Page:Guideforperplexed.djvu/440

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for slander. The disease begins in the walls of the houses (Lev. xiv. 33, seq.). If the sinner repents, the object is attained: if he remains in his disobedience, the disease affects his bed and house furniture: if he still continues to sin, the leprosy attacks his own garments, and then his body. This is a miracle received in our nation by tradition, in the same manner as the effect of the trial of a faithless wife (Num. v. ii, seq.). The good effect of this belief is evident. Leprosy is besides a contagious disease, and people almost naturally abhor it, and keep away from it. The purification was effected by cedar-wood, hyssop, scarlet thread, and two birds (Lev. xiv. 4); their reason is stated in various Midrashic sayings, but the explanation does not agree with our theory. I do not know at present the reason of any of these things; nor why cedar-wood, hyssop, and scarlet were used in the sacrifice of the red heifer (Num. xix. 6); nor why a bundle of hyssop was commanded for the sprinkling of the blood of the Passover-lamb (Exod. xii. 22). I cannot find any principle upon which to found an explanation why these particular things have been chosen.

The red heifer is called a sin-offering, because it effects the purification of persons that have become unclean through the dead body of a human being, and enables them to enter the Sanctuary [and to eat of hallowed things]. The idea taught by this law is this: Those who have defiled themselves would never be allowed to enter the Sanctuary, or to partake of holy things, were it not for the sacrifice of the red heifer, by which this sin is removed; in the same manner as the plate [which the high-priest wears on his forehead] atones for uncleanness, and as a similar object is attained by the goats that are burnt. For this reason those were unclean who were engaged in the sacrifice of the heifer or the goats which were burnt, and even their garments were unclean. The same was the law in the case of the goat that was sent away [on the Day of Atonement]; for it was believed that it made unclean those who touched it, because it carried off so many sins.

We have now mentioned the reasons for those commandments of this class, for which we were able to give a satisfactory reason according to our view.

CHAPTER XLVIII

THE precepts of the thirteenth class are those which we have enumerated in the "Laws concerning forbidden food" (Hilkot maakalot asurot), "Laws concerning killing animals for food" (Hilkot sheḥitah), and "Laws concerning vows and Nazaritism" (Hilkot nedarim u-nezirot). We have fully and very explicitly discussed the object of this class in this treatise, and in our Commentary on the Sayings of the Fathers. We will here add a few remarks in reviewing the single commandments which are mentioned there.

I maintain that the food which is forbidden by the Law is unwholesome. There is nothing among the forbidden kinds of food whose injurious character is doubted, except pork (Lev. xi. 7), and fat (ibid. vii. 23). But also in these cases the doubt is not justified. For pork contains more moisture than necessary [for human food], and too much of superfluous matter. The principal reason why the Law forbids swine's flesh is to be found in the circumstance that its habits and its food are very dirty and loathsome. It has already been pointed out how emphatically the Law enjoins the removal of the