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A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Explanations of Pagan Customs in Judaism with some notes on Maimonides Part 3



It is essential to read this post Explanations of Pagan Customs in Judaism with some notes on Maimonides Part I before proceeding.


Sources and Documentation are listed throughout or at the end of this post.

This post will continue with-

Some Torah and Pagan comparisons; A critique of some of Rambam’s explanations; Related Issues


See Part 1 and Part 2 for Items A thru R


S) Tabernacle


Exodus 25:8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.9 According to all that I show thee, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the furniture thereof, even so shall ye make it.

22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will speak with thee from above the ark-cover, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.


The Tabernacle is no accommodation to pagan practice. It states in verse 22, God will dwell in it or meet there. This is similar to other ancient near east (ANE) cultures. Even the plans are similar to other ANE cultures.

The Biblical Ciphers Unsealed Dale Robertson 2001

Beginning page 117 - Regarding the portable Israelite Ark

"We find evidence of an ark-like container in the religious practices of people throughout the near east". Evidence of an ark roughly the same dimensions as the Hebrew ark is found in the worship of Isis and Osiris.


The Anchor Bible Exodus 19-40 William Propp 2006 discusses the Tabernacle on page 704:

In Ugaritic literature speaks of tabernacles as a tent in which the gods gather in ‘meeting’ (m’d) . Also as the tent inhabited by the head Deity of the pantheon. “It stands to reason that the biblical ‘ohel moed’ meeting tent in which Yahweh resides on earth draws from the well springs of Canaanite mythology, since in many other respects the figure of Yahweh is rooted in the imagery of Ilu. (Cross 1961b:224;1973:44-75; Smith 2002; see also p. 787).”

Kugel page 284 - “A temple in the ancient Near East was essentially the house of the deity”. “Of course, in the ANE , the deity was not thought to exist just in that one place: he or she might also be somewhere else in the natural world or in the sky, or simultaneously in another temple...”
---------------------------------------------------------

T) Eating Fat is Prohibited

Levit 3:16 And the priest shall make them smoke upon the altar; it is the food of the offering made by fire, for a sweet savour; all the fat is the LORD'S.

Leviticus 7:22 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:

23 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: Ye shall eat no fat, of ox, or sheep, or goat.
24 And the fat of that which dieth of itself, and the fat of that which is torn of beasts, may be used for any other service; but ye shall in no wise eat of it.
25 For whosoever eateth The fat of the beast, of which men present an offering made by fire unto the LORD, even the soul that eateth it shall be cut off from his people.

Rambam suggests the prohibition is because fat is an unwholesome food (page 370). Yet the reason the Torah provides (for example verse 16) is all the fat is the LORD'S. As if to emphasize this, eating it requires being cut off.

If the Torah was truly meaning to provide healthy diet suggestions, there was no need for it to write the food is the Lords’s nor to provide such a serious punishment as being cut off. {ETA 3/23/2014 And if Torah was intending to educate about a healthy diet it could write fat was bad for your health, instead of it being for the Lord.}

U) Regarding "unclean" In Leviticus 15:1- 15

2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When any man hath an issue out of his flesh, his issue is unclean. {JPS page 241 explains it as urethral infections and not only gonorrhea. They did not know it was transmitted by sexual contact. } In verses 13 And when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue, then he shall number to himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes; and he shall bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean....

14 And on the eighth day he shall take to him two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, and come before the LORD unto the door of the tent of meeting, and give them unto the priest.
15 And the priest shall offer them, the one for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD for his issue.

So sacrifice for infections. This is found among other ANE cultures - see Sparks below.

V) The Menstruate taboo all too common through the world. An abnormally long period requires sacrifices and atonement.

Levit15:25 And if a woman have an issue of her blood many days not in the time of her impurity, or if she have an issue beyond the time of her impurity; all the days of the issue of her uncleanness she shall be as in the days of her impurity: she is unclean.
26 Every bed whereon she lieth all the days of her issue shall be unto her as the bed of her impurity; and every thing whereon she sitteth shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her impurity. 27 And whosoever toucheth those things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. 28 BUT if she be Cleansed of Her issue, Then she shall number to Herself seven days, and after That she shall be clean.
29 And on the eighth day she shall take unto her two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest, to the door of the tent of meeting.
30 And the priest shall offer the one for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her before the LORD for the issue of her uncleanness.


And a reason for all this is Leviticus 15:31 Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness; that they die not in their uncleanness, when they defile My tabernacle that is in the midst of them.


{ETA 3/31/2014 -4/1/2014 - The Torah codifies superstitions and moreover requires a sacrifice as atonement. Why kill animals - how can this possibly help ?

Why do things become unclean when the women touches them ?
I sincerely doubt there is any physical basis for
for transference of uncleanliness as described in the Torah.

A plausible explanation for the abnormally long period concerns: When this happened it was treated as an abnormality or illness resulting because of a sin. Often ANE cultures associated illness or evil with offending the Gods. God therefore needed placating via an offering. This was serious because of verse 15:31.

Thus the taboo relates to supernatural fears and superstitions.}


W) Exodus21: 20 And if a man smite his bondman, or his bondwoman, with a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall surely be punished.

21 Notwithstanding if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his money.


Verse 20 seems reasonable. But verse 21 does not.

Why should the Master not get punished since he was the proximate cause of the death ?

X) Citing Rambam Page 339

“....the first-fruit (Exod. xxiii. 19), and the first of the shearing (Deut. xviii. 4).For the first of everything is to be devoted to the Lord ; and by doing so man accustoms himself to be liberal, and to limit his appetite for eating and his desire for property.”

Devoting the first of thing to the gods is a widely attested religious practice. Here is are two examples of many others. Page 460 Frazer - VI On the Island of Cos farmers brought the first fruits of the harvest to Demeter. Page 500 At a Mexican harvest festival the first fruits of the season were offered to the sun.

The post is continued here Part 4

--------------------------------------------
Sources additional Documentation and Information - REPEATED from Part I.

Beginning Page 207 Ancient Texts For The Study of The Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005)

Regarding Leviticus 11-15-

The dietary laws: Clean .vs. Unclean - very close to ancient near east views. The Clean species - animals of domestic flock and herds. The unclean - Dog, swine in Hittite.

Body fluids discharges - Normal biological or Illness creates ritual uncleanness in The near east.

