EMOR 5776

Leviticus 21:1 24:23

Haftorah Ezekiel 44:15-31




            The order of the parashat of the festivals follows the order of the festivals themselves in the annual calendar. The parashat consists of seven masoretic sections, as follows:


1.    (1-3) General introduction and the mitzva of Shabbat

2.    (4-8) Pesach and the Festival of Matzot

3.    (9-14) The mincha offering and its sacrifice

4.    (15-22) The offering of the two loaves and its sacrifice, and the declaration of a holy convocation on the day when it is brought

5.    (23-25) A day of remembrance and sounding of the shofar on the first day of the seventh month

6.    (26-32) Yom Kippur

7.    (33-44) Festival of Sukkot and the Eighth Day; conclusion of the parashat


In previous shiurim, we have seen that many parashat discussing a single subject are divided into two equal and clearly distinguishable halves, which sometimes parallel one another. Is it possible to analyze a halakhic parashat such as ours, which is simply a list of dates, in terms of literary structure?


The answer is a resounding yes. Our parashat comprises 44 verses, and is clearly divided into two equal halves of 22 verses each (sections 1-4 and sections 5-7). This division is reflected both in style and in content, as follows:


1.    Each half concludes with the declaration, "I am Yahweh your Elohim" (verse 22 and verse 43, which precede the concluding verse: "And Moshe told the holy days of Yahweh to Bnei Yisrael"). This declaration does not appear elsewhere in the parashat of the festivals.

2.    The festivals addressed in the first half (except for Shabbat) are those that fall in the spring and the harvest season. The festivals treated in the second half all fall in the seventh month, Tishrei.

The connection between the festivals included in the first half also finds expression in their musaf (additional) sacrifice, as we learn from Bamidbar 28-29. On each of the days of the Festival of Matzot, and on Shavuot, the same musaf sacrifice is offered: TWO BULLS, a ram and seven lambs (Bamidbar 28:19, 27). The festivals of the second half – other than Sukkot, which is an exception to all the other festivals in terms of its musaf offerings – likewise share the same musaf: on Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Shemini Atzeret the prescribed offering is ONE BULL, one ram and seven lambs (Bamidbar 29:2, 8, 36).

3.    Each half mentions four "holy convocations" when labor may not be performed; on three of them it is "labor of work" that is forbidden – i.e., labor required for preparing food for the festival is permissible – and on the fourth, called a "Shabbat shabbaton," ALL labor is forbidden – even those activities required for preparing food.


Let us now examine the connection between the festivals mentioned in each of the two halves, leaving out Shabbat, which is an exception here and which we shall treat later. The festivals of the first half are divided into two types:


i.    Festival of Matzo – lasting seven days, with the first and the last day being "holy convocations."

ii.    Two single days – the day of waving the Omer, and the day of bringing the two loaves – that are clearly related to each other.

The festivals of the second half are divided in a similar way:

i.    Sukkot, followed by Shemini Atzeret – lasting a total of eight days, with the first and the last being "holy convocations."

ii.    Two other festivals that are single days: the "shabbaton for remembrance with the sounding of the shofar" (Rosh Ha-shana) and Yom Kippur. These two are also related to one another, but their connection is less obvious.


The connection between the day of waving the Omer and the day of bringing the two loaves finds expression, inter alia, in the fact that a "closed parashat" separates them, as well as in the fact that the parashat of the two loaves has no introduction. The hidden connection between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is reflected in a similar way: they are separated by a "closed parashat," and the parashat of Yom Kippur has only a partial introduction.




Even upon a cursory reading of the parashat of the festivals, three difficulties relating to its structure become immediately apparent.


1.         The parashat of the festivals opens with verses 1-2:


"And Yahweh spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to Bnei Yisrael and tell them: The festivals of Yahweh, which you shall call as holy convocations – these are My festivals…."


