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Parshat Shmini - Questions for Self Study
Questions for the Shabbat Table
Questions for Shiur Preparation
Questions on Parshanut
Part I - Questions for the 'Shabbat Table'
Chet Nadav & Avihu (and a little 'methodology')
The most 'popular' topic in this week's Parsha is the sin of
Nadav and Avihu. If you are really discussing this at the
'shabbos table', ask anyone who is listening (or at least
yourself): to the best of your recollection - what did Nadav and
Avihu do wrong?
[Most likely you will hear several different answers. If
so, before you continue, try to explain why everyone has
heard so many different answers.]
Now, ask a different question. In your opinion, to what degree
was their 'sin' intentional, i.e.
a) Did they knew they were doing something wrong, but they did
it anyhow (what we call "mayzid").
b) Did they unintentionally do something wrong, but they
should have been more careful in their behavior (what we
c) Did they have good intentions (i.e. they intended to do
something that they thought was good - sort of like
Aharon's original intentions at "chet ha'egel"), but
unfortunately it was something that they did not realize
was forbidden (what we call a 'tragedy').
Relate these three possibilities to all of the various
answers that were raised in the first part of your discussion.
Considering their punishment, which possibility seems to be
Consider the 'setting', i.e. that their sin takes place
during the dedication ceremony of the Mishkan - before the eyes
of the entire nation. Use this point to explain a possible reason
for the severity of their punishment - even had their intentions
Before we discuss the various opinions of the commentators,
let's review from 9:23-10:20 (i.e. the sugya of Nadav & Avihu's
sin and its aftermath). Based on these psukim alone, attempt to
determine on your own what was Nadav and Avihu's sin.
How do we know for sure that they sinned?
[In your answer, relate to 10:3, as well as to the
'inserted' "parshia" from 10:8-11.]
Do the psukim tells us precisely what it was that they did
wrong? Do they at least 'hint' to what was done incorrectly?
See also Vayikra 16:2 and Bamidbar 3:4 & 26:21. Do these
psukim add any information that we were not aware of in Parshat
Shmini? Do they shed any light on the your answers to the above
See Rashi on 10:2, noting how he quotes the two opinions found
in Eiruvin 63a [disrespect to their elders, or entering the
Mishkan in a state of drunkenness]. What is the 'textual basis'
for each of these two opinions?
In your opinion, are these two opinions based on thematic
considerations supported by a textual 'nuance', or visa versa?
Explain! How do these answers relate to question #2 above (regarding their 'intentions')?
[See Chizkuni on 10:1-3. Note how he himself explains these
psukim, and how he uses his own interpretation to explain
the two opinions of Chazal (quoted by Rashi).]
5. Next, see Ibn Ezra, noting how he explains explicitly that
Nadav and Avihu had good intentions. Nonetheless, they were
punished. Does he explain why? [Again, relate to question #2
above.] Relate this to Ibn Ezra's explanation of Aharon's
behavior at "chet ha'egel" and the phrase "asher lo tziva Hashem"
in 10:1 (and some twenty times in Parshat Pekudei).
Can you explain why Ibn Ezra does not quote Rashi (i.e.
either opinion of Chazal)?
Next, see Ramban on 10:1. Note how his interpretation is
based primarily on his textual analysis of 10:1 itself (and the
obvious parallel to the laws of the Mizbach Ktoret in Shmot
30:9). Note as well how Ramban focusses on the 'fire' aspect, in
both 10:1 and 10:2, and less so on the "ktoret" itself.
How would Ramban answer question #2 above (re: their
intentions)? Can you explain why?
In your opinion, why do you think that Ramban does not quote
Rashi (either to agree or disagree with the two opinions in
Chazal - or even Ibn Ezra) before he offers his own
interpretation? [What can we infer from this in regard to his own
methodology of study?]
Now, see Ramban on 10:3, noting how he quotes Chazal on a
different issue, and Ibn Ezra; and explains why he disagrees.
Use this Ramban to answer the above question.
[See footnotes on Ramban 10:1 in either Torat Chaim or
Chavell editions, noting how they explain that Ramban is
alluding to concepts in "kabbala" in this interpretation.]
7. See Seforno on 10:1. Note how he bases his interpretation on
the juxtaposition of the laws of the daily Olah (see Shmot 29:38-
42) and the laws of the Mizbach ha'Ktoret (see Shmot 30:1-10).
Note as well how Seforno claims that not only did Nadav and Avihu
have good intentions, they even based their actions on their own
understanding of this juxtaposition of psukim!
First of all, relate this to question #2 above!
In what manner is Seforno similar to Ramban, and in what
manner is his interpretation different?
Recall our TSC shiur on Parshat Tezaveh, in relation to the
location of the laws of Mizbach ha'Ktoret (in Shmot 30:1-9) after
the completion of the "shchina" unit (chapters 25 thru 29).
Relate the conclusions of that shiur to Seforno's interpretation!
Finally, note how Seforno concludes his interpretation,
claiming that this action is precisely what Chazal refer to (i.e.
