Torah Too R-rated for Some Hasidim, So They Censor It

Bible study guide for New York ultra-Orthodox omits various passages, from creation to copulation.

Young women walk on the designated women’s side of the street in New Square, a Hasidic village in suburban New York.
Uriel Heilman, JTA

JTA - For some Hasidim, the Torah is too hot to handle. Or so it seems.

A recently published Bible study guide in use in a Hasidic village in suburban New York omits certain risque sentences and entire passages of the Book of Genesis, according to Israeli scholar and blogger David Assaf of Tel Aviv University.

The censored chumash, or Bible, was printed for Beit Tziporah, a girls school in New Square, a village of Skverer Hasidim in New York State’s Rockland County.

Among other edits, the chumash excludes a section at the end of Genesis 19 in which Lot’s two daughters get their father drunk and sleep with him so they can get pregnant. The chumash also omits the entire first two parshas, or Torah portions, of Genesis, cutting out the story of the world’s creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the Tower of Babel, beginning instead at the story of Abraham.

Another omissions is the story of Onan, who spilled his seed rather than impregnate Tamar; Judah’s sexual encounter with his daughter-in-law Tamar disguised as a prostitute; and Potiphar’s wife’s attempted seduction of Joseph.

But not all the seemingly risque stories have been taken out, Assaf notes. The tale of Dina’s rape, for example, was left in.

The edition is intended to serve as a study guide, rather than a full account of the Bible. Each of the verses intentionally leaves one word blank for the girls to fill in from memory.