March 12, 2014


15. And the kohen who is anointed instead of him from among his sons, shall prepare it; [this is] an eternal statute; it shall be completely burnt to the Lord. טו. וְהַכֹּהֵן הַמָּשִׁיחַ תַּחְתָּיו מִבָּנָיו יַעֲשֶׂה אֹתָהּ חָק עוֹלָם לַיהֹוָה כָּלִיל תָּקְטָר:

The kohen who is anointed instead of him from among his sons.

This is to be understood as if transposed

The kohen who is anointed from among his sons instead of him.

המשיח תחתיו מבניו: המשיח מבניו תחתיו:

This is a very strange comment. The Torah says “hamashiach tachtav mibanav.” Rashi adds nothing to the Torah’s words; he only re-arranges them and says : “hamashiach mibanav tachtav.”

In English the two versions look like this:
The Torah’s version: “And the priest who is anointed in his stead, of his sons, shall perform it”
Rashi’s version:
“And the priest who is anointed of his sons, in his stead, shall perform it”
Why has Rashi made this switch?

Our verse is a continuation of the laws which began in verse 13. There it tells us that on the first day of a newly installed High Priest he is to bring a special meal-offering. In this verse we learn that the same offering is also brought by each succeeding High Priest (who is chosen from among the sons of the previous High Priest) on the day of his installation.

The obvious question is: Why does Rashi make the switch in word order?

Some additional information is necessary to make sense of Rashi. The words in Hebrew “hakohen hamashiach” can have two slightly different meanings. The word “hamashiach” can mean either:

The one who is anointed. In that case it is a passive verb, or The Anointed-One (as we use the word Mashiach). In that case it is a noun, a title.

Rashi takes the word as a noun, like a title, i.e. the Priest, the Anointed-One or in Hebrew it is one-name-phrase: “The Kohen-Hamashiach.”
Now let us read the verse according to Rashi: “And the Kohen-Hamashiach, from his sons, in his stead” etc. This makes better sense than the order in the Torah: “And the Kohen-Hamashiach in his stead, from his sons…”
In order to have this verse make sense we would have to add the underlined words: “And the Kohen- Hamashiach who is appointed in his stead, from his sons.”
If, on the other hand, the word “hamashiach” were a verb i.e. “the priest who was anointed,” then the words “in his stead” would fit in well. “The kohen who was anointed in his stead from his sons…”
So Rashi indirectly tells us to translate the word “hamashiach” as a noun, (“the annointed one”) and thus he must change the order of the words of the Torah to have them make the best sense.

But then you should have a serious question to ask of the Torah z If Rashi’s order is the best and, in fact, the word “mashiach” is meant as a title, then why doesn’t the Torah use that order, instead of the order it has? Why does the Torah say “The Kohen-Mashiach in his stead, of his sons”?

Perhaps we can understand what is going on from another Rashi-comment. On the verse in Exodus 29:30, we have a similar Rashi-comment.
There (Exodus 29:30) Rashi says the true, basic meaning of the word Kohen means “to serve.” לכהן. It is a verb which also can be used as a noun. We are most familiar with the word Kohen as a noun, meaning a person of the priestly family. A word having two meanings, one as a noun the other as a verb, is similar to a word like “shomer,” which means “watchman.” But it is also a verb, “hu shomer” can mean “he watches” or “he is a watchman”.
Perhaps, in a way similar to Kohen and shomer, Rashi uses the word “mashiach” as a noun, because he realizes that this is the way it is commonly understood. So he makes his comment on that basis, on the basis of how we, the student of the chumash, would understand it.

However, the Pshat, basic, meaning of the word is “the one who is anointed” as a passive verb. (As Rashi had said about the word “kohen” – “one who serves.”) Therefore, the Torah, itself, uses the word mashiach in its basic sense, meaning “the one who is anointed,” thus the appropriate phrase is “The kohen who is anointed in his stead, from his sons.”

Thus, the Torah’s order is correct as it uses the word; and Rashi’s order is correct as he uses the word. Rashi takes the word as a noun, because that is its familiar meaning (“the anointed-one”), so the student can easily understand the verse. Rashi was first and foremost a teacher and his commentary is written so the student can grasp the concepts he is teaching.

Shabbat shalom. Purim Sameach

Rabbi Wise


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s