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Blood for ThoughtThe Reinvention of Sacrifice in Early Rabbinic Literature$
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Mira Balberg

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520295926

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520295926.001.0001

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The Work of Blood

The Work of Blood

(p.65) 2 The Work of Blood
Blood for Thought

Mira Balberg

University of California Press

This chapter shows that the rabbis redefined the biblical sacrificial process by centering it almost exclusively on one substance: blood. The activities that follow the ritual manipulation of blood, namely, the consumption of the offering either by fire or by human beings, are bracketed as an addendum to the ritual rather than as a critical component of it. The implications of this reframing of the sacrificial process are far-reaching: in determining that nothing actually has to be burnt on the altar for the sacrifice to be valid, the rabbis altogether reject the notion that the deity has to “receive” anything when sacrifice is performed. They thus put forth a new understanding of sacrifice as a religious activity, defined not by interaction but by correct procedure. By developing this non-interactive model the rabbis both make a claim on what sacrifice is not (a channel of communication between individual and deity) and make a claim on what sacrifice is: the ultimate example of a perfect religious action, which serves to construct, bolster, and express communal piety.

Keywords:   Blood in Judaism and Christianity, Animal Sacrifice, Ritual in Judaism, Atonement, Mishnah

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