Thursday, April 25, 2013

Is Ritual Impurity Less Real?

"The one translation here avoided is 'ritual purity' and 'ritual impurity', for attaching the adjective 'ritual' raises two problems.  It first requires the definition of 'irtual' and implies a distinction between 'ritual' and something-other-than-ritual - 'substantive', 'real', or 'moral, for example.  So that the distinction in our culture will carry in its wake the assertion that 'ritual' stands against 'real' or 'substantive', 'meaningful' or 'actual' as though for the ancient Israelite 'ritual impurity' were somehow not real or substantive or actual, as if it bore no material meaning.  But if impurity has concrete and important effects in practical, everyday affairs, and if a concrete act ('ritual') of purification has to be undertaken to remove those effects, then it hardly constitutes something not real, substantive or actual." [from the foreword of "Ideas of Purity in Ancient Judaism" by Neusner]

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