1. This Shabbos is called Shabbos HaGadol — the Great Shabbos. This is a name conferred by Torah-Tradition and uniformed in Halachah!
The Shabbos before Pesach is called the Great Shabbos, because on that day a great miracle occurred. The Korban Pesach (Pascal Sacrifice) in Egypt had to be prepared from the tenth day of the month ... that day was Shabbos.... When the Jews took the sheep [to their homes] on that Shabbos the firstborn Egyptians gathered near the Jews and inquired as to their purpose. The Jews answered: “We will sacrifice this lamb as a Pascal offering and G-d will slay all the firstborn Egyptians.” The firstborn then went to their parents and to Pharaoh .*-. to demand that the Jews be freed They refused. The firstborn then battled with the other Egyptians and killed many of them. As it states: “Who struck Egypt through its firstborn.” (Shulchan Aruch Harav 0. Ch. 430)
- A Torah — Halachah name is very precise. The term Shabbos HaGadol, The Great Shabbos, means there is something great about the Shabbos. What greatness was effected in the day of Shabbos as a result of the miracle?
- Why was the commemoration of this miracle set to be observed each year on a specific day of the week — Shabbos — rather than the usual procedure in Jewish Tradition, that all holidays and miraculous events are commemorated or celebrated annually on the day of the month in which they occurred, in this case the 10th of Nissan?
From a different perspective.
The theme of “miracle” is different from the theme of “Shabbos.” Shabbos normally conveys the idea of the orderly completion of the days of creation and the introduction of relaxation and rest. As Rashi indicates:
What did the world lack? Rest! There came the Shabbos, there came rest. (Rashi, Bereishis 2:2)
Coming within the framework of the natural sequence of time and space, Shabbos represents the completion of the natural cycle.
But miracle speaks of the supernatural.
- the commemoration of a miraculous event should have been associated with the date of the month, which shows the change from natural to supernatural, and not the day of Shabbos.
- What “greatness” did the “miracle” add to the Shabbos which gave it the name the Great Shabbos?
The explanation is, that the miracle of striking Egypt through its firstborn is different from all other miraculous events. All miracles involve the drawing down of a supernal spiritual light which emanates from a source which is above nature. The miracle of the firstborn was specifically clothed and involved only in nature, and natural phenomena.
Normally, to be considered a miracle an event must be connected with G-d, Torah or the Jewish people, all of which are intrinsically aloof from, and not controlled by, the nature of the world. For example, the total miracle of the Exodus was a case where the Holy One, Blessed be He, King of kings, revealed Himself and redeemed the Jewish people. The exodus of the Jews was effected through the revelation of the Holy One, Blessed be He. Similarly in the case of all other miracles — even a miracle like Purim, where the miraculous was cloaked in nature. The miracle of Purim brought salvation to the Jews, through the actions of Mordechai and Esther and the faithful devotion [repentance] of the Jewish people.
The miracle of striking the Egyptians through the firstborn, however, was not directly related to the Jews; the Jews saw no direct benefit from this battle, for they still had to wait until after the tenth plague, the death of the first-born, to be freed. So this was a war of Egyptians against Egyptians. As such the term “miracle” does not apply. True, there was a realignment of certain natural forces-and the firstborn — of Egypt demanded the freedom of the Jews — yet it was a natural phenomenon — no miracle.
[In fact, on the tenth of Nissan, 39 years later, Miriam, Moshe’s sister, died and the day came to be observed as a fast day for Jews.]
In light of this, we can understand the esoteric reason why the miracle is commemorated always on a Shabbos and why we call that day Shabbos HaGadol, the Great Shabbos.
All holidays and fast days associated with G-d and the Jews are set on the date of the month, for the “chodesh” (month) represents change and innovation, the idea of transcending nature.
The remembrance of the battle of the first-born, being an occurrence among gentiles, was related to the natural world and the physical superiority of one particular group. It was therefore set on a particular day of the week (Shabbos) showing its relationship with nature and order. For this reason too, it is called Shabbos HaGadol, the perfection of creation and nature. Lifting nature shows “greatness” which is bestowed on Shabbos.
