utterance, only the punishment will be mentioned, with the warning assumed. But we still have the principle that the Scripture does not punish unless it issued a warning before, and this is impossible unless there was a warning for each punishment. Therefore they say everywhere: we have heard a punishment, where is the warning? We are taught thus and such. When the warning is not found in the Scripture it is learned by inference, as brought in Sanhedrin 85a on the warning not to curse one’s parents or strike them, where the Scripture never said ‘do not curse your father’ or ‘do not strike your father’…” Again we find — this time in accordance with Maimonides’s words — that he who wrote the Torah was not consistent, that sometimes he gives a prohibition and a warning and then gives a punishment and in other places he leaves the warning to be learned by inference. Learning by inference is one of the 13 ways in which the Torah is elucidated; see pamphlet 8, where we showed that the 13 ways in which the Torah is elucidated are from the sages’ own learning and deduction.
There is yet another difficulty in the repetition of the section on prohibited sexual relations. In the portion of Acharei Mot, at the end of the warnings, the punishment is written (Leviticus 18:29): “All who do any of those abhorrent things — the souls of those doing so shall be cut off from their people.”
And in the portion of Kedoshim, Leviticus 20:17, “If a man takes [possession of] his sister…they shall be excommunicated in the sight of their kinsfolk.” About this Nachmanides wrote (20:10): “The mention of cutting off one who has a sexual contact with his sister is superfluous.” And see in Tractate Makkot 14a, how Rabbi Isaac learns that one who has a sexual contact with sister is exempt from flogging, and the sages learn something else — and of this Nachmanides wrote (in his commentary on Leviticus 20:10), “And the mention of cutting off the soul of one who has sexual contact with his sister is superfluous”! Again we find that not only had a verse been repeated for no reason, but the repetition even confused our rabbis to the extent that they disagreed on its meaning. Had it been shortened and the warning and punishment been written in one chapter and one location, we would have learned it the short, straight-forward, and clear way, as is seemly and appropriate for the law of the living G-d.
Now pay attention, student, and see: the matter of prohibited sexual relations, repeated in the portion of Kedoshim, was repeated, according to the sages, “To punish after giving warning.” If so, why did the Scripture not detail the punishment for one who marries two sisters (warned against in the portion of Acharei Mot)?
About this Ibn Ezra wrote on 20:19, “The punishment for the father’s sister was not mentioned, nor for one who marries two sisters was any punishment at all mentioned. And the wise one will understand; the words of tradition are true, as well.”
Before we proceed to explain our view about the replication of portions in the Torah, we find it necessary to say that it is appropriate to look attentively at the places where Ibn Ezra wrote “the wise one will understand,” for in some of those places this sage meant very deep and important things which he did not want to be shown to all. One who understands will understand.
First we will quote the words of Ibn Ezra on Leviticus 18:18, “In the portion of Kedoshim the punishment for one who has a sexual contact with two sisters is not mentioned…the commentator’s reason is that Rachel and Leah were not sisters…this is not an absolute proof…from the portion of Vayelechyou will know my opinion.”
We will add the words of Ibn Ezra on Genesis 35:2, where he also referred the reader to the portion of Vayelech in Deuteronomy. There he writes, “‘Take off your foreign gods’ — G-d forbid a prophet should lay with idolatresses. But the meaning can be found in the portion of ‘And Moses walked’.”
When we turn to the portion of Vayelech we find written there (Deuteronomy 31:16): “We know that G-d is one and the change will come from those who receive. G-d will not change his deeds, for they were all done in wisdom; and one of the aspects of worshipping God is compliance with the reception capacity of the place [one lives in]. Therefore it is written, ‘[They do not know] the laws of the God of that land’ (II Kings 17:26), and therefore Jacob said, ‘Take off your foreign gods.’ And the opposite is the land in which incestuous relationships are common; and the wise one will understand.”
Again he had written “The wise one will understand”!
