Raboyseyee & Ladies,
Last week: the RBSO provided a rather comprehensive list of illicit sexual relationships. He did not however tell the Yiddin what was in store in the event one or more of you violated them. Welcome to Parshas Kedoishim where the RBSO tells us just what’s in store for the violators: death! Fartig and case closed.
Shoin, if the Azozale -discussed at length last week- left you scratching your collective heads and somewhat confused, guess what? Also mentioned -albeit very briefly and without much fanfare- but greatly further elucidated this week, is yet another commandment, this one even stranger. Let’s meet the Moilech and find out just how the RBSO felt about this thing, practice, or whatever it was. The who? The what? The Moilech was mentioned last week? How did we miss it? Let’s go back and read the relevant posik.
Sandwiched mamish between the prohibition in posik 20 against sleeping with your neighbor’s wife -to include your friend’s wife even a few blocks away- and the prohibition against lying down with a male, as one does with a woman (Posik 22), if you chap, we find this Moilech thing in posik 21. Let’s read 20, 22 and then 21. And we ask azoy: Does its placement in last week’s parsha tell us anything? Does it belong there?
|20- You shall not lie carnally with your neighbor’s wife, to become defiled by her.||כוְאֶל־אֵ֨שֶׁת֙ עֲמִ֣יתְךָ֔ לֹֽא־תִתֵּ֥ן שְׁכָבְתְּךָ֖ לְזָ֑רַע לְטָמְאָה־בָֽהּ:|
|22- You shall not lie down with a male, as with a woman: this is an abomination.||כב וְאֶ֨ת־זָכָ֔ר לֹ֥א תִשְׁכַּ֖ב מִשְׁכְּבֵ֣י אִשָּׁ֑ה תּֽוֹעֵבָ֖ה הִֽוא:|
|21- And you shall not give any of your offspring to pass through for Moilech. And you shall not profane the Name of your G-d. I am the Lord.||כאוּמִזַּרְעֲךָ֥ לֹֽא־תִתֵּ֖ן לְהַֽעֲבִ֣יר לַמֹּ֑לֶךְ וְלֹ֧א תְחַלֵּ֛ל אֶת־שֵׁ֥ם אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ אֲנִ֥י יְהוָֹֽה:|
Shoin, because most of you but glanced -if that- at the list of the forbidden, perhaps because you had eyes for someone on the list, and mamish skipped over the Moilech, let’s go back and review it in its entirety before we ask questions: check out the bolded verse below. “Do not commit incest, taking a woman and her daughter; do not [even] take her son’s daughter, or her daughter’s daughter, since this constitutes incest. Since they are blood relatives, it is a perversion. Do not take a woman and [then take] her sister as a rival to her, to uncover her nakedness, as long as [the first one] is alive. Do not come close to a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is ritually unclean because of her menstruation; this is a sexual offense. Do not lie carnally with your neighbor’s wife, to defile yourself with her. Do not give any of your offspring (lit., seed) to be initiated to Moilech, so that you do not profane the name of the Almighty: I am G-d. Do not lie with a male as you would with a female; this is an abomination. Do not perform any sexual act with an animal to defile yourself with it. Likewise, a woman shall not give herself to an animal and allow it to mate with her; this is a detestable perversion. (Vayikro 18:17-23)
And the questions are azoy: what is this Moilech thing? Who would give away offspring? Is it something sexual? We clearly chap -since the heylige Toirah is perfectly clear- what the other forbidden relations are, yet we didn’t stop at posik 21 which placed a new person, or thing, onto the forbidden list and ask what this was? Why did we skip right over this Moilech? Does this posik belong here? When reading posik 21, it does not epes appear that the RBSO is discussing a sexual relationship at all. The posik tells us that we are not to give any of our offspring to pass though the Moilech. And if it’s not sexual in nature, what is this instruction doing here? Why taka was it sandwiched between forbidden illicit relationships?
