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Ritual Gone WrongWhat We Learn from Ritual Disruption$
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Kathryn T. McClymond

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199790913

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199790913.001.0001

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Don’t Cry over Spilled Blood

Don’t Cry over Spilled Blood

Ritual Correction in the Mishnah

(p.44) 2 Don’t Cry over Spilled Blood
Ritual Gone Wrong

Kathryn T. McClymond

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Mishnaic discussions of ritual error associated with the mishandling of sacrificial blood, leading to two conclusions. First, the Mishnah’s discussion of sacrificial ritual is less about the priests’ ability to identify and to correct errors than a demonstration of the rabbis’ ritual expertise. Consequently, discussions that initially appear to be about sacrificial rules are really a display of rabbinic superiority over an antiquated priestly system. Second, the rabbis make dramatic moves that assert their own authority over biblical material. They excise biblical passages from the Torah and resituate these passages into a new discursive framework. In doing this, the rabbis create—and control—a new religious conversation. Ultimately, rabbinic discussions of ritual error are aimed at establishing a new ritual order. Ritual studies theory can benefit from noting when discussions of ritual activity are integrated into other discourses as part of a broader sociopolitical strategy.

Keywords:   Mishnah, tannaim, rabbi/rabbinic, halakhah, blood, purity/purification, Temple, sacrifice, priest, valid/invalid

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