Zevachim 90-91: Holiness v. Frequency

In the Mishna on 90B, the Talmud Zevachim states that certain sacrifices take precedence in bringing to the altar, ie chatas take precedence over asham (with exceptions of Metzora);eating the permissive parts of certain sacrifices take precedence over others etc.

The Talmud then presents a classic Talmudic and existential dispute. Should priority be given to things which are done “frequently” (Todir) or should priority be given to things which have greater ‘kedusha”-holiness.    Tha Talmud goes through various examples of trying to determine whether holiness or frequency takes precedence. It gives examples from Kiddush: does the blessing on the wine (frequency) come before the blessing of the sanctifying the Shabbos or opposite.  Does the rosh hashanna offering take priority  over the rosh chodesh?  The Talmud is struggling to find a pattern of holiness v. frequency.

The SD would like to put in a thought:  Ideally, our worship of Gd should be one big emotional, spiritual and ecstatic expression.  The reality is : spirituality, like life needs order to be properly expressed.   To properly serve gd in a spiritually  ecstatic state, requires rigorous knowledge of the Torah and text. It is hard to properly be ecstatic without knowledge and a sense of order.    The conflict of holiness v. frequency kind of mirrors this reality.  One can only enjoy the spiritual essence and tranquility of shabbos when one has worked hard all week in his job and “avodas hashem.”  One can only find true expression of spirituality within a framework of regularity, frequency and consistency.

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Zevachim 54,55 56 Pishpishim Part 2: More Thinking.

Zevachim 54-56 brings back our old friend “the Pishpishim”. This time  Rashi tells us that they are “little doors “on the corner of the Antechamber. Why are they there? The Torah tells us that certain sacrifices must be slaughtered across from the opening or door (“pesach ohel moed.’).  However, the Courtyard of the Temple kind of wraps around so the opening into the Antechamber and Heichal from the Courtyard is not seen in all the corners. To allow for the slaughtering in the areas not in front of the main opening, these “little doors” are made in the corners.  These doors quality to allow more courtyard area to be used for slaughtering.

Again, the SD is struck by the ingenuity and creative thinking.  A problem or obstacle arises due to the requirement found in the Torah and the solution.   It kind of goes to much of the reason for Torah learning. While we learn to understand Gd, to understand ourselves, to understand the universe, to understand mortality, ethics and values… we also learn just to understand.  We learn to think. We learn in order  to perceive a problem, think it through and find a solution.

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Zevachim 54B, Samuel 19: THINK BIG

The last few weeks in Zevachim have been very technical but in 54B was a bit of a reprieve with the discussion of the building of the Altar  and the location of the Temple.   The Talmud on 54B quotes Samuel 19 and says “David and Samuel dwelled in Nabaith Rama.” The Talmud tells us that together they were planning where to put the Temple.

Whats going on here? The back story is that David has just been informed that King Saul wants to kill him. He flees. He is on the run. He is running for his life and stops to get refuge with Samuel.  What is he thinking about? “The adornment of the world.”- the Temple.

The Shikkerdovid would like to weigh in.  Here it is: David is on the run. He is wanted man. Rather than being obsessed with survival, rather than just trying to stay alive, rather than being depressed or upset, he is is thinking about “the adornment of the World”-the temple.  Even the language used in the Talmud “the adornment of the world” show his grand thinking.   David is not depressed or scared. His circumstances don’t bother him. He is focused on the big picture. The placement of the Temple or it is put “the adornment.”

What is the lesson here?  We are always in bad spots, we are always weighted down by life issues, problems, and challenges.  David and the daf provide the answer: Think big. Think about the ‘adornment”.

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Sound British:Think Yiddish: Zevachim 33

In Zevachim 33, the Talmud is struggling with how the Metzora (leper) can bring his sacrifice or enter the Temple Courtyard. How does he lean on his Asham (sacrifice) if he cannot enter the courtyard due to his status as a leper.  It is a catch 22.

The Gemara proposes an simple answer.  Make two little holes on the wall of the courtyard nearest the altar so he can put his hands through.   The Talmud calls them “pishpishin”  Rashi explains they are two little holes.    The word sounds eerily similiar to the yiddish  derogatory term “pisshur” or insignificant-little person.  Funny, we always thought the word “pisshur” (which has probably gone out of use since it is such an ugly word) meant silly, insignificant, loser, small person. Really, it is a creative way of solving a dilemna.  Ultimately, the Talmud rejects this alteration without a “permit from Hashem” but the ingenuity is a lesson.