A bit more profoundly, we could say that when the Jewish people were given the mitzvah of establishing the new months and G-d told Moshe: “This month shall be the chief month ...” we were at the same time given the ability to influence certain aspects of existence by our rulings. This is a power that is miraculous and above the normal laws of nature.
The days of the week are set since the creation of the world, but the days of the month are Sett according to the ruling of the Great Din-Din (Sanhedrin) in Yerushalayim. Thus, their ruling establishes the reality of time. Similarly, the Jewish people possess the power to create a new entity or presence in the world.
Of course, in all areas of Halachah the ruling of the Beis Din establishes the facts, but in the case of the new month this principle is much stronger, for the Talmud states that the ruling of the court regarding the setting of the new month is binding:
...to indicate that “you” (Beis Din) [may fix the time of the new month and hence the festivals] even if you err inadvertently, “you,” even if you err deliberately, “you,” even if you are misled. (Rosh HaShanah 25a)
Thus in all cases the halachah [and the reality thereby established] will be set according to the rule of the Beis Din.
The esoteric reason for this is that the source of the Jewish souls is loftier and precedes everything. In Chassidic parlance: “Two things came before the world — Torah and Israel,” and “The intention [thought] to create Israel came before everything [even before Torah].”
Their preeminence endowed the Jewish nation with the potential and ability to set and change the reality of the world in a miraculous manner. For this reason the establishment of the month and the intercalation of the calendar could be decided by the Jewish court.
Thus the chapter of “This month shall be for you ...,” introduces and emphasizes this superior power of the Jewish people in the world, and although the rule applies in all areas of Torah law, it is most evident in the case of the calendar. It was in this same chapter about the new month, that the Jews were also commanded to draw and take a lamb for the Korban Pesach, which later, on the tenth of the month brought about the miracle of “striking the Egyptians by their firstborn.”
This illuminates the connection of these two ideas. The Jews were given the power to influence the nature of the world by intercalating the calendar, similarly they had the power to influence the nature of the world and cause the firstborn to rise in rebellion against the power structure of Egypt! In the physical realm of the powers of Egypt one force rose against the other and demanded that the Jews be sent free.
Thus the two aspects in the chanter of “HaChodesh — This month...” are interrelated. And, whereas the power of creating the calendar is the power of drawing down spiritual forces into the world to make the holidays, the miracle of Shabbos HaGadol was that the lowly natural forces realigned themselves and demanded the freedom of Israel. This brought about the battle of the firstborn of Egypt against Egypt.
This theme of the Great Shabbos may be applied to our personal Divine service. Every Jew symbolizes the theme of Shabbos. “And all your children shall be the learners of [the Torah of] the L-rd” (Yeshayahu 54:13). Being the disciples of G-d we may be called “talmid chacham” which may be translated as the “pupil of the chacham,” meaning G-d — the source of the ultimate wisdom. The Zohar says that a talmid chacham is called “Shabbos.”
Carrying this point further, the theme of Shabbos is holiness, — as the Torah says: “Remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it” (Shmos 20:8). The Jewish nation was given the role of holiness: “And you will be a kingdom of Kohanim and a holy nation to Me” (Shmos 19:6). Hence the existence of a Jew is “Shabbos” and “holy,” and as such he influences the world.
So what do we learn from the “Great Shabbos”? That our actions in the realm of “Shabbos” must increase and become “great.” As the verse in Tehillim says: “They go from strength to strength” (Tehillim 84:8). And as the Gemara adds, that there is no respite in-between, but a constant pulsation, from a regular Shabbos to the special Shabbos.
It should be added that Shabbos HaGadol itself also has several levels and aspects, similar to every Shabbos. First there is the “eve of Shabbos” which refers to ceasing work and resting from the rigors of the weekly labors. The next level up, is the “day of Shabbos” meaning the pleasurable repose on Shabbos, not specifically related to previous work. Finally the ultimate perfection of relaxation and pleasure, which comes after midday on Shabbos at the time of Minchah — called the “time of utmost pleasure” which brings the revelation of the esoteric, essential pleasure, which is not even felt. On each level there must be an increase. The person must bring pleasure into the Shabbos — the eve of Shabbos, the day of Shabbos and the time of utmost pleasure.
