Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Zevachim 33: By the Nicanor Gate

A very brief note about today's daf:

The rabbis detail what should be done when a person is ritually impure and s/he needs to bring an offering to the Temple or to approach the Temple.

There was one gate, the northern gate, which allowed people to get as close to the Temple courtyard as possible without actually stepping into the courtyard and defiling the sacred objects there.  The rabbis ask whether or not there might have been a small door next to the door of those gates.  A zav, for example, would have to approach the Temple with the blood of his offering evident on his right ear, thumb and big toe.  To approach the Temple at that point in time would lessen the sanctity of the courtyard.  Thus he might put parts of his body into the Temple courtyard, briefly, to fulfil the halacha regarding becoming ritually pure again.  

The Nicanor gate is mentioned many times in the Talmud.  Interestingly, the rabbis' conjecture about the role of this gate is imbued with their own ideas about how G-d's word must have been interpreted.  We will never know exactly how people deemed ritually impure behaved when near - or within - the Temple courtyard.  It is difficult to know whether we are learning history or anthropology.

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