What's Bothering Rashi? Parshat Emor: Day After The Sabbath
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Emor(Leviticus 21-24)

Day After The Sabbath

This week's Parsha deals with many laws of the Kohanim. Also included are the laws of the Holy Days of the year.

Vayikra 23:11

"He shall wave the Omer before Hashem to be an appeasement for you; on the day after the Sabbath, the Priest shall wave it."

 

RASHI

On the day after the Sabbath - Rashi: The day after the first day of the festival of Pesach. {This must be the meaning of "Sabbath" here) because if you say it means the Sabbath of Creation (i.e. the weekly Sabbath), then you would not know which Sabbath [the Torah was referring to].

 

WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?

The verse seems to say that the Omer offering is to be brought on the day following the Sabbath. The word "Sabbath" means the seventh day of the week. But Rashi (on the basis of the Sages' interpretation) tells us that the Sabbath here does not mean the seventh day of the week; rather, it means the festival (the first day of Pesach) – which is also a day of rest, which is the literal meaning of the word "Sabbath."

Certainly this does not seem to be the simple meaning of the verse.

What would you ask?

 

QUESTIONING RASHI

A Question: Why does Rashi prefer the unusual meaning of "Sabbath" (festival) over its usual meaning (the seventh day)?

Hint: Actually Rashi's comment contains the answer.

Your Answer:

 

UNDERSTANDING RASHI

An Answer: Rashi says it can't mean the regular Sabbath because then we wouldn't know which specific Sabbath of the year was referred to and hence we wouldn't know when the Omer should be brought.

Nevertheless, one could still ask a question on Rashi's translating the word "Sabbath" as "festival."

Your Question:

 

A FURTHER QUESTION

A Question: Where do we ever find that the word "Sabbath" means "festival" in the Torah? Doesn't it always mean "the seventh day"? Can you find an example of "Sabbath" meaning "festival"?

Your Answer:

 

A FULLER UNDERSTANDING

An Answer: Yes the Torah does occasionally refer to festival as "Sabbath."

See this Chapter (23) Verse 24 where Rosh Hashanah is referred to as "Shabbaton," and again in verse 23:39 referring to Succot it says: "on the first day Shabbaton and on the eighth day Shabbaton." All these are examples of "Shabbat" used to designate a festival, or more precisely, a day of rest. So Rashi's interpretation of "the day after the Sabbath" as the day after the festival does have parallels in the Torah.

 

AN INTERESTING POINT

Note that Yom Kippur is called "Shabbat Shabbaton" (the Sabbath of Sabbaths - 23:32). This has been explained to mean that Yom Kippur is the Sabbath of the festivals. There are six festivals ("Sabbaths") during the year:

 

  1. Rosh Hashanah
  2. First day of Succot
  3. Shemini Atzeret
  4. First day of Pesach
  5. Last day of Pesach
  6. One day of Shavuot.

 

Thus, Yom Kippur is the Sabbath of those six days. On the six festivals one is permitted to do some "work" (e.g., prepare food). But all work is forbidden on Yom Kippur, so it stands as the Sabbath (the seventh day) of these festivals (Sabbaths).

 

A HISTORICAL NOTE

It is interesting to mention that there was a very serious and long-standing dispute between the Talmudic Sages and the Sadducees. The latter claimed that the word "Sabbath" in our verse meant Saturday, thus the "day after the Sabbath" meant Sunday. The Sages refuted their claim with many different arguments. It seems that the Christian celebration of Easter Sunday can most likely be traced back to this debate. That day is usually the Sunday after the first day of Pesach.

 

Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek


Published: May 1, 2004

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