Monthly Archives: April 2019

Freedom and the Responsibility of Distinctions

by Judah Kerbel

Why was it vital for G-d to ‘personally’ carry out the killing of the firstborns?

In Shemot 12:12, G-d foreshadows the 10th plague with a drumbeat of first-person verbs.

שמות פרק יב פסוק יב

וְעָבַרְתִּי בְאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה

וְהִכֵּיתִי כָל בְּכוֹר בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מֵאָדָם וְעַד בְּהֵמָה

וּבְכָל אֱלֹהֵי מִצְרַיִם אֶעֱשֶׂה שְׁפָטִים

אֲנִי יְקֹוָק:

I will go through the land of Egypt on this night

I will strike down every first-born in the land of Egypt, whether man or beast;

I will mete out punishments to all the gods of Egypt,

I the LORD (Exodus 12:12).

The midrash that we read at the seder understands G-d as emphasizing not just that He acted personally, but that He acted alone.

ועברתי בארץ מצרים בלילה הזה – אני ולא מלאך.

והכיתי כל בכור בארץ מצרים – אני ולא שרף.

וכל אלהי מצרים אעשה שפטים – אני ולא ?ה?שליח.

“I will go through the Land of Egypt on this night” – I and not an angel.

“I will strike down every first-born in the land of Egypt” – I and not a seraph.

“I will mete out punishments to all the gods of Egypt” – I and not ?the? emissary.

But why would an angel or emissary not be able to perform this task, or even to accompany G-d while He performed it?

The Zohar answers that Egypt was so saturated with impurity that angels would be defiled by entering, even while on a Divine mission. G-d saw His ministers damaged when they entered Sodom to destroy it, and did not will to repeat the experience. So He Himself came, alone, to perform the plague.

I would like to suggest a different answer. To introduce that answer, I need first to raise another question:  Why does the Torah associate so many commandments explicitly with the Exodus?

Rashi sometimes comments on such connections “on this condition you were redeemed,” which suggests that freedom does not come for free. The deal is that freedom from Pharaoh is in exchange for servitude to God. But this does not explain what makes these mitzvot special.  Isn’t this true of all mitzvot?

Still, in other instances, Rashi quotes Bava Metzia 61b, citing the appropriate piece in the location of each pasuk:

אמר רבא:

למה לי דכתב רחמנא יציאת מצרים ברבית, יציאת מצרים גבי ציצית, יציאת מצרים במשקלות?

אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא:

אני הוא שהבחנתי במצרים בין טפה של בכור לטפה שאינה של בכור –

אני הוא שעתיד ליפרע ממי שתולה מעותיו בנכרי ומלוה אותם לישראל ברבית, וממי שטומן משקלותיו במלח, וממי שתולה קלא אילן בבגדו ואומר תכלת הוא.

Said Rava:

Why is it necessary for the Torah to mention  the exodus from Egypt in the context of the the prohibition against interest (see Leviticus 25:37–38), and in the context the mitzvah to wear ritual fringes (see Numbers 15:39–41), and in the context of the prohibition concerning weights (see Leviticus 19:35–36)?

The Holy One, Blessed be He, is telling us:

I, am He Who distinguished in Egypt between the drop of seed that became a firstborn and the drop of seed that did not become a firstborn;

I, the very same, am He Who is destined to exact punishment from one who attributes ownership of his money to a gentile and thereby lends it to a Jew with interest, and  Who is destined to exact punishment from one who buries his weights in salt (invisibly changing their weight). and Who is destined to exact punishment from one who hangs ritual fringes dyed with vegetable indigo [kala ilan] dye on his garment and says they are dyed with  (the halakhically required) sea-creature indigo.

What discrepancy would there be in determining the first born that requires fine discernment “between drops of seed?” Rashi explains that human beings can know a woman’s firstborn, but if she bore children for multiple men, only G-d can know which were firstborn of their fathers. Similarly, human beings have a limited capacity to see beyond that which meets the eye; we may often trust that which we see and hear, making us susceptible to being cheated. However, G-d reminds us that He, who has the powerful ability to discern, holds us accountable especially when we deceive others. These mitzvot are thus singled out because they are most subject to deception. Maharal of Prague makes a sharper claim: the correlation between these mitzvot and the exodus goes beyond the deterrent, admonishing us that by engaging in such deceit, one denies G-d’s ability to perceive fine distinctions, thereby denying G-d’s essential role in taking us out of Egypt and His ability to do the supernatural. One who recognizes the miraculousness of the exodus, however, will understand that G-d knows when we lie. Furthermore, B’nei Yisrael, in being redeemed supernaturally, merited a higher spiritual level. To engage in deceit, and denying G-d’s ability to account for that, is antithetical to the spiritual level that was intended for B’nei Yisrael in leaving Egypt.