At each stage during Shabbos the Jew has the opportunity to increase the joy and pleasure of Shabbos and thereby enhance the power of Shabbos — he truly makes it a Great Shabbos.
Naturally the lesson of Shabbos HaGadol must also have a good influence on the entire year.-And since Shabbos is both benefactor and beneficiary, when it comes to the good influence and blessing on the week, then by increasing our Divine service on Shabbos HaGadol it will increase our influence all year; and through the good work we do all year we will raise the level of Shabbos HaGadol.
This lesson must of course be applied to oneself as well as to engender good influence on athore
There are certain Jews who view themselves as “worldly Jews” and feel that they have no right to thir hshhnRs iqtonoo
It behooves us to explain to them that the true existence of every Jew is symbolic of Shabbos. When the Torah called us “a kingdom of Kohanim and a holy nation,” we were cast in the role of “Shabbos” existence even during the weekdays, and even when involved in mundane, temporal matters. and that mold was not just any old Shabbos — but Shabbos HaGadol!
And you cannot excuse yourself from this responsibility by saying, “I am a Shabbos Jew, while he is involved in weekday matters, what do we have in common?” For in truth every Jew is Shabbos, it just has to be uncovered — it is concealed.
And as the Gemara says: “Have I at all given to you greatness save for the sake of Israel” (Berachos 32a), which was why during the sin of the Golden Calf G-d told Moshe, “Descend from your greatness,” (ibid) it was only given to Moshe because of the Jewish people.
So when you are on the level of Shabbos HaGadol you must realize that your mission is to reveal the Shabbos of-every Jew.
Hopefully this message will hit the mark in one’s personal attitudes and his relations to others. And when there will be words from the heart they will penetrate the heart and accomplish their mission.
Through this effort we should merit very speedily the fulfillment of the promise: “And it shall come to pass afterwards, that I will pour out My spirit on all flesh ...” (Yoel 3:1), when the great day will come. And our righteous Mashiach will lead us to the true and complete redemption of which it says: “I will show wonders like the days you left Egypt.” Which means that the future miracles will be considered as wonders compared to the miracles of the Exodus.
May this all be quickly and truly in our days, in the manner of “hastily,” and “the Creator did not restrain them even a split second” (Mechilta), and then afterwards there will be the condition of, “In ease and rest shall you be saved” (Yeshayahu 30:15) [meaning in the extension of the days of Mashiach].
Simply put, all the Jews should be taken immediately to our Holy Land, “The land which the eyes of the L-rd your G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Devarim 11:12), and once there, to Yerushalayim the Holy City, and to the Holy Mount to the Beis HaMikdash, to the Holy of Holies. And to speed things up, there should be an increase in fulfilling the timely matters, the Divine service of Shabbos HaGadol, the four days of “checking” the sacrifice, then the service of Erev Pesach, which will merit us to celebrate Pesach in our Holy Land, in Yerushalayim, in the Third Beis HaMikdash .+th-ere to eat of the — sacrifices — “There we shall eat of the sacrifices and of the Pesach offerings” (Haggadah — Pesachim 116b). And we will merit the aspects of “the eighth day” — as we will read in the Torah portion of Minchah — meaning the harp of Mashiach of eight strings — speedily and truly in our days.
2. The earlier mentioned qualities of Shabbos HaGadol seem to stand in contradiction to a medieval custom observed in many communities, that calls every Shabbos which precedes a holiday — “Shabbos HaGadol.”
This opinion would of course eliminate one reason for the name “great” on this Shabbos, that of the “striking the Egyptians through their firstborn.” Instead it would emphasize the reason, that on this Shabbos the chacham (scholar or rabbi) preaches and teaches the laws of the upcoming holiday to the congregation, which gathers in the synagogue. The Yalkut puts it this way:
The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moshe: “Make great assemblages and preach publicly before them the laws of Shabbos, so that the future generations will learn from you to gather the congregations on every Shabbos....”