Hittite priests - if engage in sex it creates unclean and needs a ritual bath. Similar to Leviticus 15:16-18

Skin Infections, Fungus on things - like the ANE neighbors you consult a priest. Mesopotamia and Israelites - priest diagnoses based on fungal color and prescribe treatment and PERFORM elimination rites like in Levit 13:47-50, 14:33-57

Regarding Levit 17,21,22 "Hittite priestly instructions include many rules of this sort as well as similar warnings about DIVINE PUNISHMENT THAT WOULD RESULT IF THE RULES ARE CONTRAVENED". [My capitals]

Regarding Levit 24:1-9 perpetual presentation of 12 loaves of bread. This pa parallels to Mesopotamia practice a) 12 loaf offerings b) presenting meals to gods on trays
----------------------------------------------

Religions of the Ancient Near East - Helmer Ringgron (TRANSLATED by J. Sturdy) 1973

Page 159 - "A number of Temples display a ground plan similar to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem"

Page 121 REGARDING Assyrian and Babylonian religion:

" It is known that life or the BREATH of life is a gift of the gods, who also have the power to take it back." [My capitalization. Such a notion is found in Genesis ...]

Page 160 From the Ras Shamra texts of the Baal myths - To give authority he needs a house or place usually called Bait or Bet the usual word for Temple. "This shows clearly that The Temple was treated in The first place as the dwelling of the god or his official residence". Like the jews, the Temple Atargatis held 2 sacrifices per day.


Page 166 From the Ras Shamra texts - Baal has Khnm priests like Kohnim Hebrew. Kohen in Phoenician and Punic inscriptions.
----------------------------------------------

Religions of the Ancient Near East - Helmer Ringgron (Translated by J. Sturdy) 1973

Page 159 - "A number of Temples display a ground plan similar to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem"

Page 121 Regarding Assyrian and Babylonian religion:

" It is known that life or the BREATH of life is a gift of the gods, who also have the power to take it back." [My capitalization. Such a notion is found in Genesis ...]
----------------------------------------------

JPS - Jewish Publication Society Jewish Study Bible 2004 Berlin and Brettler

OTP - Old Testament Parallels by Victor Mathews and Don Benjamin

Frazer VI - The Golden Bough by James Frazer Volume I abridged edition 1922, 1979 - fifteenth printing.)

Kugel - How to Read the Bible by James Kugel 2007

Rambam - Maimonides (Rambam 12th century) in his Guide for the Perplexed ( my edition translated from the original arabic edition, revised throughout (Eighth Impression) second edition published 1904, reprinted in 1956)

Sparks - Ancient Texts For The Study of The Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005)



Explanations of Pagan Customs in Judaism with some notes on Maimonides Part 2

It is essential to read this post  Explanations of Pagan Customs in Judaism with some notes on Maimonides Part I before proceeding. Sources and Documentation are listed throughout or at the end of this post.

This post will continue with- 

Some Torah and Pagan comparisons;  A critique of some of Rambam’s explanations; Related Issues

J) See this post Circumcision and Maimonides  where Rambam reasons for circumcision are challenged, and also for some additional critique of the practice.

K) Citing Rambam Page 331

"We are told to offer up prayers to God, in order to establish firmly the true principle that God takes notice of our ways, that He can make them successful if we worship Him, or disastrous if we disobey Him, that [success and failure] are not the result of chance or accident. "

Other ancient near east (ANE) religions also prayed to the gods. Rambam states that god interferes in the world because somebody prays to god.  How is this different than other ANE religions who believed likewise ?

L) Citing Rambam Page 358

“The anointing oil (Exod. xxx. 22-33) served a double purpose : to give the anointed object a good odour, and to produce the impression that it was something great, holy, and distinguished, and better than other objects of the same species ; it made no difference whether that object was a human being, a garment, or a vessel. All this aimed at producing due respect towards the Sanctuary, and indirectly fear of God.”

(http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1559-anointing - This custom was older than the Hebrews. El-Amarna Tablet No. 37 tells of the anointing of a king.)

[Other cultures also had rituals involving anointing. For example see this post Passover]

M) Citing Rambam Page 358

"Since many beasts were daily slaughtered in the holy place, the flesh cut in pieces and the entrails and the legs burnt and washed, the smell of the place would undoubtedly have been like the smell of slaughter-houses, if nothing had been done to counteract it. They were therefore commanded to burn incense there twice every day, in the morning and in the evening (Exod. xxx. 7, 8), in order to give the place and the garments of those who officiated there a pleasant odour."

{(http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8099-incense:  It is an open question whether the ancient Hebrews ascribed to this incense any special efficacy in banning demons (comp. Tobit vi. 1-7); but in any case the offering of incense was widely practiced in the ancient Oriental religions. That it was a common adjunct of Egyptian worship is evident from the fact that in the representations of worship the king is nearly always pictured with a censer in his hand offering incense. Enormous quantities of spices were used for this purpose every year by the temples. According to one list, King Rameses III. presented during the thirty-one years of his reign 368,461 jars and 1,933,766 pieces of incense, honey, and oil (Erman, "Egypten," p. 407). Incense is mentioned just as frequently in the Babylonian-Assyrian cult.)}

Moreover, the Torah could have reduced  the number of animal sacrifices and thus significantly decreased the odor, if there was indeed an objectionable one.

It is possible the incense  may have had a psychoactive effect, but this needs further research. For example from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankincense  "A 2008 study 
reported that frankincense smoke was a psychoactive drug that relieves depression and anxiety in mice." 

The Anchor Bible Exodus 19-40 William Propp 2006 discusses incense Beginning on page 512 provides numerous reasons and facts about incense including: 
       
“In Mesopotamia an incense burner was placed directly before the divine presence...”

“The Mesopotamians believed that aromatics could dispel impurity and attract the divine..."

“Canaanite temples similarly featured incense installations before the sacred cellae or niches housing the divine image....”

Incense can placate god and avert a plagues - as in Numbers 17:
12 And Aaron Took as Moses spoke partner network, and ran into the Midst of the assembly; and, behold, the plague was Begun Among the people; and he put on the incense, and made ​​Atonement for the people.
13 And he Stood Between the dead and the living; and the plague was Stayed.
 Clouds are a medium for gods manifestation as in Levit :16:2

Leviticus16: 2 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Speak unto Aaron thy brother, That he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the ark-cover Which is upon the ark; That he die not; for I Appear in the cloud upon the ark-cover.

Propp explains sizzling flesh has an appealing odor and so incense was not to cover stench. There was the possibility for it as an insect repellent or to perfume the environment to attract god. Also to scent and thus remind people of the Temple.