The Talmud recognizes that laws or the Torah often present contradictions, obstacles or logistical issues.  Kind of like life and life challenges.   How do get through them? You use ingenuity. You use your wits. You think outside the box.   While the Talmud rejects these Pishpishin, it demonstrates the method of thinking through a problem.

So what is the relationship of Pisshur to Pishpishin?  The small or insignificant holes can sometimes solve big problems.  Sound British, think Yiddish.

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Lesson in Humility from Behar

In Parshat Behar, the Torah tells us about the law of Shmitta.  The seven year cycle where we do not plant, actively grow or harvest. We allow all to walk on the fields and eat the produce.   The Torah tell us “the resting of the land shall be yours to eat for you, for your slave, maids and hired worker and sojourners who live among you.” Chapter 25 , 6)

Rashi tells us that as the owner you can eat the same as everyone else and share with everyone else, but you cannot act as the owner.   The Rashi text is beautiful:  “lo tinhog c baal habayis” don’t act or conduct yourself as the owner of the field.   Rashi continues saying “all  will be equal.”   This does not mean to say you give up your field. This does not mean to say, it is no longer yours.  This means that during shmitta your status is as everyone else.

The Shikkerdovid would like to learn a lesson in humility.  For six years you can be proud of your assets. For six years you can exclude other from your fields.  But in Shmitta you are reduced to a regular guy.  It is the great equalizer in terms of human relationships. For one year, my assets are just as much available to the worker, the sojurner or the maid as they are to me. Really, I am no different.

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Emor: A bad “cut and paste job” or something else?

In Parshat Emor we are confronted with alot of topics. Vayikra Chapter 22:32 the Torah says You should not desecrate My HOLY name amongst the children of Israel ..”

The Torah then goes on to discuss Shabbos, the holidays, the Omer, the mitzva of lighting the menora and the lechem Hapanim.

All the way at the very end of the parsha it discussses “The Blasphemer”. The guy whose mother is a Jew, but his father was the Egyptian who Moshe killed.  The Blasphemer said not nice things  ( “cursed”) Hashem.  Should this not have bee put with the commandment not to desecrate the name of Hashem.  Should this have been part of the that section. Is this a bad cut and past job?

The SD has a thought.  Rashi tells us he was angry and cursed, because he tried to pitch a tent in the area of the Tribe of Dan and was not allowed.  According to Rashi there seems to have been a protest against him.    If you look at the parsha  it says “you should not desecrate the  my holy name among the children of Israel.”  The Blasphemer is being descriminated against. He is being shunned.  No one is playing with him, accepting him, wants him in their community.

It is sad that after hearing the beautiful words of the holidays, the bond that brings Israel together during the holidays- was not heeded.  After the recitation of the holidays, we are told of  a lack of inclusion, segregation and descrimination.    This parsha is not just a “gnai” or bad reflection on theBlashphemer, it is also a gnai on the Israel.  The disconnect highlights the gnai/bad reflection.

Not a bad cut and past job. A bad reflection.

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Emor-Zevachim 18-19: It is not About You Mr. Cohen

The SD was always a little uncomfortable with the idea of Cohen-Levi-Yisrael. The whole idea of a “priestly class” kind of felt antithetical to the rest of the Torah and kind of society Judaism preaches in the rest of the Torah.  Until Parshat Emor intersected this week with the daf Yomi- Zevachim 18 and 19.

In Emor we are told that a Kohen with a blemish, such a  long arm, messed up eye or other unmentionable things cannot do the “Avodah” or work of the Temple.  In itself that is strange. Maybe the guy is great, sensitive, sweet and we are not allowing him to do the work based on something as cosmetic defect or something as arbitrary as a tearing eye?  Here comes Zevachim 18-19.   The braisa on 18a and continuing with an objection 18b discusses whether a Kohen’s whose garment is too long or too short when doing the Avodha invalidates his Avoda (work). Even further, the Talmud on 19 questions whether wearing a bandage or a little “bendel” or wrapping invalidates his  Avodah as this would be an extra garment and deem him to be out of uniform.    (The Kohanim wear 4 or 8 when doing work)

What is all this about? The Shikkerdovid would like to weigh in.  The parsha of Emor disqualifies those who are not standard.  The Talmud disqualifies the Avoda when you are not dressed in a standard manner. It is not about the razzle-dazzle or personality of the individual. It is about subordinating himself to the work of the Temple.

The key here is not the person who is central but the Avoda is central. The values of the avoda are central.  By “standardizing” we are taking away the centrality of the person. We are not making it about Mr. Cohen, but  a person working on behalf of a nation.  The rigid almost arbitrary rules that govern the work of the Kohen, hopefully make it about the process, the system, the values,   As kids say: “its not about you!”.

This is how the SD understands the role of the kohen.

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