The prophet Ezekiel contradicts the words of the Torah
“Rav Judah said in Rav’s name: In truth, that man, Channaniah the son of Chezkiah by name, is to be remembered for good; but for him, the book of Ezekiel would have been hidden, for its words contradicted the Torah. What did he do? Three hundred barrels of oil were taken up to him and he sat in an upper chamber and reconciled them.” Tractate Shabbat 13b.
In this essay we have come to show you the grave contradictions which exist between the book of the prophet Ezekiel and what is written in the Torah! More important yet is that the method through which Chazal reconciled these contradictions is strange, odd, and inconsistent. (How Channaniah the son of Chezkiah reconciled them is known to none, as R’ David Kimchi wrote on Ezekiel 45:20, “And it is said ‘remember [him] for good, Channaniah the son of Chezkiah the son of Garon by name; but for him, the book of Ezekiel would have been hidden…And how Channaniah reconciled this we do not know anymore.”) We have already written in Pamphlet 8 that the Holy Writ was canonized by the Sages. Therefore they had to reconcile the contradictions between the various books. But so strange are their deductions that we wonder why they had to take three hundred barrels of oil up to Channaniah the son of Chezkiah. Using the way Chazal chose to reconcile the contradictions and discrepancies, all are reconciled through a wave of the hand — so a small candle should have sufficed Channaniah the son of Chezkiah, as you who seeks truth, will see in this essay.
And these are some of the contradictions between the words of the prophet Ezekiel and the words of the Torah:
- The prophet Ezekiel devotes more than a chapter to the punishment which will be given the sinner himself, and thus he says (Ezekiel 18:4), “The person who sins, only he shall die,” and even more, in verse 20, “The person who sins, he alone shall die. A child shall not share the burden of a parent’s guilt, nor shall a parent share the burden of a child’s guilt.” Also see chapter 36.
In the Torah, though, it is explicitly written (Exodus 20:4) that G-d “visit[s] the guilt of the parents upon the children.”
Thus do our rabbis reconcile the contradiction (Makkot 24a): “Moses said (Exodus 20:4), ‘visits[s] the guilt of the parents upon the children’ and Ezekiel came and overturned that (Ezekiel 18:4), ‘The person who sins, only he shall die’.”
How marvelous. What a wonderful reconciliation. That’s a simple and reasonable explanation for you: Moses our teacher wrote what G-d said at Sinai and Ezekiel overturned it. For this reconciliation they had to send up three hundred barrels of oil?
Know that this contradiction is found even within the Torah itself, for in Deuteronomy (24:16) it is written, “Parents shall not be put to death for children, nor children be put to death for parents: a person shall be put to death only for his own crime.” The Gemara in Sanhedrin 27b reconciles the contradiction: “‘visit[s] the guilt of the parents upon the children’! On those who continue their fathers’ deeds.” That is, the children are punished (for their parents’ guilt?) when they continue to sin. See Ibn Ezra on Exodus 20:4, who went on at length about the reconciliation of contradictions.
Yet, despite the verses found in Ezekiel and Deuteronomy, we find that our rabbis say that children are punished for their parents’ sins. In the Gemara in Shabbat 32b it is written, “For the sin of [unfulfilled] vows one’s children die young,” and thus writes R’ David Kimchi on Ezekiel 18:6, “And when [Ezekiel] said that the child will not bear the parents’ sin, he meant when the child is grown, for such a one deserves punishment and reward of his own, but small children die for their parents’ sins.” Similarly, Rashi wrote on Deuteronomy 24:16, “Every man shall be put to death for his own sin, but one who is not yet a man [proper] dies for the iniquity of his father, so minors die for the iniquity of their parents at the hand of Heaven.” This interpretation prompts amazement: “Parents eat sour grapes and their children’s teeth are blunted?” (Ezekiel 18:2) speaks only of grown children, above the age of 13, and from this we see that Divine justice is to kill babies who have never sinned in punishment of their parents’ acts. Reason will not tolerate this interpretation.