Pesach at its core is about the distinction between right and wrong, justice and oppression, truth and deceit. The Mishnah says that we must begin telling the story of our liberation by making mention of our disgrace, genut, and only then finishing with praise, shevach. We need to make the distinction between genut and shevach because we can only truly appreciate our freedom by understanding the alternative. But we also need to connect this distinction to the fundamental distinction between tov and ra, between right and wrong. Our experience of oppression should teach us  that oppressing others is wrong. That is why the Torah says dozens of time that we should not oppress the other because we were once the “other.”

The Yerushalmi (Berakhot 5:2) declares, “if there is no wisdom, how do we make distinctions?” From whom do we learn to make distinctions? Where does our wisdom come from? G-d, Who distinguished between the firstborn and others, Who is able to see the fine line between truth and deception, grants us the wisdom to make these distinctions as well. That is why G-d, and not an angel, executed the last plague. His miraculous distinguishing of the firstborns teaches us to trust His distinctions between right and wrong, justice and oppression, truth and deceit, and He therefore calls upon us to use our freedom to follow mitzvot with integrity and treat others in accordance with these principles.

Judah Kerbel (SBM 2015) is a Beit Midrash Fellow at SAR High School. He holds a master’s degree from the Bernard Revel Graduate School in medieval Jewish history and is scheduled toreceive semikha from RIETS this spring.

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Tzara’at, Repression, and Redemption

This week’s alumni Dvar Torah is by Rabbi Avraham Bronstein

When you come to the land of Canaan, which I give to you as a possession, and I put the plague of tzara’at upon a house in the land of your possession… (Vayikra 14:34)

In the first three and a half years after the modern State of Israel was born, it absorbed over 685,000 Jewish refugees from around the world, effectively doubling its population. Over 100,000 Jews were placed in homes and villages previously inhabited by Palestinian Arabs prior to the War of Independence, whose original owners, in many cases families going back many generations, were displaced or fled during the war. These Jewish refugees who had traumatically lost homes and communities now found themselves resettled into their homeland, but actually living in houses with someone else’s pictures on the wall, food in the pantry, and clothing in the closet.

The Midrash records Rabbi Hiyya wondering why, in contrast to the depictions of tzara’at appearing on one’s person or clothing, the opening verse of the Torah’s description of tzara’at appearing on a house almost makes it sound like a good thing, or at least a natural result of the process of taking control of the land.

The Midrash’s answer, in fact, is that God did not place the tzara’at on those homes to punish the Israelites, but to reward them.

Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai taught: When the Canaanites heard that Israel were coming to their country, they arose and hid their wealth inside their walls… The Holy One said: I did not promise their forefathers that I would bring their descendants into a land laid waste, but rather to a land full of all kinds of goodness…What, then, did the Holy One do? He caused sores to appear on a person’s house, and when they took it apart, they would find the treasure. (Vayikra Rabba, 17:6)

In his “My Promised Land,” Israeli journalist Ari Shavit recalls growing up in 1950s Tel Aviv. (The book, a combination of personal history and political commentary was problematic for, among other things, the marginalization of female and Palestinian voices in the narrative it constructed. As it turned out, this flaw was reflective of what later came to light about Shavit himself and his attitudes and actions towards women who came within in his orbit. I cite Shavit’s description here because his lack of broader perspective actually informs my own point.)

As Shavit remembers it, the overwhelming element that characterized that era was silence. It was understood that nobody would speak about the terrible things they had experienced, and what they had done to survive them. He describes the air being thick with the tension of what was not expressed openly, but nonetheless palpable.

Shavit’s Tel Aviv was growing at a frenetic pace. He suspects, through, that behind the relentless push for progress was, at least in part, a fear of what lay beneath the surface; by constantly moving forward, people would not have the space to think about what had happened – what they had done – before.

Inevitably, though, there were cracks in the armor. He recalls hearing cries at night as traumatized survivors suffered nightmares, and observed those around him suffering the sudden mood swings and depression that we now understand as PTSD. Every home had stories that would not be shared, but remained buried within its walls. And that must have been doubly true for the homes that literally were someone else’s only a short time before.

