Friday, May 19, 2006

haftarat Emor - Yechezkel the Torah Scholar, Yechezkel the Prophet

In the haftarah of Emor, found in Yechezkel 44, we find a verse that appears to contradict verses in parshat Emor (or at the very least our interpretation of it).

The halacha is roughly that a regular kohen may marry any woman from any tribe of Israel who is not a prostitute (with specific definitions of this), nor may he marry a divorcee. The kohen gadol, in addition to this, must only marry a virgin (or perhaps/or in addition a woman under a certain age) of any tribe and may not marry a divorcee or a widow.

כב וְאַלְמָנָה, וּגְרוּשָׁה, לֹא-יִקְחוּ לָהֶם, לְנָשִׁים: כִּי אִם-בְּתוּלֹת, מִזֶּרַע בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְהָאַלְמָנָה אֲשֶׁר תִּהְיֶה אַלְמָנָה, מִכֹּהֵן יִקָּחוּ. 22 Neither shall they take for their wives a widow, nor her that is put away; but they shall take virgins of the seed of the house of Israel, or a widow that is the widow of a priest.
Who is this verse about? Can it be about the kohen gadol? No, for it states that these may marry widows. Can it be about a regular kohen? Why then the insistence on the widow of a kohen?

There are ways of making this work - an extra chumra taken upon them, or some other solution - see the relevant gemara. We might present (and others have) other possibilities.

In Vayikra 21, we have two sections of relevant verses. The first:

ז אִשָּׁה זֹנָה וַחֲלָלָה לֹא יִקָּחוּ, וְאִשָּׁה גְּרוּשָׁה מֵאִישָׁהּ לֹא יִקָּחוּ: כִּי-קָדֹשׁ הוּא, לֵאלֹהָיו. 7 They shall not take a woman that is a harlot, or profaned; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband; for he is holy unto his God.
This gives us the law that a regular kohein may not marry a divorcee.

There is a section about the kohein gadol which ends Ani Hashem. Then, we have:

יג וְהוּא, אִשָּׁה בִבְתוּלֶיהָ יִקָּח. 13 And he shall take a wife in her virginity.
יד אַלְמָנָה וּגְרוּשָׁה וַחֲלָלָה זֹנָה, אֶת-אֵלֶּה לֹא יִקָּח: כִּי אִם-בְּתוּלָה מֵעַמָּיו, יִקַּח אִשָּׁה. 14 A widow, or one divorced, or a profaned woman, or a harlot, these shall he not take; but a virgin of his own people shall he take to wife.
טו וְלֹא-יְחַלֵּל זַרְעוֹ, בְּעַמָּיו: כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה, מְקַדְּשׁוֹ. {ס} 15 And he shall not profane his seed among his people; for I am the LORD who sanctify him. {S}
The simplest explanation, in light of the fact that this follows the law of kohein gadol, and the law for marriage of kohein hedyot was already specified, and the fact that there is no petucha or setuma separating this from the section of kohein gadol, and the fact that this is specified in the singular, while the previous section was specified in the plural -- is that this law is only to the kohein gadol.

Thus, a kohein gadol may not marry a widow or divorcee, but only a virgin (or young woman) from his nation - kosher Israelites.

Yet we can just begin to understand Yechezkel's point. Namely, what is the meaning of מֵעַמָּיו? If we take this as from the tribe of kohanim, then this matches the point that a kohein gadol may only marry a virgin for the tribe of kohanim.

Turning now to the common kohein, we see he has a relaxation of this requirement. He may marry a virgin from any tribe, since no such restriction is mentioned. Thus Yechezkel may spell out כִּי אִם-בְּתוּלֹת, מִזֶּרַע בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל , as opposed to מֵעַמָּיו. Now, perhaps this exemption is only as regards virgins. The kohein gadol was prohibited from taking a widow (in addition to divorcee) from amav, his people, the tribe of kohanim. But this is a restriction on only him, so regular kohanim are exempt. Yet we might assume meamav distributes for the kohein gadol. That is, from those women who are in his tribe, כִּי אִם-בְּתוּלָה, his is only allowed the betulah.

Other kohanim would be allowed others. Which ones? Well, for betula, we relax meamav, and for the others -- namely almana (since gerusha is explicitly ruled out earlier) we relax the "only betula" restriction.

And which almana -- widow - is considered from his tribe? We see elsewhere that marriage changes tribal affiliations for women - in terms of ability to eat terumah, for example. Therefore, only a widow of another kohein is from amav.

Thus, in this -- or some similar -- way, Yechezkel can be in accord with our parsha in Emor.

However, we now have a problem. Namely, this does not accord with the halachic explanation of the pesukim!

One answer - we are Pharisees, and the derash level of Emor and Yechezkel is what we consider truth. Not some literal interpretation which ignores the important hermeneutical rules from which truth in Torah/Nach may be derived. On a derash level, we do not interpret either Emor or Yechezkel as outlined above and there is no contradiction. See the gemara. There is merit to this approach, and perhaps other approaches should be considered heretical. (A later post on this, and the very nature of derash and peshat, and how our understanding of such terminology has deviated, is in the works -- but who knows when...)