- Ezekiel 20:8-10: “But they defied Me and refused to listen to Me. They did not cast aside the detestable things they were drawn to, nor did they give up the fetishes of Egypt. Then I resolved to pour out My fury upon them there, in the land of Egypt. But I acted for the sake of My name…to bring them out of the land of Egypt. I brought them out of the land of Egypt and I led them into the wilderness.”
The Torah, though, reads in Exodus 4:31: “And the people were convinced. When they heard that the Lord had taken note of the Israelites and that He had seen their plight, they bowed low in homage.” Know that this verse speaks of when they were still in Egypt, before the plagues which descended upon the Egyptians.
According to the prophet Ezekiel, despite the wickedness of the Children of Israel the Lord took them out of Egypt, and did so only for the sake of His name, while we conclude from the Torah that the Children of Israel believed in G-d. How do our rabbis reconcile this contradiction?
From Midrash Tanchuma (Buber edition) on the portion of Ba’alotcha, paragraph 13, it seems that Ezekiel spoke about the wicked portion of the nation and the Torah spoke of the believing portion. It says there: “When Israel was in Egypt they despised the Torah and circumcision and were all idolaters, for Ezekiel reproves them… and that is what the [prophet] says at the end, ‘But they defied Me and refused to listen to Me. They did not cast aside the detestable things they were drawn to, nor did they give up the fetishes of Egypt’ (Ezekiel 20:8). So what did the holy One, blessed be He, do? He brought darkness on Egypt for three days and during that time killed all the wicked of Israel.”
According to R’ David Kimchi (Ezekiel 20:9) the contradiction is settled thus: “For when Moses our teacher OBM came to them on G-d’s mission they did not continue their evil deeds, for it is written, ‘And the people were convinced. When they heard that the Lord had taken note of the Israelites,’ and they believed in Moses because of the wonders he did before them.”
Both explanations are strange. According to both, Ezekiel should not have said that G-d took the Children of Israel out of Egypt only “for the sake of His name.” Look: either the Children of Israel repented, as R’ David Kimchi says, or the wicked were killed during the plague of darkness as the Midrash Tanchuma has it. In either case, it was the righteous who left Egypt…
- Ezekiel 20:13: But the House of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they did not follow My laws and they rejected My rules — by the pursuit of which a man shall live — and they grossly desecrated My sabbaths. Then I thought to pour out My fury upon them in the wilderness and to make an end of them.”
Ezekiel 20:21: “They profaned My sabbaths. Then I resolved to pour out My fury upon them, to vent all My anger upon them, in the wilderness.”
If so, the issue of the nation’s desecrating Sabbath is the reason G-d wishes to pour out His fury and anger upon them. But it seems from the Torah that the holy One, blessed be He, wanted to pour out His anger upon the Children of Israel for other reasons, primarily due to the sin of the spies, but not because of the desecration of Sabbath. Numbers 14:12: “I will strike them with pestilence and disown them, and I will make of you a nation far more numerous than they.” Similarly, in Numbers 14:29, “In this very wilderness shall your carcasses drop. Of all of you who were recorded in your various lists from the age of twenty years up, you who have muttered against Me.”
But in the section about the manna, when the nation went out gathering on Sabbath, no punishment seeking to destroy the Children of Israel is mentioned. Exodus 16:28-29: “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will you men refuse to obey My commandments and My teachings? Mark that the Lord has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you two days’ food on the sixth day. Let everyone remain where he is: let no man leave his place on the seventh day.”
This is no Heavenly punishment for desecrating the sabbath but a compensation, giving a double portion of manna from the Heavens on the sixth day.
- Ezekiel 20:25-26: “Moreover, I gave them laws that were not good and rules by which they could not live. When they passed every first issue of the womb, I defiled them by their very gifts — that I might render them desolate, that they might know that I am the Lord.”
What a horrible thing the prophet says: the holy One, blessed be He, purposefully gave the Children of Israel laws which were not good so that they could not live by them. We also find from the text that in Ezekiel’s period it was customary in Israel to pass the firstborns through fire (as in idolatry), and this they did by Divine command.
What did our rabbis say about this? Of course, they changed the plain meaning of the text.