N) Citing Rambam Page 359-360

" Ye shall bring your offering of the cattle [viz.], of the herd and of the flock (Lev. I. 2). Thus the very act which is considered by the heathen as the greatest crime, is the means of approaching God, and obtaining His pardon for our sins."

Rambam writes that in general cattle are not sacrificed by Idolaters.

Yet we know other ancient cultures also sacrificed cattle such as oxen and sheep {ETA and goats }no different than the Torah.

{ETA 3/22-24/2014 It is known goats, bulls, cows and sheep  are were sacrificed by several  cultures  in the ancient near east - see for example page 347, 348, 358 the book Ancient Near East Texts Relating to the Old Testament by James Pritchard -1955 second edition corrected and enlarged . That book also provides numerous ANE Bible parallels.} 

Furthermore, Numbers 15:3-16 says burned flesh produces an odor pleasing to god. (Page 313 of  The Jewish Study Bible Berlin And Brettler editors 2004). 

Why should cattle sacrifice obtain pardon of sins ? Wouldn’t charity be better ?

On Page 360 Rambam writes the Idolaters did not sacrifice unleavened bread, thus the Torah prohibits leavened bread sacrifices. 

But on  Page 169 of  Sparks he mentions the Ugaritic Festival of First Wine and one of it's  features is the use of  UNLEAVENED Bread in sacrifices.}.

O) Citing Rambam Page 366

"The goat [of the Day of Atonement] that was sent [into the wilderness] (Lev. xvi. 20, seq.) served as an atonement for all serious transgressions more than any other sin-offering of the congregation. As it thus seemed to carry off all sins, it was not accepted as an ordinary sacrifice to be slaughtered, burnt,
or even brought near the Sanctuary ; it was removed as far as possible, and sent forth into a waste, uncultivated, uninhabited land. There is no doubt that sins cannot be carried like a burden, and taken off the shoulder of one being to be laid on that of another being. But these ceremonies are of a symbolic character, and serve to impress men with a certain idea, and to induce them to repent; as if to say, we have freed ourselves of our previous deeds, have cast them behind our backs, and removed them from us as far as possible."

Here Rambam seems to disregard the actual Torah words see verse 22 in the next paragraph.. The goat actually bears the iniquities. This is no mere symbolism. See my post on Azazel and Yom Kippur for more ANE parallels.

Leviticus 16: 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, even all their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of an appointed man into the wilderness. 22 And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land which is cut off; and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness

P) Citing Rambam Page  366

"As regards the offering of wine (Num. xv. 5, seq), I am at a loss to find a reason why God commanded it, since idolaters brought wine as an offering."

Rambam is correct that some Idolaters did use wine in their ceremonies.

Numbers 15:3-16 says burned flesh produces an odor pleasing to god. (Page 313 of The Jewish Study Bible Berlin And Brettler editors 2004). 

I will note that included within in the above verses is the suggestion that wine offering also produces a pleasing odor which may mean to god as in verse 3.  Verse 3 is about flesh and it states "..producing an odor pleasing to god."  This would provide one reason for the wine sacrifice.

Another reason is a possible Dionysus connection.  Recall wine is used in many Orthodox Jewish rituals.

Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, wine making and wine. According to an article in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament June 2011 vol. 35 no. 4 387-415: Was Yahweh Worshiped in the Aegean? by Nissim Amzallag - Here is the abstract - "A comparison of Aegean and biblical sources reveals striking similarities between Dionysus and Yahweh: both are characterized by the same symbols, the same mode of action and the same theophany; both provoked a comparable doubt concerning their divine nature and/or their actual powers; and both had the same subversive effects with regard to the official pantheon. The homology between Yahweh and Dionysus is confirmed by their common vestigial link to copper metallurgy. From Greek literary sources and reflections about the continuous metallurgical influence of Canaan on the Aegean world, it is concluded that during the Bronze Age Dionysus was probably the Aegean counterpart of Yahweh, the mysterious Canaanite god of furnace metallurgy. Further examination suggests that the popularization of the cult of Dionysus in Greece, from the ninth century BCE, underwent a similar process leading in Canaan to the emergence of the Israelite alliance. These findings open new horizons of investigation, both of the ancient Aegean civilization and of the nature of the popular cult of Yahweh in Canaan prior to the monotheistic reform."

In ancient times grapes and wine were closely connected with gods.

Q) Citing Rambam Page  372

"The object of Nazaritism (Num. vi.) is obvious. It keeps away from wine that has ruined people in ancient and modern times." "In the law about the Nazarite we notice even the prohibition,he shall eat nothing that is made of the vine tree (Num vi. 4), as an additional precaution, implying the lesson that man must take of wine only as much as. absolutely necessary.”

{From http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11395-nazarite
Three restrictions are imposed upon the Nazarite, according to Num. vi.: he may not take wine, or anything made from grapes; he may not cut the hair of his head; he may not touch the dead, not even the body of his father or mother.
Note (Parallels to the long hair of the Nazarites are found in many parts of the world (comp. W. R. Smith, "Rel. of Sem." 2d ed., pp. 332, 482; Frazer, "Golden Bough," 2d ed., I. 362-389) http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11395-nazarite).}

[Clearly Rambam's explanation can not be the complete explanation because grapes and not just wine are restricted, and thus his suggestion that this is too teach a precaution about excess wine does not fully follow. And why the hair cut prohibition which Rambam ignores. The latter is an ancient superstitions and is found in the Nazarite code.]

On page 788 Frazer VI- "Again we see that in folk tales a mans's soul or strength is sometimes represented as bound up with his a hair, and that when his hair is cut off he dies or grows weak." He includes for example the natives of Amboyna who thought their strength was in their hair which deserts them if it were shorn.

R) Citing Rambam Page  379

"It is prohibited for an Israelite that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off (Deut. xxiii. 2), to marry an Israelitish woman ; because the sexual intercourse is of no use and of no purpose ; and that marriage would be a source of ruin to her, and to him who would claim her."

Deuteronomy Chapter 23:2 He that is crushed or maimed in his privy parts shall not enter into the assembly of the LORD. 

1) If  Rambam’s has provided the understanding and reasons for the law I would argue the law is unjust for at least 2 reasons. Procreation is not the sole reason for marriage. The Torah writes  in Genesis 2:18 And the LORD God said: 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him. Second, this law is discriminatory towards certain injured and or disabled people.