Then, in verse 3, we find the mitzvah of Shabbat, and this concludes the first masoretic section. The next section opens a new, again introducing the entire parashat of the festivals:


(4) "These are the festivals of Yahweh, holy convocations, which you shall call at their appointed times."


This second opening is followed (verses 5-8) with the mitzvot of the Pesach and the Festival of Matzo.


What is the meaning of this double introduction – first at the beginning of the parashat as a whole, and then again at the beginning of the second masoretic section? The similarity between verse 2 and verse 4 is obvious, such that the second introduction seems to add nothing new.


2.         At the conclusion of the first half, closing the parashat of bringing the "bikkurim bread" (the two loaves) and calling that day a holy convocation, there is a verse that appears to depart entirely from the subject of the festivals:


(22) "And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not finish the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather the gleaning of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger; I am Yahweh your Elohim."


This verse repeats what we were already mentioned in parashat Kadoshim (19:9-10), among the laws of gifts to the poor. Why does the Torah repeat here a law that has nothing to do with the festivals, in the middle of a parashat that deals with the festivals and nothing else?


3.         The conclusion of the parashat of the festivals is located in a strange place - in the middle of the laws of Sukkot:


(37-38) "These are the festivals of Yahweh which you shall call as holy convocations, to offer burnt offerings to Yahweh – a burnt offering and a meal offering, a sacrifice and a drink offering, each thing on its given day. Besides the Shabbat of Yahweh, and besides your gifts, and besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings that you may bring to Yahweh."


Following this conclusion, the first part of which (beginning of verse 37) repeats almost verbatim the introduction to our parashat (verses 2 and 4), the Torah goes on to elaborate on the laws of Sukkot:


(39-43) "But on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you gather the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the festival of Yahweh for seven days… And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of the citron tree… and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your Elohim for seven days, and you shall celebrate it as a festival to Yahweh, seven days in the year… You shall dwell in sukkot for seven days… in order that your descendants may know that I made Bnei Yisrael dwell in sukkot when I took them out of the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your Elohim."


Now, after the concluding words, "I am Yahweh your Elohim," there is a final conclusion to the parashat of the festivals: (44) "And Moshe told the festivals of Yahweh to Bnei Yisrael," corresponding to the command at the beginning of the parashat (2): "Speak to Bnei Yisrael and tell them: The festivals of Yahweh…."


Why are there five verses dealing with Sukkot (39-43) in between the first part of the conclusion (37-38) and the second part (44)? And why are all the laws pertaining to Sukkot not grouped together?


In the following sections we shall attempt to answer these questions.




In order to clarify the reason for the double opening of the parashat, we must first define in what way Shabbat is related to the festivals.


Shabbat is called a "holy convocation," as are the other festivals, and "all labor" is forbidden on Shabbat, as on Yom Kippur. On Shabbat a musaf sacrifice is offered, as on the other festivals. It is on the basis of this broad similarity that some commentators have attempted to explain Shabbat's appearance at the beginning of our parashat.


On the other hand, Shabbat is also fundamentally different from the festivals. It is not connected with any specific date; rather, it was established at the beginning of the world's existence as falling every seventh day. This establishes the Shabbat as independent of any human factor (the nation of Israel and their courts), in contrast to the other festivals, whose establishment depends on the recognition and sanctification of the New Moon. The Ramban comments:


"It appears to me that the verse, 'The festivals of Yahweh which you shall call as holy convocations – these are My festivals' (verse 2) refers to those listed thereafter – 'in the first month…' etc. (verse 5 onwards), and therefore the Torah then repeats (verse 4), 'These are the festivals of Yahweh,' because THE LIST IS INTERRUPTED AT SHABBAT. For we are told [by means of this pause created by the subject of Shabbat]: 'The festivals of Yahweh which you shall call as holy convocations, these are My festivals' – labor of work [may not be performed, but on these festivals we are permitted to prepare food for the festival]. However, Shabbat must be observed as a 'Shabbat shabbaton,' refraining from every type of labor… This hints… that EVEN WHEN SHABBAT FALLS ON ONE OF THE FESTIVALS, IT (Shabbat) MAY NOT BE SET ASIDE TO PREPARE FOOD [by performing one of the forbidden types of labor]."


