Tzav: Language and Translation

**Spoiler alert** If you’d rather be surprised by what is coming in chapter 10, hold off on this post until first reading parashat Shemini. To avoid the spoiler, skip ahead to faint warning in the text.

**Spoiler begins here**
With the foreknowledge that two of Aaron’s sons will not survive their first attempt at priestly service (see Vayikra/Leviticus chapter 10), reading this week’s list of instructions, delineating all the details that they are to follow, can be a little nerve-wracking…but we don’t get the warning of a suspenseful movie soundtrack or any literary foreshadowing, as far as I know — except for the following:

“And Aaron and his sons did all the things that [asher] the LORD had commanded through Moses.” — Leviticus/Vayikra 8:36

It is more usual to read “just as [ka-asher] the LORD had commanded.” See e.g., verses 8:13 and 8:34. This less usual form is used here, according to Nachmanides, because ka’asher implies that “the act was performed exactly as commanded,” while “we see in 10:1 that two of Aaron’s children added to Moses’ instruction and were punished for their misdeeds.”

In a similar vein, Onkelos (early translator of the Torah into Aramaic) renders ka’asher — which appears in 8:34, 8:13, and elsewhere — as kema d’ [“just like” or “just what”], while using only d’ [ just plain “that” or “which”] here (for asher).

***Spoiler ends***

These notes on the missing “ka” in verse 8:36 (asher [as] instead of ka-asher [just as]) — suggesting that something was not done entirely as commanded and, therefore, hinting at danger to come — can be found in Drazen/Wagner’s translation/commentary of Onkelos.* top

* Please see Source Materials for full citations and additional information.

The “Opening the Book” series was originally presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group that for many years pursued spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.

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Virginia hosts "Conversations Toward Repair" on We Act Radio, manages, blogs on general stuff a and more Jewish topics at and

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