It should be added that the term Great Shabbos indicates that during the coming week there will be a holiday — a great day — and as “All the days of the week are blessed by Shabbos,” it follows that the preceding Shabbos is a Great Shabbos.
An illustration could be drawn from the Shabbos preceding a wedding, when the choson (bride groom) is “called up” to the Torah — there is ascent on that Shabbos because the wedding will aG1t during that week.
Question. If “Shabbos HaGadol” is named for the sermon in Halachah, and if each Shabbos preceding a holiday is called “Shabbos HaGadol” is this not a contradiction to the usual interpretation which relates the greatness of this Shabbos to tho hsttlo of tho firetharn?
Answer. This is not necessarily contradictory, on the contrary, there is a connection. Pesach is the forerunner of all the holidays, thus all aspects of all the holidays have some source in Pesach. It would follow then that the special qualities of the Shabbos preceding each holiday stems from the special quality of the Shabbos hofors P9RACh.
Especially, since true “greatness” depends on absolute independence. A king is truly great because only G-d is above him. The quality of true independence is represented by Pesach, thus the greatness of each Shabbos HaGadol comes from the greatness of Shabbos HaGadol before Pesach, the holiday of freedom and independence, and this would not contradict the interpretation that the greatness of this Shabbos is because of the battle of the firstborn.
3. This Shabbos HaGadol falls on the eighth day of Nissan. As such it has a special relationship to the first of Nissan, [it is the same day of the week] which was also called the eighth day — meaning the eighth day of initiation. On that day the sacrifices of the Tribal Princes began and the wagons and oxen which were donated collectively by the Princes were delivered to the Mishkan. Similarly it is related to the “ten crowns” which the first day of Nissan received.
Another point should be added. In the meaning of the word “shemini” — eighth — the Mezritcher Maggid taught: Shemini is of the same root as “shuman,” which means the “essence,” so that the eighth day of Nissan reveals the essence of the preceding seven days. Which Prince brought his sacrifice on the eighth day? “On the eighth day, the Prince of the tribe of Menasheh, Gamliel ben Pedahtzur” (Bamidbar 7:3).
To find the theme and special significance of the sacrifice of Menasheh we need not search far, the Midrash, ad locum, describes all these aspects in detail.
In discussing the sacrifices of Menasheh on the eighth day of dedication and the sacrifices of Ephraim on the seventh day, the Midrash connects their offerings to Yosef their father, and to Yaakov their grandfather who had said:
And now your two sons who were born to you ... are mine, Ephraim and Menasheh shall be [related] to me as Reuven and Shimon. (Bereishis 49:5)
When we study the particulars in the Midrash we find the tribe of Ephraim connected more closely to Yaakov, so that their sacrifice was dedicated to Yaakov, who gave him precedence over Menasheh, while Menasheh’s sacrifice was mainly connected to Yosef. As the Midrash relates:
You have here three varieties, in allusion to the three things which Yosef did for Menasheh in seeking to elevate him above his brother Ephraim. The first: “And Yosef took them both, Ephraim in his right hand” towards Yisrael’s left hand and Menasheh in his left towards Yisrael’s right hand” (Bereishis 48:13), the second: “And he held up his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head onto Menasheh’s head” (Ibid,); and the third: “And Yosef said unto his father: Not so my father, for this is the firstborn” (Ibid,), etc. (Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 14:7)
The Midrash further explains:
“One golden pan of ten shekels....” This was an allusion to the territorial portions of Menasheh of which there were ten; as it says: “And there fell ten parts to Menasheh” (Yehoshua 17:5). “... And for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, two oxen,” in allusion to the tribe of Menasheh which was divided in two and took two shares in the land, one half on the other side of the Jordan and the other half in the land of Canaan.... “Five rams. five he-goats, five he-lambs, of the first year ...,” why were there five of each variety? In allusion to the five women of the tribe of Menasheh who received a share in the land. They were the five daughters of Tzelophchad ... who obtained a share in the land. (Bamidbar Rabbah 14:7)
A more general and encompassing allusion would be to view Menasheh’s offerings in relation to the future redemption (see further).
