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Parsha and Manuscript: Acharei Mot - ‘A parable of a physician’

Friday, 1 May, 2020 - 6:28 am

MS. Canon. Or. 81, fol. 109 Acharei.pngIn the portion of Acharei Mot, it discusses the entry into the Holy of Holies by the High Priest on Yom Kippur, stating that he may only enter once a year on the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur and not enter any other time so that he may not pass away. In the warning to Aaron that he should not enter any other time, Moses warns him by saying that he should not enter so that he will not be punished like his sons passed away due to their own sin when they entered the holy of holies for being intoxicated or for usurping the authority of Moses.[1]

 

The Torah states:[2]

 

1. And the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron's two sons, when they drew near before the Lord, and they died. 2. And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to your brother Aaron, that he should not come at all times into the Holy within the dividing curtain, in front of the cover that is upon the ark, so that he should not die, for I appear over the ark cover in a cloud. 3. With this shall Aaron enter the Holy: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

 

The two questions that arise are: firstly, why the double phrase: ‘And the Lord spoke to Moses,’ with no content of what was said, followed by a second phrase: ‘And the Lord said to Moses,’ commanding: ‘he should not come at all times into the Holy?’ Secondly, why the description of when this teaching took place: ‘after the death of the two sons of Aaron?’

 

We will explore the way the primary commentary addressing these questions on this verse is presented as found in the work of the Midrash Sifra - Torat Kohanim, and how it is incorporated in the commentary of Rashi. In this context, we will also look at variations in the Oxford Hebrew manuscripts of Rashi as to how this teaching from Torat Kohanim is presented.

 

MS. Oppenheim 34, fol. 67 Acharei.pngPhysician’s most effective warning

 

Torat Kohanim states:[3]

 

‘And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to your brother Aaron, that he should not come at all times:’ And we do not know what was said to him in the first statement? Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah illustrated this with a parable of a sick patient, whom a physician came to visit. The physician said to him, “Do not eat cold foods, and do not lie down in a cold, damp place.” Then, another physician visited him, and advised him, “Do not eat cold foods or lie down in a cold, damp place.” Another physician visited him, and advised him, “Do not eat cold foods or lie down in a cold, damp place so that you will not die the way so-and-so died.” This one warned that patient more effectively than all of them. Therefore, Scripture says, “And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to your brother Aaron, that he should not come at all times.”

 

A further version of this teaching is with two physicians:

 

‘And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to your brother Aaron, that he should not come at all times:’ And we do not know what was said to him in the first statement? Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah illustrated this with a parable of a sick patient, whom a physician came to visit. The physician said to him, “Do not eat cold foods, and do not lie down in a cold, damp place.” Then, another physician visited him, and advised him, “Do not eat cold foods or lie down in a cold, damp place so that you will not die the way so-and-so died.” This one warned that patient more effectively than all of them. Therefore, Scripture says, “And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to your brother Aaron, that he should not come at all times.”

 

The question this teaching is addressing is: what is the purpose of the first statement. The answer, according to the first version, is: the first statement is to warn Aaron not to enter the holy at all times, the second is to warn Aaron that he will die if he enters at all times, and the third to warn him most effectively, that he should not die like his two sons died. According to the second version, the first statement is to warn Aaron not to enter the holy at all times, and the second is to warn Aaron more effectively that he should not die like his two sons died. Rabbi Judah Loew (1520-1609) writes that the first version with three physicians is correct, as this is indicated by the end of the teaching: ‘This one warned that patient more effectively than all of them.’ Had there been only two physicians it would have stated: ‘This one warned that patient more effectively than the first.’[4]

 

Structure

 

The structure of the warning may be understood in the following three ways:

 

1. The first less effective warning is in verse 2: ‘And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to your brother Aaron, that he should not come at all times into the Holy.’ The more effective warning is in verse 1: ‘And the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron's two sons, when they drew near before the Lord, and they died.’[5]

 