Midrash Tanchuma (Warsaw edition), the portion of Mishpatim, paragraph three: “‘For the laws of the nations are delusions’ (Jeremiah 10:3), and it is written ‘Moreover, I gave them laws that were not good and rules by which they could not live’ (Ezekiel 20:25), but to Israel I gave good commandments and laws, as it is written (Leviticus 18:5), ‘You shall keep My laws and My rules, by the pursuit of which man shall live’.”
According to Midrash Tanchuma, the verse refers to the gentiles and not to the Children of Israel, and this is an odd method of interpretation common amongst Chazal. “If it cannot be interpreted as referring to Israel, it must be referring to the gentiles.” And you, the student who seeks knowledge, look in the book of Ezekiel in chapter 20 and see that there is no way that anyone is referred to here other than the nation of Israel. The matters are very clear and this midrash hasn’t a leg to stand upon.
R’ David Kimchi on Ezekiel 20:25: “‘Moreover, I gave them laws that were not good’ — since they despised My laws I gave them to their enemies to place upon them laws which would not be as good for them as My laws, had they followed them. The laws their enemies placed upon them are the taxes they placed upon them each and every year and various other labors. ‘And rules by which they could not live’ — That their enemies will place upon them rules and decrees by which they cannot live, but will die. Had they followed My rules they would have lived, as is written, ‘by the pursuit of which man shall live’.”
R’ David Kimchi has a method of interpretation similar to that of Chazal, but instead of changing the receptors of the laws which are not good (from Israel to the gentiles, as does Midrash Tanchuma), R’ David Kimchi changes the givers of the laws which are not good: it wasn’t G-d who gave the (bad) laws to the Children of Israel, but the gentiles. There is no end to the strangeness.
These are the contradictions in the measurements of the Temple and its work:
Anyone who reads the book of the prophet Ezekiel from chapter 40 until the end will immediately see that the measurements of the Temple and its vessels do not at all resemble the measurements of the First Temple nor of the Second Temple. (In the portion of Teruma we clarified our rabbis’ opinion, how the First Temple did not use the measurements of the Sanctuary and its vessels and the Second Temple did not use the measurements of the First Temple and its vessels, and the Third Temple will not be as the Second Temple and its vessels. We found that the words of the Torah about the building of the Sanctuary, which are detailed over the course of six chapters and are repeated over another six chapters, are excessive and idle things which contain no rules for future generations.)
How do our rabbis settle the contradictions? This is very simple. You found a difficulty? Immediately say: “This speaks about the future.” We have already written in many places that it is our rabbis’ way to push their testimony off to the distant future. In the portion of Ekev the Torah promises reward for one who fulfills the commandment of honoring one’s parents. The promised reward is “So that your days shall be lengthened…upon the earth.” But many people who honor their parents do not live long lives at all. Chazal explained “So that your days shall be lengthened” as “a day which is lengthier than anything,” the World to Come (there they will receive their reward). Why does it explicitly say “upon the earth”? On this Chazal were silent and did not explain…Thus they did many times, and the same is the case with Ezekiel’s prophecy regarding the Holy Temple.
Therefore we were so surprised that Channaniah the son of Chezkiah needed 300 barrels of oil in that upper chamber of his. On the way up the steps he could have reconciled all the contradictions by saying that all in Ezekiel which contradicts the Torah speaks about the future.
Thus it is written in Seder Olam Rabbah (Milikowski edition), chapter 26: “‘In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, the fourteenth year after the city had fallen, at the beginning of the year, the tenth of the month, on that very day — the hand of the Lord came upon me and He brought me there’ (Ezekiel 40:1). At that same time the holy One, blessed be He, showed Ezekiel the form of the future Temple.”
How wonderful! A prophet prophesizes at the height of exile, in the twenty-fifth year of Jehoiachin, more than fifty years before the building of the Second Temple and under the explicit command: “Report everything you see to the House of Israel” (Ezekiel 40:4). And he brings, in an explicit and detailed manner, the measurements of the Temple and its vessels and the order of its service. Is there any hint that these measurements and this order of service is not meant for the Temple which will be built in another fifty years? Of course not! It is absolutely clear that the prophet heralds the building of the Second Temple and gives its precise measurements as he received them straight from the Majesty.