Another Midrashic interpretation, though, does see tzara’at on a home as a punishment – for the sin of miserliness.

A person says to his neighbor, “Lend me a kav of wheat.”

The neighbor replies: “I have none.”

“Then a kav of barley?”

“I have none.”

A woman says to her neighbor: “Lend me a sifter.”

She replies, “I have none.”

“Lend me a sieve?”

She replies, “I have none.”

What does the Holy One do? He brings a plague on the house, and when one is forced to take out all of their belongings, everyone sees and they say, “Didn’t they say that they had nothing? Look how much wheat he has! How much barley! How many dates there are here!” (Vayikra Rabba, 17:2)

The Kli Yakar reads this interpretation back into the Biblical verse, particularly the words, “which I give to you as a possession,” explaining that the root of miserliness is forgetting that one’s home and possessions are not truly their own, but rather entrusted to them by the grace of God.

In a brilliant twist, Rabbanit Sharon Rimon demonstrates how both interpretations share a common root. The starkest reminder to an ancient Israelite that their house was only theirs by God’s grace would have been finding within its walls the treasures left behind by its previous owners, and then seeing them swept into the street together with their own possessions.

An Israelite living in such a home may not have known, but, perhaps, might have sensed an older presence, with its own history and story. Sometimes it may have just been a disquieting feeling, but sometimes it manifested as tzara’at, literally bursting through the walls and out into the street, refusing to be silenced and shut away. My sense is that it must have been very similar to what Shavit described of his youth.

With all this in mind, we may better appreciate the seder night as a time when past, present, and future come together around the table. By the conclusion of the seder, through the process of re-experiencing both oppression and redemption, by asking probing questions and providing full, narrative answers, we come to more fully understand who we are and how we got here; nothing is stifled, nor hidden behind the walls. Perhaps that is the necessary stance to look confidently towards the future and the ultimate redemption of our story.

Rabbi Avraham Bronstein (SBM 2002) is the Rabbi at The Hampton Synagogue.

 

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Where There’s a Priestly Will, Is There a Halakhic Way?

by Rabbi Aryeh Klapper

Texts cannot defend themselves against interpreters who do not love them. And love is not enough.  Only a relationship characterized by loyalty, integrity, and rigor can grant texts any degree of actual influence and genuine independence.

Rabbinic interpretation of Vayikra 13:2-3 seems to eviscerate the text.  The Rabbis appear to seize legal powers that the text plainly grants to kohanim. They then apparently extend those powers in explicit defiance of the conditions set out in the text.

Jews who understand Chazal this way usually grant themselves the same unconstrained authority over texts that they assign to Chazal. They see Judaism as a government of people, not of texts. (One might describe them as believers in daas Torah, who differ from extremist charedim with regard to ends but not means.)

It is vital to see whether this understanding of the Rabbinic project meets our own standards of loyalty, integrity, and rigor. Were Chazal constrained by their relationship with the text of Torah, or not?  Can we honestly describe ourselves as constrained by the same relationship?

Vayikra 13:2 says that if a person develops one of three types of skin lesions, which develops into a nega tzaraat, then  

וְהוּבָא֙ אֶל־אַהֲרֹ֣ן הַכֹּהֵ֔ן

א֛וֹ אֶל־אַחַ֥ד מִבָּנָ֖יו הַכֹּהֲנִֽים:

וְרָאָ֣ה הַכֹּהֵ֣ן אֶת־הַנֶּ֣גַע בְּעֽוֹר־הַ֠בָּשָׂר

וְשֵׂעָ֨ר בַּנֶּ֜גַע הָפַ֣ךְ׀ לָבָ֗ן

וּמַרְאֵ֤ה הַנֶּ֙גַע֙ עָמֹק֙ מֵע֣וֹר בְּשָׂר֔וֹ

נֶ֥גַע צָרַ֖עַת ה֑וּא

וְרָאָ֥הוּ הַכֹּהֵ֖ן וְטִמֵּ֥א אֹתֽוֹ:

He is brought to Aharon the kohen

or to one of his sons the kohanim

The kohen sees the nega in the skin of the flesh

and the hair of the nega has turned white,

and the appearance of the nega is deeper than the skin of the flesh,

This is a nega tzaraat

The kohen sees it

and the kohen declares it tamei.

As Seforno perceptively points out, the subject of this law is the kohen; the person with the nega is the object.  That is why the Torah describes the person as being brought to the kohen, rather than as coming to him. Many commentators and halakhists conclude that the person can even be brought to the kohen involuntarily.