(See also the Ramban's analogous comments on Shemot 35:1.)  Thus the Ramban explains why the second section of our parashat opens with the verse, "And Yahweh spoke to Moshe, saying" (verse 4) – the same opening as every new law in our parashat:


"For the first command (verses 1-2) ITSELF was the mitzvah of the festivals [rather than an introduction to the mitzvah of Shabbat, as other commentators maintain]. Shabbat is mentioned only in order to negate the law of the festivals [i.e. license to prepare food for the festival] in its regard, and not in order to elaborate on its commandments. Therefore with regard to Shabbat we are not told, 'And you shall offer a burnt sacrifice to Yahweh,' as on the festivals, and at the end the Torah mentions (verse 38), 'BESIDES the Shabbat of Yahweh'… And this is what is meant by the question posed by the Midrash of our Sages (in the Sifra), 'What is Shabbat doing among the festivals?' FOR SHABBAT IS NOT ONE OF THE FESTIVALS OF YAHWEH AT ALL; the Torah only juxtaposes it to them."


According to this explanation of the Ramban, which requires no further substantiation, the appearance of Shabbat at the beginning of the parashat of festivals is not meant to include Shabbat among them. On the contrary – it comes to limit the license for preparing food for the festivals when they fall on Shabbat, just as in parashat Vayakhel the Torah mentions Shabbat in order to limit the command of building the Mishkan, such that labor will not be performed on Shabbat. The reason for first presenting the warning concerning Shabbat is also similar in both cases: like the construction of the Mishkan, preparation of food for the festival on the festive days themselves is also derived from the command to rejoice on the festive days, and therefore it is possible that one would mistakenly assume such labor to be permissible on a Shabbat that coincides with the festival. Therefore, the Torah precedes the discussion of the festivals with a warning that ALL labor is forbidden on Shabbat, even when it coincides with one of the festivals to be discussed in the rest of the parashat.


This explanation by the Ramban illustrates a unique stylistic phenomenon in the formulation of the mitzvah of Shabbat here. In eight places in the Torah, Shabbat is defined in a similar style: as the seventh day – a day of rest – that follows six days of activity. In five of these places, the verse addresses the command in the second person, thus making him the subject of these commands, and the labor performed during these six days is HIS labor. There are only three instances where there is no appeal to a person; simply "labor" is forbidden. The labor itself is the subject of these verses, and its performance on the six weekdays appears in the passive form ("… shall be performed"). The first two of these three verses are to be found in parashat Ki Tisa (31:15) and parashat Vayakhel (35:2), and they forbid the building of the Mishkan on Shabbat. The third verse is the one with which chapter 23 of our parashat opens.


(Shemot 31:15) "Six days shall labor be performed and on the seventh day – a Shabbat shabbaton."


(35:2) "Six days shall labor be done and on the seventh day… a Shabbat shabbaton."


(Vayikra 23:3) "Six days shall labor be done and on the seventh day – a Shabbat shabbaton."


            What is common to these three verses? It is only in these three instances that the Torah does not prohibit "YOUR labor" – a person's own weekday work - but rather prohibits labor for the sake of heaven – labor performed in the fulfillment of a mitzvah: the construction of the Mishkan, or the preparation of food on the festival, for the sake of rejoicing on that day. Although these are considered labor for the sake of heaven, they are permissible only on the six weekdays – not on Shabbat.