It is interesting to speculate on what the people of the House of Israel thought when on the one hand they read the prophecy of Ezekiel and on the other hand they built the Second Temple in a way completely different from his prophecy…
See something interesting. On one hand, Ezekiel’s prophecy is not like the First Temple or the Second, as R’ David Kimchi wrote (Ezekiel 40:47), “‘He then measured the forecourt: 100 cubits long and 100 cubits broad–foursquare’ — This was not the Second Temple, because the length of the Israelite’s court was 135 by a width of 11, and so the priests’ court.”
But on the other hand, our rabbis did learn from Ezekiel about the building of the Second Temple (Mishnah, Tractate Tamid, chapter three, mishnah seven): “The great gate had two wickets, one to the north and one to the south. Through the southern one no man ever entered, as is explicitly written by Ezekiel (44:2), ‘And the Lord said to me: This gate is to be kept shut and is not to be opened! No one shall entered by it because the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut’.”
Thus writes R’ David Kimchi (Ezekiel 40:5), “Those who returned from exile built the building as was seen in Ezekiel’s vision of the future in someparticulars.”
R’ David Kimchi wrote (Ezekiel 40:13): “And in truth, these measurements of the building are not clear to us, for they belong to a future building, and what a man deduces them to be is not reliable, and what we find about them in tradition, in Tractate Middot or in Targum Yonatan is acceptable, but the rest should be left alone until Elijah comes, and thus did our rabbis of blessed memory say, that some of the particulars of this prophecy are meant for the future and Elijah will come to explain them, that we do not know how to explain them.”
So you see how our rabbis treat the prophecy of Ezekiel as their own, when they wish to learn about the Second Temple they do, and when they wish they interpret it as referring to the future, and when they wish, they leave it to Elijah to interpret at the end of days…
Maimonides nicely summarizes our relationship to Ezekiel’s prophecy (Maimonides, Laws of the Holy Temple, chapter one, halacha four): “The building built by Solomon is detail in Kings and the building which is to be built in the future, though it is written in Ezekiel, is not detailed and explicit, and the people of the Second Temple period, when they built in it the time of Ezra, built it according to Solomon’s building and some of the explicit particulars in Ezekiel.”
That is: The Second Temple is a kind of hybrid of the First Temple and the Temple of the future, which is not detailed and not explicit. What about the prophecy of Ezekiel, who saw a Divine vision? They took a smattering and no more.
Thus Maimonides wrote in Laws of Sacrifices 2:14: “The measures of the libations said in the book of Ezekiel and the count of those sacrifices and the order of worship written there are all supplements and are not to be practiced forever. The prophet commanded and explained how they would make the supplemental sacrifices for the dedication of the altar at the time of the Messiah King, when the Third Temple will be built.” We have already mentioned this issue in the portion of Tetzave.
We have labored and found that Chazal did reconcile one contradiction between the words of Ezekiel and the words of the Torah. The son of Channaniah the son of Chezkiah is quoted in Sifrei Devarim, paragraph 294: “Elezar the son of Channaniah the son of Chezkiah the son of Garon says: it says, ‘an ephah [a measure equaling three seah] for each bull, an ephah for each ram, an ephah for each lamb’ (Ezekiel 46:11; the Masoretic text reads, “anephah for each bull, an ephah for each ram, and for the lambs”). Are the measurements the same for bulls, rams, and lambs? Has it not already been said, “three-tenths of a measure for a bull, two-tenths for a ram, and one-tenth [of an ephah] for each of the seven lambs” (Numbers 29:3)? This teaches that both the large ephah and the small ephah are call ephah‘.” He came to explain and right away went astray of “Differing weights and differing measures — the Lord detests them both” (Proverbs 20:10).
