Sunday, March 30, 2008


Holy Cow! Shemini Cricket!

How often does one get to use that? Well, I guess every time that parshas Shemini falls Shabbos Parah ("Cow Sabbath"). In parshas Shemini, we read of the kosher laws (including that four, who knows which, types of locusts, but not their close relatives the crickets, presumably) are kosher. And we also read about the Earth-colored Heifer ... and get asked the riddle: what has awesome powers of purification, but renders all who are involved in making it and transporting it impure?

The ashes of the Red Heifer of course. People act like this is a real kasha, but that just means they haven't really thought about what happens when you clean something: you end up just making something else messy. I'd make a comment that, well, the Red Heifer ashes have some backward causility loop (and hence ritual purity =/= cleanliness), but then, I'm sure making cleaning products is dirty business. I guess that's why my dad always used Simple Green (which he called Benzine, which freaked me out as I confused Benzine with Benzene).

Another question raised, of course, is what the heck kind of bird is a "bat ayya'ane" (daughter of wailing): i.e. is it really true that Ostrich can't be kosher?

Some perhaps, if you'll pardon the pun, meatier questions:

* Did Aaron's sons really die or were they just spiritually dead being overwhelmed with the strange fire?

* Are there then certain religious experiences that are too much and is a certain "direct" communion with God, outside of a certain kind of ritual framework (the sort of experience certain Evangalicals emphasize) really wrong-headed and dangerous? Compare and contrast what happens to Aaron's sons with what happens to Korach (who wanted to have a whole tallis of teheleth -- and what of the class/cost issues of that?)?

* For that matter compare and contrast what happens with Aaron's sons with what happens to Cain with his sacrifice? And what of the distinction between Aaron's sons with their "strange fire" and the fact that we're always supposed to be "on fire" for God anyway (the Tamid offering)? What is the difference? Perhaps some examination of class and the clothing is in order (the whole tallis of teheleth vs. the plain clothes involved in mucking out the ashes)?

* And what of the Haftarah we would have read if it were not for it being a special Shabbos: should Uzziah have been punished for ostensibly saving the ark? What was the sin and who really sinned and why? And what of the downer behavior of Michal? What can we learn of that period in Israel's history from any clues in this Haftarah?

So many questions -- I "bleg" y'all for answers!

So may questions. I always figure if those who have studied questions like this for untold generations haven't come up with the answer, that leaves me off the hook. Not that my mother might let me off, though.

I can say that if you don't eat flesh you don't have that problem, at least not in that form. I'm down to eating eggs but only those that come from my own hens who are free range and who all die of old age.
Well, IIRC, the kosher laws restrict the eating of eggs to those from kosher birds. But are you even bar mitzvah such that you'd have to restrict yourself thus? Moreover, would you keep ostriches? I hear tell they are quite nasty in temperament ... anyway, I guess you're off the hook.

The first question has been debated quite often, indeed. I know people have discussed the second question (can't think of any references right now -- anyway, I should be preparing for a job interview I have on Thursday!) but I dunno if there's any literature on the class dynamics involved. I also dunno if anybody's compared Aaron's sons to Cain.

Of course, there is lots of discussion on the Haftarah.

I guess there's always questions no matter how many times a subject has been discussed. Which is good for me: for every scientific question answered, it raises 2-3+ more ... which makes for an exponential growth of papers ... and from papers come tenure-track positions and eventually tenure ;)

BTW ... my wife is a pescatarian (aka Jewish vegetarian: since fish are considered pareve), although I think I've been a bad influence on her as she's occassionally had some of the gravy from my chicken-dishes.
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