Torah for today?

There is a perception among many believers that Torah, particularly the do’s and don’ts of the first 5 books of Scriptures, cannot be viewed as normative for our lives today. Torah has served its purpose and is outdated, they say, and should not be used as a guideline for people’s conduct and behaviour in this modern age of ours.  Some of the readers may have heard the tongue in the cheek (but most likely, true) story of Dr. Laura Schlesinger, an observant Orthodox Jew, who stated in her Radio show that homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.  In response to this, a US resident (who turns out to be an Emeritus Professor at the University of Virginia) wrote an open letter to Dr Laura in which he thanked her for “doing so much to educate people” regarding the law of the Almighty, but stated that he needed some advice regarding a number of other aspects of the Law and how to follow this Law in today’s life.  Here are some of the specific questions that he had asked, almost with a sarcastic undertone, in a humoristically naive manner: 

  1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
  2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
  3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of “menstrual uncleanliness” (Lev.15: 19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
  4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Almighty (Lev.1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
  5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
  6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there “degrees” of abomination?
  7. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
  8. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton and polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev.24:10-16.) Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14.)

He then concluded by saying: “I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I’m confident you can help.” He finally thanked her for reminding people that these laws are “eternal and unchanging” and said he was an “adoring fan” of hers.

Clearly, the idea behind this open letter is that it is ridiculous to keep a certain portion of Torah while everyone realises that there are certain (other) aspects of Torah that are impossible to keep in a changed world. 

But is this reasoning correct? Do we have Scriptural support for such a conclusion? Should we not acknowledge wisely that there are certain aspects of Torah that are not meant to be performed literally in our day, but still keep those commandments that we can – not as a means to earn our salvation, but as a recognition of the fact that the One who gave the Torah in the first place, had done so with abundant wisdom and perfect knowledge of such principles as compassion, righteousness, faithfulness and truth? 

What do you think? 

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