Yoma 53a – The interpretation of the Sadducees

In the current climate of the Orthodox Jewish world we are so often encouraged not to read texts which are challenging or outside of the consensus of traditional Judaism, and yet the Talmud, as it so often does, challenges this idea.

ת”ר ונתן את הקטורת על האש לפני ה’ שלא יתקן מבחוץ ויכניס להוציא מלבן של צדוקין שאומרים יתקן מבחוץ ויכניס מאי דרוש כי בענן אראה על הכפורת מלמד שיתקן מבחוץ ויכניס

The Sages taught [in a baraita:] “And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord” [(Leviticus 16:3); this means that] he [should] not prepare [by placing the incense] outside, [in the Sanctuary,] and bring [into the Holy of Holies a coal pan holding the burning incense. This was emphasised in order] to exclude the opinion of the Sadducees, who say [that] he [should] prepare [the incense] outside [and then] bring [it in.]

[The Gemara asks:] What did [the Sadducees] interpret; [what verse do they cite as the basis for their opinion? The Gemara answers that it was the verse:] “For I will appear in a cloud upon the Ark cover” [(Leviticus 16:2), which the Sadducees say] teaches that he should prepare [it] outside, [so there would already be a cloud of incense, and only then should] he bring [it inside the Holy of Holies.]

Amazingly here the Sages of the Talmud look at the interpretation of a verse in the Bible from the Sadducees point of view. The clear meaning is so as to reject it. However, the very fact that it is repeated in our key Rabbinic text, the Talmud, suggests to me that there is something that we can learn from it.

It is worth noting the words of Rav Kook on heretical writings.

“All the words and paths that lead to the ways of heresy themselves lead, fundamentally, if we seek out their source, to a greater depth of faith, one that is more illuminating and life-giving than the simple understanding that was illuminated prior to the revelation of that outburst. ” Rav Kook Iggeret ha-Re’aya


About bookabazza

I am an Osteopath and University Lecturer who is trying to keep up with the 7 year daf yomi cycle. I thought I would try and share a few small thought on the daf each week.
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