Friday, April 20, 2007

Thoughts on Tazria-Metzora

1) I argued here that the excessive length given to describing the Mishkan is a necessary consequence of the attitude we should have towards it. As was pointed out in a comment, the same applies to the laws of sacrifices which are extensively discussed later on. But while this explanation works for the highly elaborated laws all the way through parshat Shemini, it seems to fail with the laws of leprosy.

I had to wait for an answer to this difficulty until the very end of this week's double parsha. The laws of bodily emissions end with the line "You shall separate the children of Israel from their impurity; that they die not in their impurity, by contaminating My tabernacle which is in their midst." (15:31) If there weren't enough hints already, this unambiguously confirms that a central purpose of impurity laws is to extend awareness of the Temple into our everyday lives. This being the case, it is reasonable for any law concerning impurity to include the detail one would expect from laws dealing with the Temple.

2) A number of sacrifices in Vayikra consist of two animals, one a "chatat" (sin-offering) and one an "olah" (entirely burnt offering). Why these two?

It seems that the "chatat" is functional. The only reason you are bringing a sacrifice in the first place is because you want expiation for a sin or for impurity. This function is accomplished, as would be expected, through the "chatat" or sin-offering.

But it is wrong to see the Temple as purely functional, like a supermarket where you go, do the necessary errands, and then leave. You must also see your visit as an encounter with God. And therefore one of your offerings must not be made with a specific purpose in mind, but simply as an indication that you are approaching God, a situation in which it's appropriate to bring an offering.

3) The strike continues, but I'm absolutely sick of it by now. My roommate says that four years ago, a similar strike lasted two months and an entire semester was lost. In any case, the strike on my blog (if it ever existed) is hereby declared to be over.


Anonymous said...

2) I agree with your statement. A separate question, though, is why you often have 2 bird, one a chatat and one an olah. The reason it is a separate question is that they often come in the place of a chatat. for example, a korban oleh veyored is either one (animal) chatat, 2 birds (one olah and one chatat), or a mincha. Ibn Ezra says the two birds are because the chatat ha'of doesn't have any eimurim on the mizbeach - it is completely eaten, so you need something on the mizbeach - the olah.

3) AAAARRRRGG. Striking is not the way to solve all problems...

Beisrunner said...

good call on the ibn ezra, which i had not seen.