Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Azazel Palooza: Ibn Ezra's Secret

Here are the strange, enigmatic words of Ibn Ezra:
And if you were capable of grasping the secret that follows the word (hasod she'hu achar milas) Azazel, then you would know its secret and the secret of its name, for it has parrallels (chaverim) in the text. I shall reveal a bit of the secret only by way of a hint. When you reach age thirty-three you will know it.
And what is the secret? I've found several answers:
  1. It relates to a story told on BT Sanhedrin 106, in which a sectarian is, once again, harassing poor old Rabbi Chanina. Asks the sectarian "How old was Bilaam when he died?" Answers Rabbi Chanina "33" Replies the sectarian: "Why yes, I saw in Billam's Notebook that he was killed at 33" (This is a bizarre story, and many think Billam is used here as a euphemism for Jesus.) According to this approach, Ibn Ezra's "secret" is that Billam learned his magic from Azazel, a fallen angel. I don't know what the "parallels" are.

  2. It relates to this verse "These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Paddan-aram, with his daughter Dinah; all his sons and his daughters numbered thirty-three" As Ibn Ezra tells us (there) thirty-four names are listed as the sons of Leah. If we deduct the two sons of Judah who died in Canaan, we have thirty-two left, so how do we get to 33? By including Jacob (this makes some contextual sense). The secret (Bray is going to loooooove this) according to this explanation is that the scapegoat relates to Jacob's relationship with Esav, including: the gifts Jacob sent to his brother, the angel of Esav that testifies against us, and more. I don't know what the "parallels" are.

  3. It relates to this verse וְהַצְּלָעֹות צֵלָע אֶל־צֵלָע שָׁלֹושׁ וּשְׁלֹשִׁים פְּעָמִים. Says Avi Ezer: "Look in BT Bava Basra 75 (b) and your eyes will be opened." I checked the source, but my eyes remained close. I have no explanation for this explanation.
  1. No explanation is given for the secret, but a suggestion is given for the parallel. When a lepor is purified he brings two birds. One is killed. The other is set free. Rashbam sees this as parallel to the Azazel rite; indeed he teaches that the scapegoat was not killed, but set free.
  1. The secret is that Azazel is a demon. Count 33 verses from the first mention of Azazel's name, and you'll come to this: "They shall no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the goat demons." How this prohibition is be squared with the Ramban's view that Azazel was a demon will be addressed in the next post. According to the Ramban the "parallel" is that the word Azazel, like many other words, is made up of two smaller words.

  • The Torah on Azazel
  • My two previous Azazal posts: 1 & 2 (Had I been working less quickly, they'd have been combined into one post)
  • The best guess about what Azazel really meant to second temple Jews:

  • Hmm.... Azazel (per some) is Lord of the Sitra Achra, and here I am blogging about him on Yom Haatzmaut. The Satmar Rebbe would be pleased

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