Was Paul Right About Us?: And Other Questions Haunting the Jews

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.

--Colossians 2:20-23

(א) בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה כָּל מִי שֶׁרוֹצֶה לִתְרֹם אֶת הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, תּוֹרֵם. וּבִזְמַן שֶׁהֵן מְרֻבִּין, רָצִין וְעוֹלִין בַּכֶּבֶשׁ, וְכָל הַקּוֹדֵם אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ בְאַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת זָכָה. וְאִם הָיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם שָׁוִין, הַמְמֻנֶּה אוֹמֵר לָהֶם הַצְבִּיעוּ. וּמָה הֵן מוֹצִיאִין, אַחַת אוֹ שְׁתַּיִם, וְאֵין מוֹצִיאִין אֲגֻדָּל בַּמִּקְדָּשׁ:

(ב) מַעֲשֶׂה שֶׁהָיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם שָׁוִין וְרָצִין וְעוֹלִין בַּכֶּבֶשׁ, וְדָחַף אֶחָד מֵהֶן אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ, וְנָפַל וְנִשְׁבְּרָה רַגְלוֹ. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁרָאוּ בֵית דִּין שֶׁבָּאִין לִידֵי סַכָּנָה, הִתְקִינוּ שֶׁלֹּא יְהוּ תוֹרְמִין אֶת הַמִּזְבֵּחַ אֶלָּא בְפַיִס.

(1) Originally anyone who wished to remove [the ashes from] the altar did so. When they were many, they would run up the ramp [of the altar] and he that came first within four cubits won the privilege. If two were even, the officer would say to them [all:] raise the finger! And how many did they put out? One or two but one does not put out a thumb in the Temple.

(2) It once happened that two were even as they ran up the ramp, and one of them pushed his fellow who fell and broke his leg. When the court saw that they incurred danger, they decreed that they would remove the ashes from only by a lottery.

מעשה שהיו שניהן שוין ורצין ועולין בכבש ת"ר מעשה בשני כהנים שהיו שניהן שוין ורצין ועולין בכבש קדם אחד מהן לתוך ארבע אמות של חבירו נטל סכין ותקע לו בלבו עמד רבי צדוק על מעלות האולם ואמר אחינו בית ישראל שמעו הרי הוא אומר (דברים כא, א) כי ימצא חלל באדמה ויצאו זקניך ושופטיך אנו על מי להביא עגלה ערופה על העיר או על העזרות געו כל העם בבכיה בא אביו של תינוק ומצאו כשהוא מפרפר אמר הרי הוא כפרתכם ועדיין בני מפרפר ולא נטמאה סכין ללמדך שקשה עליהם טהרת כלים יותר משפיכות דמים

An incident occurred where both of the priests were equal as they were running and ascending on the ramp, and one of them shoved the other and he fell and his leg was broken. The Sages taught in the Tosefta: An incident occurred where there were two priests who were equal as they were running and ascending the ramp. One of them reached the four cubits before his colleague, who then, out of anger, took a knife and stabbed him in the heart. The Tosefta continues: Rabbi Tzadok then stood up on the steps of the Entrance Hall of the Sanctuary and said: Hear this, my brothers of the house of Israel. The verse states: “If one be found slain in the land... and it be not known who had smitten him; then your Elders and your judges shall come forth and they shall measure…and it shall be that the city which is nearest to the slain man…shall take a heifer” (Deuteronomy 21:1–3). And the Elders of that city took that heifer and broke its neck in a ritual of atonement. But what of us, in our situation? Upon whom is the obligation to bring the heifer whose neck is broken? Does the obligation fall on the city, Jerusalem, so that its Sages must bring the calf, or does the obligation fall upon the Temple courtyards, so that the priests must bring it? At that point the entire assembly of people burst into tears. The father of the boy, i.e., the young priest who was stabbed, came and found that he was still convulsing. He said: May my son’s death be an atonement for you. But my son is still convulsing and has not yet died, and as such, the knife, which is in his body, has not become ritually impure through contact with a corpse. If you remove it promptly, it will still be pure for future use. The Tosefta comments: This incident comes to teach you that the ritual purity of utensils was of more concern to them than the shedding of blood.