The Community Comes First

I grew up a Protestant. The center of our faith was individual salvation to Heaven.

I loved movies that glorified the individual against the group such as 1966’s A Man For All Seasons.

When I turned 18, I dropped my belief in God and I dropped my religious observance. I went to work on the Sabbath at radio stations KAHI/KHYL in Auburn. Then I’d come home and work around the house. I’d chop and clear until my father asked me to desist as it was the Sabbath.

I’m listening to a 2007 lecture by Dennis Prager on Leviticus 13:4: “If the spot on his skin is white but does not appear to be more than skin deep and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest is to put the infected person in isolation for seven days.”

The removal isn’t for contagion or health reasons or the priest could have nothing to do with the person. Instead, the reason is the well being of the community. It is building its tabernacle, its sancta sanctorum, and the closer you get to this holy place, the healthier and more life-giving you have to be.

Crippled priests or priests with crushed testes or severed phalluses could not serve in the temple.

Sacrificial animals have to be unblemished.

The Torah’s view is that whatever sadness there is for the individual, the establishment of this sacred community takes precedence.

The Torah’s view is that the community must come first.

Why was the man who gathered wood on Shabbat put to death (as directly ordered by God)?

God is trying to create a holy community (life-centered) and to separate it from the evil around it. When a guy publicly defies the Ten Commandments, he’s trying to overthrow the entire attempt to make a better community.

If the guy was in his own tent writing letters, nobody would’ve bothered him, but gathering wood is a public act. It’s a form of rebellion.

Yes, a hunchback priest could slaughter turtle doves on the altar but the Torah wants priests who are wholly healthy.

In our society, we place tremendous importance on looks, but not when it comes to religion.

If you are a hunchback, you don’t get a job in TV reading the news. You can read the news. You might even do it better because you are already hunched over and looking down, but nobody today argues that TV must hire hunchbacks or people with skin diseases.

We are OK with wholeness and good looks for trivia, but if the Torah wants perfect looks when it comes to the Holy of Holies, ohmigod, what a weird book.

I’ve never bought the argument — God made me this way. They say it with the deaf and with gays. If you could get a cochlea implant and hear, you should. If you could take a pill and make love to the opposite sex, the Torah would want you to.

This only makes sense if you understand that the skin disease makes you look deathly.

The New Testament frequently condemns fornication (pre-marital sex). The Torah does not mention pre-marital sex. The loss of virginity can hurt a girl’s chance for a husband, so you have to marry her or pay her what her virginity is worth.

There’s not a word in the Torah against masturbation. The sin of Onan was not masturbation. It was that he would not have procreative sex with his brother’s widow.

When you know something is banned, you think about it less. It is possibilities that you think about.

Your father owns your mother’s sexuality. Only your father does.

The Torah desexualized two things thoroughly sexualized in the ancient world — God and the family.

I say to men — watch how you speak to your daughter or step-daughter. Don’t flirt with her. You must be asexual. Completely.

Due to the Torah, widows could no longer be handed around a family as wives and concubines.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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