But first let us understand why did Yosef make this effort for Menasheh? His original intention is understood — Menasheh was older and should receive the blessings of the firstborn. But when Yosef saw that Yaakov purposely crossed his hands and placed his right hand on Ephraim’ 9 head and blessed them in that manner, how could he try to exchange Yaakov’s hands and remove the blessings? Does a father take away a blessing from his child?
Even if he felt that Menasheh should get the blessing of the firstborn he could have requested that his father add another blessing to Menasheh, but not to remove it from Ephraim!
Yosef however, had a sound reason for wanting to change his father’s blessing. He knew from his personal experience that it was not good to raise the younger child over the older child. He had seen what had happened between him and his brothers when Yaakov his father had shown him more love than them. Resentment, jealousy, even hatred had resulted and ultimately he was sold as a slave into Egypt by his brothers. So he tried with all his might to rectify the action — to forestall any recurrence of similar bad results. In the words of the Talmud:
A man should never single out one son among his other sons, for on account of two sela’s weight of silk which Yaakov gave to Yosef in excess of his other sons, his brothers became jealous of him and the matter resulted in our forefathers’ descent into Egypt. (Shabbos 10b)
What about Yaakov? He never knew of the whole episode, for no one ever told him — even Yosef did not dare reveal the episode and speak evil of his brothers. So Yaakov saw no negative outcome of giving precedence to the younger son Ephraim. On the contrary, he thought that his action in showing more love to Yosef had resulted in his becoming the Viceroy of Egypt, a fact which made their predetermined descent to Egypt more pleasant — and more respectable.
Now Yosef tried to exchange Yaakov’s hands, but could not reveal his real reason — so he gave a lame excuse that Menasheh was older.
Which explains the connection to the future redemption mentioned earlier. The Rambam tells us:
In that era there will be neither famine nor war, neither jealousy nor strife. Blessing will be abundant, comforts within the reach of all. (Laws of Kings and Wars ch. 12:5)
This was the gist of Yosef’s conduct, not to cause jealousy, and no evil talk — the opposite of “jealousy and strife,” in a manner of the world to come
The inheritance of Menasheh in Eretz Yisrael was also in a manner of the times of Mashiach — for the future boundaries of Eretz Yisrael according to the original promise to Avraham were to include both sides of the Jordan. When the tribe of Menasheh settled on two sides of the Jordan they carved out a design which will apply to all the other tribes only when Mashiach comes. The fact that the daughters of Tzelophchad not only loved Eretz Yisrael but actually inherited a share of Eretz Yisrael, just like the men, is also in a manner of Mashiach’s times, when the feminine side will also attain the attributes of being a benefactor not just a beneficiary, as explained in Chassidic philosophy.
It should also be noted that the motive of the tribe of Menasheh in asking for inheritance in Transjordan was not the same as the motivation of the tribes of Reuven and Gad.
In the portion of Mattos the Torah goes into great detail in describing the request made by the tribes of Reuven and Gad concerning the pasture lands of Yaazer in Transjordan. Moshe was critical of this scheme and he chastised them, calling them “... a band of sinners.” In the course of the dialogue that ensues they promise to assume the role of “armed scouts” and to lead the Jewish armies in their wars of conquest on the western side of the Jordan — the land of Canaan proper — and only then to return and lay claim to the area of Yaazer, Bashan etc. Finally Moshe agrees, after making very strict conditions.
Throughout the discussion, the Torah does not mention the tribe of Menasheh — only at the time of the actual division of the land does the Torah say that in Transjordan the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menasheh received inheritance.
Evidently in the case of Menasheh:
- Moshe was not critical of their request, and
- Only Reuven and Gad were motivated by the need for pasture land.
Reuven was blessed with great flocks because, as the firstborn, he inherited a double share from Yaakov who had large flocks. Gad had many flocks because they loved the “manna” — the food from heaven — and therefore did not slaughter any of their sheep during their years in the desert. But Menasheh did not have large flocks of sheep.