2) Rambam’s understanding of the law may be incorrect and this lead him to incorrect reasons. The verse may actually be referring to a sort of public legislature and not to the greater society. Eunuchs served as officials in near east bureaucracies and so are prohibited. (JPS page 418). 


This post is continued in Explanations of Pagan Customs in Judaism with some notes on Maimonides Part 3

--------------------------------------------

Sources additional Documentation and Information - REPEATED from Part I.

Beginning Page 207 Ancient Texts For The Study of The Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005)
Regarding Leviticus 11-15-

The dietary laws: Clean .vs. Unclean - very close to ancient near east views. The Clean species - animals of domestic flock and herds. The unclean - Dog, swine in Hittite.

Body fluids discharges - Normal biological or Illness creates ritual uncleanness in The near east. 

Hittite priests - if engage in sex it creates unclean and needs a ritual bath. Similar to Leviticus 15:16-18

Skin Infections, Fungus on things - like the ANE neighbors you consult a priest. Mesopotamia and Israelites - priest diagnoses based on fungal color and prescribe treatment and PERFORM elimination rites like in Levit 13:47-50, 14:33-57

Regarding Levit 17,21,22 "Hittite priestly instructions include many rules of this sort as well as similar warnings about DIVINE PUNISHMENT THAT WOULD RESULT IF  THE RULES ARE CONTRAVENED". [My capitals]

Regarding Levit 24:1-9 perpetual presentation of 12 loaves of bread. This pa parallels to Mesopotamia practice a) 12 loaf offerings b) presenting meals to gods on trays

----------------------------------------------

Religions of the Ancient Near East - Helmer Ringgron (TRANSLATED by J. Sturdy) 1973

Page 159 - "A number of Temples display a ground plan similar to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem"

Page 121 REGARDING Assyrian and Babylonian religion:
" It is known that life or the BREATH of life is a gift of the gods, who also have the power to take it back." [My capitalization. Such a notion is found in Genesis ...]

Page 160 From the Ras Shamra texts of the Baal myths - To give authority he needs a house or place usually called Bait or Bet the usual word for Temple. "This shows clearly that The Temple was treated in The first place as the dwelling  of the god or his official residence". Like the jews, the Temple Atargatis held 2 sacrifices per day.

Page 166 From the Ras Shamra texts - Baal has Khnm priests like Kohnim Hebrew. Kohen in Phoenician and Punic inscriptions.

----------------------------------------------

Religions of the Ancient Near East - Helmer Ringgron (Translated by J. Sturdy) 1973

Page 159 - "A number of Temples display a ground plan similar to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem"

Page 121 Regarding Assyrian and Babylonian religion:
" It is known that life or the BREATH of life is a gift of the gods, who also have the power to take it back." [My capitalization. Such a notion is found in Genesis ...]

----------------------------------------------

JPS  - Jewish Publication Society Jewish Study Bible 2004 Berlin and Brettler

OTP - Old Testament Parallels  by Victor Mathews and Don Benjamin 

Frazer VI - The Golden Bough by  James Frazer Volume I abridged edition 1922, 1979 - fifteenth printing.) 

Kugel - How to Read the Bible by James Kugel 2007

Rambam - Maimonides (Rambam 12th century) in his Guide for the Perplexed ( my edition translated from the original arabic edition, revised throughout (Eighth Impression) second edition published 1904, reprinted in 1956)

Sparks - Ancient Texts For The Study of The Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Circumcision and Maimonides

Maimonides (Rambam 12th century) in his Guide for the Perplexed ( my edition translated from the original arabic edition, revised throughout (Eighth Impression) second edition published 1904, reprinted in 1956), offers the following basic explanations for circumcision on Page 378 

"As regards circumcision, I think that one of its objects is to limit sexual intercourse, and to weaken the organ of generation as far as possible, and thus cause man to be moderate." "There is, however, another important object in this commandment. It gives to all members of the same faith, i.e., to all believers in the Unity of
God, a common bodily sign, so that it is impossible for any one that is a stranger, to say that he belongs to them." 

Rambam also mentions circumcision as part of the covenant with god.

Here are five objections to Rambam and circumcision:

1) Perhaps Rambam was unaware that many other cultures also circumcise and so it would do a poor job differentiating jew from a gentile wishing to gain access.

2) Why would attenuating the penis be a good thing. It should be as strong and healthy as possible to allow us to be fruitful and multiply. And why should man be moderated, since did not God create man a certain way, and man has free will according to the Torah.

3) The procedure was dangerous in ancient times see The Dangers of Circumcision as found in the Talmud 

4) We find God telling Abraham in  Genesis 17:6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
7 And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.
8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.'
9 And God said unto Abraham: 'And as for thee, thou shalt keep My covenant, thou, and thy seed after thee throughout their generations.
10 This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised.
11 And ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of a covenant betwixt Me and you.who will make Abraham fruitful.

The promises of fecundity in Genesis is reminiscent of fertility  cults.

5) I have seen information that suggests:

a) The circumcised male adversely affects the female during intercourse.  

b) Circumcision adversely affects the male ability to perform sexually in a healthy normal fashion. 

(I need to obtain more medical opinions on this but the information I have seen is very convincing). 

Explanations of Pagan Customs in Judaism with some notes on Maimonides Part I

UPDATED THRU 11/20/2014

Why Are Pagan Laws, Rituals and Customs in the Torah ?

Many Orthodox Jews respond: We do not know why the Torah has certain laws, rituals and customs. God has commanded them. ( I will be mainly concerned with laws, rituals and customs that have no obvious reason. Laws such as the prohibition against murder are not the concern of this post.)

Others, in the tradition exemplified by Maimonides (Rambam 12th century) in his Guide for the Perplexed ( my edition translated from the original arabic edition, revised throughout (Eighth Impression) second edition published 1904, reprinted in 1956), offers the following basic  explanations:

E1) Many Torah laws, rituals, customs are meant to reject Idolatry and Idolatrous ways of worship or to create a fence around them.

{ETA 7/10/2014 One motivation for the development E1 is explained in Origins of some Torah Laws and Chosen People Idea. Or perhaps it occurs because of religious, political, national  differentiation similar to numerous countries having there own religious brand or like the numerous different Christian, Islamic, and Jewish denominations today. Or perhaps the Ancient Israelites were by trial and error attempting to find the best way to worship Yahweh/EL. }

E2) The  Israelites had been steeped in Idolatry. The Torah allowed some pagan practices to continue  as an 'accommodation' to human weakness, but they are rededicated to the worship of Yahweh.