Does the kohen/subject have agency?  Can the kohen look away and not see the nega if he wishes, or evaluate the entire person rather than just the nega? Must the kohen follow the Torah’s prescription as to what sorts of nega becomes tamei and which not, or the decision be based on what the kohen “sees” as pastorally better for the person with the nega?

Mishnah Moed Katan 7a records a dispute between Rabbi Meir and “the Sages,” identified by the Talmud as Rabbi Yose, as to whether a kohen should examine a nega during a festival. Both parties agree that in principle the kohen should do whatever will maximize joy during the festival, i.e. examine the nega if and only if the result will be the anxiety-relieving declaration of tahor.

But how can that be done with integrity?  Rabbi Meir says that the legal consequences of tum’ah here are not triggered by the objective condition, but rather by the kohen’s declaration.  Therefore, the kohen should be silent if the only honest word he can speak is tamei, and let the joy of the festival continue unabated. Rabbi Yose, however, holds that one cannot seek a declaration of tahor without opening up the genuine possibility of a declaration of tamei. Therefore, better for the kohen to refuse to examine any potential nega during the festival, lest he be forced to declare it tamei, even though this leaves many people’s festival joy diminished by the fear that they will be declared tamei immediately following the festival.

But is it really legitimate to adopt a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy regarding negaim? Don’t all the standard mitzvah-lists count “carrying out the laws of negaim” as a duty?!

Talmud Moed Kattan 7b doubles down on yes.

למימרא דבכהן תליא מילתא?!

אין, והתניא )בניחותא(

וביום הראות בו

יש יום שאתה רואה בו, ויש יום שאי אתה רואה בו.

מכאן אמרו:

חתן שנולד בו נגע –

נותנין לו שבעה ימי המשתה, לו ולביתו ולכסותו.

וכן ברגל, נותנין לו שבעת ימי הרגל,

דברי רבי יהודה;

רבי אומר:

אינו צריך,

הרי הוא אומר

וצוה הכהן ופנו את הבית

אם ממתינים לו לדבר הרשות – כל שכן לדבר מצוה.

Do you mean to say that it depends on the kohen?!

Yes, and a beraita says accordingly:

And on the day that there is seen in it (Vayikra 13:14) –

There is a day that you examine it, and a day that you don’t examine it,

On this basis they said:

A bridegroom who develops a nega

we give him the seven days of feasting – to him, to his house, and to his clothes.

Similarly, on a festival we give him the seven days of the festival

in the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah;

Rebbe said:

This (source) is unnecessary

Vayikra 14:36 says (regarding house-tzaraat)

The kohen commands, and they empty the house [before the kohen comes to examine the nega] –

if one delays (examination) so that the person can do something optional (saving his property),

then certainly one can do so for the sake of something that is a mitzvah (such as marriage- or festival-joy).

At this sugya’s end, at least according to Rebbe and perhaps according to all opinions, it appears that the Rabbis interpreted the Torah as giving kohanim the discretion to refuse to implement the halakhah of nega when they saw it as competing with a more important value. A very similar move can be found in a beraita on Berakhot 19b which gives the Rabbis discretion to overrule the obligation to return lost objects because “sometimes you must look away, and sometimes you must not.” They choose to exercise that discretion in situations where the finder would think it beneath their dignity to recover their own identical object.

The formulation of this discretion may be vital.  A rule can be suspended for the sake of a conflicting value, but only if the value of the rule is genuinely maintained, if it is not universally suspended. There is metahalakhah, but it must not drown halakhah. The Torah almost never tells us explicitly how to choose among laws when they conflict, or between laws and values. Halakhah sometimes codifies the hierarchy purely abstractly, and sometimes adopts a more granular approach.

Another interpretive move rips the power of nega-discretion away from the kohanim. Sifra, the Midrash Halakhah on Vayikra, points out that “one of his sons the kohanim” is redundant – aren’t all of Aharon’s sons kohanim, and aren’t all kohanim Aharon’s sons?  It appears to conclude that all Israelites are permitted to examine a nega; a kohen is needed to declare the judgement, but need have no part in making it.

Mishnah Negaim 3:1 similarly presents the nega-examination as a sort of Kabuki theater:

הכל כשרים לראות את הנגעים, אלא שהטומאה והטהרה בידי כהן:

אומרים לו: אמור ‘טמא!’ והוא אומר: ‘טמא!’ אמור ‘טהור!’ והוא אומר: ‘טהור!’