And what did Rashi write about this in his commentary? On Ezekiel 45:24: “A meal offering of an ephah for each bull — a libation meal offering. ‘Anephah for each bull’ — I do not know what this is. The Torah has said that it is three-tenths for a bull. It should be said an ephah of flour is meant, from which one can obtain one-tenth of a seah of semolina, for the ephah is three seah.” Similarly, in Rashi on I Samuel 1:24, “‘And one ephah of flour’ — I have heard in the name of Rabbeynu Isaac HaLevi that one ephah of flour is mentioned [because] it contains three seah, from which three-tenths of semolina, appropriate for the bull, can be obtained.”
So you learn that the ephah mentioned in Ezekiel is a very, very strangeephah. In that “ephah of flour” the flour is semolina and the ephah is one-tenth of an ephah. They are making a joke of us here.
Here is another example from Rashi (on Ezekiel 46:4): “‘On the Sabbath day [the burnt offering shall consist of] six lambs’–I do not know why, for the Torah said two lambs (Numbers 28:9). Yet, ‘the Sabbath’ can mean both the Sabbath of Creation [the seventh day of each week] and a holiday; and I say that this Sabbath is not the Sabbath of Creation but a holiday which requires seven lambs and two rams. This teaches you they do not hold each other back, and if one cannot find seven lambs, he brings six, and if he did not find two rams he brings one, as our sages have said on the issue of the new month.”
Thus, according to Rashi, is the verse in Ezekiel which contradicts the Torah to be interpreted: “Sabbath” is “holiday,” “six” is “seven,” and if he can’t find them, he should bring six. (And if he can’t find six? May he bring five?) There is no end to nonsensical reconciliations.
These are some of the strangest things. Why didn’t those who were making reconcilliations simply write that the meal offering measurements written in Ezekiel are for the future, just as R’ David Kimchi wrote (on Ezekiel 45:22): “On the meal offering it is said an ephah for a bull, an ephah for a ram, with a hin of oil for each ephah. In the Torah it is written ‘three-tenths of a measure for a bull, two-tenths for a ram, and one-tenth for a lamb’ — so we have no explanation but to say that the sacrifices will be different in the future.” Long live the future, which solves all the contradictions of the present.
We have not bothered to write all the contradictions about the Temple and its vessels, for they are too numerous to mention and we rely upon he who chooses to look.
We have only brought the method through which our rabbis reconcile the contradictions to show you that all means are fair. Once we will say it speaks about the future, once that the Sabbath is a holiday, that six is seven, that anephah is one-tenth of an ephah — everything goes when it comes to reconciliation.
These are the contradictions in the laws of the priestly service:
- Ezekiel 44:17: “And when they enter the gates of the inner court, they shall wear linen vestments; they shall have nothing woolen upon them when they minister inside the gates of the inner court.” Rashi explains (on Ezekiel 10:3): “The inner court — this is the ‘azarah.”
But in Exodus 28:31-36: “You shall make the robe of the ephod of puretechelet…when he comes into the sanctuary.” Rashi (on Exodus 25:4) explains: “Techelet is a wool.” Similarly wrote Maimonides in Laws of the Temple Vessels, chapter eight, halacha 13: “Whenever techelet is mentioned, it is wool.”
This is a contradiction. In the Torah it is written that the High Priest is permitted, and even obligated, to wear a coat made of wool, and the prophet Ezekiel forbids this. What do our rabbis say about this?
Rashi (on Ezekiel 44:17): “‘The gates of the inner court’ — before and within on the Day of Atonement. ‘They shall have nothing woolen upon them’ — the techelet which was in the coat and sash should not be worn on the Day of Atonement for the work inside.”
What a tasty treat. Once Rashi explains that the inner court is the‘azarah, and when that doesn’t work, the inner court suddenly becomes the Holy of Holies!
R’ David Kimchi, who noticed this flawed explanation, wrote (on Ezekiel 44:17): “‘And when they enter the gates of the inner court’ — if we say the inner court in its plain meaning, it would mean the gateway to the priests’ court and the altar, and from there to the gate of the outer hall, for it is all the court. This [prohibition against wool] is then an innovation for the future, for the priestly vestments which were used were of wool, as written in Moses’ Torah, that techelet is wool dyed blue. If we say that this is about the service of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, before and within, for he worked in linen vestments, how is dvir called the court when it is the building and how can it be said ‘when they come,’ which is plural, and that service was only on the part of the High Priest, he alone went in there and only on the Day of Atonement.” Good questions, but there are no answers (except for that perennial “for the future”).
