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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Emor(69)

This week's sedra is directed specifically to the priests (as is most of the Book of Leviticus) begins with the laws of mourning for the priests, to whom they may become impure as they approach the dead, how they are to mourn; also which women a priest may not marry and other laws relevant only for the priests. The sedra also lists the holy days of the year.

Leviticus 23:15

15: And you shall count from the day after the Sabbath, from the day you bring the Omer offering, seven complete weeks they shall be.


23:15 from the day after the Sabbath: Rashi: From the day after Yom Tov (i.e. the first day of Pesach).


Rashi clarifies that even though the verse says "on the day after the Sabbath," the meaning is not the Sabbath (Saturday, then the day after would be Sunday) but it is rather the day after Yom Tov (the first day of Pesach, the day after being the second day of Pesach). There is actually a big dispute between the Talmudic sages and the Sadducees (Tzudukim) on this point, which is recorded in the Talmud (Menachos 65b). The Sadducees were a group of Jews who lived in the Talmudic period but who did not accept the Oral law. Several disputes between them and the Pharisees (our sages) are recorded in the Talmud, this being one of the more famous ones.

The Talmud offers several proofs that our verse really means the day after Yom Tov and not Saturday. Rashi in his comment on 23:11 cites the following:

If our verse meant "Saturday" we would have no way of knowing which Saturday of the year it intended.


The ancient view of the Sadducees carries on today in the Christian religion.

Easter (Pesach time) always falls out on Sunday, probably based on the Sadducee's tradition.


A Question: Why of all the disputes in the Talmud (and there hundreds, if not thousands) is one side (the Sadducees) considered outside the camp. They are considered rebels against tradition. We have so many disputes - Hillel vs. Shamai, Rav vs. Shmuel, Rabbi Akiva vs. Rabbi Yishmael, etc. etc. The Talmud even records a dispute as to when the Torah was actually revealed on Mt. Sinai - on the sixth of Sivan or on the seventh. Yet the disputants are all considered fine Torah sages. These are all legitimate differences of opinion. But in our case those who disagreed - the Sadducees - are considered apikorsim (non-believers). Why?

Can you suggest an answer?

Your Answer:


I would suggest the following. There is a difference between Sabbath meaning the seventh day of the week or it meaning the first day of Pesach. Sabbath (Saturday) represents the culmination of the creation of the natural world and the laws of nature. Pesach recalls G-d's intervention in nature; when He changed the rules of nature (example: the splitting of the sea) to serve the needs of His people Israel. A world based exclusively on the laws of nature (as represented by the seven days of creation and the Sabbath culminating them) is a Deistic belief, it is a world without a spiritual or moral dimension; it is a world without a personal G-d. That, of course, touches on the core of Jewish belief. Perhaps for this reason the dispute was considered to crucial.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."

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