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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Tetzaveh (70)

This week's sedra continues the description of the building of the Tabernacle with the focus on the materials used and the priest's special clothing.

Let us look at the first verse.

Exodus 27:20

You shall command the Children of Israel and have them bring to you clear olive oil, beaten for lighting to keep the lamp burning constantly (Hebrew: "tamid").


Constantly: Rashi: Each and every night is called constantly (Hebrew: "tamid"). As you say: "olas tamid" a constant olah sacrifice (Numbers 28:6), but is only from day to day. Likewise it says regarding the "flat-pan mincha" offering, the word "tamid" (Leviticus 6:13), and is only brought half in the morning and half in the evening. But the word tamid which it says regarding the "show-bread" (above 25:30) was from Shabbos to Shabbos.


An Answer: Rashi is responding to the Hebrew word "tamid" which seems to mean "always". But the question is: The light did not burn continuously (always) in the Tabernacle. It burned only at night. So why the word "tamid" ?

How does Rashi answer this?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi teaches us at the word "tamid" means constantly (regularly, but not necessarily uninterrupted).The light was burning regularly at night - every night, but not all the time (not during the daytime). He corrects a possible misunderstanding: that "tamid" means continuously. He tells us it means here constantly not continuously.


What does Rashi mean, at the end of his comment, when he says: "But the word tamid which it says regarding the "show-bread" (above 25:30) was from Shabbos to Shabbos."? What does he mean by "but"?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The Show Bread ("lechem haPanim") also is said to be "tamid". But that "tamid" must mean continuously (all the time) because it was in the Tabernacle continuously from week to week and only was removed when it was immediately replaced with new bread. So here "tamid" does mean always. Rashi teaches us that the word "tamid" may mean either continuously (on-going, without interruption) as by the Show-bread, or it can mean constantly (regularly, but not necessarily uninterrupted), as in our verse and the other verse he cites.


A Question; The Ibn Ezra asks a question from a verse further on. In verse 28:38 it speaks of the Golden plate that was on the turban of the High Priest. It says: "And it shall be on Aaron's forehead and Aaron will bear the sin of the sacred offerings which the Children of Israel consecrate for all their sacred gifts. It shall be on his forehead always ("tamid") to make them acceptable before Hashem."

Now, asks the Ibn Ezra, was that plate on Aaron's head always? Certainly not! Nor was it there on regular intervals. So why was the word "tamid" used?


Ibn Ezra answers the question by saying "It will be on his forehead whenever ( always) he enters the Holy place. So it is always on his forehead, when he enters the Holy place. It is always on his forehead when he wears the High Priest's clothes including the turban.


But Rashi gives a different answer on that verse. He cites the Talmud's (Yoma 7b) saying we must read the word "tamid" together with the following word "to make them acceptable". This means that the plate always makes them acceptable (it atones for them). But this is really a drash, not simple p'shat, because the word "tamid" is not reasonably connected with the word after it. Ibn Ezra's interpretation is much more p'shat.


From this case we see something interesting regarding Rashi's approach to interpretation. Rashi had said (Genesis 3:8) that his commentary comes to offer p'shat interpretations. Because of that statement it is commonly believed that Rashi's commentary is basically p'shat oriented. In fact, it doesn't seem to be mainly p'shat. It has much drash in it, like the example from our verse.

It is noteworthy to mention a statement made by the Rashbam, Rashi's grandson, (see Rashbam on Genesis 37:1). He said he had many discussions with his famous grandfather (Rashi) and Rashi had told him that if would make a newer commentary on the Torah he would include much more p'shat interpretations. That's surprising in a way, but maybe it shouldn't be. Learning Torah is always a process of development, as it seems it was even for Rashi.


As an aside, I would mention that our synagogues have a light that is continuously lit; it is called the Ner Tamid (Eternal light). It is either hanging from the ceiling or up front near the chazan's place. This light burns 24/7. But according to our Rashi comment we know that the original Ner Tamid did not burn continuously. It burned each night until the morning. And probably only since the invention of electricity was a continuous light possible. There are also candles lit up front near where the chazzan stands. These too are probably to be reminiscent of the Tabernacle's Ner Tamid.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.

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