Torah Study Notes 3-25-12

NOTICE TO READERS OF THESE TORAH STUDYPOSTS: The text submitted here is unedited. Corrections and comments are welcome. Generally, the initials shown are an attempt to credit the individual who made a particular point or responded to it. “PG” is Rabbi Paul Golomb. Page references are to Plaut. It is assumed that the reader is familiar with the text but these notes will be more inteligible if read in conjunction with the cited passages.

March 25, 2012
p. 667
Leviticus 4:13 The purgation offering when the leadership has erred. Notice that only the fat is placed on the altar for sacrifice and the rest of the animal is disposed of – burned. This is different from other ceremonies where there is a feast after the sacrifice. When there has been wrong doing by community leaders what is the appropriate penalty? Clearly there are many wrongs that cannot be adequately penalized. There can only be a process of public purgation and subsequent renewal. SN: This is not a matter of making one whole – it is giving the community a way to put the wrong into the past. PG: Judgment continues to attach but the effort is to put the wrong aside. It’s like when they ritually blew up the baseball at Wrigley field when the Cubs were interfered with by a fan. The leadership has to be present and acknowledge responsibility. Try to imagine actually being there for that kind of ceremony. PG: It would be the equivalent of a perp walk. Consider the dietary laws – that were devised in early modern times once Jewish diets began to more frequently include meat. The lack of meat in the diet makes the sacrifice of the bull – without eating it – even greater. Note that although the priesthood has no civil administrative responsibility they can still be part of the guilt that needs expiation.
4:22 In the case where a chieftain has incurred guilt unwittingly… he must bring a male goat without blemish as a purgation offering. Here there is no comment about burning the meat. The text is silent as to where the sacrifice must occur. LL: Rabbi Elise Goldstein’s talk “Woman are from Genesis, Men are from Leviticus” talked about male preference for detailed rule-making. PG: She relies on Carol Gilligan’s sociological work – which has been somewhat discredited because of Gilligan’s small reference sample. Goldstein was correct in that the only voices heard as to the interpretation of biblical text were male. Consider the Talmud story of Galamiel – head of the rabbinic Academy after the destruction of the Temple: he so overstepped his authority that he was thrown out of the Academy. The result was that, once free of his onerous control, the members of the Academy doubled and there was a consequent burst of creativity. This group “invented” the importance of the Torah; just as the Bible was not an important part of the Catholic church until the Protestant Reformation forced a re-focus on the text – scripture. The Jews had previously relied on their priesthood. When the Temple was destroyed there had already been a decreasing of trust in the priesthood – which had begun with the Maccabean Revolt. It was at that time that there was a major revival of interest in Moses – and the centrality of Torah to Judaism. Previously the primary focus had been on figures such as David, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
4:27 A person unwittingly incurs guilt… a female goat without blemish as a purgation offering. Note that there are far more female goats than male goats. The latter are slaughtered. Note also that blood is considered the animating life force. That is why it is drained before sacrifice or consumption. Mary Douglas argued that ancient Israel really wanted to be vegan. Note that guilt can arise either by admission, recognition and as a result of inadvertence – without intent. Biblical texts dwell on how people think – but in the public arena the focus is on acts – what happened. Intent might impact the severity of the punishment. In Deuteronomy there is an examination of bearing false witness – which is considered an act equivalent to the crime itself.

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