Parashat Matot-Masei

AND MOSES TOLD THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL [ACCORDING TO ALL THAT THE ETERNAL COMMANDED MOSES]. “‘This is [stated] in order to separate the subject [of the offerings from that of the following chapter, dealing with vows and oaths].’ These are the words of Rabbi Yishmael. [The meaning thereof is as follows:] Since up till this point [we have] the words of G-d [to Moses],219 and the [following] section of vows begins with the statement of Moses,220 it was necessary to separate the subject [of the offerings] by stating that Moses repeated it and told this section to Israel; for if this were not stated, one might have thought that he did not tell them this [section dealing with the offerings], but began his words with the section of vows.” These are the words of Rashi. But I do not understand them, for [we find] similarly that it says — at the end of the section [dealing with] blemishes [in priests], And Moses spoke unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel;221 and it says at the end of the section of the festivals, And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the appointed seasons of the Eternal222 [and in both these cases the subsequent chapters also begin with G-d’s utterance to Moses; so why was it necessary, according to Rashi, to separate here the sections by saying that Moses declared those laws to the children of Israel]!
But according to its plain meaning, the verse here comes to say that although this section deals with the laws of the offerings, G-d did not single out Aaron and his sons in connection with it, as in the sections of [the book] “the Law of the Priests” [i.e. the Book of Leviticus]. Instead Moses said it to all the children of Israel together, according to all that the Eternal commanded Moses, including the laws of refraining from work on the festivals,223 and [the laws of] the Daily Whole-offerings, the Additional Offerings, the vow-offerings and the freewill offerings, for thus it was told to Moses, Command the children of Israel.224 And the reason [for this] is because this commandment applies after they enter the Land, and it is a commandment to all Israel to observe [the laws of] the Daily Whole-offerings and the Additional Offerings [of the Sabbath and festivals] in their appointed times, and to bring their vow-offerings and freewill offerings. Furthermore, the main intention of the commandment [to offer up offerings] is that these days should be remembered and kept,225 and to refrain on them from all servile work [and therefore it was told to all the children of Israel]. Now this section is like the section of the festivals in “the Law of the Priests” [i.e. the Book of Leviticus]. For it says there at the beginning, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them,226 and at the end it says, And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the appointed seasons of the Eternal,222 and here likewise at the beginning [of the section it says], Command the children of Israel, and say unto them224 and at the end [in the verse before us] it says, And Moses told the children of Israel according to all that the Eternal commanded. It did not mention [here in this verse that Moses told] “the appointed seasons of the Eternal,” because in this section here other matters are mentioned [as well] which do not apply to “the appointed seasons of the Eternal,” such as the Daily Whole-offerings of weekdays, and the Additional Offerings of the Sabbath and the New Moons.
The interpretation given by Rabbi Yishmael [quoted above by Rashi] is because Scripture never has to say of Moses that he told the children of Israel all that G-d commanded him, [because it is self-understood that he always did so], and it is not usual for the Torah to say so at each and every section. Therefore the Rabbis [similarly] explained227 the verse, “And Moses spoke unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel221 — [as implying that] he warned Aaron about his sons [i.e., that Aaron as High Priest should preserve the sanctity of the Sanctuary, and prevent priests with a bodily blemish from performing the Divine Service], and [he warned] the sons concerning the Israelites [that they should prevent the Israelites from entering those parts of the Sanctuary which are forbidden to them], and [he warned] the Israelites about each other” [that they should each prevent the other from violating the sanctity of the Sanctuary]. And in the section of the festivals they explained [the verse, And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the appointed seasons of the Eternal]222 in many ways. [Thus they said]:228 “This teaches us that Moses used to tell Israel the laws of the Passover on Passover, the laws of Shavuoth [the Festival of Weeks] on Shavuoth, and the laws of Tabernacles on Tabernacles. [It further teaches us that] in the very language that he heard it [from G-d], he told it to Israel. And all the sections [mentioned here] are subject to the same law.229 Rabbi Yosei the Galilean says: It states [and Moses declared unto the children of Israel] the appointed seasons of the Eternal,222 but the Sabbath of Creation [i.e., the weekly Sabbath] was not said together with them.’230 Ben Azai says: It is said, [And Moses declared unto the children of Israel] the appointed seasons of the Eternal,222 but the section