Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Mum's the word?

Why should the Torah impose restrictions upon the animals which are fit to be brought and the kohanim fit to serve? One can understand restrictions based on personal conduct, but based on physical deformities?? Is Hashem, and the Torah, shallow, ch"v?

Or, as Michael wrote in a comment on a previous post:
The Chinuch says that a Baal Mum cannot serve because it will lower people's opinion of the avoda. The Kohanim have to look good too.
Q1: Based on this, doesn't the Mekalel have a point when he ridicules the 9 day old bread? Based on the above logic, there should only be fresh bread.
Q2: Whatever happened to "Al tistakel b'kankan ela b'mah sheyesh bo"?
These are questions I had on the parsha. Any thoughts?
Thanks for your help.
In terms of the mekalel, that is a midrash that the mekalel began by ridiculing the 9-day old bread. And it is possible that the author of the midrash is in agreement with the other midrash that despite being that old, the show-bread was continuously fresh and warm, even when they took it down at the end. This based on Menachot 29a, based in turn on I Shmuel 21:
ז וַיִּתֶּן-לוֹ הַכֹּהֵן, קֹדֶשׁ: כִּי לֹא-הָיָה שָׁם לֶחֶם, כִּי-אִם-לֶחֶם הַפָּנִים הַמּוּסָרִים מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה, לָשׂוּם לֶחֶם חֹם, בְּיוֹם הִלָּקְחוֹ.7 So the priest gave him holy bread; for there was no bread there but the showbread, that was taken from before the LORD, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away.
so that the bread was obviously warm (and fresh) on the day they took it away from its place. If so, perhaps this question is without foundation. As an alternative, perhaps the purpose of the show-bread, and its very avodah, was to sit there for the week, looking pretty. At the end, of course the kohanim could eat it, but that was not the purpose. And when it was put up, it was fresh.

But what about in the general case. When we say:
כ כֹּל אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ מוּם, לֹא תַקְרִיבוּ: כִּי-לֹא לְרָצוֹן, יִהְיֶה לָכֶם.20 But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not bring; for it shall not be acceptable for you.
כא וְאִישׁ, כִּי-יַקְרִיב זֶבַח-שְׁלָמִים לַיהוָה, לְפַלֵּא-נֶדֶר אוֹ לִנְדָבָה, בַּבָּקָר אוֹ בַצֹּאן--תָּמִים יִהְיֶה לְרָצוֹן, כָּל-מוּם לֹא יִהְיֶה-בּוֹ.21 And whosoever bringeth a sacrifice of peace-offerings unto the LORD in fulfilment of a vow clearly uttered, or for a freewill-offering, of the herd or of the flock, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein.
כב עַוֶּרֶת אוֹ שָׁבוּר אוֹ-חָרוּץ אוֹ-יַבֶּלֶת, אוֹ גָרָב אוֹ יַלֶּפֶת--לֹא-תַקְרִיבוּ אֵלֶּה, לַיהוָה; וְאִשֶּׁה, לֹא-תִתְּנוּ מֵהֶם עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ--לַיהוָה.22 Blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scabbed, or scurvy, ye shall not offer these unto the LORD, nor make an offering by fire of them upon the altar unto the LORD.
כג וְשׁוֹר וָשֶׂה, שָׂרוּעַ וְקָלוּט--נְדָבָה תַּעֲשֶׂה אֹתוֹ, וּלְנֵדֶר לֹא יֵרָצֶה.23 Either a bullock or a lamb that hath any thing too long or too short, that mayest thou offer for a freewill-offering; but for a vow it shall not be accepted.
כד וּמָעוּךְ וְכָתוּת וְנָתוּק וְכָרוּת, לֹא תַקְרִיבוּ לַיהוָה; וּבְאַרְצְכֶם, לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ.24 That which hath its stones bruised, or crushed, or torn, or cut, ye shall not offer unto the LORD; neither shall ye do thus in your land.
what is wrong with these maimings? Is Hashem a picky eater? Of course not! As we see in Navi, Hashem does not really hunger for our sacrifices. Furthermore, don't we say that rachmana liba ba'iy? Rather, if I may may a derasha on leratzon in pasuk 20, much as Ibn Ezra does about the day of the omer, I would say: The korban has to be an offering given with full heart.

While Hashem does not care whether the korban is X or Y, but people do. It is the thought that counts, but what in the world was he thinking? Since culturally people consider this non-optimal, is the person giving his refuse to the altar? This bull is no good for breeding, so if I am going to offer a korban, I might as well give this deficient one.

The same for a kohen, perhaps. We even see in sefer Shmuel that people can donate children to work in the mishkan:
כה וַיִּשְׁחֲטוּ, אֶת-הַפָּר; וַיָּבִאוּ אֶת-הַנַּעַר, אֶל-עֵלִי.25 And when the bullock was slain, the child was brought to Eli.
כו וַתֹּאמֶר בִּי אֲדֹנִי, חֵי נַפְשְׁךָ אֲדֹנִי; אֲנִי הָאִשָּׁה, הַנִּצֶּבֶת עִמְּכָה בָּזֶה, לְהִתְפַּלֵּל, אֶל-יְהוָה.26 And she said: 'Oh, my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD.
כז אֶל-הַנַּעַר הַזֶּה, הִתְפַּלָּלְתִּי; וַיִּתֵּן יְהוָה לִי אֶת-שְׁאֵלָתִי, אֲשֶׁר שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵעִמּוֹ.27 For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath granted me my petition which I asked of Him;
כח וְגַם אָנֹכִי, הִשְׁאִלְתִּהוּ לַיהוָה, כָּל-הַיָּמִים אֲשֶׁר הָיָה, הוּא שָׁאוּל לַיהוָה; וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ שָׁם, לַיהוָה. {ס}28 therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he is lent to the LORD.' And he worshipped the LORD there.
Even among kohanim, was it necessarily so that every one went into the service, from each family? It is possible that they may choose. Well, this person cannot be an accountant, because he has no head for numbers, so he might as well be a kohen. He is maimed anyway; let him be set for life with food, and have a steady job. There is, perhaps, some choice on the part of the people who serves. If so, this also reflects the spirit of the people and their attitude towards Hashem.

As another possibility, like the Minchas Chinuch, of course Hashem does not care, but the purpose of the Mishkan/Beis HaMikdash is to present a certain presentation to the people, to help them relate to God. And people do care about these things, and are bound by their cultural attitudes. And back then, and indeed until fairly recently, seeing maimed animals or maimed people as part of the service would have lessened the experience in their eyes, where the purpose is to draw people closer to Hashem.

Those are two possible answers. There may of course be more, and one might even be correct. :)

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