For the rest of this devar, I will omit some explicit Scriptural passages and gemaras, since it is quite late, and I need to get some sleep.

Assuming that Yechezkel meant what I outlined above, what are we to do? Is Yechezkel wrong and halacha right? Is halacha right and halacha wrong?

My solution, in brief, is this. In any generation (perhaps up to Rav Ashi, perhaps up to Rabbi), the Torah may be interpreted. The law follows this interpretation. (See Devarim 17:8ff).
ח כִּי יִפָּלֵא מִמְּךָ דָבָר לַמִּשְׁפָּט, בֵּין-דָּם לְדָם בֵּין-דִּין לְדִין וּבֵין נֶגַע לָנֶגַע--דִּבְרֵי רִיבֹת, בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ: וְקַמְתָּ וְעָלִיתָ--אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם, אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בּוֹ. 8 If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, even matters of controversy within thy gates; then shalt thou arise, and get thee up unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose.
ט וּבָאתָ, אֶל-הַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם, וְאֶל-הַשֹּׁפֵט, אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם; וְדָרַשְׁתָּ וְהִגִּידוּ לְךָ, אֵת דְּבַר הַמִּשְׁפָּט. 9 And thou shall come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days; and thou shalt inquire; and they shall declare unto thee the sentence of judgment.
י וְעָשִׂיתָ, עַל-פִּי הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר יַגִּידוּ לְךָ, מִן-הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא, אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה; וְשָׁמַרְתָּ לַעֲשׂוֹת, כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר יוֹרוּךָ. 10 And thou shalt do according to the tenor of the sentence, which they shall declare unto thee from that place which the LORD shall choose; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they shall teach thee.
יא עַל-פִּי הַתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר יוֹרוּךָ, וְעַל-הַמִּשְׁפָּט אֲשֶׁר-יֹאמְרוּ לְךָ--תַּעֲשֶׂה: לֹא תָסוּר, מִן-הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר-יַגִּידוּ לְךָ--יָמִין וּשְׂמֹאל. 11 According to the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do; thou shalt not turn aside from the sentence which they shall declare unto thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.
יב וְהָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-יַעֲשֶׂה בְזָדוֹן, לְבִלְתִּי שְׁמֹעַ אֶל-הַכֹּהֵן הָעֹמֵד לְשָׁרֶת שָׁם אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, אוֹ, אֶל-הַשֹּׁפֵט--וּמֵת הָאִישׁ הַהוּא, וּבִעַרְתָּ הָרָע מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל. 12 And the man that doeth presumptuously, in not hearkening unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die; and thou shalt exterminate the evil from Israel.
In Yechezkel's time, this was the law. Indeed, the very next statement of Yechezkel, in perek 44, is
כג וְאֶת-עַמִּי יוֹרוּ, בֵּין קֹדֶשׁ לְחֹל; וּבֵין-טָמֵא לְטָהוֹר, יוֹדִעֻם. 23 And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the common, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.
Thus, just as in Devarim 17, they have a role of determining the halacha.

As Chazal point out, ובָאתָ, אֶל-הַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם, וְאֶל-הַשֹּׁפֵט, אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם - each court in its generation. Yiftach in his generation is like Shmuel in his generation. And it need not be the kohen but may be the general shofet, judge.

Any legitimate interpretation has the force of law and the Divine stamp of approval. Eilu veEilu Divrei Elokim Chayim. Yechezkel is entitled to his interpretation and we are entitled to ours.

But what of the fact that Yechezkel was saying this prophetically? Shouldn't that trump any later alternative interpretation?

No. Lo Bashamayim Hi. To cite Devarim 30:12:

יא כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם--לֹא-נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ, וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא. 11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off.
יב לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם, הִוא: לֵאמֹר, מִי יַעֲלֶה-לָּנוּ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ, וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ, וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה. 12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say: 'Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?'
It is not in Heaven, and post-Mosaic prophetic messages do not determine the law. This is not a matter of adding to the law or detracting from it via a prophet - the prohibition against which involves other verses. No. Even where this is a clarifying statement, perhaps we do not listen to what is determined in the heavenly academy, for the Torah is no longer in heaven, but in the hands of man to interpret a la Devarim 17. Thus, in the case of the Tanur shel Achnai, even though a bat kol (literally an "echo" rather than a voice, from on high) stated that the halacha was like Rabbi Eliezer, this was rejected because the Torah is not in heaven. (See Bava Metzia 59b).

Yechezkel has authority as a prophet, but as regards statements about Torah, he has as much authority as any other sage, and his interpretations of law must be considered and debated within the halachic (midrashic) framework and then accepted or rejected. Thus, prophetic law is allowed to differ with current, Tanaaitic, or Amoraic law. And halacha kebatrai - the halacha is like the later ones.

Now, this seems to be against the current in the gemara which seeks to harmonize many things in Nach with Pharisaic/Rabbinic interpretion of Biblical law. Yet we may attribute this to a general trend/desire to harmonize apparent contradictions in Bible and in Oral Tradition. Also, to the trend/desire of a type that states the Avot kept the Torah even including Rabbinic enactments (an opinion not universally held by Chazal, BTW).

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin