Bar-Ilan University's Parashat Hashavua Study Center

Parashat Pinehas 5768/ July 19, 2008

Lectures on the weekly Torah reading by the faculty of Bar- Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. A project of the Faculty of Jewish Studies, Paul and Helene Shulman Basic Jewish Studies Center, and the Office of the Campus Rabbi. Published on the Internet under the sponsorship of Bar- Ilan University's International Center for Jewish Identity. Prepared for Internet Publication by the Computer Center Staff at Bar-Ilan University. Inquiries and comments to: Dr. Isaac Gottlieb, Department of Bible,



On the Tamid and Mussaf


Menahem Ben-Yashar

Institute for the History of Jewish Bible Exegesis and Ashkelon College

The commandment of additional offerings ( qorban mussaf) in this week’s reading complements the commandments of the holidays set forth in Parashat Emor (Lev. 23). There we find only a general command, “you shall bring an offering by fire” for each of the festivals. [1]   Why are the details about the sacrifices in Parashat Pinehas not mentioned along with the commandments of the festivals in Parashat Emor or close by?  Moreover, why are they presented near the end of the book of Numbers, in the fortieth year after the exodus from Egypt, when according to the chronology of the Torah, the commandment of the festivals in Leviticus was given to the Israelites in the second year after the exodus?  


The Sages tried to read significance into the juxtaposition (semikhut parshiot) of the regular (qorban tamid) and additional (qorban mussaf) offerings in the weekly reading to the appointment of Joshua as successor to Moses.  According to their homily, the Lord said to Moses, “Before charging me about children [i.e., successors], charge my children not to rebel against me.” [2]   In other words, as Moses was facing the end of his life and requesting the Lord to see to the continuation of public leadership of the Israelites, the Lord said to him that he ought also to see to the continuation of the Israelites’ devotion to worshipping the Lord.   This is a fine midrashic message derived from the problematic placement of the passage on the sacrifices, yet from the outset it does not resolve our question about the placement of these commandments in terms of the plain sense of the text.

Abarbanel as well as Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch find in the strange placement of this passage a religious message, assuming that the daily and festivals sacrifice commandment was given at the end of the Israelites’ wandering in the wilderness, prior to their entering the land of Canaan.  Hirsch says that the experiences in the wilderness, with their associated trials, punishments and lessons, are what shaped the people, determining their spiritual character; the same people with the same spiritual essence were the ones who would henceforth offer the public national sacrifices of the daily worship and of the festivals.  

Abarbanel focuses on the relation between the regular sacrificial offerings (qorban tamid) and prophetic inspiration in Israel. In Exodus, Moses had been told:  “A regular burnt offering throughout the generations, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting before the Lord.  For there I will meet with you, and there I will speak with you” (Ex. 29:42).   In Abarbanel’s opinion, by virtue (or by means) of sacrificing the burnt offerings regularly, Moses was given the faculty of prophecy, as long as the Tent of Meeting was in the wilderness.  When the wandering through the wilderness came to an end and Moses died, there was a fear that the Israelites might become careless about the regular offerings, therefore they had to be reminded of them now, so that the gift of prophecy be given to Israel even after the death of Moses, father of the prophets.   Since the faculty of prophecy in Israel would wane after the death of the person about whom it was said, “never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses” (Deut. 34:10), it had to be strengthened and encouraged by adding additional sacrifices ( qorban mussaf) to the regular ones that had sufficed in the days of Moses.

Sacrifice and Prophecy

Abarbanel’s commentary has the following difficulty:  even if the commandment regarding the regular sacrifices in Exodus was coupled with the Lord’s appearance to Moses, how can we know that the like applies to the rest of the prophets, following Moses?  In the presentation of the laws of the additional sacrifices there is no hint of any connection between them and prophecy. It is a fact that the regular and additional sacrifices were offered throughout the Second Temple period, even though prophecy in Israel ceased at the beginning of that period.

As for Samson Raphael Hirsch’s view that the experiences of wandering in the wilderness made clear to the Israelites their national character and helped them internalize it – this is an optimistic view that is substantiated neither by the Torah’s stories about this generation, nor by Moses’ words of admonishment to them.  This was the generation of whom the Psalmist said:   “Forty years I was provoked by that generation; I thought, ‘They are a senseless people; they would not know My ways’” (Ps. 95:10). [3]

Are Leviticus and Numbers the Same?

