Naeh Contra Shukron and Reich on the ‘Jerusalem Purity Seal’

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Ha’aretz is reporting

Prof. Shlomo Naeh of the Hebrew University’s Talmud department believes the inscription could be read differently. “I was sitting with my son and looking at the photograph, and in a moment of intuition, I realized what it could be,” he told Haaretz Tuesday.

Naeh also believes the object is related to Temple worship and purity, but reads the inscription differently, as “Dakar a Leyehoyariv.” Dakar in Aramaic means ram and a stands for aleph, the first day of the week, when the priestly order of Yehoyariv was on duty in the Temple.

Thus, the object was used in Temple worship, but not how Reich and Shukron believe it was, says Naeh. To ensure the purity of animal sacrifices offered in the Temple – and to maintain an economic monoply, Naeh believes – pilgrims had to buy their offerings in the Temple courts. They gave money to a treasurer who would exchange it for a token inscribed with the type of sacrifice they had purchased and the date.

Like Reich and Shukron, Naeh supports his theory with a mishnaic verse citing the existence of such tokens. With regard to Reich and Shukron’s interpretation, he said: “Purity was very fluid; the touch of an impure person was enough to make the object impure, so it is unlikely such a seal existed.”

He also said the object could not be a seal because it lacked a hole for a thread or a handle to affix it to another object.

“People have been saying the ancient sages fantasized everything about the Temple. But … they knew what they were talking about. For me, this is uplifting. The sages of the Mishna, my guys, win out,” Naeh said.

It should be noted that Robert Deutsch suggested that very understanding the very day the seal was revealed.  You can read his remarks here or at the link below.

3 thoughts on “Naeh Contra Shukron and Reich on the ‘Jerusalem Purity Seal’

    Robert Deutsch said:
    January 4, 2012 at 09:41

    Jim my friend

    You correctly mentioned that I suggested the very same interpratation on the day that the seal was announced. So Naeh’s suggestion is not at all new. But more than that, He even attributed some of my words to himself, such as: “the back of the bulla has two identations and no signs of a cord which sealed an object are visible” (and he is not an expert on bullae to see such a detail).
    So how are we call such attribution made by honest Prof. Shlomo Naeit ?

    Robert Deutsch

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    Gabe Moskovitz said:
    January 4, 2012 at 11:17

    It seems to me that there was a Temple process that we are not addressing.
    An individual was likely to make a voluntary or obligatory donation to the Temple but there certainly needed to be a competent Temple Authority whose role was to accept these contributions and determine if they were Tahor (pure) and therefore eligible for placement on the Altar. If an animal was deemed eligible for offering on the Altar, it most likely was segregated along with other eligible animals. Although animals were always Tahor while alive, they were subject to bearing blemishes which would restrict their eligibility for the Altar. Blemished animal whose blemishes were of a permanent nature could (in most cases) be sold by the Temple and the monies received used to buy sacrifices or other items needed by the Temple.This process of judging animal eligibility would have required a competent Authority and it stands to reason that when an individual needed an animal for a sacrifice, he went to this Authority to buy an eligible animal. It is quite likely that the seal under discussion was given to the buyer which he would then convey, together with the animal, to the Priests who actually were performing the sacrifices that particular week.
    Oil, flour and wine contributions, on the other hand, could be Tameh (impure) and a competent Temple Authority figure had to be responsible for vetting such items for eligibility. Ineligible items would presumably be sold and the monies received used by the Temple as necessary. Eligible items would be offered on the Altar.
    I think this seal could very well be the item that served as the certification that was used by the individual who was bringing the offering to show the Priest(s) that said offering was indeed Altar eligible.

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