All are fit to examine negaim, but tum’ah and taharah are in the hands of the kohen:

They tell him: Say ‘Tamei’ and he says ‘Tamei!’;  Say ‘Tahor!’ and he says ‘Tahor!’

Suddenly, the kohen is a puppet, with no agency at all. His only role is to say what he is told to say by the authorities, whom it seems reasonable to identify with the rabbis.

The situation grows more complicated when we turn to Talmud Arakhin 3a.

הכל כשרין לראות את הנגעים –

לאתויי מאי?

לאתויי שאינו בקי בהן ובשמותיהן.

והאמר מר: אינו בקי בהן ובשמותיהן – אינו רואה את הנגעים. !?

אמר רבינא:

לא קשיא: הא דמסברי ליה וסבר, הא דמסברי ליה ולא סבר.

“All are fit to examine negaim” –

to include whom?

To include one who is not expert in them and their categories.

But a Master said: One who is not expert in them and their categories must not examine negaim. !?

Said Ravina:

There is no difficulty: This is where he can understand it when explained, this is when he can’t.

Why would a puppet need to understand what he is saying?  The simplest reading, that of Rosh but probably not of Rambam, is that the kohen is not actually a puppet. What the rabbis tell him to say has to make sense to him, or he simply won’t do it.

Rav Yaakov Emden (Sheilat Yaavetz 1:138, opposed by Beit Yitzchak YD1:55) argues that the kohen’s discretion was always limited to cases where there was genuine doubt.  If the kohen refuses to examine a nega that is obviously tamei, the declaration when it is actually examined takes effect retroactively.  In his vision, one can imagine that the role of the experts is to tell the kohen whether or not he has discretion.

Moreover, most halakhists rule that the kohen cannot make his declaration unless he is actually looking at the nega. This means that the Rabbis’ apparently radical transformation of one of his sons the kohanim into “all are valid for examining negaim” is, in the end, not radical at all, and could easily be accomplished without any textual reinterpretation whatsoever.  The ruling cannot be made unless the nega has been brought to a kohen, and the kohen’s determination has to abide by the rules. What the Rabbis have done is to

  1. acknowledge that this rule can often conflict with halakhic obligations of joy, or with reasonable human expectations of economic stability.
  2. formulate discretionary features that can diminish such conflicts, yet without changing any of the rule’s elements; and
  3. ensure that this discretion cannot be exercised by either the kohen or themselves without accountability.

This seems to me a potentially generalizable description of much Rabbinic work, and compatible with a loving relationship characterized by loyalty, integrity, and rigor.

Moreover, it seems to me a reasonable and useful starting point for evaluating present halakhic programs. Much work would of course have to be done defining terms such as discretion, preservation, and accountability, and many others.  In the end it is a text, and as such cannot defend itself against interpreters who do not love it.  But perhaps some will.

Shabbat Shalom!

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The New Mother’s Chatat

This week’s alumni Dvar Torah is by Rabbi Rafi Eis

Hearing my wife Atara recite Birkat HaGomel after giving birth to our children is among the most spiritual experiences of my life. The break in her voice communicates the intensity of labor and childbirth. Hearing her muster all her energy to give thanks to God for the gift of a new child, and for surviving the ordeal, evokes the recognition that all the blessings of life come from God.

The opening paragraph of Parshat Tazria requires the new mother to bring a young lamb as an Olah offering and a pigeon or dove as a Sin offering. Why these offerings, rather than a Thanksgiving? Exploring that question will give us a window onto the profound nature of creating life and its relationship to the Divine.

Niddah (31b) famously asks why the new mother needs to bring a Sin offering. Rabbi Simeon Bar Yochai answers that women in the throes of labor pains swear off marital intimacy to avoid future pregnancy. The Sin offering atones for uttering that oath, which she will violate. But the Talmud rejects this answer in two ways. First, the oath can be undone through asking a sage, preempting the need to violate the oath. Second, this circumstance and offering do not comport with the regular rules of Sin offerings for oath violations. Nonetheless, the Talmud does not provide an alternative explanation for the Sin offering.

I suggest that instead of viewing the Sin and Olah offerings as discrete sacrifices, we should view them as a package. This fits the structure of The Book of Leviticus, whose first seven chapters detail the circumstances and procedures for individuals to bring discrete sacrifices. The sanctification of the Tabernacle and the priests, which follows, entails a package of sacrifices. The new mother is introduced here because she is an individual who brings a package of sacrifices.