2. The first warning is beginning of verse 1: ‘And the Lord spoke to Moses,’ followed by part of verse 2: ‘Speak to your brother Aaron, that he should not come at all times into the Holy within the dividing curtain, in front of the cover that is upon the ark, so that he should not die, for I appear over the ark cover.’ The second warning is verse 2: ‘And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to your brother Aaron, that he should not come at all times into the Holy within the dividing curtain, in front of the cover that is upon the ark, so that he should not die, for I appear over the ark cover in a cloud.’ The third warning is from the second part of verse 1 and verse 2: ‘after the death of Aaron's two sons, when they drew near before the Lord, and they died. And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to your brother Aaron, that he should not come at all times into the Holy within the dividing curtain, in front of the cover that is upon the ark, so that he should not die.’[6]

 

According to both the above versions, the Torah is not structured in chronological order: the most effective warning is mentioned in verse 1 and the earlier less effective warning in verse 2.[7] This is also the view of Rabbi Elijah Mizrachi[8] and Rabbi Judah Loew in the 16th century.[9]

 

3. A further way to understand the structure of the text is that the warning of the first physician is just the words in the opening of verse 1: ‘And the Lord spoke to Moses.’ The second more effective statement is: ‘after the death of Aaron’s two sons, when they drew near before the Lord, and they died. And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to your brother Aaron, that he should not come at all times into the Holy.’

 

In this structure the first warning is not stated explicitly at all in the Torah but is deduced from the wording of the warning of the second physician that incorporates also the less effective first warning in his own warning: ‘he should not come at all times into the Holy, so that he should not die.’ This is in fact a repetition of the first warning, with the addition ‘after thedeath of the two sons Aaron’ that is intended to make the warning more effective. According to this, Rabbi Judah Loew argues, there are two warnings in the second warning about the punishment of death for entering the holy at any time: the first is a possibility of death (‘so that he should not die’), while the second (‘after the death of the two sons of Aaron’) is demonstration that it will definitely occur, as what happened to Aaron’s two sons. In this structure, the text of the Torah is in order: the first warning is the opening of verse 1: ‘And the Lord spoke to Moses,’ while the second warning begins immediately afterwards in verse 1 and 2.[10]

 

In summary: the question of the Torat Kohanim is: why the repetition of the two statements? The answer is based on the notion that there were more than one warning to Aaron: a less effective one, followed by a more effective one. The prevalent view of the commentators is that the earlier text of the Torat Kohanim is that there were in fact three warnings: commandment, warning of punishment and most effective warning.

 

Rashi – two warnings

 

Rashi in his commentary brings also the teaching of the Torat Kohanim about the physicians but with two changes: Rashi states:

 

And the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons: What does this teach us? Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah illustrated [the answer] with a parable of a patient, whom a physician came to visit. [The physician] said to him, “Do not eat cold foods, and do not lie down in a cold, damp place.” Then, another [physician] visited him, and advised him, “Do not eat cold foods or lie down in a cold, damp place, so that you will not die the way so-and-so died.” This one warned that patient more effectively than the former. Therefore, Scripture says, “after the death of Aaron’s two sons.”

 

In the text of Rashi, in the printed edition, there are two changes in the text compared to the original text of the Torat Kohanim: firstly, the case is of only about two physicians, not three. Secondly, the question is: ‘And the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons: What does this teach us?’ It omits however: ‘And we do not know what was said to him in the first statement.’

 

Manuscripts

 

In the manuscripts of Rashi at the Bodleian Library there are two variations how the text from Torat Kohanim is cited in Rashi. The first is pertaining to the phrasing of the question, whereby two versions can be found. In MS. Oppenheim Add. 4° 188 (1301-1400)[11] and MS. Michael 384 (1399),[12] after the basic question: ‘What does this teach us?’ it adds: ‘And we do not know what was said to him in the first statement,’ as found in the Torat Kohanim. In MS. Canonici Or. 35 (1401-1425),[13] this addition has been added in the margin. In most other manuscripts, however, it has only: ‘What does this teach us?’ This includes: MS. Oppenheim 34 (1201-1225),[14] MS. Canon. Or. 81 (1396),[15] MS. Oppenheim 35 (1408),[16] as well as Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig B.H.1, the Bomberg Chumash (1507), and the printed version we have nowadays.