- Ezekiel 44:20: “They shall neither shave their heads nor let their hair go untrimmed; they shall keep their hair trimmed.”
But in the Torah there is no commandment to the priests not to shave their heads, and this prohibition is only mentioned in regard to days of mourning (Leviticus 21:5): “They shall not shave smooth [over the dead — Rashi] their heads or cut the side-growth of their beards or make gashes in their flesh.” So, too, the growth of hair during the time Aaron, Eleazar, and Itamar mourned (Leviticus 10:6): “And Moses said to Aaron and to his sons Eleazar and Itamar, do not dishevel your hair.”
Ezekiel forbids shaving the priests’ heads, which is not mentioned in the Torah, and you ought to know that there is no halachic prohibition against priests shaving their heads, even if they enter the Temple. Then why did Ezekiel say they should not shave their heads?
Rashi (on Ezekiel 44:20) explained: “‘They shall neither shave their heads’ — to remove all hair.” It seems he meant that the prohibition mentioned in Ezekiel is the same as that mentioned in Leviticus 19:27: “You shall not round off the side-growth of your head.” Even if we accept this odd interpretation, the prohibition against rounding off the side-growth of the head applies to the Israelites and not just to the priests. What does he do with the rest of the verse, “they shall keep their hair trimmed”? Chazal said, in Tractate Nedarim 51a, the haircut had to have “each hair end at the root of the next hair, which is the High Priest’s haircut.”
A perfect fit. If so, according to our rabbis, thus is the verse in Ezekiel which contradicts the words of the Torah to be interpreted: “They [all the priests] shall neither shave their heads [shall shave their heads, but not round off the side-growth of their heads]…they shall keep their hair trimmed [this refers to the High Priest only, and ‘They’ should read ‘He’ in the singular].”
- Ezekiel 44:22: “They shall not marry widows or divorced women; they may marry only virgins of the stock of the House of Israel, or widows who are widows of priests.”
On the other hand, in Leviticus 21:7 it is written: “They shall not marry a woman defiled by harlotry, nor shall they marry one divorced from her husband. For they are holy to their G-d.”
Come, wise student, and see how many contradictions there are between the texts. In Ezekiel there is no mention at all of a prohibition against harlots nor one on the child of an improper relationship, but there is mention of a prohibition against an Israelite widow which is not mentioned in the Torah.
Thus say our rabbis (Kiddushin 88b): “Rav Nachman said to Rava: Does this verse, ‘They shall not marry widows or divorced women…they may marry…widows who are widows of priests,’ refer at the start to the High Priest and at the end to an ordinary priest?’ Rava answered: Yes. [Rav Nachman asked:] But is it possible that the text speaks about a different person without explicitly noting the change? [Rava] answered him: Yes, as it is in I Samuel 3:3, ‘The lamp of G-d had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the Lord’ — yet, only kings of the House of David are allowed to sit in the Temple court; but this is what the Scripture meant: ‘The lamp of G-d had not yet gone out in the temple of the Lord, and Samuel was sleeping in his place [outside the court].’ [So, returning to the verse of Ezekiel 44:22:] Does ‘they may marry…widows of priests’ mean that priests may marry widows of priests but not of ordinary Israelites? No, for ‘marry…of priests’ means that any of the ordinary priests may marry [an Israelite’s widow, as opposed to the High Priest].”
Thus does Rava interpret the verse before us: “They [the High Priest–it should say ‘he’] shall not marry widows or divorced women; they may marry only virgins of the stock of the House of Israel, or [not the High Priest, ordinary priests only] widows who are widows [not necessarily] of priests [but also of Israelites].”
It is amazing how this verse is taken out of context and totally turned on its head. Ibn Ezra on Daniel 1:1 writes: “How is it possible in a human language that a man would speak one word and mean another? One who supposes so would be considered a madman…It would be better were he to say I do not know rather than change the words of the living G-d.” Yet, here Rava claims that the Scripture says certain things and means the opposite. One who hears this is deafened.
