Chapter Five: Wise Hukkim
The Byzantine Sermonic Ideology of a Solitary Divine Fiat
- In one version of R. Yehoshua’s elaboration on Exodus 15:26, the Biblical word hukkim is translated as the additional norms implied by the Torah’s legal examples. This version parallels the words of a Sifra editor whom we quoted in an earlier chapter (II-E3): “‘All the hukkim (statutes)’ – these are the midrashot (exegeses)” (Sifra Shemini 1:9). It parallels the late Second Temple sources that designate the righteous teacher of the law who pointed additional norms implied by Biblical laws by the title of me-hokek (CD 6.7-8). (In another version, the order is changed and R. Yehoshua followed the broader trend of reading the Biblical word hukkim as simply halakhot.)
- The other elaboration – that of R. Eleazar haModa’i and a Sifra editor – referred to a local Biblical use of word hukkim that discusses “rules forbidding taboo sexual relations.” Sexual taboos were viewed as common sense: the first generation Amora, Shmuel, pointed out that these sexual taboos were decreed to all of humanity from its inception (b. Sanhedrin 60a) while his contemporary, Rav, taught that a Noahide must be willing to sacrifice his life in order to avoid these taboo sexual relations (b. Sanhedrin 57a); Rav and Shmuel explicitly claimed – in rabbinic terminology – that the taboos should be obvious to all people.