            The verse that concludes the parashat of bringing the two loaves – "And when you reap the harvest of your land…" – comes to close the two masoretic sections that precede it: the section of verses 9-14, dealing with the Omer meal offering, and the section of verses 15-22, and dealing with the mincha offering of the two loaves. In fact, these two sections form a single unit in the parashat of the festivals, as becomes clear from their content and as expressed in the division between them in the form of a "closed parashat," with no new introduction to the second section. The concluding verse – verse 22 – likewise contributes towards the unity of these two sections AS DEALING WITH THE MITZVOT PERTAINING TO THE HARVEST SEASON. The root "k-tz-r" appears as a verb or as an object in two places in this unit:


At its opening -


(10) "When you come to the land that I give to you AND YOU REAP ITS HARVEST, then you will bring the Omer – the beginning of YOUR HARVEST to the Kohen."


At its conclusion -


(22) "AND WHEN YOU REAP the HARVEST of your land, you shall not finish off the corners of your field WHEN YOU HARVEST, nor shall you gather the gleanings of YOUR HARVEST…."


In total, this root appears within the double parashat seven times (and nowhere else in the body of the parashat).


The connection between these two verses extends beyond the mention of the harvest. The word "land" also appears in both: "the land which I give to you," and "your land," and the harvest is referred to in both places as "the harvest of the land" (but also as "your harvest"). The term "THE FIRST of your harvest" is a contrast to the command "You shall not FINISH OFF the corners of the field." Finishing off the corners, and gathering the gleaning, represent the end of the harvest. Concerning this contrast, Rav David Zvi Hoffmann writes (p. 168):


"There is no doubt that the law (in verse 22) is closely connected to the first mitzvah of this parashat – that of the Omer. That mitzvah pertains to the BEGINNING of the harvest, while the conclusion of the parashat is related to the actions at the END of the harvest. The beginning of the harvest is to be dedicated to Yahweh, and the remainder is not to be gathered in its entirety by the owners of the field. Rather, the corners, and whatever falls to the ground during the gathering, are to be left for the poor. The recognition of Yahweh as the ultimate Owner of the land, which finds expression in the dedication of the first of the harvest, requires that the corners and gleanings of the field be given to the poor. 'I am Yahweh your Elohim' – thus the text concludes: I am the Master of both rich and poor. It is for His honor that you are to dedicate together the first of your harvest."




The conclusion of the parashat of the festivals in the midst of the laws of Sukkot is also explained in Rav Hoffmann's commentary. At first he addresses the phenomenon, found in several places in the Torah, where following the conclusion of a halakhic parashat, a few laws are then noted to complement that parashat. He brings a few examples, and maintains that verses 39-43, which conclude the laws of Sukkot, likewise represent a "complement" or appendix to the parashat as a whole:


"The reason why verses 39-43 are given in the form of a complement is simple. The laws pertaining to the kohanim and to ritual purity (the parts of Sefer Vayikra preceding our parashat) are 'desert laws' in the most precise sense of the word: not only were they GIVEN during the desert period, but they are also MEANT FOR THAT PERIOD. Let us take, as an example, the laws of 'tzara'at.' The victim of tzara'at is always described as being located outside of the CAMP (13:46, 14:3, 8). Where the law in question is meant for the future (tzara'at of houses), then the text opens with the formulation (14:34), 'When you come to the land of Canaan….' The fact that the same principle applies to the laws of the festivals is evidenced by the law of the Pesach sacrifice (Shemot 12), the law of Pesach Sheni (Bamidbar 9:1-14), the laws of Yom Kippur (Vayikra 16:26-28), and the introduction to the law of the Omer (Vayikra 23:10).


But specifically Sukkot is a festival whose special mitzvot cannot be fulfilled in the desert. In particular, [one could not observe] the joyous celebrations adjacent to the Mikdash, holding a lulav as a sign of thanks for Yahweh's blessing at the gathering of the produce, and the dwelling in sukkot in memory of Yahweh's protection during the desert wanderings. This part of the Sukkot celebrations therefore required its own special, separate complementary section."


