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19.03.2019 20:21    Comments: 0    Categories: Weekly Parashah      Tags: torah  shabbat  parashah  vayikra  tzav  

A One-time or a Regular Offering?

In this week’s reading we are told (Lev. 6:12-15):

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:  this is the offering that Aaron and his sons shall offer to the Lord on the occasion of his[1] anointment:  a tenth of an ephah of choice flour as a regular meal offering, half of it in the morning and half of it in the evening, shall be prepared with oil on a griddle.  You shall bring it well soaked, and offer it as a meal offering of baked slices, of pleasing odor to the Lord.  And so shall the priest, anointed from among his sons to succeed him, prepare it; it is the Lord’s—a law for all time—to be turned entirely into smoke.

The difficulty here is immediately apparent:  is this meal offering given once only, “on the occasion of his anointment,” as it says at the beginning of the passage, or is it offered “regularly,” on a daily basis, “half of it in the morning and half of it in the evening,” as we read further on?  The Sages maintained both possibilities, side by side:  from the words, “on the occasion of his anointment,” they deduced the meal offering of initiation that every priest, whether rank and file or High Priest, offers on the day he begins to officiate;[2]and from the word, “regular,” they deduced the meal offering on a griddle (havitin), which is only offered by the High Priest, but is given every day.[3]

Rashbam notes in his commentary on this passage that this is the homiletic interpretation, which utilizes to the fullest every little nuance of the language,[4]but by way of the plain sense, we are only dealing with a single offering here.[5] Since, he argues, it is explicitly stated that this is the meal offering of “the priest, anointed from among his sons to succeed him,” we must be dealing with the meal offering of the High Priest, which is offered “regularly,” every day, and not the meal offering of initiation given by each and every priest.[6]

This interpretation, however, runs up against two substantial difficulties:  1) The offering is given by “Aaron and his sons”—but nowhere do we find this expression used to refer to his sons who will succeed him as High Priest, rather it is used specifically to refer to his sons, the rank and file priests, who officiated alongside their father, the High Priest.[7] 2) This offering is made “onthe occasion of his anointment,” but if we are dealing with the daily havitinoffering, we must read the text as “from the occasion of his anointment” onwards, replacing the letter bet with a mem, and such interchanges of letter from bet to mem are documented in Scripture.[8] But if so, what does the text seek to teach us?  Could we possibly conceive that the High Priest would make his offering before being appointed High Priest?!

Thus, we have a conundrum here:  one way or another, Scripture seems to be contradicting itself regarding the nature of the single offering being described.  Many commentators have grappled with this question, but the conundrum remains unsolved.[9]

The solution is apparently to be found by taking an overall look at this week’s reading.  Chapters 6-7, as is known, return to the subject of the five types of offering already discussed in chapters 1-5 of Leviticus, in Parashat Va-Yikra.  Moreover, at the beginning of Leviticus it is remarked that these words were said “from the Tent of Meeting” (Lev. 1:1), whereas at the end of chapter 7 it says that these things were commanded “on Mount Sinai” (Lev. 7:38).  And further, the conclusion of chapter 7 mentions not only the five sorts of offerings discussed thus far, but also the “offerings of ordination,” which had received no mention until now.

These serious difficulties were brilliantly resolved by Rabbi D. Tz. Hoffman in his commentary on the beginning of Leviticus:[10] Chapters 6-7 were originally delivered prior to chapters 1-5, because the latter were said “from the Tent of Meeting,” as it says in the introductory words, whereas the former were said prior to erecting the Tabernacle, “on Mount Sinai,” as explicitly said in the concluding words.

Chapters 6-7 are thus no more than the continuation of chapter 29 of the book of Exodus, which was indeed delivered on Mount Sinai.  This chapter first discussed the offerings of ordination of Aaron and his sons, consecrating them to serve in the Tabernacle (verse 1-35), then the anointment and consecration of the altar during the days of ordination (verses 36-37), and lastly the regular burnt-offering, whose discussion is brought to a close with the festive concluding passage of verses 38-46.

