Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Shavuot surprise re Parshat Yitro

You would think that, after reading Parshat Yitro every year for roughly the past 40 years, not to mention reading the part of Parshat Yitro that deals with the giving of the Aseret HaDibrot/Ten Commandments every Shavuot for the same 40 years or so, I would have noticed this years ago:

(From Exodus, chapter 19)
כא וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, רֵד הָעֵד בָּעָם: פֶּן-יֶהֶרְסוּ אֶל-יְהוָה לִרְאוֹת, וְנָפַל מִמֶּנּוּ רָב. 21 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish.

כב וְגַם הַכֹּהֲנִים הַנִּגָּשִׁים אֶל-יְהוָה, יִתְקַדָּשׁוּ: פֶּן-יִפְרֹץ בָּהֶם, יְהוָה. 22 And let the priests also, that come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth upon them.'

כג וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה, אֶל-יְהוָה, לֹא-יוּכַל הָעָם, לַעֲלֹת אֶל-הַר סִינָי: כִּי-אַתָּה הַעֵדֹתָה בָּנוּ, לֵאמֹר, הַגְבֵּל אֶת-הָהָר, וְקִדַּשְׁתּוֹ. 23 And Moses said unto the LORD: 'The people cannot come up to mount Sinai; for thou didst charge us, saying: Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it.'

כד וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו יְהוָה לֶךְ-רֵד, וְעָלִיתָ אַתָּה וְאַהֲרֹן עִמָּךְ; וְהַכֹּהֲנִים וְהָעָם, אַל-יֶהֶרְסוּ לַעֲלֹת אֶל-יְהוָה--פֶּן-יִפְרָץ-בָּם. 24 And the LORD said unto him: 'Go, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee; but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the LORD, lest He break forth upon them.'

What an unexpected word I found in verses 22 and 24.

Cohanim (Priests)?!

What Cohanim?!!!

Aharon/Aaron and his sons hadn't been appointed yet!

Yet HaShem Himself gave these instructions!

Who were these priests?  How were they chosen?  What manner of worship and/or service(s) did they lead and/or provide?  How were they compensated?  And, as long as HaShem mentioned it specifically (see verse 22), in what manner did they "come near the Lord," and how did they sanctify themselves?

The floor is open.  I would be particularly interested in knowing how the rabbis (of old and more recent) dealt with the reference to "Cohanim" at this point in the Tanach/Bible.


Anonymous AnecDatum said...

Rashi (apparently citing the Gemara in Zevachim 115b) says these were the first-borns, who were originally intended to have the job of kohen. (Recall that we just recently read about the 'exchange' of first-borns for Levi'im/Levites.) Avraham Ibn Ezra and Rashbam agree with Rashi.

Rashi and Ramban both state that their "coming close" was to offer korbanot/sacrifices. Ibn Ezra says that it means they would stand closest to the edge of the boundary [around Har Sinai], but also says that these first-borns brought korbanot, (specifically, on the mizbe'ach/altar that Moshe built after the war with Amalek, and the one he built near Har Sinai ("וַיִּשְׁלַח, אֶת-נַעֲרֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וַיַּעֲלוּ, עֹלֹת; וַיִּזְבְּחוּ זְבָחִים שְׁלָמִים, לַה'--פָּרִים. And he sent the young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt-offerings, and sacrificed peace-offerings of oxen unto the LORD.").)

Sorry for the long answer - but you did say the floor was open :-)

Tue May 29, 07:21:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

AnecDatum, you needn't apologize for the long answer--it was very informative. Thank you, and thanks for going to the extra effort to post links.

Wed May 30, 01:08:00 PM 2012  

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