Monday, May 21, 2007

Sinai Revelation and Some Numbers

I was just thinking about the claims that some 3 million people were at the Sinai desert when the Jews were taken out of Egypt. Orthodox Jews claim that there were 600,000 able bodied adult males who were at the base of Mount Sinai when the Ten Commandments were given. The Orthodox Rabbis then extrapolate that since there were 600,000 adult males, there had to have been 3 million Jews in the desert.

So, if the above is correct, then there had to have been 600,000 adult females as well. It is interesting, then, to read the following passage in the Torah:

Leviticus 15:

19 " 'When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening…

29 On the eighth day she must take two doves or two young pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 30 The priest is to sacrifice one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. In this way he will make atonement for her before the LORD for the uncleanness of her discharge.”

As I understand these passages, the Torah requires that a woman, following her menstruation, bring 2 doves to the Cohen for sacrifice. Ok, clear enough!

There were 600,000 adult women in the Sinai desert. Obviously, most women - save the diseased and postmenopausal - menstruated monthly. Let us for the sake of argument say that there were 500,000 healthy women. Thus, each one of them would have to provide for 2 doves every month. Let us consider the numbers:

2 doves required per woman per month = 24 doves per woman per year.

24 doves per woman per year X 500,000 women = 12 million doves!

Since the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years, then, just to comply with this one requirement, there are some 12 X 40 = 480 million doves needed.

Forget about all the other sacrifices that the Torah mandates. Forget, for example, about the sin offerings, guilt offerings, burnt offerings, etc. Forget that the Torah requires that an animal be brought to sacrifice every time a child is born. Forget that on Passover every Jewish family was to bring a lamb for ritual slaughter. Forget all that!

Remember simply the requirement that upon women’s menstruation, 2 doves were to be sacrificed. Some 480 million doves would be necessary for that!

Where did all these doves come from? The Jews were wandering in the desert, living in tents, having to subsist on manna from heaven. 480 million doves?

Does this statistic alone not make you wonder that perhaps the story of the exodus did not happen the way the Orthodox Rabbis say it happened?


BrooklynWolf said...

You seem to have missed the point that between verse 19 (where menstruation is first mentioned) and verse 29 (the requirement to bring a sacrifice), the Torah no longer speaks of an ordinary menstruant but of a zavah, someone who has some issue with her period causing it to extend beyond the normal time.

Only such people needed to bring sacrifices, not ordinary menstruants.

The Wolf

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Wolf, you took the words right out of my mouth.

Barbara said...

Good for people to know.

badrabbi said...


I wrote a blog entry (the very next one) based just on the comments of the Brooklyn Wolf. Please read it.

Thank you.