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Re: orion Leather, parchment, hides and skins

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For M. Brody and F. Rosenthal and all other fellow admirers of Rabbinic
Halakha and Qumran casuistry.

It is always helpful to consider Rabbinic literature while discussing
the history of Jewish legal practice. It is an extremely valuable digest
containing the discussion surrounding all legal issues which concerned
Rabbinic Judaism during late antiquity. And indeed there is often
universally accepted interpretations by most Jewish groups of various
legal issues. However in order to properly evaluate the diversity of
legal decisions on other issues held by various groups  (Sadduceen,
various Pharisaic, Essene, Samaritan etc.)  during the preceding
periods, Rabbinic Literature leaves us with only a partial tool.

By comparing the Rabbinic law with Qumran law one can discover (or
confirm) which issues were current in both historical periods. And we
have indeed discovered (after evaluating the scrolls, the ancient
writers and the archaeology of Qumran) that in most cases there are
universally accepted rules between the two. However on issues of purity
the Qumran laws are typically the most stringent (cf. Sussmann, DJD X,
Appendix I). As a general rule the Qumran purity laws would ^”ERR ON THE

On the issue of the skins Rabbinic law saw the skin as a salvageable
commodity from a carcass (nevelah): whereas the flesh and bones of the
carcass continue to convey impurity, the skin and other exterior items,
once carefully separated do not. However at Qumran, no such distinction
between the purity of the flesh and the skin is made (although the
current debate over the issue with other streams within Judaism is clear
due to the polemical tone of the text). 

MMT B22-23 implies that skin vessels derived from a carcass, like the
carcass itself, convey defilement to those who would partake of the
Tohorah (the pure food used in their sacred meals). ^”[And concerning]
the hide of the carcass of a clean [animal]: he who carries such a
carcass (= the skin) [shall not] have access to the tohorah.^‘
The Temple Scroll (11Q XLVII 10) provides a formulaic statement
concerning the connection between the purity of skins and flesh derived
from the carcasses of clean animals. ^”kbsrmh thyh thrtmh^‘ = ^”according
(to the purity of) their flesh shall the purity (of the skins) be.^‘

The issue of the use of blemished skins (trephah) for scrolls is an
interesting one. There are certain scrolls from Qumran, which exhibit
flaws in the skins (including unrepaired holes, scars from tick bites,
repaired tears etc.). Since many of the scrolls from the caves are
apparently from outside sources no blanket statement can as yet be made
concerning Qumran practice on this issue. (At least not until a careful
study is made to distinguish the scrolls of the Sons of Light from those
of outsiders.) 

A blessing by the officiating priest was said over the food (including
meat) at the beginning of each (sacred) meal. This is one point at which
the food is sanctified and is likely the sole reason for the peculiar
practice of burying the leftovers in pure areas away from animals
(Qumran locus 130 etc.). Again, the statement concerning the dogs and
the bones in the holy camps (plural!) in MMT B58-59 is polemical,
illustrating that other Jewish groups held different views concerning
the leftovers. 

Another issue that has been raised by way of misunderstanding: Whether
or not the act of ritually slaughtering an animal according to the
prescriptions of the Qumran community would convey some form of
dedication of the animal to the Divine cannot be deduced from the texts.
(However that such a practice would be carried out by this community of
disenfranchised priests, albeit in some rather interpretive way, should
not be ruled out entirely).

Thanks for the observations. Keep up the dialogue.

Stephen Pfann