This teaches you once again that our rabbis do not live according to the Scriptures but the opposite, the Scriptures are interpreted and distorted over the generations according to Chazal’s whims and their wishes.
Those commentators who stick to the text, like R’ David Kimchi, have a different way of getting free of this maze. R’ Kimchi on Ezekiel 44:22: “‘Widow’–if this is said about every priest, it is an added measure of holiness for the future.” As usual, the future saves us from all problems.
- Ezekiel 44:26: “After he has become clean, seven days shall be counted off for him.”
But the Torah does not mention at all the issue of counting seven days after the purification. Numbers 19:14: “This is the ritual: When a person dies in a tent, whoever enters that tent and whoever is in the tent shall be unclean seven days.”
How do our rabbis explain this contradiction? Tractate Moed Katan 15b: “May a leper offer a sacrifice? Come hear–It is taught (Ezekiel 44:26) ‘After he has become clean’–after he has separated from the dead, seven days are counted off for him–these are the seven days of his counting.”
Thus is the verse interpreted by Chazal: “After he has become clean” means after he has separated from the dead (even though he is still impure due to contact with a dead body to all intents and purposes, the Scripture calls him pure?!) they count the seven days for the sprinkling. How did our rabbis learn the laws of a leper from this? Rashi wrote that since the Scriptural text uses the term “counting” and not “sprinkling” we see another thing, that one must count seven days if he contracted leprosy and was healed. What is a leper doing in the middle of a discussion of priestly matters?
The Tosafot, s.v. acharei taharato explicitly noted that the verse speaks of two issues, one of the impurity of an ordinary priest and the second of a leper. “Issue after issue is written,” in the words of the Tosafot. (See the Tosafot, where they asked why Chazal did not interpret the verse as speaking of the High Priest as the one who must count seven extra days after the seven days of sprinkling, for then there would be no contradiction with what is written in the Torah, where it is only spoken of an ordinary priest. Really, it is a great puzzle.)
Thus wrote R’ David Kimchi on Ezekiel 44:26: “‘After he has become clean’–perhaps this speaks of the future, of an additional purity, that after he has become purified at the end of seven days they will count another seven days for him, but our rabbis OBM interpreted it without novelties and read ‘after he has become clean’ as meaning after he has separated from the dead.” Perhaps it is about the future and perhaps not–but a reasonable answer is there none.
- Ezekiel 44:31: “Priests shall not eat anything, whether bird or animal, that died or was torn by beasts.” Specifically the priests? All of Israel is forbidden to eat creatures that died or were torn by beasts! Our rabbis explained, in Tractate Menachot 45a, that Ezekiel had to specify priests so that we should not think they were permitted to eat dead or torn animals, as the Scriptures do permit them to eat birds which were killed not by ritual slaughter but by wringing the neck. But this is a weak excuse. Would it have been difficult for Ezekiel to write, ” Priests and the people of Israel shall not eat”? Then he would not have risked making the reader err, as happened to R’ Jochanan, who said of this contradiction (Menachot 42a): “Elijah will explain this section in the future.”
The prophet Ezekiel knew the First Temple, its order of service, the laws of the priesthood and of the land. When he was exiled the Temple still stood and all its rituals were observed. While he was in Babylon, in the period before the Return to Zion and the building of the Second Temple, the prophet Ezekiel wrote the words of the Torah, the laws, the service of the priests, and the measurements of the Temple from what he knew and recognized. Yet a great deal of his words differ from what is written in the Mosaic Torah. How is this possible? Was the Mosaic Torah in Ezekiel’s day different from that of our days? Did the prophet decide to write his own Torah? This is a thorny issue. On the one hand we have a prophet, on the other, the Mosaic Torah. Chazal had to reconcile the differences between these two at any price. Therefore, as can be seen from everything we have written, to reconcile the contradictions between Ezekiel and the words of the Torah our rabbis grabbed onto whatever they could find. Either “it was said about the future,” or they took words out of context and put them elsewhere, or they simply distorted the meaning of the text.