(Rambam also offers other reasons for certain specific and laws, rituals and customs - some will be discussed in future posts. ETA 3/19/2014 - see Part 2 and Part 3  and Circumcision and Rambam }

E1 - For some laws the Torah explicitly confirms E1. For example Deut 27:15 Cursed be the man that maketh a graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and setteth it up in secret.

Notice that E1 and E2 combined are an almost unfalsifiable position. If a clearly pagan practice is in the Torah it becomes an ‘accommodation’. If it is prohibited it is because it was associated with Idolatry. Nevertheless, a very convincing case can be made against E2 for many of the Torah’s pagan  laws, rituals and customs.

 The posts 'Cut Off in  the Bible  and  'Statute Forever' in the Bible already began to address why E2 is an incorrect explanation for many Torah pagan laws, rituals and customs and strongly suggests the Torah’s many ancient near east (ANE)  laws,  rituals and customs had extreme importance and were not simply pagan ‘accommodations’. This post will mainly continue the discussion of why E2 is very often not the correct explanation. The sources and documentation for this post are at the end of the post or interspersed throughout.

{ETA 11/20/2014 Lets suppose Animal Sacrifice is rationalized because of  E2 or perhaps it serves communal purpose.  Neither of those reasons would apply to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob... If so why were they engaged in such acts ? }

Rambam did not have access to modern knowledge and facts and based his opinions on what information was available to him. He was unaware of natural explanations of the origins of the species, modern cosmology and archaeology. He was unaware of newly discovered  ancient near east (ANE) parallels to Torah laws, festivals, expressions, conceptions and myths.

I would argue that the Torah was not making allowances for pagan practices because of peoples inability to withstand a major change in religion. Sometimes the Torah directly prohibits a particular pagan  practice regardless of how entrenched the pagan practice may have been. 

Some of the pagan rituals etc: may have been retained because they empowered Priests, for example requiring them to perform certain rituals. As example would be Levit 14:34-57 purging and making expiation after a plague. 

But many  pagan practices (modified or unmodified)  that persist in the Torah are there because the authors of the Torah believed they were a necessary way to achieve the favor of Yahweh or were good for their society. They shared certain beliefs and customs  with other ANE (ancient near east) cultures and incorporated them into the Torah. Cross pollination was also occurring. {ETA 3/24/2014 see for example this post Yom Kippur Origins }

The Torah  authors rejected or modified other pagan practices to  create differentiation from surrounding nations for political/national/religious reasons or because they hoped through trial and error they could discover the best way to worship Yahweh and obtain his favor.

Judaism today does not know the reason for many of it’s laws, rituals and customs. For example the prohibition for wearing a flax and wool garment. It is fairly certain there is no health issue concerns, nor any concern today regarding it’s potential Idolatrous associations as Rambam suggested (see item H below). If so, then what use is it for us today to abide by the commandment in modern times. The same is true for many other laws, rituals and customs. It is as if we are practicing meaningless laws and rituals. 

{ETA 3/23/2106 Side Note. Orthodox Jews consider the future resurrection of the dead and the world to come as important principles of Judaism. From the Book Understanding Judaism - Jacob Neusner Editor- 

Beginning Page 35 The [Rabbinic Jewish] belief in the world to come with it’s concomitant belief in bodily resurrection is an importation from Zoroastrian civilization. Both stem from non Jewish sources. }


Some Torah and Pagan comparisons;  A critique of some of Rambam’s explanations; Related Issues

A) The Torah codifies pagan superstitions and discriminations for example as see Bitter Waters  and  Blemished Priests.

B) Citing Rambam page 356

“...I do not know the object of the table with the bread
upon it continually, and up to this day I have not been able to assign any reason to this commandment.”

Levit 24:5 And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth parts of an ephah shall be in one cake.
6 And thou shalt set them in two rows, six in a row, upon the pure table before the LORD.
7 And thou shalt put pure frankincense with each row, that it may be to the bread for a memorial-part, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD.

Sparks - Beginning on page 206 - perpetual presentation of 12 loaves of bread parallel Mesopotamian practice: a) 12 loaf offering to the deity during Akitu b) Presenting meals to gods in trays. 

Exodus 25:29 And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and the pans thereof, and the jars thereof, and the bowls thereof, wherewith to pour out; of pure gold shalt thou make them.
30 And thou shalt set upon the table showbread before Me always.

JPS page 167 - ANE art work shows tables holding gifts of food before enthroned royalty and deities.

C) The Patriarchs, Moshe and Aaron -  engage in sacrifice and other pagan  rituals. For example Genesis 28:18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. 

But surely these individuals would not be Idolaters and would not need to slowly weaned from pagan practices. It is more likely they performed these ritual for their alleged efficacy or other ritualist reasons.

D)  Deut 13:1 All this word which I command you, that shall ye observe to do; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

This expression: “... reflects an ancient Near eastern  scribal formula that was often included in the epilogue of treaties, inscriptions, or law collections to protect them from being defaced, altered, or written over.” Page 394 JPS

E) Some pagan myths share  similarities to the Torah’s (Creation myths;  Noah flood story; the early story of Moses birth and saving - King Sargon  for example). 

See the book Old Testament Parallels for examples.

Religions of the Ancient Near East - Helmer Ringgron (Translated by J. Sturdy) 1973

Page 121 Regarding Assyrian and Babylonian religion:
" It is known that life or the BREATH of life is a gift of the gods, who also have the power to take it back." [My capitalization. Such a notion is found in Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.]

F) Pagan expressions and theophany are adopted in the Torah  (see  Kuzari Part 2 for some examples).

G) Some beneficial agricultural customs of 'pagans'  rejected outright in the Torah.  

Citing Rambam page  337

"It is further mentioned in the Nabatean Agriculture that the ancient idolaters caused certain things named in that work to rot, waited till the sun stood in a certain degree [of the ecliptic], and then they performed many acts of witchcraft. They believed that that substance should be kept ready by every one, and when a fruit-tree is planted, a portion of that rotten substance should be scattered round the tree or under it ; the tree would then grow quicker and produce more fruit than is generally the case. They say
that this process is very extraordinary ; it acts like a talisman, and is more..."

