Friday, February 07, 2014

Preemptive atonement for the golden calf?

In parshat Tetzaveh, Rashi writes that the taking of a young bull was to atone for sin the golden calf.

And this is the thing that you shall do for them to sanctify them to serve Me [as kohanim]: take one young bull and two rams, perfect ones.א. וְזֶה הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה לָהֶם לְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתָם לְכַהֵן לִי לְקַח פַּר אֶחָד בֶּן בָּקָר וְאֵילִם שְׁנַיִם תְּמִימִם:
take: Heb. לְקַח, like קַח, and these are two roots, one of קִיחָה and one of לְקִיחָה, but they have the same meaning [i.e., take].לקח: כמו קח, ושתי גזרות הן, אחת של קיחה, ואחת של לקיחה, ולהן פתרון אחד:
one young bull: This was to atone for the incident of the [golden] calf, which was a bull. -[from Midrash Tanchuma 10]פר אחד: לכפר על מעשה העגל שהוא פר:

For this, he is basing himself on a Midrash Tanchuma, which says the same.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky poses an interesting question, in Taama DeKra.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky
וזה אשר תעשה וגו׳ לקח פר פירש״י לכפר
 על מעשה העגל, וקשה הא עדיין לא עשו את
 העגל, וצ״ל דגלוי לפני המקום שיעשו את העגל
 ולכך הקדים וצום ע״ז, וכיו״ב מצינו דאנו
 אוכלין מצה ע״ש שלא הספיק בצקם להחמיץ
 וקשה הרי עדיין לא יצאו ממצרים כשצום על
 מצה וצ״ל שגלוי וידוע לפניו ולכן צום מיד.

After citing the pasuk and the Rashi, he asks:
"And this is difficult, for they had not yet made the golden calf. And one needs to say that it was revealed before Hashem that they would make the golden calf [in the future] and therefore he preempted and commanded them about this. And similarly we find that we eat matza because "their dough did not have sufficient time to rise", which is difficult for they had not yet left Egypt when He commanded them regarding matza, and one needs to say that it was revealed and known before Him, and therefore he commanded them immediately."
If I may, I would like to present an alternative approach to deal with this difficulty.

The question, that they had not yet sinned with the golden calf yet, when these donations and construction of the Mishkan is happening, is based on simple order of pesukim. And this is the  view endorsed by Ramban.

However, perhaps we should see if Rashi has some strange position in which ain mukdam umeuachar baTorah such that the golden calf came first.

Or even if Rashi doesn't hold this, we should consider Rashi's source, the Midrash Tanchuma. Perhaps Midrash Tanchuma reverses the order and is thus consistent in its approach.

Looking a bit ahead, to the next parasha, Ki Tisa, we find this pasuk and Rashi:

When He had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, stone tablets, written with the finger of God.יח. וַיִּתֵּן אֶל משֶׁה כְּכַלֹּתוֹ לְדַבֵּר אִתּוֹ בְּהַר סִינַי שְׁנֵי לֻחֹת הָעֵדֻת לֻחֹת אֶבֶן כְּתֻבִים בְּאֶצְבַּע אֱלֹהִים:
He gave Moses: In the Torah, chronological order is not adhered to. The episode of the calf took place long before the command of the work of the Mishkan. For on the seventeenth of Tammuz the tablets were broken, and on Yom Kippur the Holy One, blessed is He, was reconciled to Israel. On the morrow [i.e., on the eleventh of Tishri], they commenced with the donation for the Mishkan, and it [the Mishkan] was erected on the first of Nissan. -[from Midrash Tanchuma, Ki Thissa 31]ויתן אל משה וגו': אין מוקדם ומאוחר בתורה. מעשה העגל קודם לצווי מלאכת המשכן ימים רבים היה, שהרי בשבעה עשר בתמוז נשתברו הלוחות, וביום הכפורים נתרצה הקב"ה לישראל, ולמחרת התחילו בנדבת המשכן והוקם באחד בניסן:
Thus, both Rashi and the Midrash Tanchuma are consistent, and hold that the chet ha'egel came first, before the construction of the Mishkan.

What about matza? We can certainly answer as Rav' Kanievsky did, that Hashem knew the future and so even commanded this during Pesach Mitzrayim. Alternatively, perhaps something like is described in this essay. We might distinguish between the matza for Pesach Mitzrayim and and Matza for Pesach Doros. And there was a separate reason for the matza during Pesach Mitzrayim, namely that it is lechem oni, poor man's bread, or slave's bread, or something different from the innovation of Egypt, which was bread that rose.

1 comment:

AryehS said...

See Shadal's strange (and somewhat vitriolic) response to HaMaamer at the end of his first comment on the first pasuk of Ki Tisa:

והמעמר כתב כי אנשי הדור ההוא הוצרכו לתת כופר מפני שחטאו בעגל ונתחייבו כלייה; ולא זכר, כי הצווי הזה קדם למעשה העגל.


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