 

A second variation is the quotation of the Biblical text at the end of the commentary. In the printed edition it states: ‘Therefore, Scripture says, “after the death of Aaron’s two sons.”’ This is how it is found in MS. Canon. Or. 81 (1396),[17] MS. Oppenheim 35 (1408),[18] MS. Oppenheim Add. 4° 188 (1301-1400),[19] MS. Canonici Or. 35 (1401-1425),[20] as well as Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig B.H.1, the Bomberg Chumash (1507) and the printed version we have nowadays. Other versions have the continuation of the text in the same paragraph: ‘Therefore, Scripture says, “after the death of Aaron’s two sons, And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to your brother Aaron, that he should not come at all times into the holy, so that he will not die the way his sons died.”’ This includes: MS. Oppenheim 34 (1201-1225)[21] and MS. Michael 384 (1399).[22] What is the significance of these variations? I would like to argue that these variations reflect two ways to understand the opening question of the Torat Kohanim: ‘What does this teach us?’

 

One question or two questions?

 

Rabbi Elijah Mizrachi and Rabbi Judah Loew explain that the question of the Torat Kohanim and Rashi is the same question: What is the purpose of the first statement ‘And the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons,’ since nothing is taught in this first statement? Rabbi David Pardo (1718-1790) explains[23] that there are two questions that Rashi is addressing. In addition to the above question, it is asking about the need for the timing: Why does the verse offer a time - ‘after the death of Aaron’s two sons’ - for when the law ‘do not enter the holy at all times’ was taught? In Likkutei Sichot, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, argues[24] that the second question about the timing of the commandment is in fact the only question that Rashi is addressing.

 

Advantages

 

The advantage of the first form of question: ‘why two statements?’ is that it explains the need for two physicians, reflected in two separate statements: 1. And the Lord said to Moses, speak to your brother Aaron, do not enter the holy at all times.’ 2. And the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons.’ If the question is only about the time of the commandment, suggesting the timing is not peripheral piece of information, but as part of the commandment, for it to be more affective, it could have been included in a parable of a single physician.[25] Conversely, the advantage of framing the question pertaining to the time of the commandment is that there is no need to suggest, as proposed by Rabbeinu Hillel ben Eliakim and Rabbi Elijah Mizrachi,[26] that the text of the Torah is out of order, since the two statements: ‘and G-d spoke to Moses’ in verse one, and ‘and G-d said to Moses’ in verse two, are not in fact two separate statements but one statement, with the timing (‘after the death of two sons of Aaron’) mentioned to emphasise that the warning was presented in the most effective way.[27]

 

Explaining the manuscripts

 

Based on the two interpretations of the question of Rashi, we can explain the variations in the manuscripts. The manuscripts that incorporate the words found in the Torat Kohanim: ‘And we do not know what was said to him in the first statement,’ follows the view that the question is only addressing the lack of content in the first statements and why it is needed. The manuscripts that do not include this additional statement and only writes: ‘What does this teach us?’ follows the view that the question is about the timing. Alternatively, the question is pertaining to both, the need for the first statement and the timing.

 

Similarly, the version of the manuscripts that include in the closing of the commentary, only the words: ‘Therefore, Scripture says, “after the death of Aaron’s two sons,”’ as found in the printed edition, follows the view that it is only these words – about the timing - that is being addressed. To clarify this, for this reason, it does not include in the same sentence the continuation in the same sentence: ‘And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to your brother Aaron, that he should not come at all times into the holy, so that he will not die the way his sons died.’ The manuscripts that include the continuation of the verse is due to the fact that the parable of the two physicians clarify this very point, following the view of Rabbi Judah Loew: The first verse is: And the Lord spoke to Moses.’ The second more effective statement is: ‘after the death of Aaron’s two sons, together with the continuation in verse two: ‘And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to your brother Aaron, that he should not come at all times into the Holy, so that he will not die.’[28]

 

 


 

Footnotes 

[1] Rabbi Elijah Mizrach.

[2] Leviticus 16:1-3.

[3] Torat Kohanim, Acharei Mot, 1:3, according to the version of Rabbi Elijah Mizrachi.