R' Eliezer's opinion) that 'they taught a "halacha" without
consulting Moshe' (quoted in Rashi on 10:2). However, the Gemara
in Eiruvin appears to provide a different explanation (i.e. the
though that 'even though fire comes from heaven, it is a mitzvah
to bring our own fire as well'). In your opinion, would Seforno
agree with that interpretation as well, or is he offering a
different explanation of R' Eliezer's opinion?
In regard to these various opinions, can you explain why the
various commentators search for additional or different reasons
for Nadav and Avihu's sin, even though there are already two
answers provided by Chazal? [Note how some of the "parshanim"
attempt to connect their own explanation to that of Chazal's
(e.g. Chizkuni and Seforno) in an attempt to add insight to what
Chazal said; while others will offer a completely different
interpretation, as long as it based on thorough analysis of the
psukim (Ibn Ezra and Ramban). As you study these commentators,
keep this in mind; see if this pattern continues!]
9. For "afikomen", see Rashbam on 10:1. Note how he provides a very
clear and concise explanation for what Nadav and Avihu did wrong
(even though they may have had good intentions). Also note how
and why he explains that 10:1 should be understood as 'past
perfect' (i.e. 10:1 took place before 9:24), as the fire in 9:24
and 10:2 is the same!
Then, see Rashbam on 10:2-3 where he explains this in
greater detail, and note how he beautifully explains 10:3, even
though this pasuk (at first glance) appears to be rather cryptic.
Note how Rashbam bases his interpretation on the laws of
Vayikra 21:10-12 (assuming that Aharon was already aware of those
laws -as they were given at an earlier time). What major
assumption does Rashbam make in regard to these psukim (that is
not written)? What does he gain by making this assumption?
Would you agree that Rashbam's interpretation is the simple
"pshat" of these difficult psukim? Explain why yes, or why not!
The Ohel Moed - Old & New
Recall from Parshat Ki-tisa that in the aftermath of chet
ha'egel, Moshe moved his tent outside the camp [read Shmot
33:7 carefully in its context in 33:1-12]. In that pasuk, how
does the Torah refer to Moshe's tent? Can you explain why the
Torah chose this specfic name?
Does Moshe's tent ever return to the 'inside' of the camp?
If so, when? [Relate to Shmot 25:8.]
How does this name "ohel moed" (n 33:7) relate to the fact
that later on the Mishkan is also referred to as an "ohel moed"?
[Note the translation of Unkelos for "ohel moed" in Shmot
33:7 and then in Shmot 40:1,34,35, etc. Is it the same or
different? Can you explain why?]
What is the "shoresh" of the word "moed". Relate to the
Hebrew word "vaad" or "va'adah" (a committee - in modern Hebrew).
Relate also to Shmot 25:22 and 29:42-43!
(Who is 'meeting' whom? How does "moed" later come to mean
'yom-tov'? Relate to Vayikra 23:1-4 and Shmot 23:17!)
Based on this discussion, how would you explain the word
"moadim" in "v'hayu l'otot u'l'moadim..." in Breishit 1:14; i.e.
are these 'meetings' or 'holidays'?
Kashrut or Kedusha?
How would you title the laws that are recorded at the end of
Parshat Shmini (i.e. in chapter 11)?
Relate to the summary psukim in 11:43-47. If these laws are
more than just "kashrut", then explain what the more general
title should be, and why this section does includes certain laws
pertaining to what we refer to as "kashrut".
Compare these psukim to Devarim 14:3-21. Do those psukim
deal only with "kashrut" or is there a more general topic as
well. How are these psukim different than those in Vayikra?
Relate your answer to the primary themes of Vayikra and Devarim
Part II - Questions for Preparation (for weekly shiur)
On Yom Ha'Shmini, the day of the Mishkan's dedication, we find
in chapter 9 a set of korbanot (see 9:1-4,7-21) which lead to a
certain climax. What is this climax (relate to 9:5-6,22-24), and
how do these korbanot relate to it?
In what manner are these events similar to the events that
took place at Har Sinai? Be sure to relate to Shmot 24:1-17,
especially to 24:5-6 and 24:15-16. How and why is this parallel
[As usual, relate your answer to the first Ramban on
Parshat Terumah (Shmot 25:1)].
In what manner to these korbanot relate to the events of
"chet ha'egel" as well?
At this time (if you have ample time), answer the first two
questions in the Parshanut section below.
Review 9:1-4 once again, and make a chart of all of the special korbanot
which were to be offered on Yom HaShmini.
Organize your chart according to the groupings of:
a) Korban of Aharon, korban of the people Then, using that chart as a base, compare these korbanot to
the korbanot that were offered:
b) Korbanot Olah, Chatat, Shlamim.
a) During the 7 days of miluim ceremony (see Vayikra 8:1-36);
While doing so, consider:
b) At "brit na'aseh v'nishma" at Har Sinai (Shmot 24:4-6);
c) Yearly on Yom Kippur (based on Vayikra 16:1-5);
d) Yearly on Shavuot (Vayikra 23:17-19)
Who must bring each korban (Aharon or the people);
What categories of korbanot are offered;
What specific and (species of) animal is offered
for the korban.