This package of an Olah and Sin offering [1] is found in several other Biblical contexts. [2]

  1. Leviticus 9:2-3- sanctification of the Tabernacle and the priests, brought by Aharon.
  2. Numbers 8:12- the appointment of the Levites
  3. Leviticus 16: 3, 5- the Yom Kippur sacrificial order. Both Aharon and the people of Israel bring this package of sacrifices.
  4. Leviticus 5:7- a pauper can replace a cattle Sin offering for accidentally violating an oath by bringing two birds; one as an Olah and one as a Sin sacrifice.
  5. Leviticus 15:15- the purification of the Zav
  6. Leviticus 15:30- the purification of the Zavah
  7. Numbers 6:11- if a nazir becomes impure and violates his nazirite status.

The common denominator of these cases is that in some way the human being enters God’s domain. In the sanctification of the Tabernacle and priests, people and objects become sanctified, while the Levites in occurrence two are rebirthed with a new status. Example three has a human being entering holy space. The pauper in the fourth case cannot just replace the obligated cattle Sin sacrifice with a bird Sin sacrifice. Rather, the pauper needs to acknowledge the change in the divinely ordained sacrificial rite.

Furthermore, God’s realm is not just in the holy, but also in matters of life and death. The Zav and Zavah, previously excluded halakhically and perhaps biologically from fertility, offer sacrifices at being able to be fruitful again. So too, the new mother of our parsha enters into G-d’s domain by creates life, just as God does in Genesis.

The human ability to enter realms beyond this material world can cause confusion as to the proper boundary between the human and divine. The uncommanded actions of Nadav and Avihu illustrate this confusion. Performing a temple service must be done according to divine prescription. We can only enter God’s domain as part of our partnership with Him.

The postpartum woman feels a complete whirlwind of emotions. Her body is bursting with adrenaline, and she looks in amazement at the tiny being whom she just birthed. At the same time her body aches, and many also suffer from postpartum depression. The range of emotions can run the gamut. Halacha steps into the breach to set the right balance. To combat the pain and emotional lows, the Bible insists that the woman recognize that she successfully crossed into God’s realm and created life, but did so as God’s partner. The new mother must therefore offer Olah and Sin offerings. The new mother has not sinned in any way. Rather this combination declares the partnership between God and humanity in creation in general and in generating this particular new life. The completely consumed Olah represents God and our complete dedication to God, while the Sin offering represents the fragile and imperfect state of humanity. Brought together, the package symbolizes the partnership.

This message of human partnership with God is reflected in a few other laws in this section. First, the new mother automatically has dedicated days of impurity and purity. Regardless of any symptomatic bodily secretions, the woman must have a few days of impurity followed by more days of purity. This is unique in the laws of purity and impurity. Second, the command to circumcise male children and bring them into Abraham’s covenant is listed here. Third, the new mother is the Bible’s first individual to be prohibited from entering the temple (Leviticus 12:4) and this is even while she is pure. We learn that these this exclusion applies to other impurities in Numbers 5:2-3 as a general prohibition on some people from entering the temple and its surrounding domains, but only with the new mother is this law stated in the context of the actual impurity and purity. This woman, who just created life like God, is excluded from God’s domain. She then re-enters the temple once she brings her Olah and Sin offering package, which is her declaration of her human partnership with God.

Humans are granted the great privilege and opportunity to live in the “image of God.” This potential enables us to pursue the creative, sublime and holy. To take full advantage requires that on the one hand we acknowledge even the divinity of frequent occurrences. On the other hand, we get this opportunity because of our partnership with God. With this balance, we can truly achieve, as the Bible’s new mother does, the proper covenantal relationship with God.

 

Notes:

[1] This list does not distinguish between the ordering of the sacrifices. See Zevachim 90a and the comments of Rav Hirsch 12:6 s.v. o’ben for further discussion.

[2] This list excludes cases like the purified Metzora who brings an Olah, Sin, and Asham offerings; the Nazir who successfully completes his term, who offers Olah, Sin, and Shelamim sacrifices; and Israel’s Miluim sacrifice . The Sin sacrifice listed as part of the mussaf offerings in Numbers 28-29 is presented separately from the rest of the package.

 

Rabbi Rafi Eis directs a semicha program at Yeshivat Har Etzion and is the Executive Director of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem. He learned in the SBM of ’01 and served as a Shoel U’Meishiv in ‘06.

 

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