Torah Study Notes 6-4-16

June 4, 2016

Page 869

This portion deals with contributions – that are voluntarily given. The expected contribution is itemized according to age and status. One gets the sense that this was not the favorite thing of the writers – although it subsidized the life style of the priests. Jacob makes a sacrifice after seeing a ladder in his dream .He pledges to devote a tenth of his income to God. Similarly, Hanna makes a promise of a donation if she has a man child.

27:1 The Eternal One spoke to Moses… and sets forth the amount to be pledged in Shekels. Or the priest shall make an assessment. The males are more valuable and a greater contribution is expected.  Obviously it is problematic to assign a monetary value to a human being.  In the Orthodox tradition when a baby dies before it is one month old – the family does not sit Shiva. This notion of “voluntary” giving is akin to an assessment of dues in a modern temple. Generally, in society one did not make the payment until the quid pro quo for the promise was received.

27:9 The purity of the offerings is set forth – ultimately a question for the priest. Three ways to make a sacrifice; give the animal to the priest for sale; redeem the animal and pay the money or have the animal sacrificed   Note that this role of priest is passed from father to son –  so the son serves an apprenticeship and learns the necessary skills. See Francis Fukuyama re the origins of political structure. The three components of modern political success are state building, the rule of law and accountability. Religion is a precursor to modern legal systems and the notion of accountability pervades the Torah.

RB There are governmental aspects here in the communal support of the priest and the Levites. This structure, if adhered to would suggest that no one would become too rich or to poor.

27: 14 The consecration and assessment of land and a house. Once sold the land is no longer “redeemable.”  It reverts to the priests on the jubilee year. There are elements of modern real estate law here = particularly in the notion of reversions.

27:22 Reversion of property consecrated to the Temple and then sold.The purchaser is only getting title for a period of years.

The donors redemption of tithes by substitution. A non  Israelite cannot be redeemed or sold. Note that a biblical shekel is a weight of metal – not a stamped coin.

See Essay page 873 re parallels here on the subject of reward and punishment with ancient Assyrian and Hittite treaties.

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