Did the special sacrifices of the festivals mentioned in Leviticus 23 indeed become obligatory at a different time from those in Numbers 28:29?  Nahmanides interprets the text according to its sequence in Scripture: [4]   the sacrifices of the festivals in Leviticus became obligatory immediately upon being given, i.e., throughout the wandering in the wilderness, whereas the additional offerings did not become obligatory until after the people had entered Canaan.  This view is difficult to reconcile since it says explicitly in Leviticus, “When you enter the land” (23:10), and since most of the commandments there apply uniquely to the land of Israel, such as the commandment regarding the first sheaf of the harvest brought as omer and the first sheaves of wheat that are made into the loaves of bread as an elevation offering; the commandment to leave the edges and gleaning of one’s field for the poor, as well as the commandment to dwell in booths (as a remembrance of the Israelites’ wanderings in the wilderness) – all of these pertaining only to the time of settled dwelling in the land. [5]   The additional offerings detailed in Numbers (28:29), however, deal primarily with animal sacrifices that the Israelites were commanded to offer in the wilderness.  Nahmanides based his notion that the commandment of additional offerings is tied to the land of Israel on the meal offerings and libations that accompany them, since these come from agricultural produce.  Indeed, the passage in Numbers that deals with libations does begin with the words, “When you enter the land that I am giving you to settle in” (15:2).  These, as we said, are concomitant to the additional burnt offerings, which constitute the principal part of the offering. [6]

Actually, Nahmanides’ view is contrary to that of the tanna, R. Simeon (bar Yohai):   “Everything that is stipulated in the book of Numbers was offered in the wilderness, and everything that is stipulated in Torat Kohanim (= Leviticus) was not offered in the wilderness.  Once they came to the land, both were offered” (Menahot 45b). [7]

R. Simeon’s remark ostensibly contradicts Scriptures, insofar as there is no strict chronological ordering in Scripture, for what was said at the end of the wilderness period was practiced from the beginning of that period, and what was said in the book of Leviticus, when they were encamped at Mount Sinai, was not enacted until thirty-nine years later, in the time of Joshua.  I say ostensibly since that is how we view the Torah in hindsight.  In truth, the laws that were stated at Mount Sinai and in the wilderness of Sinai (in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and the beginning of Numbers), were conveyed to the people as they were about to enter the land of Canaan.  In support of this note that at the end of the first part of Numbers, [8] Moses said to his father-in-law:  “We are setting out for the place of which the Lord has said, ‘I will give it to you’” (Num. 10:29), [9] and immediately thereafter comes the poetic passage about the Lord fighting for Israel as the ark precedes them in their conquest of Canaan (Num. 33:35).

To sum up, it appears that along with the laws that were given to Israel in Sinai, both at Mount Sinai and in the Tent of Meeting in the wilderness of Sinai, in anticipation of their entering Canaan, also the laws in Leviticus 23 regarding the festivals were given.  These laws detail the special observances of each holiday, thereby also characterizing the festivals, especially their agricultural aspects:   the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Weeks by the first sheaves of barley and wheat; the Feast of Booths, by binding together four plants to express thanksgiving for one’s crops and pray for a good rainy season, [10] and by commemorating the huts in which the Israelites dwelled in the wilderness, thereby expressing thanks for having been given a fertile land. [11]

Three Formats

As we mentioned, with each festival allusion is made to an additional offering in the words, “and you shall bring an offering by fire to the Lord.”  These additional offerings are not unique to each festival; rather, they fall into three formats which, taken together, cover all the festivals.  The first is the additional offering of the Sabbath, which is a duplication of the regular morning offering. [12]   Second is the format of offerings given during the festivals of the first month, Nissan.   These include Passover and the Feast of Weeks, which is not specified by a date of its own, rather is fifty days after the first day of omer during Passover.   In this category we also have the additional offerings for the New Moons that are celebrated throughout the year but that depend on the first month, Nissan, which “shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you” (Ex. 12:2).

The third format is that of the offerings during the festivals of the seventh month, Tishre:   “a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts,” the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Booths and the eighth day of “solemn gathering.”  The offerings of the Feast of Booths, which is the great “festival to the Lord,” [13] are greater in number than the additional offerings of the other festive occasions in Tishre, but they follow the same format as the other Tishre holidays. [14]

Our conclusion that the additional offerings of the festivals are not unique to each festival but rather fall into two groups – those of the first month and those of the seventh month – leads to another conclusion:  the commandments regarding the additional offerings in our Parasha would be out of place were they included in the details of the festivals in Leviticus.   When the commandments were given at Mount Sinai, i.e., before the sin of the spies and its ramifications, it was assumed and intended that Moses carry to completion the project of Redemption and himself enter Canaan along with the Israelites, there to set up the religious and ritual center and there to complete, according to the Lord’s instruction, the details of the laws that had not been spelled out at Sinai, including the details of the additional offerings.

