A beautiful rule of grammar discovered by the great
Malbim is that there are two words for it in Hebrew
The examples below illustrate usage and connotation of Aleph Tauv Vav
- Aleph Tauv Vav (Otho) means only it and
- A terminal suffix vav means it
- Verse Lv01-06b states
And he shall flay the elevation-offering, and cut only it into its pieces.
The priest only cuts the offering but does not cut the cuts
since the verse explicitly says cut only it
- Verse Lv02-06a states
Thou shalt break only it in pieces, and pour oil thereon; it is a meal-offering.
The priest only breakes the matzoh offering but does not further
break the broken pieces again since the verse explicitly says
break only it
- Verse Lv20-05b discussing the punishment of a person who
worshipped idols states
then I will set My face against that man, and against his family, and
will cut only him off, and all that go astray after him, to go astray after Molech, from among their people.
Although God places His Face against the person and his family nevertheless
God only cuts him off, but not his family, since the verse
explicitly says I will only cut him off.
We can slightly generalize the Malbim's principle as follows:
Any extra pronoun, or, full-word pronoun, when a suffix suffices,
indicates emphasis and can be translated using the word only.
We next apply this principle to verse Lv06-02:
Command Aaron and his sons, saying: This is the Torah of the elevation-offering:
It is the elevation-offering which goes up on its firewood upon the altar all night unto the morning; and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning thereby.
The underlined pronoun it, stated immediately after the noun
it modifies is clearly redundant. The verse reads quite smoothly, perhaps smoother, without the word it:
Command Aaron and his sons, saying: This is the Torah of the up-offering,
which goes up on its firewood upon the altar all night unto the morning; and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning thereby.
Applying our principle that unnecessary pronouns should be translated with
the word only we therefore translate Lv06-02 as follows:
Command Aaron and his sons, saying: This is the Torah of the up-offering:
Only it is the elevation-offering which goes up on its firewood upon the altar all night unto the morning; and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning thereby.
We have justified translating otho as meaning only it.
Our next job will be to interpret the phrase only it.
In our article Biblical
Formatting located on the world wide web at
we have explained that such verses should be seen as indicating unspecified
emphasis. That is, the word only creates emphasis; but we don't know
what is being emphasized; therefore the emphasis is non-specific. The Talmudic
Rabbis traditionally interpret an unspecified emphasis as the worst case. Hence the Rashi
comment: If bestiality has been committed with the animal then even if it was inadvertently
placed on the altar it must be taken down since only it -
that is, only a proper elevation offering may be offered on the altar.
Advanced Rashi: Notice that the translation
only it naturally indicates unspecified emphasis
but doesn't inform us how the emphasis should be implemented.
Our position is that very often Rashi comments are
reasonable interpretations of unspecified emphasis. The existence of the unspecified emphasis is real
and intrinsic to the text but its application to specific contexts is not in the text;
rather it is a reasonable approach to the unspecified emphasis.
I believe the above approach to Rashi, interpretation of unspecified emphasis,
makes Rashis very palatable.
This verse is examined in rules #2,#3,#7 in this issue.
It is best to read them simultaneously before the rest of the digest.