Shemini: Language and Translation

“Moses spoke to Aaron and to Elazar and Ithamar, his remaining sons [banav ha-notarim], ‘Take the meal-offering that is left [ha-noteret] from the fire-offerings of HASHEM, and eat it unleavened near the Altar; for it is the most holy.'”
— Leviticus/Vayikra 10:12 (Stone* translation)

JPS:* “his remaining sons” and “left over from…”

Fox:* “his sons that were left” and “that is left from…”

Onkelos:* “the sons who remained” and “that survived from the sacrifices,” with the following note:

Who remained. The literal meaning of the biblical notarim is “who were left over.” Sifra and Rashi explain: Eleazar and Ithamar, like their two brothers, should have also been killed for their misdeed; not for the current transgression of their brothers but for their participation, with their father Aaron and their brothers, in the affair of the golden calf. However, Moses prayed from Aaron and his sons, and so, these two were “left over” from the brothers who should have been killed. Onkelos, as we would expect, ignores this Midrash.

Yoma 87a (Babylonian Talmud)* says “the merit of their father” helped the two “‘that were left.'” Regardless of what the reader makes of this midrash and the one above, it is clear that the linguistic similarity between the sons remaining/left and the remainder/left-over of the sacrifice is largely lost in some translations.

On the other hand, even without the additional linguistic overtone, “his remaining sons” or “his sons who were left” are each powerful phrases, speaking volumes on their own.

* 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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