The Law Evolves

(Dr. Laura, are you listening?)


"Dear Dr. Laura," reads a bit of internet humor currently circulating through religion-based lists, "thank you for teaching me that homosexuality is eternally sinful according to the Bible. Now I have a few other questions: I recently built a sacrificial altar in my backyard. The Bible says that God savors the odor of burnt offerings, but my neighbors don't. How shall I proceed? Also I'd like to purchase a slave from a nearby foreign nation, as the Bible suggests. A friend of mine says that this law is applicable to Mexicans, but not Canadians. What's your opinion? I'm also interested in selling my daughter for cash, where might I find a buyer? ..."

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The author's obvious point is that contemporary Jews of all denominations do not read the Bible as a document frozen in time. Jewish theology believes that the Torah reveals itself in harmony with the changing social circumstances of the Jewish people. We Jews no longer keep slaves, sell our daughters, stone rebellious children, engage in animal sacrifice, or in general live as did our ancestors in ancient Israel. It is the tradition of Jews to interpret Torah to provide moral guidance for the world in which we live now, not one of the distant past. This tradition keeps Judaism a vibrant evolving religious system rather than a fossilized relict.

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