What is the significance of the contentious debate between the Pharisees and the Sadducees on where the Ketoret (incense) should be burnt? The Talmud tells the story of a Sadduccean High Priest who prepared the Yom Kippur ketoret according to the Sadducean rite and died a gruesome death. Comparing the Talmud’s version of this story with parallels elsewhere in rabbinic literature illuminates the Talmud’s understanding of the meaning of this vital Yom Kippur Avodah (ritual).
To illustrate the body and soul’s responsibility for sin, an early midrash presents the parable of the blind and lame watchmen. Curiously, this parable later shows up in Piyyut and in a Christian text. What might this teach us about the spread of rabbinic texts and ideas in late antiquity?