Bible Review 16:5, October 2000

Of Sacred Leopards and Abominable Pigs

How common practice becomes ritual law

By Ronald S. Hendel

Bible Review

Franz Kafka once wrote a brief parable about the origin of a fabulous Temple ritual: “Leopards break into the Temple and drink to the dregs what is in the sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can be calculated in advance, and it becomes a part of the ceremony.”1 In this strange, dreamlike way, a random and perhaps terrifying event comes to be ritualized as part of the sacred routine. As a Temple ritual, it would naturally be invested with deep theological significance. In this way, a recurring historical event becomes a mysterious religious symbol.

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