Actually, this pagan practice will work, but not for any supernatural reasons. Rotting organic matter helps vegetative growth. It shows how a kernal of truth can exist beneath all the embellishments. The Torah could have taught the "rot" agricultural method perhaps with a with blessing to Yahweh.  It is more likely the authors of the Torah threw out the baby with the bath water so to speak. A divine text would not do so.

Again Rambam page 338

"In the Nabatean Agriculture it is further distinctly stated that it was the custom of the people in those days to sow barley and stones of grapes together, in the belief that the vineyard could only prosper in this way. Therefore the Law prohibits us to use seed that has grown in a vineyard, and commands us to burn both the barley and the produce of the vineyard. For the practices of the heathen, which they considered as of a magic and talismanic character, even if not containing any idolatrous element, are prohibited, ...."

Intercropping is a useful agricultural practice. The Torah was prohibiting a valid agricultural practice. The Torah actually could have taught the Israelites more about intercropping with a blessing  to Yahweh. It is more likely the authors of the Torah threw out the baby with the bath water so to speak. Divine text would not do so.


H) The Torah clearly sometimes makes no accommodating to human weakness for certain  pagan customs, while for others it allows them. For something apparently as trivial as wearing wool and flax garments - this becomes prohibited. Rambam suggests on Page 338 because it was associated with Idolatry. Yet, animal sacrifice is also associated with Idolatry, becomes  glorified in to Torah.  Couldn’t the Torah allow wearing flax and wool and rededicate it God ?.

.

I) Deuteronomy Chapter 28:1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all His commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all the nations of the earth. 
7 The LORD will cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thee; they shall come out against thee one way, and shall flee before thee seven ways. 
11 And the LORD will make thee over-abundant for good, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, in the land which the LORD swore unto thy fathers to give thee. 
12 The LORD will open unto thee His good treasure the heaven to give the rain of thy land in its season, and to bless all the work of thy hand; and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow.

Here we have promises of fertility, power, rain....when you obey Yahweh. Hardly different from the ancient pagans who hoped to achieve the same from their gods. 

From JPS page 427 - Regarding Deut 28:1-68 “The Mosaic covenant specifies a series of blessings and curses that follow upon national obedience or disobedience to the law. These are modeled after ancient Near Eastern state treaties, in which the consequences of breach of the treaty are spelled out at its conclusion; this chapter has several close parallels to the Vassal Treaty of Esarhaddon (VTE), a Neo-Assyrian treaty dating 672 BCE.” JPS goes on to write the Code of Hammurabi also ends with exhortations to obedience, accompanied by blessings and curses. JPS also writes the passage most likely reflects the Babylonian conquest and exile of Judah (597 BCE and 586 BCE) here recast as a prophetic warning. Verses 47-57, and Verses 58-68 are trying to make sense of that catastrophe.


Also see this post Bible Predictor



This post is continued Explanations of Pagan Customs in Judaism with some notes on Maimonides  Part 2


--------------------------------------------

Sources, Additional  Documentation and Information


Beginning Page 207 Ancient Texts For The Study of The Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005)
Regarding Leviticus 11-15-

The dietary laws: Clean .vs. Unclean - very close to ancient near east views. The Clean species - animals of domestic flock and herds. The unclean - Dog, swine in Hittite.

Body fluids discharges - Normal biological or Illness creates ritual uncleanness in The near east. 

Hittite priests - if engage in sex it creates unclean and needs a ritual bath. Similar to Leviticus 15:16-18

Skin Infections, Fungus on things - like the ANE neighbors you consult a priest. Mesopotamia and Israelites - priest diagnoses based on fungal color and prescribe treatment and PERFORM elimination rites like in Levit 13:47-50, 14:33-57

Regarding Levit 17,21,22 "Hittite priestly instructions include many rules of this sort as well as similar warnings about DIVINE PUNISHMENT THAT WOULD RESULT IF  THE RULES ARE CONTRAVENED". [My capitals]

Regarding Levit 24:1-9 perpetual presentation of 12 loaves of bread. This  parallels to Mesopotamia practice a) 12 loaf offerings b) presenting meals to gods on trays

-------------------------------------------------------------
Religions of the Ancient Near East - Helmer Ringgron (TRANSLATED by J. Sturdy) 1973

Page 159 - "A number of Temples display a ground plan similar to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem"

Page 121 REGARDING Assyrian and Babylonian religion:
" It is known that life or the BREATH of life is a gift of the gods, who also have the power to take it back." [My capitalization. Such a notion is found in Genesis ...]

Page 160 From the Ras Shamra texts of the Baal myths - To give authority he needs a house or place usually called Bait or Bet the usual word for Temple. "This shows clearly that The Temple was treated in The first place as the dwelling  of the god or his official residence". Like the jews, the Temple Atargatis held 2 sacrifices per day.

Page 166 From the Ras Shamra texts - Baal has Khnm priests like Kohnim Hebrew. Kohen in Phoenician and Punic inscriptions.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Religions of the Ancient Near East - Helmer Ringgron (Translated by J. Sturdy) 1973

Page 159 - "A number of Temples display a ground plan similar to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem"

Page 121 Regarding Assyrian and Babylonian religion:
" It is known that life or the BREATH of life is a gift of the gods, who also have the power to take it back." [My capitalization. Such a notion is found in Genesis ...]

-------------------------------------------

Frazer VI - The Golden Bough by  James Frazer Volume I abridged edition 1922, 1979 - fifteenth printing.) 

JPS  - Jewish Publication Society Jewish Study Bible 2004 Berlin and Brettler

Kugel - How to Read the Bible by James Kugel 2007

OTP - Old Testament Parallels  by Victor Mathews and Don Benjamin 

Sparks - Ancient Texts For The Study of The Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

'Statute Forever' in the Bible

UPDATED THRU 11/17/2014

Many of the Torah  rituals, customs and taboos  (i.e see Yom Kippur, see Passover, menstrual taboo, dead uncleanliness taboo, see food taboos, see bitter waters,  incense, anointing oil, animal sacrifice, temple, priests, see circumcision...)  have parallels in the ancient near east and other cultures.

{ETA 3/3/2014  From Page 206-207 Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible by Kenton Sparks 2005 Regarding Leviticus 8-9,21,19,44  Priestly ordinations - these have similarities to Mesopotamian rituals and the rituals at Emar: Sacrifice, Water Washing, Oil anointing, Ritual meals, Ritual Periods of 7 days, Physical Perfection of Priests (Levit 21), Priest hair grooming (Levit 19 and 44). [see also The Bible - The Priest- The Female - The Disabled]}

 The Torah obsessively codifies numerous ancient near east parallel rituals, taboos, and customs. Some of the Torah’s may come with a condition - it shall be a statute forever or the death penalty / see being ‘cut off’/ 'die'   for their violation. 

