התיווך ומחירו: מקומם של הכוהנים בהלכה הכוהנית

Translated title of the contribution: The Price of Mediation: The Role of Priests in Priestly Halakhah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper takes 4Q276–7, a rewriting of Numbers 19 that deals with the preparation and use of the ashes of a red cow for purification from corpse defilement, as its point of departure. Important differences between this halakhic unit and Numbers 19 include: the transformation of an extra-Temple ritual into an intra-Temple one – forbidding a Tevul-yom to take part in the ritual and assigning to priests the main roles in both the preparation of the water of lustration and its sprinkling – and differentiation between the process of purification from corpse defilement – achieved by bathing – and the rite of sprinkling. According to 4Q277, the sprinkling of the water of lustration does not belong to the purification process, but rather serves to achieve כפרה. Consideration of other Qumran purification laws sheds light on the meaning of כפ"ר in 4Q277. The Qumran purification laws assign different degrees of sanctity to four geographical spheres: outside the cities, the cities, Jerusalem, and the Temple. To the area outside the cities no holiness obtains; the cities of Israel are holy because God resides in the midst of the Israelites; Jerusalem is holier still; and the Temple the holiest sphere. Individuals with severe impurities are sent outside the cities. Upon fulfilling the purification ritual of laundering and bathing at least twice, and counting the required amount of days, they are allowed gradual access to the spheres of holiness: first to the cities with the status of Tevulyom; the next day to Jerusalem; and the following day to the Temple. The sacrifices brought at the conclusion of the purification process, as well as the water of lustration sprinkled by the priests, do not belong to the purification ritual, but rather symbolize completion of the return to God's presence. כפ"ר in this context thus denotes restoration by the priests of the human-divine relationship. כפ"ר appears in two other fields of Qumranic halakhah, purgation offerings and the first-fruit festivals. A closer look reveals that, at Qumran, even though they retain their biblical name, the purging role of the purgation offerings has dissipated. These offerings have become a means of achieving atonement and forgiveness instead. In the context of the first-fruit festivals, the most suitable interpretation for the verb כפ"ר is 'to desanctify', namely, to enable the people to enjoy divine property. On this basis I conclude that the use of the verb כפ"ר at Qumran indicates that the priests interpreted, and modified, the biblical laws in a fashion that granted the priests a full role as human-divine mediators. The people, however, refused to accept this priestly intercession. This, to my mind, was the core of the struggle between the Pharisees and the priests. The Pharisees looked for opportunities where both men and women could stand face to face with God without priestly assistance. The status afforded to Jerusalem in Pharisaic halakhah became a means of enabling nonpriests to worship God on their own.
Translated title of the contributionThe Price of Mediation: The Role of Priests in Priestly Halakhah
Original languageHebrew
Pages (from-to)85-108
Number of pages24
Journalמגילות
Volume5-6
StatePublished - 2007

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