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1. Why, according to Rashi, did Moses summon 'the elders of Israel' (9:1) as well as Aaron, on the 'Eighth Day'?
2. What blessing (9:22) did Moses and Aaron give the people at the end of the service of the consecration of the Tabernacle, according to Rashi?
3. Why, according to (a) the text, (b) Rashi, and (c) the Ramban, did Aaron's eldest sons, Nadav and Avihu, die?
4. Aaron was silent after Moses said of his sons' deaths: "This is what G-d speaks… I will be honored by those who are close to Me" (10:3). What do those words mean according to (a) Rashi, and (b) the Rashbam?
5. Which law in this Parasha did G-d communicate to Aaron only - and, according to Rashi, why?
6. What, according to Rashi's interpretation, were the two sides of the dispute between Moses and Aaron's family in 10:16-19?
7. Who won? And how did the 'loser' react?
8. Why, according to Rashi, does the Torah prohibit certain categories of foods?
9. Archaeologists have found that a very high proportion of vessels used in homes from the end of the Second Temple period were made of stone. Why would this have been to their advantage, based on the text of this Parasha?
10. How, according to the text of the Parasha, may water render the pure impure, and the impure, pure?
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON PARASHAT SHEMINI AND ITS COMMENTARIES
1. According to Rashi, Moses summoned 'the elders of Israel' so that they might see for themselves that Aaron had been elevated to the position of High Priest by the Almighty Himself, and that he had neither seized it for himself, nor been awarded it though his close family connection with Moses.
2. According to the tradition quoted by Rashi, the blessing that Moses and Aaron gave to the Israelites at the conclusion of the inauguration of the Tabernacle was that later contained in the 'Prayer to Moses' - Psalms 90:17. It was: 'May the pleasantness of the L-rd our G-d be upon us'.
3. Aaron's eldest sons, Nadav and Avihu, died:
(a) according to the text - because they offered frankincense in the Tabernacle - which had not specifically been commanded by G-d.
(b) the above offence was aggravated, according to Talmudic sources quoted by Rashi, by their doing it without having consulting Moses (thus having rendered a Halachic decision about a matter on which they should have asked their teacher), or alternatively, that they brought the offering after having drunk too much wine.
(c) according to the Ramban, they offered the daily incense on the Inner Altar - though they had not been commanded to do so.
4. "This is what G-d speaks… I will be honored by those who are close to Me":
according to Rashi (following Ex. 29:43 and Rashi's comment thereon), the text means G-d was honored by the death of Nadav and Avihu. When G-d imposes strict justice even upon the righteous, He is feared and honored. For people will say that if this is what the righteous suffer for their relatively small mistakes, the punishment of the wicked will be much worse. (b) according to the Rashbam, the text does not mean that G-d was honored by the death of Nadav and Avihu, but He was honored through the surviving sons, Elazar and Itamar. Despite their intense grief at the death of their elder brothers, they continued their duties to serve in the Tabernacle (c.f. 10:7). Thus G-d is honored when His people continue to carry out His commandments even under the most difficult circumstances.
5. The commandment was the prohibition of performing the Temple service under the influence of intoxicating drink (10:8-9). Rashi explains that G-d's recognition of Aaron's strength of character in keeping silent after hearing G-d's explanation of the death of his two sons came in the form of His exclusive communication to Aaron of that next Mitzva in the Torah.
6. The dispute between Moses and Aaron's family was over the destruction of a sin offering that should have been eaten (10:16). Rashi quotes sources that the offering in question was the communal sin offering for Rosh Chodesh. Aaron, Elazar, and Itamar all had the status of 'onen' - a person who has suffered bereavement, and not yet buried the dead. Were they allowed to eat from the offerings or not? G-d had commanded that they should eat from the meal offering (10:12), despite their 'onen' status. Moses thought that they therefore were to partake of all offerings - despite their 'onen' status. Aaron and his sons reasoned that that was not so. The meal offering was a once-off offering for the consecration of the Tabernacle (see Rashi to 10:12) - and as such, was permitted to be eaten even by a priest who was an 'onen'. This permit did not apply to regular offerings - such as the Rosh Chodesh offering. Whereas Aaron and his sons made that distinction, Moses did not.
7. 'Moses heard, and he approved' (10:20). As Rashi elaborates, he humbly conceded that Aaron and his sons were in the right.
8. According to Rashi, the Torah prohibits certain categories of foods, because it is the spiritual mission of the Israelites to attach themselves to the Almighty - the Ultimate Source. As such, the Israelites must not consume foods that the Creator states obstruct spiritual progress towards being at one with Him.
9. This is because stone vessels are harder to defile. They only become 'tameh' though their harder-to-reach interior, and not through contact on the outside (11:32-3).
10. Water detached from its source may act as an agent to transmit 'tumah' - defilement - to pure articles (11:38). Water attached to its source - such as a well, may be used to immerse defiled vessels for purification (11:36).
ADDITIONAL ISSUE TO LOOK AT ON PARASHAT SHEMINI
Regarding Aaron being privileged to be the sole direct recipient from G-d of the prohibition of performing the Temple service under the influence of drink (10:8-9, as per Rashi to 10:3)…
Aaron was a bereaved father. How was G-d's communicating to him the injunction against serving in the Tabernacle (and later in the Temple) when drunk, relevant to Aaron's human feelings at that moment? How could this be a reward for keeping silent? Following the tradition brought by R. Ishmael (Vayikra Rabba 12:1) that Aaron's sons died because they entered the Tabernacle after drinking wine, would not telling Aaron that such behavior was punishable by death be rubbing salt into an open wound?
My efforts at tackling the issue raised above may be found on the Shema Yisrael website for Parashat Vayikra for 5760.
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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