The bottom line: without knowing much, we went ahead and finished the parsha anyway. Seemingly we were too shocked or alarmed by the list of the forbidden. (One medrish tells us that the Yiddin were so upset over the list, they began to cry.) We simply forget -so seemingly did many- to dig further into the Moilech practice. Ober, guess what? It’s back! The Moilech is not just back, it’s back and it’s real. The RBSO has lots more to say about the Moilech and we will share. Let’s read how, where, and in what context: Says the heylige Toirah in our parsha mamish (Vayikra 20: 2-5) so alarmingly azoy:
“Anyone among the Children of Israel, or among the strangers residing in Israel, who gives any of his offspring to Moilech, shall be put to death; the people of the land shall pelt him with stones. And I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he gave his offspring to Moilech and so defiled My sanctuary and profaned by My holy name. And if the people of the land shut their eyes to that man when he gives of his offspring to Moilech, and do not put him to death, then I Myself will set My face against that man and his family, and will cut off from their people him and all who follow him in going astray after Moilech.” And for those more fluent, let’s read the words as they mamish appear:
וַיְדַבֵּר ה’ אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר: וְאֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל תֹּאמַר אִישׁ אִישׁ מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּמִן הַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן מִזַּרְעוֹ לַמֹּלֶךְ מוֹת יוּמָת; עַם הָאָרֶץ יִרְגְּמֻהוּ בָאָבֶן. וַאֲנִי אֶתֵּן אֶת פָּנַי בָּאִישׁ הַהוּא וְהִכְרַתִּי אֹתוֹ מִקֶּרֶב עַמּוֹ כִּי מִזַּרְעוֹ נָתַן לַמֹּלֶךְ לְמַעַן טַמֵּא אֶת מִקְדָּשִׁי וּלְחַלֵּל אֶת שֵׁם קָדְשִׁי: וְאִם הַעְלֵם יַעְלִימוּ עַם הָאָרֶץ אֶת עֵינֵיהֶם מִן הָאִישׁ הַהוּא בְּתִתּוֹ מִזַּרְעוֹ לַמֹּלֶךְ לְבִלְתִּי הָמִית אֹתוֹ: וְשַׂמְתִּי אֲנִי אֶת פָּנַי בָּאִישׁ הַהוּא וּבְמִשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ וְהִכְרַתִּי אֹתוֹ וְאֵת כָּל הַזֹּנִים אַחֲרָיו לִזְנוֹת אַחֲרֵי הַמֹּלֶךְ מִקֶּרֶב עַמָּם: וְהַנֶּפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר תִּפְנֶה אֶל הָאֹבֹת וְאֶל הַיִּדְּעֹנִים לִזְנֹת אַחֲרֵיהֶם וְנָתַתִּי אֶת פָּנַי בַּנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא וְהִכְרַתִּי אֹתוֹ מִקֶּרֶב עַמּוֹ: וְהִתְקַדִּשְׁתֶּם וִהְיִיתֶם קְדֹשִׁים כִּי אֲנִי ה’ אֱלֹהֵיכֶם: וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת חֻקֹּתַי וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם אֲנִי ה’ מְקַדִּשְׁכֶם::
That’s four shoutouts in fours pisukim! And those my friends -in any language – are fighting words from the RBSO. Give your child or seed to the Moilech and you will be killed. Who will do the killing? The ‘am ho’oretz,’ the people. But if they don’t get the job done, the RBSO will seemingly take care the matter. This is quite serious. Though He decrees death upon other violators, specifically upon those who violate the listed commands of a sexual nature, when it came to Moilech- whatever that was or is-He was quite adamant. You- meaning the Jewish people in charge- must go out and kill the perpetrator; if not, I will -so says the RBSO- do it myself. Wait: there’s more! Perpetrators will also be “cut off.” Death plus cutoff; as if one of these weren’t enough! The RBSO means business! Ober who is this Moilech? Why did the RBSO so abhor it?
As the heylige Ois has mentioned over and again these past twelve years, the Moilech is one of those mysterious things the RBSO never explained; yet another lacuna in the heylige Toirah which left many an exegete bewildered. The Moilech -as just mentioned- is shouted out by name once in each of the above pisukim quoted above. As well, we find the Moilech last week. There is more to come. Over in Parshas Shoiftim (Devorim 18:9-13) – just before Moishe’s passing, he remembers to also shout out the Moilech practices and warns the Yiddin about them; check it out.
