Tuesday, May 22, 2007

TurtleDoves Revised

In my previous blog, I talked about sacrifices of doves required of women who menstruate. In the comment section, I was accused of misrepresenting (or misinterpreting) the passage. Apparently, the reading of the relevant parts of the Torah are supposed to be that only women with unusual ‘discharges’ above and beyond their menstrual discharge were required to bring sacrifices of doves. Rather than responding in the comment section, I thought it would be good to answer in a blog:

Lest I be accused of misrepresenting the Torah, here, I have provided all the verses of the Torah verbatim:
15:19 When a woman has a discharge, it can consist of any blood that emerges from her body. For seven days she is then ritually unclean because of her menstruation, and anyone touching her shall be unclean until evening.
15:20 As long as she is in her menstrual state, anything upon which she lies shall be unclean, and anyone sitting on it is likewise unclean.
15:21 Whoever touches her bed must immerse his clothing and his body in a mikvah, and then remain unclean until evening.
15:22 [Similarly], anyone who sits on any article upon which she has sat must immerse his clothing and his body in a mikvah and [then] remain unclean until evening.
15:23 Thus, if he is on the bed or any other article upon which she sat, whether he touches it [or not], he is unclean until evening.
15:24 If a man has intercourse with her, her menstrual impurity is transferred to him, and he shall be unclean for seven days. Any bed upon which he lies shall be unclean.
15:25 If a woman has a discharge of blood for a number of days when it is not time for her menstrual period, or if she has such a discharge right after her period, then as long as she has this discharge she is unclean, just as she is when she has her period.
15:26 As long as she has the discharge, any bed upon which she lies shall have the same status as it has while she is menstruating. Similarly, any article upon which she sits shall be unclean, just as it is unclean when she is menstruating.
15:27 Anyone touching them must immerse his clothing and his body in a mikvah, and [then] remain unclean until evening.
15:28 When she is rid of her discharge, she must count seven days for herself, and only then can she undergo purification.
15:29 On the eighth day, she shall take for herself two turtle doves or two young common doves, and bring them to the priest, to the Communion Tent entrance.
15:30 The priest shall prepare one as a sin offering and one as a burnt offering, and the priest shall thus make atonement for her before God, from her unclean discharge.
15:31 You must warn the Israelites about their impurity, so that their impurity not cause them to die if they defile the tabernacle that I have placed among them.
15:32 This then is the law concerning the man who is unclean because of a discharge or seminal emission,
15:33 as well as the woman who has her monthly period, the man or woman who has a discharge, and the man who lies with a ritually unclean woman.

OK, so what have I missed? Is it really true that 15:28 refers only to women who have a ‘discharge’ beyond their menstruation? Well, OK, but I submit that this is a reach and a tortured explanation.

But let’s go with that for a moment. What exactly is ‘discharge’ beyond menstruation? If a woman has a period lasting, say, 10 days – is that considered a ‘discharge’ beyond menstruation? What about 5 days? When is a discharge considered 'unusual'?

But OK, let’s even grant that ‘discharges’ of women are well defined and are distinct from menstruation. Let’s say that what we are talking about is unusual discharges. This ‘unusual’ discharge, in medical language, is called dysmenorrhea. According to medical authorities (will provide references if needed), the incidence of primary dysmenorrhea is greater than 50% in healthy women. This incidence, with some notable exceptions, is relatively stable amongst diverse population.

So, let’s say that the critiques of the previous blog are right, and the Torah passage refers to dysmenorrhea. The number would thus be revised as follows:

Let’s assume that 50% of women will have at least 1 episode of dysmenorrhea per year.
Since there were 500,000 adult women in the Sinai desert, then there would have been
500,000 X 50% = 250,000 episodes of ‘discharges’ among women per year. We will ignore men’s discharges for this purpose.

For the duration of the 40 years, then, there would have been 250,000 X 40 = 10 million ‘discharges’. Since there are 2 doves required per discharge, we have to find 20 million doves. This is just for women! I have not even considered the men, as I do not know how to calculate the incidence of discharges amongst males!

So there you have it. Perhaps not 480 million doves, but, depending on how you interpret the Torah, there may be as little as 20 million doves needed.

Did the Sinai desert have 20 million doves for the purposes of sacrifice? How did the Jews, who wandered the desert, often engaging in brutal wars, occasionally enduring plagues as a consequence of the wrath of God, manage to come up with 20 million doves?

Is it possible, that perhaps there were not 3 million people in the desert?Is it possible that the Jews, even if they were that numerous, did not in fact engage in this practice of mass animal sacrifice?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sinai Revelation and Some Numbers

I was just thinking about the claims that some 3 million people were at the Sinai desert when the Jews were taken out of Egypt. Orthodox Jews claim that there were 600,000 able bodied adult males who were at the base of Mount Sinai when the Ten Commandments were given. The Orthodox Rabbis then extrapolate that since there were 600,000 adult males, there had to have been 3 million Jews in the desert.

So, if the above is correct, then there had to have been 600,000 adult females as well. It is interesting, then, to read the following passage in the Torah:

Leviticus 15:

19 " 'When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening…

29 On the eighth day she must take two doves or two young pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 30 The priest is to sacrifice one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. In this way he will make atonement for her before the LORD for the uncleanness of her discharge.”