[4] This is how Rashi finishes the text of the commentary, as he in fact only cites the version with two physicians. The reason Rashi cites only a case of two physicians, although there are three warnings, is because the Torah only mentions two statements: ‘And the Lord spoke to Moses’ and ‘And the Lord said to Moses.’ Rashi’s commentary only quotes Midrashic teachings that are most compatible with the reading of the text of the Torah (Rabbi Elijah Mizrachi on Leviticus 16:2).

[5] Rabeinu Hillel ben Eliakim’s commentary on the Sifra. Gur Aryeh on Leviticus 16:1.

[6] Rabbi Elijah Mizrachi on Leviticus 16:2.

[7] Rabeinu Hillel ben Eliakim (11th - 12th century) is a disciple of Rashi, who wrote a commentary on the Sifra – Torat Kohanim. Three manuscripts of this commentary are found at the Bodleian Library: MSS. Michael 382, Oppenheimer 375 and Huntington 400 (1520), fol. 120. The latter was copied from an earlier 1212 manuscript and can be found at: https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/inquire/Discover/Search/#/?p=c+0,t+,rsrs+0,rsps+10,fa+,so+ox%3Asort%5Easc,scids+,pid+ec0055d8-865e-4181-8d06-846befe3bfa8,vi+524ef987-c006-4481-ab2d-059e5d5f53c6. These three manuscripts, as well as a manuscript at the Hebralsche Handschrllten der Nationalbibleothek in Vienna, no. 59, serve as text for the 1961 printed edition of the commentary: https://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=40721&st=&pgnum=45.

[8] Rabbi Elijah Mizrachi on Leviticus 16:2.

[9] Gur Aryeh on Leviticus 16:1.

[10] Gur Aryeh on Leviticus 16:1.

[11] Fol. 126.

[12] Fol. 84.

[13] Fol. 137.

[14] Fol. 67.

[15] Fol. 109.

[16] Fol. 65.

[17] Fol. 109.

[18] Fol. 65.

[19] Fol. 126.

[20] Fol. 137.

[21] Fol. 67.

[22] Fol. 84.

[23] Maskil l’David on Acharei Mot, p. 102 (Venice, 1767).

[24] Likkutei Sichot 7:118, see footnote 7.

[25] In Likkutei Sichot 7:121 it explains this point by arguing that the second physician is not only to make the warning of the first physician more effective but since the warning of the first physician is not at all sufficient, due to the uncontrollable desire of the sick patient with very high fever to ‘eat cold food and sleep in a damp, cold place.’ In the case of Aaron, it is an uncontrolled desire to want to come close to G-d to the point of the soul departing the body, like what happened with his two sons.

[26] As mentioned earlier, Rabbi Judah Loew creatively answers this question that the less effective warning (that was earlier already said, thought not explicitly mentioned in the Torah) is incorporated in the more effective warning.

[27] In Likkutei Sichot 7:119, footnote 13, it argues thatthe application of this principle that the Torah is not written in order is problematic, since it is only usually applied to two separate subjects, like Yitro’s arrival to the desert where the Jewish people were residing and Mount Sinai in the book of Exodus, or the laws of the second Paschal offering and the counting of the Jewish people in the beginning of he book of umbers, but not within one subject. Furthermore, the double phrasing ‘and G-d spoke to Moses’ in verse one, and ‘and G-d said to Moses’ is not problematic, as it is not uncommon for the Torah to present a teaching in two parts when there is an interruption.

[28] A further variation is the opening of the commentary of Rashi. In almost all the manuscripts, it only quotes from the verse: “after the death of Aaron’s two sons,” before proceeding with the commentary. In MS. Canonici Or. 35, fol. 137 (1401-1425) it adds in the margin the beginning of the verse: ‘And the Lord spoke to Moses.’ This is also how it is found in the printed edition. In Likkutei Sichot 7:118, footnote 10, it argues that this may be explained also according to the view that the question is only about the timing, since before explaining why the timing is needed in the warning, the preceding words: ‘And the Lord spoke to Moses’ is also superfluous.

 

 

 

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