What's Bothering Rashi? Parshat Emor: Hashem's Appointed Festivals
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Emor(Leviticus 21-24)

Hashem's Appointed Festivals

Leviticus 23:2

"Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: Hashem's appointed festivals which you shall designate as callings of holiness – these are My appointed festivals."

 

RASHI

Speak to the Children of Israel ... Hashem's appointed festivals - RASHI: Regulate the appointed festivals so that [all] Israel can be present at them. This teaches us that they proclaim a Leap Year because of the exiles (in Babylon) who have left their homes to ascend for the festival but have not yet arrived in Jerusalem.

 

BACKGROUND

During the Temple period it was a mitzvah to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the festivals in order to participate in the Temple service. During the Second Temple many Jews remained in exile, many in Babylon and some in Egypt. The trip to Jerusalem was long and particularly difficult if the roads were muddied by the rains. Therefore, if the Festival of Passover fell out early in the year, while the rains were still falling, the pilgrims would most likely be delayed. Therefore, the Sanhedrin, who had the power to proclaim a leap year by adding a second Adar, would do so in order to push Passover off until after the rainy season, so that they would arrive in time for the Festival. This is what Rashi says our verse teaches us.

What would you ask about the comment?

Your Question:

 

QUESTIONING RASHI

A Question: How does Rashi find this in the Torah's words?

This is not easy. Perhaps you can get it.

Hint: Look closely at the dibbur hamatchil.

Your Answer:

 

WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?

An Answer: The verse says "Speak to the Children of Israel" to declare the Holy days, but it is not the people who make this declaration - it is the Elders, the Sanhedrin. So the words "Speak to the Children of Israel" must have a different message.

Now, notice what Rashi does. Look at his dibbur hamatchil.

Do you see anything unusual?

Your Answer:

 

RASHI'S DIBBUR HAMATCHIL

Answer: Rashi deletes the words "and say to them" in order to place the words "Children of Israel" immediately next to the words "God's Appointed Festivals." This is certainly intentional and the idea is derived from the Midrash Torat Cohanim.

 

RASHI'S MIDRASHIC SOURCE

There the Midrash says: "How do we learn that we proclaim a leap year for the exiles who have left home but have not yet arrived in Jerusalem? Because it says 'Children of Israel ... God's Appointed Festivals.' Make the Appointed Festivals so that all Israel can participate."

We see that the Rashi makes the connection as the Midrash does; Rashi does this by his abbreviated dibbur hamatchil.

 

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PEOPLE'S PARTICIPATION

It is obvious that is important to have the people participate in these national/religious Holy days. But it is not as obvious why the Sanhedrin went through all this effort so that each and every Jew, even those in exile, could attend.

I would suggest that a nuance in the words of our verse may hint at the significance of the personal participation of each Jew at these festivals.

Do you see anything unusual about the wording?

Your Answer:

 

A Deeper Understanding

An Answer: Notice that the verse begins with the words "God's Appointed Times" and ends with God saying, "these are My Appointed Times." The switch from the impersonal, third person ("God's") to the more personal, second person ("My") (as is the formula for our daily blessings), hints at the importance of meeting God personally. The Holy days and the Temple service are an appropriate time and place for such a meeting. As it says in Deuteronomy 16:16, "Three times a year shall all your males appear before Hashem, your God, in the place He shall choose; on the Festival of Matzos, and on the Festival of Shavuoth and on the Festival of Succoth, and he shall not appear before Hashem empty-handed." And in a similar context, it says in Exodus 23:15, "they shall not see My face empty-handed." "Seeing My face" is certainly a vivid way of describing a personal encounter with God. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Sanhedrin went to such lengths to enable each and every Jew to personally experience this Divine encounter.

 

Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek


Published: May 2, 2009

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