Two Birds

R’ Harvey Benton posted the following to Avodah:

What is the significance of dipping a live bird in the blood of its chaver (or at least a fellow bird/ of the same or similar species) and then setting it free?

What is Hashem trying to convey to us, because on the surface it seems cruel. At least by the Azalzel, the two goats don’t see each other after being separated…..let alone being dipped in one of the other’s blood…….

When a metzorah is purified from his tzara’as (a spiritosomatic illness that is most accurately left untranslated), he brings an offering of two birds. One is killed, and the other is dipped in the blood of the dead one, and then set free. Compare this to the scapegoat of the Yom Kippur service, where two identical kids are selected, one is slaughtered and offered for atonement, and the other is sent off the cliff.

RHB in effect asks two questions:

  1. When the live bird is dipped in the blood the dead one, the smell of blood is bound to cause panic. There must be some value to this distress, or else Hashem wouldn’t ask for it. What is it?
  2. Given that there is such value, why doesn’t it apply to the pair of goats selected for Yom Kippur?

The following is off-the-cuff, but I liked it enough to want to share it. (Especially since other obligations have kept me from blogging in quite a while.)

Yom Kippur only atones for since between man and his Creator.

In contrast, tzora’as is associated with interpersonal issues. Most famously speaking lashon hara, but Rabbi Shemuel bar Nameini (Eirkhin 16a) lists 6 others: murder, pointless and false oaths, sexual immorality, egotism, theft, and stinginess. The focus of discussion about tzora’as is how it spurs teshuvah for interpersonal mitzvos.

Perhaps the point of dipping one bird in the other’s blood is so that the person sees the panic of one bird over the death of the other, and takes from it a lesson in empathy.

The Yom Kippur azazel, being part of a service of atonment for sins between man and G-d, is less about empathy than tzora’as is.

One thought on “Two Birds

  1. R’ Elazar M Teitz (Elizabeth) wrote the following reply on Avodah, which pretty much deflates my whole idea:

    Sh’vuas shav is never bein adam lachaveiro. Sh’vuas sheker can be, but its most common manifestation is sh’vuas bituy, which generally is not. Ga’ava need not have an effect on anyone else. If by aveira bein adam lachaveiro one means an act committed against another, then giluy arayos is not an aveira bein adam lachaveiro; it is an aveira bein adam lamakom whose commission requires two people.

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