What motivated Menasheh to ask for an inheritance that straddled the Jordan? They knew that in the times of Mashiach both sides of the Jordan would be integrated into Eretz Yisrael — and they wanted to inherit in a manner of the future.
So, Reuven and Gad were motivated by material reasons while Menasheh was motivated by a spiritual cause. They wanted to settle Eretz Yisrael in thP Rnme msnner it would be settled in the future.
What do we learn from the eighth day of Nissan, when the Prince of Menasheh offered his sacrifices? The desire, yearning and longing for Mashiach and the future redemption!
There are Jews who have it good in the diaspora — Heaven protect us! In their opinion the galus could go on for another 2000 years. A terribly shocking thought! Even more shattering and destructive when expressed in words! Yet no one takes notice to deal with this problem.
What is the reason? Those who should be shouting “Mashiach Now” are ashamed to do so. They themselves wonder, “Why must we holler, Mashiach Now?”
The Holy One, Blessed be He, has granted them to be in a situation where they can study Torah and observe mitzvos with splendor and comfort. Nothing obstructs them. In fact, they do study diligently, the esoteric and the exoteric knowledge of Torah, and they observe His mitzvos with zeal and elegance. Their prayers are in the spirit of Chassidic teaching, with fervor and devotion, not only on Shabbos but also in a plain weekday Minchah. They attain the spiritual level of the sacrifices.
In their minds they are approaching the epitome of Divine service in all aspects. All that is lacking are the actual sacrifices, through no fault of theirs, so they ignore this absence — why worry about it, or feel bad about it, the anxiety will affect the “joy” of Divine service.
The lesson from Menasheh is that one must desire, long, and pine for the future redemption. There was no earthly reason for Menasheh to take the two halfs of their inheritance on the two sides of the Jordan. The only motivation was the longing for Mashiach.
A Jew might have it good in the diaspora. He studies Torah and observes mitzvos in comfort — but how can he rest and be quiet while the true and complete redemption has not come?! Why is he not hollering, “We Want Mashiach Now”! Of what value are all the pleasures of the world, compared to the complete redemption? This concept is expressed in the verse: “Whom have I in Heaven, and beside You I wish for nothing on earth” (Tehillim 73:25). Or as the Alter Rebbe expressed it:
“I want nothing, I want not Your Gan Eden (Paradise), I want not Your Olam Habah (World to Come) I want only You alone.”
This lofty concept applies even to the simplest child. For when one prays and does not know all the Kabbalistic interpretations of prayer — he prays to the Essence of G-d. “... only You alone.”
This is the call of “Mashiach Now”; the longing for the revelation of the Essence, which will happen with the coming of Mashiach. And although, when one Jew goes to speak to another Jew about matters of Yiddishkeit there normally should be a certain conformance with conventional formalities, to act like a “gentleman,” nevertheless in these times it is necessary to shout out “Mashiach Now” and awaken a sympathetic resonance within the other Jew. For he also wants Mashiach Now, and also wants the revelation of G-dliness. The problem is only that his inner soul is covered and clogged — the dust must be brushed off and he too will shout “Mashiach Now!”
It happened once that a Shaliach was visiting in the office of a non-observant Jew, and in a mutually respectful and gentlemanly manner they were discussing religious philosophy. In the midst of their involved and profound discussion, the host took a book down from a shelf and looked into it to find some point germane to their dialogue. How surprised he was, upon looking up from the book, to see the Shaliach standing in a corner, face to the wall, swaying to and fro, engrossed in fervent prayer. What impudence! He hadn’t even excused himself! Realizing suddenly that sunset was close at hand he had simply started to pray, completely ignoring his host. The shock of this sudden, unconventional, uncivilized and unintellectual conduct startled this unobservant Jew and caused a religious quantum leap which placed him in a different mental path and eventually brought him to become a baal teshuvah. He in turn, has brought dozens and hundreds of Jews closer to Yiddishkeit.
And this same story in one form or another has occurred dozens of times. So you don’t have to be pedantic about the importance of politeness and decorum. Go out and shout “We Want Mashiach Now,” and you will strike a respondent chord.