“When you come into the land which the Almighty your G-d is giving you, do not learn to commit the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone that makes his son or his daughter pass through fire, who practices divination, who divines auspicious times, who divines by omens, who practices witchcraft, who uses incantations, who consults mediums and oracles, or who attempts to communicate with the dead (a necromancer). Anyone involved in these practices is repulsive to G-d, and it was because of repulsive practices such as these that the Almighty your G-d is driving out [these nations] before you. You must remain totally faithful to the Almighty your G-d.”
The good news: finally, a clue. At this point, Moishe seemingly knew it was fire related. Moishe will remind the Yiddin about abominations that really upset the RBSO. He is specific and tells us that Moilech has something to do with passing children through a fire. See the bolded words above. Ober, that’s in Devorim, many weeks ahead; what sayeth Rashi and others this week and last?
“This was an idol the name of which was “Moilech,” and this was the manner in which it was worshipped: the father handed his child (lit., his son, but it applies to his daughter also; cf. Deuteronomy 18:10) over to the priests of the idol. They lit two large pyres one opposite the other and made the child pass on foot between the two pyres (Sanhedrin 64b).” Elsewhere in the heylige Novee (Yirmiyahu 7:31), Rashi describes the Moilech azoy: a gigantic metal statue, around which the killing ritual took place: Moilech was made of brass; and they heated him from his lower parts; and his hands stretched out, and were made hot. They put the child between his hands, and it was burnt. And the child would cry out; but the priests beat a drum, so that the father would not hear the voice of his son and feel pity for him.
מולך שהיה של נחשת ומסיקין אותו מתחתיו וידיו פשוטות וניסקות ונותנין את הילד על ידיו והוא נכוה ונוהם והכומרים היו מקישין בתופים שלא ישמע האב קול הבן ויכמרו רחמיו , תופת על שם התוף
On the other hand, the Ibn Ezra and the RambaN state with a degree of certitude that Moilech is the same god that the Ammonites are said to worship. In the Novee (Melochim) the name is ‘Milcom.’ Either way, the standard assumption is that Moilech was the name of some Canaanite deity. The bottom line: this was a child-sacrifice ritual, where a child would be passed through fire, and it should come as no surprise that the RBSO -who is all about life- prohibited the practice by Toirah law. What caught the Ois’s attention this week, is the context in which this law was transmitted. Offering children to some type of false G-d? Unthinkable and detestable! On the other hand, we might wonder why the heylige Toirah focuses so much attention on the Moilech, relative to the description of other idolatrous practices the RBSO hates. What’s pshat? Moreover, given its placement between other sexual perversions, one could taka think that it’s but another deviance, a Toiavo- something that mamish disgusts the RBSO. Yet to the Ois’s great surprise, none of the exegetes go in that direction. Or, do they? Is there a connection?
Says Menachem ben Benjamin Recanati – he a kabbalist, azoy: both sins reflect a reneging on relationship vows. Illicit relationships don’t require comment and idolatry in the form of the Moilech is another form of unfaithfulness to the pact we made with the RBSO at Matan Toirah. And adds the Abarbanel, azoy: ershrtens (firstly), the people of Canaan were morally derelict, specifically in these two sins. And just as sexual promiscuity is the abuse of the procreative power, so too the passing (and killing) of one’s child through fire is the abuse of the divine gift for procreating children.
The bottom lines: based on all the ink dedicated to the Moilech, it does epes appear that people -even amongst the Yiddin- were very attracted to Moilech practices. Were they channeling their warm feelings for Avrohom Oveenu who was prepared to sacrifice his only son Yitzchok? Was child sacrifice but a way of connection to the RBSO? Shoin, and before you suggest that the heylige Ois has gone totally meshuga, be aware that others have written on this very topic and connection. The bottom line: the RBSO abhors child sacrifice; the test given to Avrohom at the akeydo is above our pay grade to fully chap. Let us recall that the RBSO did not allow Avrohom to go through with it. Another bottom line: clearly, attraction to the Moilech was strong enough for the RBSO to take note; it did pique His interest; He did forbid its practice over and again. In fact, more times than other items on the forbidden list.