And thus R’ Joseph Bonfils (c. late 14th century CE) explained Ibn Ezra’s words in his commentary “Tzafnath Pa’aneach” (portion Acharei Mot): “‘In the portion of Kedoshim the punishment for one who has a sexual contact with two sisters is not mentioned,’ and afterwards he wrote [Ibn Ezra on the verse ‘Do not commit any of these abominations — neither a permanent resident, nor a stranger’ (Leviticus 18:26)]: ‘This commandment applies equally both to a permanent resident and to a stranger, because even the latter dwells in the Land of Israel; and if you have a heart, you will understand that when Jacob married two sisters at Haran, and when Amram married his aunt in Egypt, none of them became impurified by such relations.’ This comment [of Ibn Ezra] contains a secret, to which he also hinted in his commentary on the verse concerning ‘foreign gods’ in the portion of Vayelech — that the forbidden sexual relations are prohibited in the Land of Israel only, because of the superior force which governs it — that is, Mars, who is the enemy of Venus, the governor of pleasures and sex — for Mars hates lechery, and also because the sun has some power over the Land of Israel and the sun has a rational soul; these matters he explained in the book ‘Reshit Chochmah’.”
Amazing! One of our great rabbis of the 14th century interprets the Ibn Ezra’s words as meaning that the forbidden sexual relations were prohibited in the Land of Israel only!
It follows that the prohibition of forbidden sexual relations, one of the three commandments a Jew may not violate even under threat of death, is valid only in the Land of Israel, but not outside it. Is this possible? But on the other hand, such an intent seems quite clear in Ibn Ezra’s words — which may be the reason he hid it twice behind the phrase, ‘And the wise one will understand.’ We are astounded.
We find it also useful to add that the things written by Ibn Ezra and other commentators (and brought here by R’ Bonfils) concerning the influence of the planets Mars and Venus on laws and customs of human conduct are borrowed directly from the Greco-Roman religion. The Greek and Roman idolaters considered the stars and planets living, thinking, and influential figures and associated them with their heathen deities. Thus, planet Mars was identified with their god of war, and planet Venus — with their goddess of love (the planets were even named after these deities). And the gentile belief was that Mars loved war and Venus loved pleasures and sex — just as was written by R’ Bonfils, who ascribed this opinion to Ibn Ezra.
Yet we will not accept things so strange; it seems much more reasonable that the contradictions and discrepancies in the Torah text have a more logical source. It seems that two different authors wrote these two portions (Kedoshimand Acharei Mot), and when in a later period the Pentateuch was being edited, the editor just left the both portions as they were. Thus are the discrepancies and the replications explained.
Do not wonder about what is said, that the Biblical text was written by different authors, for so, too, writes Ibn Ezra on Deuteronomy 34:6, “These are the words of Joshua, and it is possible that he wrote them at the end of his life.” (In the portion of Devarim 1:2 Ibn Ezra hints at this, and we will clarify it at the proper time).
And though some might claim we are writing harsh things here, this conclusion is preferable for any reasonable person who keeps the honor of G-d before him. For we find again and again that the Torah text is confused and out of order, repeats itself many times, emphasizes the unimportant and leaves the important matters to the sages, repeats prohibitions many times, punishes and does not warn or warns and does not punish. Yet the Torah was intended to be the Book of Law for humankind. How should one relate to one who wrote such a confused code of law and dare claim its source to be the G-d of all the world? The author would be considered mad.
And see it yourself, “An examination shows that the world was built using a worked out and considered plan, as though a wise engineer had drawn the world before it was created” (Chazon Ish, “Emunah V’Bitachon”), and yet anybody who looks at the Biblical text will see bedlam in it, not a single author but many, for nature is wonderfully organized, but the Scripture is not. Therefore there is only one conclusion: the Creator of this wonderful and organized world could not possibly have written the books of the Torah.
Words of True Knowledge