It turns out that even an interpretation based on the plain sense yields a connection between the passage of the decisive signing of Moses’ death warrant before the Israelites were to enter the land of Canaan and the consequent appointment of Joshua as his successor, and the passage of the additional offerings that follows immediately afterwards:   the decree that Moses had to die prevented him from giving the details of these offerings close to their implementation, “in the place that the Lord shall choose,” namely, His Temple in the land of Canaan.  Hence, Moses was compelled to relay these commandments on the plains of Moab, close to the time of his death.  Bear in mind that the plains of Moab, which had been conquered by the Israelites, were part of the land of Israel, albeit not part of the land of Canaan, west of the Jordan; the latter was the only area sanctified for the dwelling of the Presence of the Lord and for fixed religious ritual. [15]


[1] This expression occurs in Lev. 23:8 with respect to the Feast of Unleavened Bread; in verse 25 with respect to a “sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts”; in verse 27 with respect to the Day of Atonement; in verse 36 with respect to the Feast of Booths and the eighth day of solemn gathering.   This expression is absent with respect to the Feast of Weeks.  In Leviticus, Parashat Emor, and in the baraitha in Menahot 48b, one finds the view expressed by Rabbi Tarfon (see Malbim on Leviticus) that the offering commanded in Leviticus 23:18-19 to come with two loaves of bread constitutes the additional offering of the Feast of Weeks.  The offering “with the bread” does include seven lambs and a he-goat as a sin offering, which are characteristic of the additional offerings for the festivals. However, the number of bulls and rams is interchanged, and in Parashat Emor another two lambs are added as a sacrifice of well-being; see Ibn Ezra on Lev. 23:17.   Of course, one could understand the two similar but not identical offerings in Leviticus and Numbers as expressing the two characteristics of the same festival (see M. Breuer, Pirkei Mo’adot, Jerusalem 1986, pp.347-378).

[2] Sifre Numbers, 142, pp. 187-188; Song of Songs Rabbah 1.10 (abridged); Tanhuma, Phinehas 11. This interpretation is based not only on the passages being contiguous, but also on the use of the expression, “Moses spoke to the Lord, saying” (27:15, regarding appointment of a successor), which also introduces the passage on the regular and additional sacrifices (for example, 28:1).  Also, the expression, “Let the Lord appoint” (27:16; using the Hebrew verb p-q-d) relates this to the same semantic field as the word “Command” (28:2) used for the sacrifices.


[3] Of course the period of the wilderness is viewed in a variety of ways, as in the words that the Lord put in the mouth of Jeremiah (2:2):   “I accounted to your favor the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride – how you followed Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.”

[4] Nahmanides on Leviticus 23:2 and Numbers 28:2.

[5] See Rashbam on Leviticus 23:43.

[6] See Tosefta Zevahim, p. 486; Menahot 15b.

[7] Sifra Emor, chapter 13, 101c; Mishnah Menahot 4.3; Menahot 48b.

[8] Chapters 1-10.  This literary unit is set off from the continuation of the book by a special sign, the upside letters nun that enclose the poem of the ark at the end of the first unit, 10:35-36.

[9] Sifre on Numbers on the verse at hand, see p. 75:  “We are journeying immediately to the land of Israel, not as before, when we journeyed and then camped; rather, we are heading there immediately.”

[10] See Menahot 62a, as well as Sukkah 37b-38a and Ta’anit 2b.

[11] See note 6, above.

[12] Perhaps this is like the double portion of manna that the Israelites received on the eve of the Sabbath (see Ex. 16:22), as opposed to their usual daily portion, in conjunction with which the Israelites were informed about the Sabbath (see verse 29).  For a list of things that were doubled on the Sabbath see Midrash Tehillim (Shoher Tov) 92.1.

[13] See Leviticus 23:39; Numbers 29:12.  Also see I Kings 8:2-65 and II Chron. 8:3, 7:8, as well as I Kings 12:32-33.

[14] Double the number of rams and lambs are offered during the Feast of Booths, in comparison with the other festivals of Tishre.   A total of seventy bulls are sacrificed throughout the Feast of Booths (arranged in descending order), which means on the average ten a day.

[15] See the baraitha, Ten Levels of Sanctity, in Sifre Zuta 8.2, p. 228, where a distinction is drawn between the sanctity of Canaan and the sanctity of Transjordan.