LEV178 The Leviticus text (16:29-30) is one of the most basic about Yom Kippur. The first verse establishes the key element of the law: a fixed calendrical assignment, the practices of rest and affliction, and the inclusion of all who live among the people. We have already discussed the last, in the context of Rosenzweig’s interpretation and in general with the issue of translation. We might find in the concept of the resident alien (pilgrim) some light on the reconciliation between people. And in our last chapter the importance of the calendrification will become clearer. But R. Elazar [ben Azariah] [referring to Mishnah, Yoma 8:9 - AJL] is looking at the next verse. The verb CLEANSE is used twice, and the grammar causes some confusion. I would suggest that the plain sense is to insert a break between SINS and BEFORE. The second clause, then, is the resulting cleanliness before God that the atonement and the cleansing of the Day brings. The problem in the verse is that if in the first part the Day does cleanse the people, then the second part is redundant: of course they are cleaned before God -- before whom else could they be cleaned? R. Elazar, however, pushes against this break, and interprets FROM ALL OUR SINS BEFORE God, YOU WILL BE CLEANSED. R. Elazar, therefore, argues that the first time the root TO CLEAN appears, it concludes the phrase by stating that the purpose of the Day is to cleanse. The second half then explains not that the cleansing is before God, but that the relevant sins are those committed before God. Hence, R. Elazar restricts the sins to only those before God, and so claims that the interhuman ones are not cleansed by the day. The first half refers to the appeasement of the companion, the second to atonement before God. Why does the Mishnah need R. Eliezer’s interpretation? What is novel is not that the Day atones, but that the Day cannot atone for the sins between people. The Mishnah is substantializing a category of interhuman relations (we might call it ethics), and separating it from a category of sins against God. If we are right, however, to say that the ethical infractions also partake of sin against God, we still have the production of a category that would be characterized as social sins, and the remedy includes working things out with someone who has been harmed. The other person is clearly in control: he must be satisfied. The point is not that before the Mishnah was edited, Judaism did not know that when another person has been hurt, I must first satisfy her. Rather, the formalizing of this concept helps to focus my attention on the social repair. The recourse to the Biblical interpretation both authorizes the new category and allows us to see its novelty.
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