Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pyres and Incense - The Yerushalmi

Just a quick followup to my previous post about funeral pyres. The Yerushalmi has a slightly different take:

דף ב, ב פרק א הלכה ב משנה
אילו הן אידיהן של עכו"ם קלנדס וסטרנלייא וקרטסי' ויום גינוסיא של מלכים ויום הלידה ויום המיתה דברי ר"מ וחכמים אומרים כל מיתה שיש בה שריפה יש בה ע"ז ושאין בה שריפה אין בה ע"ז:

דף ג, ב פרק א הלכה ב גמרא
יום הלידה ויום המיתה עד כאן לציבור מיכן ואילך ליחיד. וכתי' בשלום תמות ובמשרפות אבותיך הראשונים וגו'. כיני מתניתא כל מיתה שיש בה עישון ושריפה יש בהן ע"ז ושאין בה עישון ושריפה אין בה ע"ז:

"Kini masnisa" basically means to reread the Mishna as if it said something slightly different. Thus, it is as if the Mishnah had the Chachamim say that "any death which has to it incense and burning has a component of idolatry." This offered as a harmonization with the Tosefta. It is true that pyres are burned in honor of kings, and there is no superstition in that. But that is burning articles owned or used by the king. However, it is still possible to burn other things, such as incense, such that it is clear that that is not the intent of the burning. And burning incense would be just such a thing.

Aside from the setama deBavli's harmonization, we see in Bavli Avodah Zarah a development of this idea. Thus, in Bavli:
'The burning of articles at a king's [funeral] is permitted and there is nothing of Amorite usage about it,' as it is said, Thou shalt die in peace and with burnings of thy fathers, the former kings that were before thee, so shall they make a burning for thee. And just as it is permitted to burn at the [funerals] of kings so it is permitted to burn in the case of princes. What is it that may be burnt in the case of kings? — Their beds and articles that were in use by them. In the instance of the death of R. Gamaliel the elder, Onkelos the proselyte burnt after him seventy Tyrian manehs. But did you not say that only articles in use by them could be burnt? — What is meant is [articles] 'to the value of seventy Tyrian manehs.' May other things then not be burned? Yet it has been taught: It is permitted to mutilate [an animal] at royal funerals and there is nothing of Amorite usage about it! — Said R. Papa [that refers to] the horse on which he rode.
Thus, the gemara, and Rav Pappa, surely realize that there is a limit to what one can burn where it is not considered superstitious, but over that line it is Darkei Emori. This is in line with the suggestion offered by the Yerushalmi, to distinguish between the two cases.

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