Shabbat Table Topics – Parashat Kedoshim

Is Intermarriage Biblically Prohibited?

In Vayikra 18:21 and 20:2-5 the Torah commands not to give of one's seed to the Molekh. What does the violation of this prohibition entail? Some commentators assume that the verse refers to an idolatrous rite, such as child immolation or consecration, while others connect it to sexual offenses, such as relations or marriage to a non-Jew.

  • What textual support might be brought for each position? See Giving One's Seed to Molekh.
  • Though the Torah prohibits intermarriage with the seven Canaanite nations, it nowhere explicitly legislates against marriage to other outsiders. How might this omission be understood, and how might it affect exegetes' reading of this passage?

The Laws of Hybrids

The laws of hybrids (כלאים)1 are often brought as the classic example of a law whose purpose is not self-evident and inherently logical. Commentators, nonetheless, attempt to explain the reasoning behind the various commandments. See Purpose of the Laws of Hybrids.

  • RashbamVayikra 19:19About R. Shemuel b. Meir maintains that the laws serve to preserve the natural order instituted by Hashem, in which every plant and animal was created according to its own kind. Why, though, is it problematic if this order is disrupted? Is man not allowed to move beyond creation, and attempt to improve the world?  What might Rashbam say about genetic engineering?
  • PhiloThe Special Laws IV: 203-217About Philo and JosephusAntiquities of the Jews 4:8:20About Josephus, in contrast, suggest that the laws are meant to protect both the land and animals. Ploughing the land with animals of different strengths is not fair to the weaker animal, and planting diverse plant species exhausts the land. How, though, might this explanation understand the prohibition of wearing wool and linen together?

On Self Control

According to R. HirschVayikra 19:23-25About R. Samson Raphael Hirsch, the goal of the mitzvah of orlah, the prohibition to eat from a tree in its first three years, is to teach man self-restraint. [See Purpose of Orlah.] He connects this to the directive of "קדושים תהיו," explaining that holiness can only be achieved via self-control.

  • R. Hirsch explains that the root "קדש" means to separate.  How does this work with his understanding that holiness is intricately connected to self discipline? Why is self-restraint so crucial for attaining holiness?
  • Akeidat YitzchakVayikra Derush 10About R. Yitzchak Arama goes a step further to suggest that all laws whose reason is unclear (such as the prohibition to wear linen and wool together) need have no other purpose other than the fact that they restrict man.  Is it possible that the goal of certain prohibitions is simply to have prohibitions?
  • Is abstinence always to be lauded? Is indulgence always negative? What is a healthy balance between the two?


For more, see: Parashat Kedoshim Topics.