Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ezekiel Sez - The Torah is NOT Forever!

For those of you who enjoy a shnapps at the kiddush club, you missed a very interesting and controversial haftorah last Shabbos.

Ezekiel 44:15-18: "But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near to Me to minister unto Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer unto Me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord GOD; they shall enter into My sanctuary, and they shall come near to My table, to minister unto Me, and they shall keep My charge. And it shall be that when they enter in at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments; and no wool shall come upon them, while they minister in the gates of the inner court, and within. They shall have linen tires upon their heads, and shall have linen breeches upon their loins; they shall not gird themselves with any thing that causeth sweat."

21-22: "Neither shall any priest drink wine, when they enter into the inner court. 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."

Although Ezekiel is addressing the Jews during the Babylonian exile, the last nine chapters are generally understood by traditionalists as referring to a prophecy of messianic times. And two obvious problems are seen in the aforementioned passages.

First, kohanim wore garments of linen and of wool. Specifically, the avneit, belt, was made of shaatnez (a weave of linen and wool). (In addition, the Kohen Gadol wore a number of garments of shaatnez, such as the ephod, robe.)

The second problem relates to the marriage restrictions of a kohen. There is no requirement for a kohen to marry a virgin nor is there any prohibition to marry a widow. These restrictions apply only to the Kohen Gadol (Vayikra 21:13-14); a Kohen Hedyot (ordinary kohen) is only prohibited to marry a divorcee or a chalalah (Vayikra 21:7).

If you recall, Rambam's Ninth Principle in his Ikkarim of Emunah says that "the Torah will never be abrogated, in whole or in part, and God will never give another Torah." So is "Ezekiel arguing with Rambam"?

The issue of linen-only garments is not really much of a problem. It is generally agreed that the avneit of the Kohen Gadol was woven linen and wool (see Shmos 39:29. The colored material - techeiles, etc. - refers to the wool component.) Although Rambam, in Klei Hamikdash 8:1, says that the avneit of a Kohen Hedyot (ordinary kohain) was wool and linen just like that of the Kohen Gadol, this is actually a dispute in the gemara (Yoma 6a and elsewhere) and it may have indeed been made entirely of linen. Rashi posits that the pasuk in Ezekiel is actually talking about the Kohen Gadol during Yom Kippur based on הֶחָצֵר הַפְּנִימִית (inner court), equating it with the Kadosh haKedoshim. As described in Vayikra 16:4, the Kohen Gadol wore only four garments during the Yom Kippur service, all of which were linen-only. However, this is a very weak answer which is completely contrary to both the context and the continued use of plural forms (an objection of the Radak who thus derives that it is talking about all kohanim), as well as the obvious references to the inner courtyard in Chapter 40 and elsewhere that distinguish it from the Holy of Holies.

The restrictions regarding virgins and widows is much more problematic. Rashi, once again, claims that the requirement here to marry a virgin is for the Kohen Gadol and that the permission to marry widows applies to ordinary kohanim. He thus splits up the pasuk in a very awkward way. Radak is likewise consistent, saying that the pasuk as a whole refers to ordinary kohanim and reflects a new requirement based on their increased kedusha in the future. Read it inside; I think you'll find that Radak makes much more sense overall.

Problems in Ezekiel [including the architecture of the Third Temple] were apparent in the 3rd century CE, as described in the Talmud Bavli, Shabbos 13B: "R. Yehudah said in Rab's name: In truth, that man, Hananiah son of Hezekiah by name, is to be remembered for blessing; but for him, the Book of Ezekiel would have been withdrawn, for its words contradicted the Torah. What did he do? Three hundred barrels of oil were taken up to him and he sat in an upper chamber and reconciled them." Chagigah 13A also describes this story, and gives an additional reason for why Chazal almost withdrew Ezekiel - a young student who got crisped for delving into Chashmal. See Rashi there who explains another apparent contradiction based on Ezekiel 44:31 which suggests that perhaps n'veilah is only prohibited to priests. [Note that these gemaras are additionally fascinating for insight into the process of the canonization of TaNaCh!]

While I don't shy away from suggestions that rely on the Documentary Hypothesis, I'm not even going to suggest that Ezekiel had a different text of the Torah, nor do I have any clue whether DH scholars explain these contradictions as such. Instead, I'm going to go back to the title of this post - "Ezekiel Sez - The Torah is NOT Forever!" Marc B. Shapiro, in The Limits of Orthodox Theology, devotes a chapter to this principle, and demonstrates convincingly that numerous rabbinic sources ranging from Chazal (Niddah 61b, Kiddushin 72b) through the Rishonim (Albo) and the Acharonim (the Ari, Rav Kook) have promulgated ideas that obviously disagree with Rambam's 9th. R. Yaakov Emden had very strong words for the Rambam stating "We absolutely do not admit that which Maimonides laid down, that the entire Torah will not change, for there is no decisive proof for this - neither from reason and logic nor from the Bible. Verily, the Sages tell us that the Holy One will give a new Torah in the future. If our King should wish to change the Torah, or exchange it for another, whatever the King wishes, whether it be to descend on Mount Sinai or another of the mighty mountains, or even a valley, there to appear a second time before the eyes of all the living, we would be the first to do His will, whatever be His bidding."

The Radak obviously concurs with these dissenters, or at least believes that Ezekiel did so!


FedUp said...

I was thinking of doing a post similar to this but arguing from using the Rambam and pasukim that imply that the Korbanot will not be reinstated and that God really has no desire for such things anymore.

Nice work. I enjoyed this post.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff!

Frum Heretic said...

FedUp - Shapiro's book has a few sources that you may be interested in. He mentions the Radak (again based on Ezekiel) who says that the daily evening sacrifice will be abolished, Rav Kook's commentary on the prayer book who suggests that only vegetable sacrifices will be made (& Sperber's argument that RK is referring to a post-resurrection world), and R. Hayim Hirschensohn who makes a cogent point that I have long held: the modern mind will not find any meaning in the sacrificial system of old.

Anonymous said...

Did you say you are English?

Frum Heretic said...

Did you say you are English?


Anonymous said...

Are you from England?

Frum Heretic said...

Nope, I'm a merkin.

slaveofone said...

Just wondering if you knew either a good book that explores all the supposed contradictions that have been found or claimed over time between Ezekiel and the Mosaic Code or, failing that, if you know whether some of the really good scholastic commentaries like Greenberg or Zimmerli get into these matters.

slaveofone said...

Just a brief thought...

One of those possible claims of contradiction is that Moses asked to see the kavod and was denied, whereas Ezekiel saw it. If someone as great as Moses could not look on the kavod, how could Ezekiel? The idea smacks ludicrous.

However, I think this understanding betrays the nature of the experiences and reverses their significance. For whereas Ezekiel only saw the kavod in night visions, what Moses saw, he saw with his naked and awakened eye. Also, what Ezekiel saw was an "appearance of the likeness" of the kavod. So technically, Ezekiel did not see the kavod, only a representation, and only in visions. But with Moses, not only did he actually see something with his eyes, but he saw something more than even an "appearance of a likeness"--he was allowed to watch as YHWH passed by and was therefore able to see with his naked eye from behind the Creator who spoke and the world came into being!!!!

Certainly, YHWH revealed more to Moses than Ezekiel.