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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas T’zav (5762)

A straightforward comment whose meaning is less than obvious.

Leviticus 6:2

“Command Aaron and his sons saying: This is the law of the Whole Offering [that is] on the fires on the Altar all night until the morning and the fire of the Altar should be kept aflame on it.”

Command Aaron: Rashi: The word “t’zav” is an expression of “urging” both immediately and for future generations. Said Rabbi Shimon: It all the more necessary for the Scriptures to urge [this commandment] in a case where monetary loss is involved.


Rashi’s source is the midrash halacha, Toras Cohanim ( also the Talmud Kedushin 29b). There is a somewhat complex derivation based on a comparison with other verses where the Hebrew word T’zav or m’tzaveh is used. The literal meaning of the word t’zav is “command.” But the added meaning of “urging” is derived from a verse in Deuteronomy 3:28. “But you should command Joshua and strengthen him and give him resolve...” This verse conveys the sense of urging Joshua to do his task well. The idea of “immediately and for future generations” is derived from a verse in Numbers 15:23. “Everything that Hashem has commanded you through Moses from the day that Hashem commanded and onward throughout your generations.”

This is the midrashic derivation of Rashi’s comment.

Have you got a question on his comment?

Your Question:


A Question:

Why does Rashi have to mention the midrash at all?

Is there something about the verse that is bothering him?

What is bothering him?

Hint: Compare our verse with Leviticus 1:1,2.

Your Answer:


An Answer: The use of the word öĺ is a departure from the general language used in the Torah when a mitzvah is given. For example, the book of Leviticus begins the laws of sacrifices with (1:2,) “Speak to the children of Israel and say to them....” Most commandments, too numerous to cite, are introduced in this way.

Why the departure from this formula, by using the word t’zav ?

This may be the spur to Rashi’s comment here.

How does Rashi (and the midrash ) help us understand the verse?

Your Answer:


Rashi felt the need to comment here and use the midrash to explain the loaded meaning of the word t’zav here. Rashi tells us that, not only here but in other places as well, the word öĺ carries its own, independent, message. It means: “I urge you to do these commandments immediately and for generations.” This drash is understandable, since “to command” implies a more demanding request than do the words “to say to.” Certainly “commanding” is appropriate when the person commanded might dally because he doesn’t see the urgency of the command or because implementing it will entail a monetary loss.

“Said Rabbi Shimon”

Rabbi Shimon says the word t’zav, is particularly apt when a loss of money is involved. Does Rabbi Shimon disagree with the first opinion or is he just making an additional comment?

Your Answer:

An Answer: There is a rule of thumb which teaches us whether two opinions of the Sages are antagonistic or complementary. When the second opinion is introduced, as in our case, with “Said Rabbi Shimon” that is, when the verb (“said”) comes before the name (“Rabbi Shimon”), it means only that the Sage, Rabbi Shimon, offers another, alternative interpretation but not that he necessarily disagrees with the first opinion. But, if were to say “Rabbi Shimon said” when the name comes before the verb (“said”), then we assume that he disagrees with previous opinion.

“A Monetary Loss”

This phrase has caused much discussion among the commentaries. What monetary loss does the priest have here? Can you think of an answer?

Your Answer:


Many have attempted to understand the meaning of Rabbi Shimon’s statement.

1) Some say this refers to the burnt offering which is discussed in this section. The burnt offering is totally consumed on the alter. The priest receives nothing from it (as he does in other offerings) except the skin, which was not considered of much value.

So he has to do all the work of sacrificing it with little in return. The Ramban does not agree with this. He apparently considers the skin to be worthwhile payment.

2) The Ramban suggests that this refers to the High Priest’s own offering mentioned later (6:13ff) This meal offering is paid for by the priest but is totally consumed by the alter and he has no personal gratification from it.

3) Another interpretation given is that the priests offer the sacrifices for their brother Israelites, and if the priests have a wrong intention while preparing the offering, the sacrifice is invalidated. The need for the priest to replace the invalidated offering could be the loss that Rav Shimon is referring to.

Can you suggest your own answer?

Hint: Read carefully the first four verses in this section.

Your Answer:


My Answer: If we read carefully these verses we see that the main instruction given to the priest here is that he should take out the ashes. When he performs this mitzvah he must be wearing his priestly garments. Carrying the ashes outside the camp he may sully his beautiful white linen garments. Because of that he must have a second pair ready to change into. ( see the next Rashi analysis.) I would suggest that this is the monetary loss Rav Shimon refers to.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

What’s Bothering Rashi?” is produced by the “Institute for the Study of Rashi.” The Institute is in the process of preparing the Devorim volume of “What’s Bothering Rashi?” This volume will feature Rashi and the Ba’alie Tosephos. Readers interested in sponsoring a sedra in this volume are encouraged to contact us for further details at msbonch@mscc.huji.ac.il Thanking you in advance.

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