This is what we learn from the sacrifices of the tribe of Menasheh. on the eighth of Nissan.
May G-d grant that through speaking and studying about the sacrifices of the Princes we will merit, truly soon, to see the building of the Beis HaMikdash and the actual sacrifices of the Princes.
And although we are in the darkness of the galus, G-d puts an “end to the darkness.” And we will see the light of the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.
4. At the close of today’s Torah portion it states: “Do not leave the entrance of the Communion Tent for seven days, until your period of inauguration is complete ...” (Vayikra 8:33), and then two verses later: “Remain at the Communion Tent’s entrance day and night for seven days.”
A question arises in the mind of the five-year-old Chumash student.
Rosh Chodesh Nissan was the eighth day of inauguration for Aharon and his sons, as Rashi had already mentioned. During the previous seven days the Mishkan (Tabernacle) had been erected and taken down each day, and on the eighth day “... it was put up and not taken down” (Rashi, Bamidbar 7:1).
How can the Torah command Aharon and his sons “Do not leave the entrance ...,” or “Remain at the ... entrance ... day and night,” if the Mishkan was disassembled every day after the time of the service?!
The perplexity is compounded when we see that Ibn Ezra, Ramban, Seforno, Chizkuni, Rabbeinu Bachya and even Targum Yonoson all raise this question and propose various explanations, while Rashi, whose whole purpose is to present the plain meaning of the Scripture, ignores the problem completely!
Rashi does not usually rely on the other commentaries to satisfy the paradoxes of-the young Chumash student, and especially in this case where all the other explanations do not follow the simple meaning of the verses and do not agree with Rashi’s commentary in other places.
Therefore we must assume that when one approaches these verses in Rashi’s manner of simple meaning, all paradox will disappear — for which reason it was unnecessary for Rashi to make any comment.
In reading the last few verses of Tzav we find another point of difficulty. Why does the Torah seem to repeat itself? The first verse:
Do not leave the entrance of the Ohel Moed (Communion Tent) for seven days, until your period of inauguration is complete. This is because your installation ceremony shall last for seven days. (Vayikra 8:33)
Two verses later:
Remain at the Communion Tent’s entrance day and night for seven days. You will thus keep G-d’s charge.... (Ibid:35)
Let us analyze these two verses. What differences do we find?
- — “Do not leave....” — “Remain at....”
- — “... for seven days....” ... day and night for seven days....”
- — “... because your installation....” — “... seven days. You will thus keep G-d charge....”
These differences will point out to us a way of solving our paradox.
“Do not leave” is of course not the same as “Remain at the ... entrance.” The former means you are inside and may not go out, the latter means you should remain near the entrance, but still outside.
At this point it should be made clear that although the sentence says “Do not leave the ... Communion Tent” it does not mean literally the Ohel Moed — Communion Tent, rather it means the complex of the Mishkan; for Aharon and his sons never entered the Ohel Moed during the seven days of inauguration; all the training was done in the courtyard. It is actually referring to the entrance to the courtyard of the Tabernacle, which is also sometimes referred to with the words, Communion Tent. Rashi finds it unnecessary to point this out, because it is obvious from the beginning of this same chapter, where the Torah says: “Gather the entire community to the entrance of the Communion Tent.” Clearly all the Jews could not have fit into the courtyard [near the entrance of the Communion Tent] and therefore G-d meant to gather them to the entrance of the courtyard of the Mishkan, outside of the curtains; yet it was called the entrance of the Communion Tent.
Now we will explain these verses as follows: “Do not leave the entrance of the Communion Tent for seven days” means days only. “Until your inauguration is complete,” the training and installation took place only by day. During the day the Sanctuary was set up and Aharon and his sons had to stay inside the courtyard and not step out. This was the case during all the seven days — but they were not restricted to stay inside at night. There was no inside at night, everything was disassembled! There was also no training at night and by night they had to exit from the holy place.
The second verse teaches us something different. “Remain at the Communion Tent’s entrance day and night for seven days,” this meant at night, or later in the day. When the services in the Mishkan had been completed and they had left the courtyard — and the Tabernacle had been taken apart — then they were told to stay close by, not to leave the area, but to remain near the outside of the entrance. The reason being, to guard, protect and watch the Mishkan and the utensils.