Henceforth, the “ritual of the burnt offering” in Leviticus (6:2-6) is the complement to the ordination offerings and regular offerings in Exodus 29; the “ritual of the meal offering” in Leviticus (6:7-11) follows the regular meal offering in Exodus (29:40-41); the “ritual of the sin offering” in Leviticus (6:18-23) follows the sin offering of ordination in Exodus; next comes the “ritual of the guilt offering” (Lev. 7:1-7), for both the sin offering and the guilt offering are “most holy” (Lev. 6:18, 7:1), and “the guilt offering is like the sin offering.  The same rule applies to both” (Lev. 7:7); whereas “the ritual of the sacrifice of well-being,” which concludes the passage (Lev. 7:11ff), follows both the ram of ordination in Exodus, which is a sacrifice of well-being (see Ex. 29:28:  “For they are a gift; and so shall they be a gift from the Israelites, their gift to the Lord out of their sacrifices of well-being”), and the mention of offerings of well-being in the “ritual of the burnt offering” (Lev. 6:5).[11]

Thus the conclusion of chapter 7 (“Such are the rituals of the burnt offering…and the offering of ordination”), which mentions the offering of ordination that had thus far not come up in Leviticus, serves as a concluding passage not only for chapters 6-7 of Leviticus, but also for chapter 29 of Exodus, which is indeed devoted mostly to the offerings of ordination.

Now if we examine chapters 6-7 of Leviticus we find that the “ritual of the burnt offering” comes under the heading, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying” (Lev. 6:1), but this heading is not repeated at the beginning of the “ritual of the meal offering,” which comes next—the first heading serves for the passage on meal offerings as well.  But before we move on to the meal offering that concerns us here, we have a repetition of the heading (“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,” Lev. 6:12), and likewise at the beginning of “the ritual of the sin offering,” which follows (verse 17).

The “ritual of the guilt offering” that comes next has no heading, neither does the “ritual of the sacrifice of well-being.”  Next come the prohibitions concerning the fat parts and the blood, and again they are given a heading (verse 22), and lastly the previous heading is repeated to introduce the completion of the ritual of sacrifices of well-being (verse 28).  This makes it easy to see that the prohibitions of the fat parts and blood do not belong to the main body of the reading, but were only inserted by way of a side remark, and therefore they needed to have a heading.  Afterwards, to return to the main theme of the reading, another heading was called for.

The fact that such a heading also occurs before the regular meal offering and after it thus indicates that this, too, is not part of the main flow of the reading, but is mentioned here as an aside to the “ritual of the meal offering” that precedes it.[12]

Now we should be able to solve the conundrum we described.  The general body of chapters 6-7 of Leviticus are, as we said, a continuation of chapter 29 of Exodus, but the passage about “the offering that Aaron and his sons shall offer to the Lord on the occasion of his anointment,” is exceptional in these chapters, and this indicates to us that it was transferred here from its original setting.

It appears that this passage applies to what was said in Exodus 29, continuing the text:  “and each day you shall prepare a bull as a sin offering for expiation; you shall purge the altar by performing purification upon it, and you shall anoint it to consecrate it” (Ex. 29:36).  In continuation it says that “on the occasion of its anointment,”—not his anointment (in both cases, the Hebrew would read oto), i.e., anointment not of the priests, but of the altar—Aaron and his sons are to make the regular meal offering, an offering to be made henceforth, every day.  For all time, this meal offering is to be made only by “the priest, anointed from among his sons to succeed him”; and rank and file priests are not anointed.

sBut Aaron’s sons were anointed along with their father when they were consecrated for the priesthood (Ex. 29:21, 40:15, and Lev. 8:30),[13] hence they too participated in the havitin meal offering just this one time.  The source for this reading is thus in the book of Exodus, but because of the part that deals with the practice for all time and because of its clear connection with the “ritual of the meal offering,” it was incorporated here.[14]

Now all the difficulties have been resolved.  “On the occasion of its anointment” is to be read as is, meaning “on that day,” not “from that day,” for we are not dealing with anointment of the priests, but rather with anointment of the altar; also, there is no longer a problem with the switch from plural, “Aaron and his sons,” to singular, “his anointment” (according to the other attribution of oto).  Thus, Scripture tells us that on the day of the altar’s anointment Aaron and his sons would offer the havitin meal offering, in continuation of the rest of the offerings of the day, and from then on it would be offered by the High Priest as a regular daily offering for all time.

Interestingly, the phrase, “on the occasion of its anointment,” appears another two times in Scripture (Num. 7:10, 84), and one other similar expression, “after its anointment,” occurs in Num. 7:88, and in all these instances the reference is not to anointment of the priests, but of the altar.

Translated by Rachel Rowen

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