All this strongly suggests the Torah was not making  mere accommodation to pagan rituals, customs and taboos. Rather these rituals, customs and taboos had significant importance in and of themselves to the Torah authors, and most likely for similar reasons they were important to other ancient cultures. 

 Sometimes the Torah’s given  reason parallel the reason other cultures had for it. Here are just three examples. Many of the Torah verses that discuss sacrifices or offering use the expression ‘a sweet savour’  unto the LORD.  Similarly in the Gilgamesh Epic, Utnapishtim brings an offering and incense to the gods who smelled the sweet savor. Yom Kippur rituals are stated in the Torah to cleanse pollution , defilement and  sin from the people and temple. This is the reason given for similar ancient near east rituals. See the blood taboo item 6 below for the third example. Also see the Red Cow ritual item 12  below. {ETA 6/9/2014 Also see Tabernacle in this post Explanations of pagan customs in the Bible Part 3}

This post will document some of the Torah’s rituals, customs and taboos that shall be 'forever' and sometimes provides parallels in other cultures. 

After going through this post, and the 'cut off' post (as well as others on my blog)  let the reader decide if the the Torah is indeed God given laws, rituals and customs, or rather authored by people believing in the ancient near east culture of magic, superstition and myth.  

1) Menorah lamp to burn continually - Page 6-8 The Mothers Volume III by Robert Briffault 1927 Regarding many cultures "Fire is everywhere accounted sacred." "Sacred fires, in ancient Greece were kept burning in the shrines of countless deities..." Examples can be multiplied.

{ETA 11/17/2014 On page 17 of Hidden Religion by Issitt and Main 2014 "The use of candelabra in ritual is not unique to Judaism. Many different types of candelabra have been used as ritual objects in faiths around the world. Historians believe that candelabra were used as symboliv vessels among many middle eastern tribes before the formation of the modern lineage of Judaism." }


Exodus 27:20 And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually.
21 In the tent of meeting, without the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall set it in order, to burn from evening to morning before the LORD; it shall be a statute for ever throughout their generations on the behalf of the children of Israel. 

2) Priest's breeches - interestingly they would 'die' if not worn in the holy place. 

Exodus 28:42 And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover the flesh of their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach.
43 And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they go in unto the tent of meeting, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die; it shall be a statute for ever unto him and unto his seed after him. 

3) Aaron's male descendants are to be priests forever

Exodus29: 7 Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him.
8 And thou shalt bring his sons, and put tunics upon them.
9 And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and bind head-tires on them; and they shall have the priesthood by a perpetual statute; and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons. 

4) Aaron's  males descendants are to be priests for ever and receive various benefits of sacrifices from the Israelites forever

Exodus 29:27 And thou shalt sanctify the breast of the wave-offering, and the thigh of the heave-offering, which is waved, and which is heaved up, of the ram of consecration, even of that which is Aaron's, and of that which is his sons'.
28 And it shall be for Aaron and his sons as a due for ever from the children of Israel; for it is a heave-offering; and it shall be a heave-offering from the children of Israel of their sacrifices of peace-offerings, even their heave-offering unto the LORD. 

5) Aaron's  males descendants (the priests) - must wash before entering holy places or they will 'die'. {See Sparks above}

Exodus 30:17 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
18 'Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and the base thereof of brass, whereat to wash; and thou shalt put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.
19 And Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat;
20 when they go into the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to cause an offering made by fire to smoke unto the LORD;
21 so they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not; and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.' 

6) Fat is the Lord's food. Israelites may not eat fat or blood forever.(JPS page 221 notes "The Israelite is commanded to 
abstain from the 'food' of the Lord even when no sacrifice is made".) [Levit 3-16 "...All Fat is the Lords".] (Here is an interesting parallel - "Some Indian tribes of North America, 'through a strong principle of religion abstain in the strictest manner from eating the blood of any animal, as it contains the life and spirit of the beast' ". Page 265 The Golden Bough by  James Frazer Volume I abridged edition 1922, 1979 - fifteenth printing.) 

Levit 17:4 For as to the life of all flesh, the blood thereof is all one with the life thereof; therefore I said unto the children of Israel: Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh; for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof; whosoever eateth it shall be cut off. 

LEVIT 3:12 And if his offering be a goat, then he shall present it before the LORD.
13 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of it, and kill it before the tent of meeting; and the sons of Aaron shall dash the blood thereof against the altar round about.
14 And he shall present thereof his offering, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD: the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards,
15 and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the loins, and the lobe above the liver, which he shall take away by the kidneys.
16 And the priest shall make them smoke upon the altar; it is the food of the offering made by fire, for a sweet savour; all the fat is the LORD'S.
17 It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings, that ye shall eat neither fat nor blood. 

7) Flour Meal offering 

LEVIT 6:12 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
13 This is the offering of Aaron and of his sons, which they shall offer unto the LORD in the day when he is anointed: the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a meal-offering perpetually, half of it in the morning, and half thereof in the evening.
14 On a griddle it shall be made with oil; when it is soaked, thou shalt bring it in; in broken pieces shalt thou offer the meal-offering for a sweet savour unto the LORD.
15 And the anointed priest that shall be in his stead from among his sons shall offer it, it is a due for ever; it shall be wholly made to smoke unto the LORD. 

8) Priests may not drink wine when going into holy place. They may die.

LEVIT 10:8 And the LORD spoke unto Aaron, saying:
9 'Drink no wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tent of meeting, that ye die not; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.

9) Yom Kippur purgation and atonement rituals; goat for Azazel : removes pollution, impurities, and carries away sins of Israel 

LEVIT .....16 :20 And when he hath made an end of atoning for the holy place, and the tent of meeting, and the altar, he shall present the live goat.
21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, even all their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of an appointed man into the wilderness.
22 And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land which is cut off; and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.
23 And Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there.
24 And he shall bathe his flesh in water in a holy place and put on his other vestments, and come forth, and offer his burnt-offering and the burnt-offering of the people, and make atonement for himself and for the people.
25 And the fat of the sin-offering shall he make smoke upon the altar.
26 And he that letteth go the goat for Azazel shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.
27 And the bullock of the sin-offering, and the goat of the sin-offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall be carried forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung.
28 And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.
29 And it shall be a statute for ever unto you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and shall do no manner of work, the home-born, or the stranger that sojourneth among you.
30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the LORD.
31 It is a sabbath of solemn rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls; it is a statute for ever.
32 And the priest, who shall be anointed and who shall be consecrated to be priest in his father's stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen garments, even the holy garments.
33 And he shall make atonement for the most holy place, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar; and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly.
34 And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make atonement for the children of Israel because of all their sins once in the year.' And he did as the LORD commanded Moses. 