Ober, what do we know about this idolatry? Let us learn a shtikel Gemora (Sanhedrin 64b) which tells us azoy: “One who gives of his offspring to Moilech is not liable [to be stoned] unless he hands over [the child] to the priests of Moilech and passes the child through the fire.” The Gemora expounds: there are two traditions regarding the actual ritual: According to Abaye, the child would walk on a raised brick walkway between two fires, ober according to Rovo -his sparring partner in most Toirah matters, kimat all- the child would be made to leap over a fire burning in a pit. Rashi, as mentioned above, adopts the opinion of Abaye: “This was a form of idolatry, named Moilech, and this was the manner of its worship, that one would hand over one’s child to the pagan priests, who would make two huge fires. The child was then passed through on foot between these two fires.”
And hear this: both the RambaN and the RambaM quoting the heylige Gemora (Yirushalmi Sanhedrin 7:10) argue that the service included the father himself passing his child through the fire! And the medrish? Let’s check one out (Tanchuma) where we read this: How did the Moilech work in the valley of Ben-Hinnom? It was built outside of Jerusalem. It was an idol with the face of a calf and open hands like someone who wants to take something from another. They would light this idol on fire until his hands were scorching. There were seven chambers before him and according to the quality of the sacrifice that is how close one could come to him. If one came with a bird, then chamber one; goat, chamber two; sheep, chamber three; calf, chamber four; cow, chamber five; and ox, chamber six.
He who brought his child, the priests would say that he is offering the greatest sacrifice. He would enter the innermost chamber and go kiss the Moilech. The priests would then take the child and place it near the Moilech. They would then bang with drums to drown out the cries. Come see how obsessed the nation was with idol worship that they were willing to do something so reprehensible! But in the future, says G‑d, “I will remove your heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh…did all that happen? Ver veyst! It’s medrish; medrish has literary license to imagine what Moilech was.
Did the Child Die? Excellent question! While it makes good sense that the child died -he was sacrificed- not so fast says the medrish (quoted above). And says the RambaM: this was a service which the child survived (albeit emotionally scarred for life); you think?! Other opinions however, say that the child was actually scarred physically or even burned to death. The priests would bang and clap to drown the noise from the child’s screams so that the father would not regret his decision.
Whoa! Why would anyone in his right mind find such a service attractive for his own children? Says the RambaM (Mishneh Toirah, Laws of Avoida Zoro 6:3, and commentary on the Mishnah, Sanhedrin 7:7) that the conniving priests of Moilech convinced people that whoever did not have their children participate in this ritual would witness the death of their children. Thus, people felt that by appeasing the Moilech god they would secure their child’s future. Want more? Here we go.
Was It Really Practiced? Ver veyst? What we know with certainty is that over in the Novee (Melochim- Kings), we read how Shlomo Hamelech’s many wives (some say 1000, way too many) impacted him. We read (1 Kings 11:7) so shockingly azoy: “At that time, Solomon built a shrine for Chemosh the abomination of Moiov on the hill near Yerusholayim, and one for Moilech the abomination of the Ammonites.” King Solomon did what? Built a shrine for the Moilech? How could that be? Wait: there’s more and let’s read what he did next. In the very next posik we read this: “And he did the same for all his foreign wives who offered and sacrificed to their gods.” King Solomon actually built a site for Moilech? Say it’s not so but the Novee so states and oy vey! Ober not to worry -so says Rashi- because he didn’t mamish build one. Rashi says azoy: “Our Rabbis said, that because he did not protest against his wives, it is called by his name.” Bottom line according to Rashi trying to cover up for the king’s naughty behavior is that Shlomo didn’t build the temples, but he remained quiet in the face of his wives’ deviant behavior. A few bottom lines: 1- whether he built these shrines or but allowed them to be built and specifically for the Moilech for his wayward wives to worship, is not good. 2- the RBSO did not order his death, nor come down Himself to kill Shlomo. The next posik in the Novee tells us that the RBSO was very angry with the king and told him that his kingship would be lost as a result of his behavior. The good news: because the RBSO loved Dovid (Shlomo’s son), he delayed sentencing on Shlomo’s kingdom. Final bottom line: relationships can be helpful; a times, they can save your life.
