Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Acharei Mot #2: I don't believe this, but it is an interesting idea...

In Vayikra we read of the issur Bamot, the prohibition to bring sacrifices outside of the Mishkan or Mikdash. It is possible the prohibition also includes the requirement that all species that are appropriate for peace-offerings (shelamim) must be brought as such (and not just slaughtered and eaten); and further that this must be done in the Mishkan/Mikdash and not at a private altar (Bamah), but I digress...perhaps more on this topic later.

I want to focus on one verse in particular: Vayikra 17:6

וְלֹא-יִזְבְּחוּ עוֹד, אֶת-זִבְחֵיהֶם, לַשְּׂעִירִם, אֲשֶׁר הֵם זֹנִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם: חֻקַּת עוֹלָם תִּהְיֶה-זֹּאת לָהֶם, לְדֹרֹתָם.
"And they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices unto the satyrs, after whom they go astray. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations."

I wonder if an exception could be made on the Sabbath - that is, Satyr-day. ;)

שְׂעִירִם is a strange type of idolatry. The midrash Rabba demonstrates how they picked it up in Egypt, and shows that שְׂעִירִם = demons, שדים, by comparing various psukim to one another. The JPS translation above translates it satyrs, which in mythology was a demi-god which was half-human and half goat. Appropriate since a שעיר is a goat.

Elsewhere in Tanach (Yeshayahu 13:21) שעירים are said to dance in ruins. This may mean demons (that is how all take it) but wild goats could do the same thing. Chazal use this pasuk to show it means demons, but the context of other animals in the verse suggests to me otherwise.
וְרָבְצוּ-שָׁם צִיִּים, וּמָלְאוּ בָתֵּיהֶם אֹחִים; וְשָׁכְנוּ שָׁם בְּנוֹת יַעֲנָה, וּשְׂעִירִים יְרַקְּדוּ-שָׁם.
"But wild-cats shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of ferrets; and ostriches shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there."

But sacrificing outside the Mishkan could be construed as a sacrifice to the Seirim.

It is interesting that earlier in parshat Shemini, Moshe was angry that Elazar and Itamar did not eat the chatas of the benei yisrael. Rather, the *goat* was burned outside. (Update: Of course this is silly, since Aharon also burnt his personal chatas calf in the bet hasraifa, and the sacrificial parts of both animals were brought to Hashem. Also we have enough info about Moshe's problem and Aharon's response that a sacrifice to Seirim was not the issue.)

Further, in this parsha (perek 16) we read of the Yom Kippur service, which involved, besides sacrificing a goat to Hashem, sending a *goat* outside the Mishkan to Azazel: עֲזָאזֵל

This can be read as עז meaning goat + אל meaning god.

Update: Perhaps in a later post, a survey of שעירים as it occurs in Tanach.

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