of vows was not said together with them [as will be explained further on]. Rabbi231 says: What does this verse — And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the appointed seasons of the Eternal222 — come to tell us? Since [hitherto] we have only learnt that the Paschal-lamb and the Daily Whole-offering override the Sabbath [i.e., are brought on the Sabbath although they entail doing work which is normally forbidden], because it says about them in its appointed season232 [which includes even the Sabbath]; but we have not [yet] been taught that [the same applies to] the other public offerings. Therefore Scripture says: These ye shall offer unto the Eternal ‘in your appointed seasons’233 thus indicating that all public offerings mentioned in this section of the Additional Offerings of the festivals, override the Sabbath. [But we still do not know that the sheaf [of new barley brought on the second day of Passover], and the offerings brought with it,234 and the two loaves [brought on the Festival of Shavuoth] and the offerings that come with them235 [override the Sabbath, since they are not mentioned in this section of the offerings, and hence are not included in the phrase in your appointed seasons.233 But when Scripture says [there], And Moses declared unto the children of Israel ‘the appointed seasons of the Eternal,’222 it established ‘an appointed season’ for all [public offerings, so that they all override the Sabbath].” Thus far is the text of the Torath Kohanim.228
Now it is possible to say that the interpretation of Rabbi Yishmael who said that [the verse before us: And Moses told the children of Israel … is said] in order to separate the subject [of the offerings from that of the vows, as Rashi mentioned], is identical with that of Ben Azai, who said: “It says the appointed seasons of the Eternal,222 but the section of vows was not said together with them,” meaning that the law of the festivals is not like the law of the section of vows, which was told to the heads of the tribes236 in order to say that a single person who is expert [in the laws] can release a vow, and so can three ordinary people, for the festivals require the sanctification [of the New Moon] by a court of [at least] three experts, as is explained in [Tractate] Baba Bathra.237 Ben Azai thus derived this distinction between them [the festivals and vows] from the limiting phrase: [And Moses declared] the appointed seasons of the Eternal, and Rabbi Yishmael derived this [same] principle from the [apparent] redundancy of this verse [before us], and [hence he explained] that it only comes to separate the subject of the festivals from that of the vows. Thus both of them [Ben Azai and Rabbi Yishmael] are saying the same thing, differing only as to the text from which this law is derived.
The correct interpretation [of the words of Rabbi Yishmael who said that our verse comes only to separate the subjects] appears to me to be that he only intended to say [as follows]: Had He finished the section [here] of the festivals with [the verse]: These ye shall offer unto the Eternal in your appointed seasons,233 and begun [immediately with the verse] And Moses spoke unto the heads of the tribes of the children of Israel, saying: This is the thing which the Eternal hath commanded,236 it would have been possible [to explain] that the verse refers to the previous [subject], meaning that Moses spoke unto the heads of the tribes: “This is the thing which G-d commanded concerning the Daily Whole-offerings and the Additional Offerings” mentioned [previously], and the phrase unto the heads of the tribes would not be interpreted as referring to the following section of the vows. Therefore He divided [the subjects] and finished the section of the festivals [with the verse before us], And Moses told the children of Israel according to all that the Eternal commanded Moses, and then began the section of vows [with the statement] that Moses spoke unto the heads of the tribes, This is the thing that the Eternal hath commanded.236 This is the truth, for such is the explanation of [the expression] “to separate the subject” in many places in the Sifra and Sifre. And Rashi himself has already mentioned238 what the Rabbis have said in the Sifre:239 “[Now therefore kill every male among the little ones,] ‘and kill’ [every woman that hath known man by lying with him].238 Why is [the expression]and kill used [since it has already been said once at the beginning of the verse]? It is to separate the subject. These are the words of Rabbi Yishmael. For if I were to read [the verse without the repetition of the expression ‘and kill,’ namely]: ‘Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and every woman that hath known man by lying with him. And all the women-children … [keep alive], I would not know what the verse is saying [about the women who have known man by lying with him — whether they are to be killed together with every male mentioned in the beginning of the verse, or to be kept alive together with all the women-children mentioned in the following verse]. Therefore it says [again], and kill, in order to separate the subject [from the following verse].’ These are the words of Rabbi Yishmael.” Similarly we find [such a usage of the expression “to separate the subject”] in other places in the Torath Kohanim [i.e., the Sifra].
Matoth