Rashi considers this to be so elementary that he need not explain it. Everyone knows the difference between “seven days” and “day and night.”
It is now self-evident that when the Mishkan was disassembled each evening of the seven initiation days, the materials of the Tabernacle were left in place to be rebuilt the next morning. Consequently, the directive “Do not leave,” simply did not apply when the Tabernacle was down; they had to walk out when it was being dismantled. Nevertheless at the same time, “Remain at the entrance ... day and night,” to guard the materials and utensils, could be performed even at night, by remaining close by — outside of the area of the courtyard.
5. In the previous farbrengen we left one question unanswered. On the verse, “If the anointed Kohen commits an inadvertent violation” the question was raised, why does Rashi first bring a Midrashic commentary and only afterwards teach the plain meaning according to the ARRadah]?
In learning a verse according to its plain meaning — the “pshat” — there are several possibilities:
- Simple, plain and true meaning [translation] of Scripture.
- The simple meaning as teriOved from a Midrashic (exegetic) sense, or a halachic interpretation.
- The plain meaning according to ARRadah (homiletical interpretation).
Clearly, the meaning derived from a halachic exegesis is closer to the simple meaning than one attained from an Aggadic source. For although it is not the literal translation it is an interpretation of the words of the verse as they are understood within a halachic [hence, realistic] con t ext .
By way of illustration let us see Rashi’s commentary on Bereishis:
“In the beginning” — This verse calls aloud for Midrashic explanation ... for the sake of the Torah which is called “the beginning ...” and for the sake of Israel who are called “the beginning.”
In other words this verse should be explained in the manner of “derush” — the exegetical interpretation. But the derush will become the simple the verse. The meaning of the word “Bereishis” will be, “for the sake of the Torah and the sake of the Jews.”
However, the plain meaning according to the Aggadah, this is more of a homiletic-ethical and didactic derivation from the verse — and not necessarily the fundamental literal meaning of Scripture.
Back to our verse:
If the anointed Kohen commits an inadvertent violation bringing guilt to his people.” The literal translation in the Midrashic context is that the details of the case of the Kohen Gadol’s sin r be similar to the details of a community sin. What are the details? Rashi goes on to explain:
He is liable to bring a sin offering only when there was ignorance of the real matter [of the law in question; i.e. after having considered the case in question he came to a wrong decision] together with a mistaken action.
This exegesis now becomes the literal meaning of the Scripture; the guilt of the Kohen Gadol is determined in a fashion similar to the guilt of the community: ignorance and wrong action.
However when Rashi gives us the Pshat in context of Aggadah it is a homily and derivative:
When the Kohen Gadol sins this is the guilt of the people, because they are dependent on him to effect atonement for them and to pray on their behalf, and now he himself has become degenerate.
This is definitely not a literal translation; it is an Aggadah, an ethical teaching which we derive homiletically from the words; that the sin of the Kohen Gadol will have a negative effect for the community.
In this light we can see that the Midrashic interpretation gave us a translation closer to the literal meaning than did the Aggadah — for this reason Rashi lists it first.
Research is still necessary to check whether in all cases where Rashi brings Midrash and Aggadah the Midrash is actually closer to the literal meaning. It is certain however, that in Chumash Vayikra, where many halachos are mentioned in Rashi, this is the case. Which is why Rashi also e it-s for Vayikra ta mention that the subsections (breaks) were given to Moshe between chapters to give him time to contemplate. Having many halachos, the Book of Vayikra needed more “stops” to help Moshe.
May it be the will of G-d, that very soon we will merit the fulfillment of the promise in Shir HaShirim (1:3) as explained in Rashi:
“Communicate Your innermost wisdom to me again in loving closeness” — the revelation of the esoteric teachings of Torah of the future. And then when “those who rest in the earth” will rise, Rashi will be among them and he will tell us what his true intentions were.
And may we merit to fulfill these mitzvos in reality, quickly and truly in our days.