To further illustrate our words, we saw fit to quote what was written in Tractate Menachot 45a: “‘Thus said the Lord G-d: on the first day of the first month, you shall take a bull of the herd without blemish, and you shall cleanse [chiteta] the Sanctuary’ (Ezekiel 45:18). ‘Cleanse’ means that a guilt-offering [chatat] must be brought. But it is a burnt offering! R’ Jochanan said: Elijah will explain this section in the future. Rav Ashi said: They made additional sacrifices in the days of Ezra, just as they did in the days of Moses. The Baraita also teaches this. R’ Judah said: Elijah will explain this section in the future. R’ Yosi said to him: They made additional sacrifices in the days of Ezra, just as they did in the days of Moses. He said to him: Your opinion supercedes mine. ‘Priests shall not eat anything, whether bird or animal, that died or was torn by beasts’ (Ezekiel 44:31). Priests shall not, but Israelites may? R’ Jochanan said: Elijah will explain this section in the future. Ravina said: It had to specify priests lest one say that since they are allowed to eat birds killed by wringing their necks, they may also be allowed dead or torn animals. ‘You shall do the same on the seventh day of the month [chodesh] to purge the Temple from uncleanness caused by unwitting or ignorant persons’ (Ezekiel 45:20). R’ Jochanan said: These are the seven tribes who sinned, even though they are not most of the public. Chodesh–if they innovated [chidshu] something wrong, [e.g.] said that [forbidden] tallow is permitted. Unwitting or ignorant persons–this teaches that we are not responsible for mere forgetfulness, only for unwitting acts. R’ Judah said that Rav said: Remember that man for good, Channaniah the son of Chezkiah is his name; but for him, the book of Ezekiel would have been hidden, for its words contradicted the Torah. What did he do? Three hundred barrels of oil were taken up to him and he sat in an upper chamber and reconciled them.”
You, the student who seeks knowledge and the truth, pay attention to the words of R’ Jochanan. There are verses about which he requires the interpretation of Elijah at the end of days, while the verse ‘You shall do the same on the seventh day of the month’ he did not hesitate to distort and deform. The word ‘seven,’ a date, he turned into seven tribes, and the word ‘month’ he turned into a innovation which the Sanhedrin instituted in permitting the forbidden tallow. He treats the Scripture as he wishes, and any reasonable persons who study such interpretations will find that they are null and void. Therefore we wonder why it was necessary to take “three hundred barrels of oil” up to Channaniah the son of Chezkiah, for any beginning student could settle contradictions given enough freedom to do with the Scriptures as he wishes, as the Sages do. We have shown in this essay that their explanations are not reasonable at all and the questions stand.
Those who believe that Ezekiel’s words refer to the Third Temple worry about whether we will know how to build it, as the prophet did not specify everything and his words are not clear enough. (According to Chazal’s interpretation Ezekiel did not speak clearly. Sometimes he began a sentence speaking about an ordinary priest and ended with a High Priest and sometimes the inner court is the ‘azarah and sometimes it’s the Holy of Holies, etc.) As R’ David Kimchi wrote on Ezekiel 40:13, “And in truth, these measurements of the building are not clear to us, for they belong to a future building. What one deduces them to be is not reliable; only what we find about them in tradition, in Tractate Middot or in Targum Yonatan, is acceptable, but the rest should be left alone until Elijah comes.”
Third Temple fans, don’t worry. Even though there is debate about who will build the Temple — according to Rashi in Tractate Sukkah 41a, “The Third Temple which we anticipate is built and refined, it will be revealed by the Heavens, as is said, (Exodus 15) “The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands established,” while Maimonides, in Laws of Kings, chapter 11, halacha 1, writes: “The Messiah King will in the future rise and return the kingdom of David to its glory and initial reign, will build the Temple, and will gather in the exiles of Israel.” For we hope that when the holy One, blessed be He, brings the Temple down from the heavens and the Messiah builds it on the earth, Elijah (may he be remembered for good) will also come and reconcile all the contradictions between Ezekiel’s prophecy and the Mosaic Torah.
Words of True Knowledge