Does the Torah limit free speech? No.
“You shall not revile God, nor put a curse upon a chieftain among your people.” (Exodus 22:27) is not a limitation of free speech but a command not to blaspheme God, meaning not to curse God.
In this week’s parsha Emor “And to the Israelite people speak thus: Anyone who blasphemes his God shall bear his guilt; if he also pronounces the name Lord, he shall be put to death. The whole community shall stone him: stranger or citizen, if he has thus pronounced the Name, he shall be put to death.” (Leviticus 24:15-16).
The punishment is death, if warned by two witnesses, for explicit mention of God’s name as detailed in the Talmud. Extremely unlikely, if ever.
Allow me to give my theory, expanding on the midrash, on the story of the blasphemer in the last 10 passages of parshat Emor.
Who was the Blasphemer?
“There came out among the Israelites one whose mother was Israelite and whose father was Egyptian, And a fight broke out in the camp between that half-Israelite (lit. the son of an Israelite woman) and a certain Israelite. The son of the Israelite woman pronounced the Name in blasphemy, and he was brought to Moses---now his mother’s name was Shelomith daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan---” (Leviticus 24:10-11).
Rashi comments here:
The son of an Israelite woman went out. From where did he go out? R’ Levi says: He went out of his world. R’ Berechyah says: He went out of the passage above. He scoffed and said: On the Sabbath day he shall arrange it. It is the practice of the king to eat warm (fresh) bread every day. Might (a king eat) cold, nine-day-old bread? (he said this) in astonishment. A baraisa says: He went out of the court of Moses at fault.
He came to pitch his tent in the camp (of the tribe of) Dan. They said to him: What is your connection here (i.e. by what right do you come to pitch your tent here?). He said to them: I am of the sons of (the tribe of) Dan. They said to him “The Israelites shall camp each with his standard, under the banners of their ancestral house, they shall camp around the Tent of Meeting at a distance.” (Numbers 2:2).
He entered the court of Moses (to claim his right to pitch his tent in the camp of Dan).
And went out (of the court) wanting (i.e., he lost the case). He got up and blasphemed.
The son of an Egyptian man. He is the (son) of the Egyptian whom Moses killed. Among the children of Israel. This teaches us that he must have converted, taking part in the mass national circumcision and mikveh immersion prior to entering the Covenant at Sinai.
They contended in the camp. Over matters of the camp (i.e. over his claim to be allowed to pitch his tent in the camp of the tribe of Dan).
And the Israelites man. This [Israelite man] who opposed him, who objected against his pitching his tent (in the camp of Dan).
The cause of the quarrel is of critical importance. The Blasphemer argued against miracles from God. He scoffed at anyone who believes that the 9-day old 12 rolls of bread was always steaming fresh hot as if just baked. The Blasphemer argued that God doesn’t exist and there is no Divine Providence and no miracles. The Blasphemer totally rejects the creation account in the Bible, which is not necessary literal but gives Creation a Prime Mover. A modern day version would say he believes in Darwin’s evolution theory as taught in USA public schools. USA public schools teachers scoff at the creation account in the Bible.
The Blasphemer is a radical progressive left socialist Marxist
I speculate the Blasphemer defended his father (who raped Shelomith daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan, which is why the tribe rejected him(. The Blasphemer's appearance today is someone who doesn’t believe in private property rights. The poor should move in to the private property of the rich and stay there. The rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes. The poor do all the work and are underpaid. With no private property rights the blasphemer’s father had every right to approach Shelomith daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan, when her husband is out. With no private property rights from the Torah, Arabs can claim Israel is theirs.
The Blasphemer doesn’t believe in the sanctity of marriage The Torah says“Hence a man leaves his father and mother, and clings to his wife, so that they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24). The Blasphemer believes just as a poor man may move in to a rich man’s property, so too, one man can force and rape a married woman. The Blasphemer believes his father did nothing bad to rape Shelomith daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.
The Hertz Chumash expounds on the evil nature of the Blashphemer on page 527, explaining the limits necessary for free speech “the stranger. Although he is not subject to the precepts of the Torah and is to be allowed a large degree of tolerance, he yet may not be permitted to desecrate the holiness of the camp. If he does not wish to worship the God of Israel, he is not compelled to do so; but should he publicly revile the Holy Name, the offense is as serious with him as with the Israelite.”
Professor Gerald Aranoffis Professor of Accounting Ariel University. Born in Shenandoah, PA, USA, he moved to Israel in 1991. He lives in Bnei Brak. He has a BA in physics and Judaic studies from Yeshiva U, MBA in accounting and finance from Columbia U, and PhD in economics from CUNY. His USA faculty positions include: Fordham U, Queens College, St. John’s U, and Lehman College. His Israel faculty positions include: Jerusalem College of Technology, College of Management, Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv University, and Ariel University. He has 110 scholarly articles in economics, management accounting, financial accounting, finance, health, and Judaism, including a textbook chapter. He is the economics editor of the South Asia Journal of Social Studies and Economics.