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I received an email relay, this Sunday, from several rabbis passed onwards to me, eventually. (Proof that even your local rabbi has to ask a question on Mi Yodeya.)

After the metzorah (Leper) has been declared tahor, among the items he must bring to the Cohen are two birds. One is killed, and the live one is sent free to the field.

In Vayikra 14:7 the phrasing is:

ושלח את הצפור החיה על פני השדה

(Ibn Ezra explains that על means "toward")

In Vayikra 14:53, the phrasing is:

אל פני השדה

Why the difference in the word used in these two verses?

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Updated Post:

Malbim to Sifra here, found here, seems to discuss something about it, but I'm not quite sure what he means...

ויש הבדל בין כשאומר "ושלח אל השדה" ובין כשאומר "על פני השדה", ש"על פני" מציין שיהיה וישאר שם כמו "וישקיפו על פני סדום", "אשר על פני יריחו" (דברים לב), "על פני חברון" (שופטים טז). ומזה מבואר שאין צריך דוקא שתשאר בשדה ואפילו שלחה וחזרה, הגם שלא היתה "בשדה", היתה "על פני השדה".‏


Original Post: The answer seems to lie in the context of the Pesukim, based on the Ibn Ezra you mentioned.

In 14:7, the bird is being sent from the city, towards the the fields on the outskirts.

In 14:53, it is sent "outside the city", firstly, and therefore, when descibing where it is sent to, we specify using "El", as this is a subset of "outside the city". (I think.)

וְשִׁלַּ֞ח אֶת־הַצִּפֹּ֧ר הַֽחַיָּ֛ה אֶל־מִח֥וּץ לָעִ֖יר אֶל־פְּנֵ֣י הַשָּׂדֶ֑ה וְכִפֶּ֥ר עַל־הַבַּ֖יִת וְטָהֵֽר׃

Consider also asking this on BH.SE, as it is more up their alley.

  • I'm not too convinced, yet. The Ibn Ezra I mentioned is the one in the first verse. (14:7) Usually, על means "upon", and that's what I assumed it meant. It would make sense, here, as I thought it meant that you just send the bird ON the field and leave it there to do what it wants. Until I saw Ibn Ezra's explanation on the first verse which means "to". Thus, both אֶל and על have the same meaning, from what I gather. What is BH SE? – DanF Apr 24 '18 at 2:11
  • @DanF I haven't found the Ibn Ezra online at Mikraot Gedolot or in my Ibn Ezra Chumash. Are you sure it's there? And link added for BH. – רבות מחשבות Apr 24 '18 at 3:29
  • See Ibn Ezra on 14:7 DH על פני השדה. It's here: hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14081&st=&pgnum=176. The first word he uses is "a place". To me it implies the meaning "to". – DanF Apr 24 '18 at 14:00
  • I understand Malbim's wording, fine. I think that the first description of metzorah applies to skin and clothing conditions (as that what the Torah spoke of in tazria.) In viewing Ibn Ezra's explanation, he says that the goal is that the tzara'at shouldn't affect others. I.e., we don't want the condition to return. That's what Malbim implies. But for the house tzara'at it seems that the tazara't itself won't return anyway as the bricks and dirt were already replaced. So, if the bird returns, it may not matter. – DanF Apr 24 '18 at 14:07
  • @DanF feel free to edit it in, as I'm still not sure... – רבות מחשבות Apr 24 '18 at 14:37

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