In other words, the division of the laws of Sukkot into two parts occurs because there are two different sets of instructions for two different time periods. In verses 33-36, the text is commanding the celebration of the festival of Sukkot IN THE DESERT. What is included in this instruction? In his explanation of these verses, Rav Hoffmann writes as follows:


"It appears that the mitzvah of dwelling in a Sukkah was meant for the generations that would live in the land, and therefore it is brought in a special appendix, whereas here only those mitzvot that could also be fulfilled in the desert are given: 'On the first day shall be holy convocation; all labor of work you shall not do;' the various offerings of each day – compare Bamidbar 29; a holy convocation again on the eighth day, on which another sacrifice is brought.


The text uses the name 'festival of Sukkot' here (verse 34) for the purposes of the future, for in future the festival will be called 'Sukkot.'"


Verses 39-43, on the other hand, instruct as to the celebration of Sukkot from the time of entering the land and dwelling in it. This distinction is made explicit in verse 39: "…when you gather the produce of the land" – this describes not only the season when the "festival of Yahweh" occurs, but also the historical period when certain mitzvot of this festival begin to become applicable.


We may perhaps add another explanation: the expression "when you gather the produce of the land" also explains the idea of these mitzvot. The taking of the four species on the first day and the rejoicing before Yahweh for seven days are expressions of thanksgiving and joy for the good land to which He has brought us, and for the ingathering of produce that we have merited. The Rambam writes as follows in his Guide of the Perplexed (III:43):


"What is represented by the four species of the lulav is the joy and gladness at their leaving the desert, which is not a place of fertility, of figs, grapes, pomegranates, and where there is no water to drink (according to Bamidbar 20:5), for a place of fruit trees and rivers. Therefore, in memory of this, the most beautiful of the land's fruits is taken, and the one with the best fragrance and the most beautiful leaves, as well as the most beautiful of its herbs – the willow. And these four species are… [selected because of] their commonness in Eretz Yisrael at that time [the season of the ingathering], and they are easily obtainable…."


The mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah is related, obviously, to dwelling in Eretz Yisrael. This is not only for the simple reason that it is meant to remind us of the (contrasting) period of desert wandering, but also because of what the Rashbam writes concerning the reason for this mitzvah in his explanation of verse 43:


"'The festival of Sukkot you shall make for yourselves for seven days, when you gather in your corn and your wine' (Devarim 16:13) – When you gather in the produce of the land, and your houses are full of all kinds of goodness – grain, wine and oil - in order that you may remember 'that I made Bnei Yisrael dwell in sukkot' in the desert for forty years, with no dwelling place and no portion. FROM THIS (remembrance) SHALL YOU GIVE THANKS TO HE WHO HAS GIVEN YOU A PORTION AND MADE YOUR HOUSES FULL OF ALL KINDS OF GOODNESS, and you shall not say in your hearts (Devarim 8:17), 'My strength and the power of my hand have made me all of this valor'… And therefore we leave our houses full of all kinds of goodness at the time of the ingathering, and dwell in sukkot, as a reminder that they had no portion in the desert, nor houses in which to dwell. And it is for this reason that the Holy One established the festival of Sukkot at the time of the ingathering of the corn and the wine…."


Thus, the character of Sukkot as celebrated in Eretz Yisrael is indeed qualitatively different from the festival as celebrated in the desert, and therefore two different commands are given for it, separated from one another by means of the concluding verses 36-38. Rav Hoffmann still has difficulty with this explanation, and writes as follows:


"However, the proper place for this complement (verses 39-43) should then perhaps be PRIOR to the concluding verse (37), 'These are the festivals of Yahweh...,' in order that the entire discussion of the festivals would conclude with that."


But the answer to this appears simple: had the concluding verses appeared after the laws of Sukkot that are applicable only in the land, then we might mistakenly assume that the mitzva of bringing the burnt offerings to Yahweh on the festivals is likewise dependent on entering the land. The conclusion therefore appears where it does in order to teach us that these laws apply even in the desert, and only the laws that follow them are restricted to the land.