10)  First of the Harvest sacrifices; Sukkos (festival  of booths)

“In short, the autumnal festival in Israel, later called the feast of Tabernacles or Booths, was held at the turn of the year for much the same purposes as the corresponding festival in the agricultural ritual among Canaanites and elsewhere in western Asia.” P 152 The Ancient Gods E.O. James 1960. 

[I hope to write a post on Sukkos. It has numerous similarities to other ancient near east festivals.]

LEVIT  23: 9 And the LORD spoke unto Moses saying:
10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When ye are come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring the sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest unto the priest.
11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you; on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.
12 And in the day when ye wave the sheaf, ye shall offer a he-lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt-offering unto the LORD.
13 And the meal-offering thereof shall be two tenth parts of an ephah of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour; and the drink-offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of a hin.
14 And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor fresh ears, until this selfsame day, until ye have brought the offering of your God; it is a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 

15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete;
16 even unto the morrow after the seventh week shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall present a new meal-offering unto the LORD.
17 Ye shall bring out of your dwellings two wave-loaves of two tenth parts of an ephah; they shall be of fine flour, they shall be baked with leaven, for first-fruits unto the LORD.
  18 And ye shall present with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams; they shall be a burnt-offering unto the LORD, with their meal-offering, and their drink-offerings, even an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
19 And ye shall offer one he-goat for a sin-offering, and two he-lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace-offerings.
20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the first-fruits for a wave-offering before the LORD, with the two lambs; they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.
  21 And ye shall make proclamation on the selfsame day; there shall be a holy convocation unto you; ye shall do no manner of servile work; it is a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

33 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
34 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD.
35 On the first day shall be a holy convocation; ye shall do no manner of servile work.
36 Seven days ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD; on the eighth day shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD; it is a day of solemn assembly; ye shall do no manner of servile work.

39 Howbeit on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruits of the land, ye shall keep the feast of the LORD seven days; on the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest.
40 And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
41 And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year; it is a statute for ever in your generations; ye shall keep it in the seventh month.
42 Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths;
43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
44 And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the appointed seasons of the LORD. 

11) Menorah lamp to continuously burn. Special Sabbath sacrificial offering 

LEVIT 24:1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
2 'Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually.
3 Without the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, shall Aaron order it from evening to morning before the LORD continually; it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations. 4 He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the LORD continually. 
5 And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth parts of an ephah shall be in one cake.
6 And thou shalt set them in two rows, six in a row, upon the pure table before the LORD.
7 And thou shalt put pure frankincense with each row, that it may be to the bread for a memorial-part, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
8 Every sabbath day he shall set it in order before the LORD continually; it is from the children of Israel, an everlasting covenant.
9 And it shall be for Aaron and his sons; and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the LORD made by fire, a perpetual due.

12) The Red Heifer ritual - Numbers 19:1 

"This rite certainly originated in pagan practices and it must have been originally a magic rite: many people regard red as protective colour to avert evil and to put demons to flight, and the ashes of animals are often used for lustrations, as running water is used to take away defilement."  Page 461 Ancient Israel by Roland de Vaux 1965 edition

JPS page 321 regarding Numbers 19:1-21 "...the types of procedures described here have parallels in ancient Near Eastern literature, and may be understood using anthropological understandings of how rituals function....Essentially on the principle of sympathetic magic, the red-colored ash mixture absorbs the corpse pollution. Note also how blood functions as a type of 'ritual detergent' in Lev ch 16."

{ETA 3/8/2014 JPS-JM Page 440 "The association  of red with blood is widely attested in primitive cultures. Thus the red hide of the cow symbolically adds to the quantity of blood in the ash mixture (as does the crimson yarn and the (red) cedar ; v.7) and enhances it's potency" }

{ETA 9/28/2014 JPS-JM Page 159 - cedar wood, hyssop, crimson stuff were also used in purification rituals throughout the ancient near east." }

{ETA 9/28/2014 Page 124 of the Oxford Bible Commentary 2001 - Regarding Numbers 19:1-32 "The choice of a (brownish) red heifer (actually cow) perhaps symbolized blood/life (red animals were so used in the ancient near east)..."}

{ETA 9/28/2104 Page 92 sixth printing The Interpreters One Volume Commentary on the Bible. "The belief that pollution results from contact with a corpse is common in many cultures." }

NUMBERS 19:1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying:
2 This is the statute of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying: Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer, faultless, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke.
3 And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, and she shall be brought forth without the camp, and she shall be slain before his face.
4 And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times.
5 And the heifer shall be burnt in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall be burnt.
6 And the priest shall take cedar-wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer.
7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he may come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even.
8.  And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even.
9 And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of sprinkling; it is a purification from sin.
10 And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even; and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever.
11 He that toucheth the dead, even any man's dead body, shall be unclean seven days;
12 the same shall purify himself therewith on the third day and on the seventh day, and he shall be clean; but if he purify not himself the third day and the seventh day, he shall not be clean.
13 Whosoever toucheth the dead, even the body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself--he hath defiled the tabernacle of the LORD--that soul shall be cut off from Israel; because the water of sprinkling was not dashed against him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him.
14 This is the law: when a man dieth in a tent, every one that cometh into the tent, and every thing that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days.
15 And every open vessel, which hath no covering close-bound upon it, is unclean.
16 And whosoever in the open field toucheth one that is slain with a sword, or one that dieth of himself, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.
17 And for the unclean they shall take of the ashes of the burning of the purification from sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel.
18 And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched the bone, or the slain, or the dead, or the grave.
19 And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day; and on the seventh day he shall purify him; and he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even.
20 But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the LORD; the water of sprinkling hath not been dashed against him: he is unclean.
21 And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them; and he that sprinkleth the water of sprinkling shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of sprinkling shall be unclean until even. 

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JPS - The Jewish Study Bible Berlin and Brettler 2004 

JPS-JM The Jewish Publication Society Torah Commentary Numbers by Jacob Milgrom 1990