Note that an "egel" is a baby
"par," and a "keves" is a baby "ayil."
Using this table, and relating to 9:4-6 & 9:23-24, attempt to
explain the parallel between the korbanot of Yom ha'Shmini and
their purpose, the korbanot on Yom Kippur and their purpose, and
the events that took place at Ma'amad Har Sinai?
Relate to Shmot 24:9-11, 24:15-17 and 40:34-38.
In what manner does this day (i.e. Yom HaShmini) coincide
the day of "hakamat ha'Mishkan" described in Shmot 40:1-2,38?
[For further iyun, see Parshanut section - question #3.]
In your opinion, which of the korbanot offered on Yom
ha'Shimini relate directly to the events of Ma'amad Har Sinai,
and which korbanot relate to the events at "chet ha'egel".
Which of these aspects to we find in the korbanot offered
on Yom Kippur, and which of these aspects to we find in the
special korbanot offered on Shavuot (in Vayikra 23:17-21)?
What event at Ma'amad Har Sinai is parallel to Vayikra 9:23?
Based on that parallel, why are Nadav and Avihu punished?
Relate to Shmot 19:20-24!
[See Chizkuni on Vayikra 10:3!]
Based on the shiur on Parshat Tezaveh, why do you think that
Nadav and Avihu thought that it was necessary to offer k'toret?
In what manner is their sin similar to Aharon's sin at chet
ha'egel, relate to last phrase in Vayikra 10:1.
Now that you've prepared, go to the shiur.
Part III - Parshanut
As you may recall, Parshat Shmini opens by telling us that
Aharon must offer an "egel" for a korban chatat on Yom ha'Shmini,
as it was the first day that he officiated in the Mishkan (see
In your opinion, why must Aharon offer specifically an
"egel" for his chatat on this day?
Relate to the fact that during each of the seven days of
milium that preceded Yom ha'Shmini, Aharon offered a "par" for
a chatat. [btw, an "egel" (calf) is a baby "par" (bull).]
Now see Rashi on 9:2. How does he answer this question?
You may have understood that Rashi explains that Aharon
brings "egel" as he needs forgiveness ["kapara"] for his sin at
"chet ha'egel" [It's only an assumption, but 95% of the time
that I have asked this question in class, that is the answer that
Now, read this Rashi once again, this time carefully.
Explain why Rashi begins his commentary with the phrase:
"l'hodiah..." [to make it publicly known...]. Attempt to arrive
at a more precise understanding of how Rashi relates this "egel"
to "chet ha'egel". Can you explain why? In your answer, relate
to Rashi's explanation for why Aharon had to bring a "par" for
his "chatat" during each of the seven days of the miluim.
Now, see Rashi on Shmot 29:1-2, where he explains why Aharon
must offer a "par" on each day of the seven day "milium". Note
how this explanation is different than his explanation for the
"egel" on Yom ha'Shmini. Can you explain why?
Next, see Chizkuni. Is his pirush the same as Rashi's or
different? [See also Ibn Ezra.] How do they both relate to the
difference between the "par la'chatat" during the 7 day miluim,
and the "egel la'chatat" on Yom ha'Shmini? How does Rashi relate
Then, see Ramban on this topic in his pirush to 9:2
towards the end - "v'hiney ha'korbanot ha'elyu..." , and note how
and why he argues with Rashi. How does he explain why Aharon
must bring a "par" during the seven day miluim?
Can you explain the reason for these respective opinions of
Rashi & Ramban? Be sure to relate to their controversy
concerning when "chet ha'egel" took place, i.e. before the
commandment to build the Mishkan (Rashi) or afterwards (Ramban).
Finally, see Tanchuma on Vayikra 9:2.
As you review the opening psukim of the Parsha (9:1-6), note
how God informs Moshe that "kvod Hashem" would appear after
Aharon & Bnei Yisrael would offer a certain set of korbanot.
[Note especially 9:4 & 9:6, in their context.]
Then, quickly review 9:6-24, noting how these commandments
are fulfilled. Based on the conclusion of this chapter, did
"kvod Hashem" indeed return immediately upon the completion of
these sacrifices, or did something else happen in between? Can
you explain why? In your answer, relate to 9:23!
Then, see Rashi, Rashbam, Ibn Ezra and Chizkuni on 9:23, and
On what day of the month (of Nisan) did Yom Hashmini take
Consider the following sources:
Shmot chapter 40, especially 40:2,17,34-35.
[Note, that since Yom HaShmini was preceded by the seven
day 'miluim' ceremony, then it depends if the seven day
miluim began with the erection of the Mishkan by Moshe on
the first of Nisan as described in Shmot 40:1-2,17 or 7
days earlier on the 23rd of Adar. ]
Vayikra 1:1-2; 7:37->8:4; 8:33->9:5
This is a very complicated sugya, and the source for a major
controversy among the commentators. Be sure to see:
Rashi on Vayikra 9:1 and Vayikra 8:2
Ibn Ezra ("aroch") & Ramban on Shmot 40:1!
Ramban on Vayikra 8:2 !