This section starts, however, with a listing of valuations for "vows of persons", assigning a monetary value to individuals who may be "consecrated":
1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
2 Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When anyone explicitly vows to the Lord the equivalent for a human being, 3 the following scale shall apply: If it is a male from twenty to sixty years of age, the equivalent is fifty shekels of silver by the sanctuary weight; 4 if it is a female, the equivalent is thirty shekels. 5 If the age is from five years to twenty years, the equivalent is twenty shekels for a male and ten shekels for a female. 6 If the age is from one month to five years, the equivalent for a male is five shekels of silver, and the equivalent for a female is three shekels of silver. 7 If the age is sixty years or over, the equivalent is fifteen shekels in the case of a male and ten shekels for a female. 8 But if one cannot afford the equivalent, he shall be presented before the priest, and the priest shall assess him; the priest shall assess him according to what the vower can afford.
What is this about? Are these slaves being "consecrated" to the Temple? Is it the vower consecrating him/herself? Why different valuations for different people? Why are children younger than 1 month not even listed? It is easy to dismiss the lower valuation for females as simply a reflection of the sexism of those days, but what about the other differences? A child's valuation is the smallest. A youth's valuation is about the same as a senior's, and an adult's valuation is much higher. What is this, Disneyland ticket prices? Perhaps, in a sense, yes. Being "consecrated" to the Temple in some ways has a spiritual "admission price". Does that make the sexism less egregious? Does the sexism in this case simply imply a recognition that women, like minors and seniors, are a disadvantaged group that is less able to pay full fare? Note that "financial aid" is also mentioned in the last verse:
8 But if one cannot afford the equivalent, he shall be presented before the priest, and the priest shall assess him; the priest shall assess him according to what the vower can afford.Ostensibly a simple passage about providing for the day-to-day support of the Temple (in addition to the offerings described earlier in Leviticus), this reading has several layers of complexity. No wonder most of the commentary on this Parsha prefers to focus on the blessings/curses! And yet, this is the closing of the whole book of Leviticus! Surely this is not to be ignored.... I did find one commentary, which suggests that the purpose of this "price list" is to reassure us of our fundamental worth before G*d, in spite of all the horrors which are prophesied just prior. The valuations are preset regardless of the person's level of observance or shortcomings. Given the questions above, though, this is really not satisfying. Does G*d really value us differently based on age and gender?
I actually kinda like the Disneyland metaphor. A spiritual "admissions price" that takes into account the customer's ability to pay.
What do you think?