Let us return to the structure of the parashat of the festivals as a whole. In section A. above, we discussed how the parashat may be divided into two equal halves. The division of biblical literary units into two equal halves usually helps us to compare them to each other. How, then, can we draw a parallel between the two halves of our parashat? In section A. we noted various possible parallels between the two halves, but hinted at the fact that the main and most important parallel becomes apparent only at the conclusion of the discussion, after solving various questions related to the structure of the parashat.


Does the first half of our parashat also address festivals whose mitzvot apply only upon entering the land? There can be no doubt in this regard:


(9-10) "And Yahweh spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to Bnei Yisrael and say to them: When you come to the land which I give to you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the Omer – the first of your harvest – to the Kohen."


How far do the mitzvot of the festivals that apply only in Israel continue? Here, too, the answer is clear: up to the conclusion of this half, in verse 22. This entire section of verses (9-22) is a single unit, dealing with the mitzvot of the harvest in the land of Israel. A literal reading of the text would suggest that not only the waving of the Omer and the bringing of the two loaves are mitzvot that apply in Eretz Yisrael, but that the very days upon which these offerings are brought are not commemorated in the desert. The festival of Shavuot, after all, is altogether dependent on the counting of fifty days from the waving of the Omer, and when there is no day of waving then clearly there can be no festival of Shavuot!


Hence, each of the two halves of the parashat is built in a similar way. First we find the laws of the festivals that apply in the desert as well, and thereafter we find those that apply only from the time of entering the land onwards. The schedule of festivals is therefore a double schedule: one is valid already in the desert, while the other becomes applicable only in the future. The two halves of the parashat correspond directly with one another:


Half A:


In the desert:


(1-3) Shabbat


(4-8) Pesach and the Festival of Matzot


In Eretz Yisrael:


(9-14) The day of waving the Omer


(15-22) The day of bringing the two loaves


Half B:


In the desert:


(23-25) Day of Remembrance (Rosh HaShanah)


(26-32) Yom Kippur


(33-38) Sukkot (in the desert)


In Eretz Yisrael:


(39-44) Sukkot (in the land)


Although the corresponding sections of the two halves are not identical in length, other aspects the parallel are obvious. There is a clear linguistic and thematic parallel between the "long" festivals that are commemorated even in the desert – i.e., between the Festival of Matzo (5-8) and the festival of Sukkot in the desert (34-36).


Concerning the festivals that apply in Eretz Yisrael, there are a number of connections:


1.    It appears that the description of the time of Sukkot in the land (39) – "When you gather in the produce of the land" – refers back to the introduction to the corresponding section (10): "WHEN YOU COME TO THE LAND and reap its harvest." This may be deduced from the similarity between the verse, "When you gather in the produce of the land" and verse 22 – "when you reap the harvest of your land." Just as the verse "And when you harvest" clearly refers back to "When you come to the land," so likewise the verse "When you gather in…."

2.    The two sections dealing with the Eretz Yisrael festivals conclude in a similar way: "I am Yahweh your Elohim."

3.    The expression "before Yahweh" occurs both in the parashat of the Omer and in the parashat of the two loaves:

(11) "And he shall wave the Omer BEFORE YAHWEH"

(20) "And the Kohen shall wave them (the lambs of the peace offering) with the bikkurim bread as a wave offering BEFORE YAHWEH."

We find this expression occurring again in the laws of Sukkot in Eretz Yisrael:

(40) "And you shall take for your-selves on the first day the fruit of the citron tree… and you shall rejoice BEFORE YAHWEH you Elohim for seven days."

In each of the three places where the expression "before Yahweh" is mentioned here, the reference is to the Temple.

4.    In the two sections dealing with the festivals celebrated in Eretz Yisrael, no mention is made of the bringing of musaf offerings (the "burnt offerings to Yahweh"), for this law is not specific to Eretz Yisrael, and applied also in the desert. For this reason, no mention is made in the discussion of Shavuot of "you shall offer a burnt offering to Yahweh," as appears in all the other festivals of our parashat, even though the musaf sacrifice of this festival is set down explicitly in the parashat of the musaf offerings in Sefer Bamidbar (28:26-31).