י׳ בכסלו ה׳תשע״ד (November 13, 2013)

Yoma 5a-b: When in Mourning at the Inauguration

The week of preparations for consecrating the Mishkan in the desert (Vayikra 9) ends with the tragic story of the death of Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu (see Vayikra 10). Ordinarily, the death of a close relative gives someone the status of an onein – a high level of mourning – whose focus on caring for proper burial limits participation in normal daily activities, including many mitzvot. For kohanim specifically, an onein would not participate in the Temple service, nor eat from the sacrifices. In the case of the week of the milu’im (inauguration), the Torah records a disagreement between Moshe and Aharon’s family about the level of participation they should have in the ceremonies following the death of two of Aharon’s children. The Gemara on our daf examines the disagreement and its background.

A baraita is quoted that points out Moshe’s repeated use of the term tzivah – commanded – on this day, with regard to:

  • the special minha that was brought for on the occasion of the consecration of the Mishkan (see Vayikra 10:12-13).
  • the korban hatat that was part of the Rosh Hodesh service (the Mishkan was consecrated on Rosh Hodesh Nisan, see Vayikra 10:18).
  • the korban shelamim that was brought by the leader of each tribe (this is described in Bamidbar 7:16; the command to eat it appears in Vayikra 10:14-15).

According to the baraita, the difference of opinion between Moshe and Aharon stems from Moshe’s initial command that the sacrifices be eaten by Aharon and his sons, even though they were in a situation of aninut. He explained that the consecration of the Mishkan was so important that God commanded them to continue their participation even though Nadav and Avihu had died.

When Moshe discovered that the of Rosh Hodesh had not been eaten, but had instead been burned (Vayikra 10:16), he demanded to know why the commandment had not been carried out. Aharon distinguished between the special minha that was brought because of the Tabernacle consecration (which had to be eaten) and the korban hatat of Rosh Hodesh that was not part of the special ceremony (which did not have to be eaten). Moshe admits that Aharon was correct, but insists that with regard to the other sacrifices there was a specific command of God that they must be eaten.

The Rosh points out that this explanation does not fit into the simple order of the pesukim, which has the sacrifice on Rosh Hodesh as the last one discussed. He applies the well-known rule ein mukdam u’me’uhar ba-Torah – that the Torah was not written in chronological order – to explain the baraita’s reasoning.

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