As I understand these passages, the Torah requires that a woman, following her menstruation, bring 2 doves to the Cohen for sacrifice. Ok, clear enough!

There were 600,000 adult women in the Sinai desert. Obviously, most women - save the diseased and postmenopausal - menstruated monthly. Let us for the sake of argument say that there were 500,000 healthy women. Thus, each one of them would have to provide for 2 doves every month. Let us consider the numbers:

2 doves required per woman per month = 24 doves per woman per year.

24 doves per woman per year X 500,000 women = 12 million doves!

Since the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years, then, just to comply with this one requirement, there are some 12 X 40 = 480 million doves needed.

Forget about all the other sacrifices that the Torah mandates. Forget, for example, about the sin offerings, guilt offerings, burnt offerings, etc. Forget that the Torah requires that an animal be brought to sacrifice every time a child is born. Forget that on Passover every Jewish family was to bring a lamb for ritual slaughter. Forget all that!

Remember simply the requirement that upon women’s menstruation, 2 doves were to be sacrificed. Some 480 million doves would be necessary for that!

Where did all these doves come from? The Jews were wandering in the desert, living in tents, having to subsist on manna from heaven. 480 million doves?

Does this statistic alone not make you wonder that perhaps the story of the exodus did not happen the way the Orthodox Rabbis say it happened?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Kuzari Schoomzari

Saturday May 12, 2007

Many Orthodox Jews point to the so-called "Kuzari Principle" is bolstering their beliefs in the Torah. The Kuzari principle is based on the medieval works of the Jewish philosopher Rabbi Yehuda Halevi. It purports to ‘prove' that events of the Jewish exodus from Egypt are plausible and reasonable. The proofs offered are actually simple and are outlined as follows:

The Kuzari Principle: Let us say that one or more significant events occur over a short period of time. These events can be the parting of a sea, or the descent of God to the top of a mountain and the giving of a holy document. These events, because of their enormity, would have left a lot of easily identifiable evidence. Thus, to logically illustrate the principle of Kuzari, as one internet site framed it, paraphrasing from Dr. Dovid Gottlieb's book: Let E be a possible event which, had it really occurred, would have left behind enormous, easily available evidence of its occurrence. If the evidence does not exist, people will not believe that E occurred.

Now let E be the Sinai revelation; since it is claimed that 3 million Jews saw the revelation, and since the 3 million Jews raised no objection once this claim was made, then necessarily the fact of revelation did occur. If Moses falsely claimed that he parted the sea, if he claimed that 3 million people crossed the Sea of Reeds, well, then the 3 million people would have said to Moses "no, you did no such thing. We don't remember crossing a parted sea - you are a liar!" But since the Jewish people of the time did no such thing and believe the revelation and the desert story, then the story is plausible, even probable.

I do hope that I have done some justice to the Kuzari Principle. If I have not, I do apologize. Please correct me if I am not understanding this principle.

But here is my issue with the principle: All of the events that the Jews have witnessed are chronicled in the 5 books of the Torah. The parting of the sea, the revelation at Sinai, Manna from heaven, miracles, etc., are all in the 5 books. These 5 books were all written by Moses according to orthodox Jews. The 5 books describe events from creation up to the death of Moses. Thus, at the earliest, the 5 books of the Torah had to have been completed at the time of the death of Moses.

At the earliest, Torah's claims would have been presented to the Jewish people - the so-called 3 million witnesses - shortly after the death of Moses. At that time, the Jews would have already crossed the Jordon River, being led by Joshua, preparing for the battles for the land of Israel. Joshua, or a priest would have shown the newly finished 5 books to the Jewish people.

Now, note that according to the Torah tradition, all of the people who originally left Egypt, some 3 million people, died in the desert. No one, except for Joshua and Caleb who crossed the parted sea actually made it to the Jordon River. They died of plagues, battles, God's wrath, purges etc. Not even Aaron or Moses made it to the land of Israel.

Those who made it to the Jordon River were the second generation of the exodus. Again, if I am wrong about this, please tell me.

Now, when the Torah is presented to the second generation, and the various miracles etc. are mentioned, the people would have no way of verifying the veracity of the claims since THEY WERE NOT THERE! As you know, the Torah was given 49 days after the exodus. All the people who witnessed the revelation at Sinai would have been dead by the time the Torah was completed 40 years later! Of course Caleb and Joshua are exceptions to this.

Note, then, that the Kuzari Principle is no longer valid in the case of Jewish exodus. The only witnesses to Torah's claims were Joshua and Caleb. There are only 2 witnesses to a purported event. I will not go into the obvious interest of these two to support the claims of the bible. I will only mention that there were not 3 million witnesses, nor 10,000. Rather, there are only 2 witnesses to the multitude of miraculous events that Jews say occurred.To summarize, at the time when the Torah made its supernatural claims, there were only 2 witnesses available to verify such claims. These claims, then, are no different from claims of other religions. The veracity of the Torah is no more witnessed than that of Mohammad's Quran or Smith's Mormon Bible.