And then there was King Menashe about whom we read this: “And he passed his sons through fire in the valley of Ben Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, divination, and sorcery, and he consulted necromancers and others who divine by other idols, oy vey! These were our kings? Shreklich!!
Another bottom line: it does epes appear that the Yiddin -pre Revelation and for many years later, seemingly centuries- could not shake themselves completely from leanings towards idol worship in many varieties. Moilech was but one such manifestation. In biblical times there were numerous false gods that were popular in the ancient pagan societies, and, at times -seemingly many- among the Jewish people as well. Throughout the heylige Toirah and the Novee, there are many references to a rite named Moilech, which involved passing children through fire, with many warnings from the RBSO to not observe it.
Shoin, let’s close up with this. How did the RBSO treat Moilech in our parsha where it’s dealt with first and alone; not at all connected, or even near the others on the “do not list?” Why was it separated from others on the list? In our parsha, Moilech is the first law mentioned, followed by various pagan practices involving necromancy. Sexual prohibitions and their punishments, are listed only after these other two categories. And the question is azoy: is Moilech at all connected to the other sexual perversions which the RBSO abhors?
Says Targum Yoinoson -he no stranger to very creative original thoughts when it comes to sexual matters, azoy: to make Moilech fit neatly into the list and answer why it was originally sandwiched between forbidden sexual encounters, he simply added a few words to the instructions. “Do not give your seed to a gentile woman who will become pregnant and bear children for idolatry.” In other words: if you get the shiksa girlfriend pregnant (give her your seed), your lovechild might end up serving avoido zoro, perhaps even the Moilech. This fascinating explanation of the posik explains why the law of Moilech is mentioned in the list of forbidden sexual relations; it belongs and is but one more forbidden sexual encounter, this time with a shiksa whom one might impregnate. Shoin! With these extra words, pshat is azoy: we should not give our children to the Moilech because of intermarriage. What’s pshat? Because children produced from such a union would be subject to the whims of the mother and her pagan sensibilities and practices. Gishmak, ober does the heylige Mishneh or Gemora agree? Not! Why not?
Because says the Mishneh (Megilla 4:9) a shtikel scathingly azoy: “If one modifies the text while reading the laws of forbidden sexual relations, i.e., he introduces euphemisms out of a sense of propriety, they silence him.” Similarly, if one says while translating the verse: “And you shall not give any of your seed to set them apart to Moilech.” And you shall not give any of your seed to impregnate an Aramean woman, he is silenced with rebuke. Bottom line: the Mishneh does not like Targum Yoinoson’s approach. We cannot add words to the posik just because it helps us better understand its contextual placement between other forbidden relations. The Moilech stands alone as it does in our parsha. On the other hand, says the heylige Gemora (Megillah 25a) “If one says, ‘Do not give any of your seed to be initiated to Moilech‘, etc.: In the school of Rebbe Yishmoel it was stated: The text speaks of an Israelite who has intercourse with a Cuthean woman and begets from her a son for idolatry. The bottom line: the heylige Gemora does seem to agree with what Targum Yoinoson had to say; seemingly the Moilech and illicit relations are at least a shtikel related and therefore its placement alongside the longer list, is valid. Oib azoy (if that’s the case), why were they separated in our parsha? And the answer? Ver veyst? What we know is this: last week Moilech was taka sadnwhiched in between different illicit relationships and we see that -according to some- there is a shtikel sexual connection. Ober this week, Moishe mentions Moilech, followed by other idolatrous magical practices, all also forbidden. This type of magic is completely forbidden, and the Toirah ends the discussion with a general demand that we reject all such behavior and banish any thoughts of incorporating outside practices into our service of G-d. It must be completely eradicated so that we may serve the RBSO with a whole heart. Bottom line: Moilech was seemingly repugnant to the RBSO for more than one reason. The Moilech was a powerful idolatrous practice which required yet another shout out, this time connected to other repulsive black magic practices.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv