Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gender discrimination at the Cohanic dinner table?

Yes, I know I said I wasn’t going to post about Leviticus, but . . .

[ ¶ ]

In his comment to my Parshat Vayikra post (linked above), Reform Baal Teshuvah said, “ . . . your animal becomes food for him [the Cohen/priest] and his family.” Given what I’ve read in Parshat Tzav, that’s debatable.

[ ¶ ]

Parshat Tzav, Leviticus 6.1–8:36

[ ¶ ]

Concerning the meal offering:

[ ¶ ]

יא כָּל-זָכָר בִּבְנֵי אַהֲרֹן, יֹאכְלֶנָּה--חָק-עוֹלָם לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם, מֵאִשֵּׁי יְהוָה; כֹּל אֲשֶׁר-יִגַּע בָּהֶם, יִקְדָּשׁ. {פ}

11 Every male among the children of Aaron may eat of it, as a due for ever throughout your generations, from the offerings of the LORD made by fire; whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy. {P}

[ ¶ ]

Concerning the sin offering, see verse 22:

[ ¶ ]

כב כָּל-זָכָר בַּכֹּהֲנִים, יֹאכַל אֹתָהּ; קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים, הִוא.

22 Every male among the priests may eat thereof; it is most holy.

[ ¶ ]

Concerning the guilt offering, see chapter 7, verse 6:

[ ¶ ]

ו כָּל-זָכָר בַּכֹּהֲנִים, יֹאכְלֶנּוּ; בְּמָקוֹם קָדוֹשׁ יֵאָכֵל, קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים הוּא.

6 Every male among the priests may eat thereof; it shall be eaten in a holy place; it is most holy.

[ ¶ ]

Chapter 7, verse 34:

[ ¶ ]

לד כִּי אֶת-חֲזֵה הַתְּנוּפָה וְאֵת שׁוֹק הַתְּרוּמָה, לָקַחְתִּי מֵאֵת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מִזִּבְחֵי, שַׁלְמֵיהֶם; וָאֶתֵּן אֹתָם לְאַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן וּלְבָנָיו, לְחָק-עוֹלָם, מֵאֵת, בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.

34 For the breast of waving and the thigh of heaving have I taken of the children of Israel out of their sacrifices of peace-offerings, and have given them unto Aaron the priest and unto his sons as a due for ever from the children of Israel.

[ ¶ ]

I’ve heard of cultures in which male children are better fed than female children. It just hadn’t registered with me before that, in Temple times, the same was true of us Jews, at least in the families of Cohanim serving in the Temple. I wonder what the ancient rabbis/sages had to say about this.


Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

I'm under the impression that any food that can be eaten by a cohen can be eaten by his wife and his never married children. I may be wrong though,

Thu Mar 17, 01:11:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

No I am completely wrong, I was thinking of Terumah instead. Sorry,

Thu Mar 17, 01:16:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

It isn't really at the dinner table thought - the offerings are eaten within the sacrificial area of the Mishkan only, so I doubt Cohanim routinely brought their young sons there.

Thu Mar 17, 01:21:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

So daughters were excluded from eating the food because they were excluded from performing the sacrifices. Okay, young boys were probably excluded, too. Bottom line: Those who performed the sacrifices ate better than the members of their families who, due to youth and/or gender, did not.

Thu Mar 17, 01:39:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Ate differently, anyhow. The money that the kohain would have spent on food for himself could now be spent on food for the wife and kids instead.

Thu Mar 17, 02:08:00 PM 2011  
Blogger rivkayael said...

And seriously do you want to eat all that matza??

Thu Mar 17, 02:11:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"The money that the kohain would have spent on food for himself could now be spent on food for the wife and kids instead."

Good point, Larry.

RivkaYael, that's another good point. :)

Thu Mar 17, 02:28:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

When I make money from working, I use it to feed my family.

When I take a client out to lunch (or get taken out to lunch), I don't bring leftovers home.

Temple-era Judaism was NOT egalitarian, it was an ancient near eastern people, life was more similar to other ancient middle eastern life than to our own. Second Temple era Judaism under Roman occupation was much more similar to our life, but still very different.

However, this is NOT the best example of that standard.

Thu Mar 17, 02:49:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"When I make money from working, I use it to feed my family.

When I take a client out to lunch (or get taken out to lunch), I don't bring leftovers home."

Miami Al, you've certainly put the issue in a different, and more favorable, light. Thanks.

Thu Mar 17, 02:55:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Since these sacrifices were usually eaten 'within the sacrificial tent' they were most likely eaten by those Kohanim who were on duty. According to the Talmud, the cohanim were divided into 24 watches, and IIRC each watch lasted for 2 weeks. So unless you were the kohain gadol, Miami Al's analogy to a business lunch is pretty good.

Thu Mar 17, 03:21:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Yes, I've heard a bit about the "Cohen rotation." I've never quite figured out what the Cohanim (and the Leviim, for that matter) did for a living when they *weren't* on duty, but that's another story (and probably an interesting one).

Thu Mar 17, 03:59:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...


My personal theory is that the Leviim were originally warriors, which would have extracted the tithes. Though the documentation of a post-Monarchy era doesn't support this, my gut feel is that the Cohanim were essentially a royal family within the Levite dominated culture.

The other 11 tribes supported them, clearly there was an enforcement mechanism.

By the time the Talmud was codified, this status was no longer the case. However, prior to the unified Monarchy, the tribal areas would have been autonomous with the Leviim spread out throughout the realm.

Before Solomon/Shlomo built the Temple, presumably sacrifices could be brought anywhere. That would have let to a more powerful and wealth Levite culture. Post Monarchy, the Levites were reduced to supporting roles in a singular Temple, and the Cohanim were reduced to a rotation in a Temple under the careful watch of the rules from Binyamin.

Again, just a gut feel from looking at maps and the evolution of the sacrificial system. The Talmud is codifying the behavior in the Second Temple era, not the pre-Temple Judaism that the Torah is describing.

Fri Mar 18, 12:17:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

That's a fascination theory, Miami Al. I'll run it past my husband, a Levi.

Fri Mar 18, 12:08:00 PM 2011  
Blogger The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

See how much fun Vayikra can be?

I'm also a levite.

Miami Al's theory rings true in my eyes.

1) The rape of Dinah result in war from Shimon and Levi

2) Jacob was displeased with both, but God took the levites for his own in Numbers

3) At the incident of the golden calf it was the levites who, um, "corrected" the transgressors.

4)After the tribes challenged Moshe in the wake of the Korachite rebellion, the Levites were set to gurad the Mishkan from any, ahem, "pretenders."

5) The Levite Pinchas "corrected" the Shimonite Zimri for his transgression with Cozbi, perhaps hinting to us that back in the days of Dinah Levi was seeking justice while Shimon was looking for revenge.

Fri Mar 18, 12:48:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...


Heck, just look at Contemporary Libya. Groups are organizing to fight under their tribes.

Were our ancestors, 3000 years ago, that different from many of the tribes in the North Africa/Middle East today?

The Cohanim as a subset of Leviim reads like a "first among equals" setup.

By the time of the Talmud, this was LONG past. By the time of the second Temple, the Levvim/Cohanim were basically servents to the people.

But, prior to David Hamelech's "unification of the twellve tribes," what would like in Canaan look like? Look at contemporary Israel, Judah is a agricultural disaster that is militarily defensible. The tribes of Israel sat on the best property.

Judah/Binyamin would have been backwaters in an agrarian society.

Also, the Leviim were city dwellers supported by the surrounding agricultural tribes. That looks to me like a proto-feudal setup that you had in Euope 2000 years later.

Fri Mar 18, 02:21:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous AnecDatum said...

@Miami Al's comment: "My personal theory is that the Leviim were originally warriors... clearly there was an enforcement mechanism."
The claim that the Levites took the tithes by force, as warriors, doesn't sound quite right to me.
If you look at the census at the beginning of Numbers, the tribe of Levi is the smallest by far. The next smallest, Menashe, is nearly 50% larger. Saying that the Levites asserted dominance over all the other tribes by force, when the army-fit population of Yehuda was over three times their size...
Am I misunderstanding some part of your theory?

Sat Mar 19, 06:23:00 PM 2011  
Blogger The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

I do not imagine that Miami Al is proposing that the tithes are being taken by force by roaming levitical thugs (right Al?), but rather that the tithing system is a de jure levy for the upkeep of a well regulated levitical militia whose functions include defending the keep, providing logistical and operational support at the temple, and providing a satisfying worship experience through music and song.

Sun Mar 20, 05:31:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Not thugs, but clearly there was an enforcement mechanism. If you want to take a tenth of someone's property, you need a mechanism to collect. Look how well Synagogues do at collecting money voluntarily, they all use a dues structure/high holiday ticket system to extract contributions. You believe that the Jewish people were more altuistic 3500 years ago.

In contemporary America, you rarely here of Treasury Officers seizing property to collect taxes. Nonetheless, the IRS is backed up by the authority to use force directly and indirectly.

The Levites were TINY. They were supported by the other tribes. There MUST be a reason that the other tribes agreed.

Military strength isn't just able bodied men. Training, discipline, etc., makes a big difference. In ancient bronze age military technology, a well trained unit can defeat a much larger body of men.

Remember, we all take for granted that Moses was a member of Levy that was raised by Paroh's extended family, because we know how the story ends. At the time the story was taking place, all the people knew is that Paroh's grandson claimed to speak for the Gd of Israel and demanded their release. Generally in royal families, sons and grandsons receive military training (look at how the royal families in the middle east control their military). If Moses was trained to lead Egyptian Chariot units (then the most high tech form of weaponry of the era) and other roles as part of the royal house's extended family, he would have been able to train up soldiers to fight and control.

In a tribal situation (see Libya, last week), clans stay loyal to each other, and officers lead troops of their own clan.

Why is the idea that Moses would have trained up the Leviim as his personal army? He's have to have been crazy not to be worried about a fresh engagement with the Egyptians.

Or do you think that Moses looked like a Rosh Yeshiva, instead of an Egyptian warrior?

Sun Mar 20, 09:53:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Miami Al, this theory is sounding more interesting by the minute, er, comment.

Mon Mar 21, 12:15:00 PM 2011  

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