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I'm wondering if anyone has ever put together a book that lists all the different elements that can come up in the realms of Kodshim and Taharot (e.g. bulls, the number seven, water, slaughtering, etc.) along with traditional explanations for what they each may symbolize.

I realize that the idea that these elements are meant to symbolize anything, as opposed to simply being elements of God's Commandments, which we obey without worrying about their meanings, is not a universally-held opinion. However, there are those who do discuss symbolic meanings in these practices, so the book I'm wondering about would be based on their teachings. For example, R' Hirsch's commentary on the Torah makes repeated and consistent reference to many such symbolic elements.

It seems to me that such a book could be very useful when studying these areas in particular. People tend to treat them as rather esoteric, partly because they're mostly not in practice currently, and partly because they deal with essentially spiritual causes and effects that aren't obviously connected to natural phenomena that we're familiar with. With the sort of dictionary that I describe at one's side, one could analyze a complicated procedure, or even a hypothetical complicated procedure in the Talmudic debates, in part by breaking it down into its constituent elements and analyzing what each one is taken to symbolize.

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Looks like you've got your next big project lined up. –  Seth J Jan 13 '12 at 19:16
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@SethJ, It's actually already on my list of books to write, when I have time to write books. :) (That is, unless it exists already.) –  Isaac Moses Jan 13 '12 at 19:42
    
@IsaacMoses I've always wanted this as well. I was never able to find anything, but I was told such books exist. Lacking such a book I've pieced together many of the things myself. –  avi Jan 16 '12 at 9:43
    
Also, I will add that you should/will? find two types of dictionaries. One which is heavily influenced by the Zohar, and one which is something that even the uneducated members of Israel would be able to recognize. –  avi Jan 16 '12 at 9:45
    
Part of the reason for these two types of dictionaries is that even the zoharic symobls would themselves be symbols for other things. –  avi Jan 16 '12 at 9:55

2 Answers 2

I'm wondering if anyone has ever put together a book that lists all the different elements that can come up in the realms of Kodshim and Taharot (e.g. bulls, the number seven, water, slaughtering, etc.)

The closest I have found:

along with traditional explanations for what they each may symbolize.

I have not seen a list anywhere. Some commentaries refer to these ideas as the Korban is introduced in Sefer Vayikra.

  • The Ibn Ezra. For example in Vayikra 1:2 he explains why the Olah is always male "ובעבור היות העולה קרבה כלה לגבוה היא מהנבחרת "
  • The Kli Yakar (ibid) has a few paragraphs explaining why certain animals are appropriate for each type of Korban. he starts off with "טעם לדבר שהעולה באה זכר, והחטאת נקיבה, ושלמים בין זכר בין נקיבה, לפי ...".‏
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Could you add some more detail about what each of these introductions do, in terms of explaining symbolism systems? –  Isaac Moses Nov 25 at 13:43
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I don't think that this answers the question at all; these are two examples of short but well systemized/organized overviews of the laws and legal concepts of Kodshim, but say nothing about their symbolism. –  Matt Nov 26 at 5:33

While this isn't exactly what you're looking for, it's close: the Rama's Toras Ha'Olah, which does go through just about every mitzvah/halakha in Seder Kodshim and explains the reasoning for their details in a super-cool-scientific-mystical way. It's not an encyclopedia in that it isn't in alphabetical order, but it is ordered systematically, by topic.

Additionally, there is a book that collected many of the explanations for details of all of the mitzvos, Taryag Mitzvos Behalacha UBeagada, by Rav Chayim Lipkin. Volumes 3-5 are on Kodshim and Taharos, and all together make up around 350 pages on those topics. This too doesn't go through every detail and not in alphabetical order, but it is by order of topic/mitzvah.

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You could probably also put together a few pages of the more 'rationalistic' explanations, by which I mean mainly R. Hirsch, but also perhaps many of the comments of the Kli Yakar and even Maharal would qualify as such too, relatively speaking. You could add Rambam, Ibn Ezra, Sefer Hachinuch etc. but I doubt that would be too helpful since they held that the details don't need need to make sense (see Moreh Nevuchim 3:26) and so only explained very few of them. Perhaps if you remind me when we're up to Sefer Vayikra I'll make one myself and put it up online –  Matt Nov 26 at 15:43
    
R' Slifkin would disagree with "It's not an encyclopedia in that it isn't in alphabetical order," since he's writing his in conceptual order. –  Isaac Moses Nov 26 at 15:46
    
yes, I've made fun of him for that :-) Merriam-Webster writes that an encyclopedia gives info "usually in articles arranged alphabetically" –  Matt Nov 26 at 15:50
    
But it also isn't a perfect answer because it doesn't go through each symbol (such as the number two as opposed to seven, for example) –  Matt Nov 26 at 15:51

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