by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Shemini 5768This week's sedra tells of the dedication ceremonies for the Tent of Meeting. A tragedy befalls the People when two of Aaron's sons Nadav and Avihu, offer an unplanned and unauthorized offering and as a consequence are burned alive. The remainder of the sedra lists the kosher and non-kosher animals.
And that you may make a distinction between the holy and the profane; and between the impure and the pure.
And that you may make a distinction: In order that you may be able to distinguish between service (in the Tent of Meeting) that is holy and that which is profane. So we can learn from this that if one served (in this state, after drinking wine) his service is invalidated.
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
Rashi makes a slight but meaningful change in the meaning of these words - or I should say in the meaning of a letter. The first letter of the verse - vav' - is usually translated as "and". But Rashi changes that; he translates it here as "in order that".
So you can see that the English version of the verse that we have above is neither like Rashi - it would be 'So (or 'In order') that you may etc' - or like a simple reading - that would be 'And you may distinguish'. The translator above took both & combined them.
Can you ask a question on this Rashi?
A Question: Why does Rashi not accept the meaning of this 'vav' as 'and' which is its most common meaning ?
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: If we translate the 'vav' as 'and' it is problematic, because 'and' is a connecting word. What does it connect to here? See the last verse is the sedra, Ch. 11 verse 45. There too it says: "To distinguish between the holy and the profane." But there is no "and". Why do we have "and" here, is Rashi's implicit question. Because of this he chooses an alternative meaning for the letter 'vav' which is "in order to".
We ask another question. What does Rashi mean: "from this we learn that if the priest serves after drinking wine his service is invalid?
How does he derive that?
An Answer: The verse says: "to distinguish between the holy & profane" but all the service is in the Tent of Meeting there is nothing profane there! What can "profane" refer to?
Rashi concludes the "profane" here is the profane service of the priest after he disobeyed the prohibition of drinking wine before he enters the Tent. Which means that his service is not holy and thus not acceptable.
Of course the previous verses prohibit drinking wine so what is Rashi telling us that we would not have known otherwise? The answer is the Torah may have forbidden drinking wine, but if the priest had done so perhaps in spite of that his service is acceptable - providing of course that he did it completely as he should have. So Rashi tells us that even if all was done according to the halachah (and his wine did not cause him to err) nevertheless his service is profane.
What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."
Look for "What's Bothering Rashi? on Megillas Esther" at your book store. Enjoy a deeper understanding of the Megillah, of Rashi and of the midrashim on the Megillah.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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