The Milu'im

  • Rav Nathaniel Helfgot



Careful comparison of the presentation of the command - the "tzivui," and its execution - the "bitzu'a," in various sections of the Torah often yields significant insight. Such comparisons are especially useful in the chapters describing the Mishkan, and were utilized by meforshim, both ancient and modern, in approaching these passages. This technique can be particularly helpful in our search for a proper understanding of the Milu'im, the consecration ritual, and its place in the scheme of the book of Shemot.


The Milu'im passage, with its elaborate seven-day ceremony, is presented in full detail in chapter 29 of Shemot as a command to Moshe, and is carried out with the same measure of concern for details in chapter 8 of Vayikra, (Parashat Tzav), whereupon it is followed in chapter 9 by the events of the eighth day, the 'Yom Ha-shemini,' at the beginning of Parashat Shemini. In comparing the two texts, one notes many minor differences, such as small discrepancies in the sequence of events, e.g., when the Kohanim were anointed with oil, the precise order of the wearing of each vestment, etc. (See especially Malbim in his commentary to Vayikra chapter 8 who cites and attempts to explain many of these differences). I would like to deal, however, with just a few of the more significant discrepancies that may shed light on some fundamental issues in our narrative.




To properly understand these points let us first outline the sacrifices of the Milu'im section as they are presented and described in Shemot and Vayikra. The following sacrifices were brought every day of the seven-day period of consecration according to Shemot and Vayikra respectively (It would be best to open a Tanakh and follow along):




1. "Par echad ben bakar"- a bull (verse 1); the animal is subsequently referred to as "par" without any other appellation (verses 3,10,11, 14), while the procedures of the classical korban chatat, the sin offering, are performed on it (shechita, semikha, zerikat ha-dam on the mizbe'ach ha-olah - the alter outside the Ohel Moed). In verse 14, a major deviation from the standard chatat takes place; the meat and fats and inner organs are burnt "mi-chutz la-machaneh" - outside the camp. This is anomalous as the meat and fats of the standard chatat are always burned within the Mishkan, on the altar outside the Ohel Moed. The only chata'ot that are burned outside the camp are ones in which the zerikat ha-dam takes place INSIDE the Ohel Moed, such as the par kohen mashiach (Vayikra 4:12) - or the service on Yom Ha-kippurim (Vayikra 16:27). This leads the Midrash Halakha, cited by Rashi (verse 14), to note that this is the only "outside chatat" that is burned outside of the camp. In addition, it is only here, in verse 14, that the term chatat is used ("chatat hee") to describe the Korban and even here it is not referred to as 'par ha-chatat.'


2. A ram which is brought as an olah (verses 16-19).


3. A second ram which is brought as a shelamim (verses 19-23), later termed the "eil ha-milu'im."


4. A korban mincha, consisting of the elements of matzot, regular loaves, and rikikei matzot mixed with oil, etc.


In effect, then, the Milu'im consist of a representative sample of the classical korbanot that are part of the Torat Kohanim: olah, mincha, shelamim, and some type of chatat; it is a sort of smorgasbord of the korbanot that the Kohanim will deal with in the daily running of the Mishkan and Mikdash. (A question for further study is why no "asham" is brought in the context of the Milu'im. See points for further study at the end of the shiur.)


After this presentation, the Torah tells us that these korbanot, along with other parts of the consecration ceremony, are to be repeated for seven straight days (verse 35). This is then followed by verse 36 which states "And each day you shall prepare a bull offering (par ha-chatat) for expiation (al ha-kippurim); you shall purge the altar by performing purification, and the altar shall become most holy, and you shall anoint it to consecrate it. Seven days shall you perform purification for the altar to consecrate it."


There is a debate among the meforshim as to the nature of this par. Some explain that this par is identical with that mentioned in the beginning of the section, and is simply being repeated here to emphasize its purificatory role as well as the Torah's insistence that it too be repeated for seven days. Others insist that this par chatat is a new sacrifice, to be brought in addition to the other korbanot, as would appear from peshuto shel mikra, the simple reading of the text. (This second position is indeed adopted by Abravanel in his comments to these verses. It is also interesting to note that the Temple Scroll found at Qumran explicitly describes the Milu'im as consisting of two separate parim! See further 11Qt 15-17 in Yigal Yadin, The Temple Scroll, Jerusalem, 1983 pp. 61-75).


Interestingly, the Torah then introduces the laws of the daily sacrifice, the tamid, (though the laws of all other sacrifices are left for Sefer Vayikra!) concluding this section with the very beautiful verses: "A regular burnt offering throughout the generations, at the entrance of the tent of meeting (petach Ohel Moed), for there I will meet you (e'eva'ed shama), and there I will meet with the Israelites, and it shall be sanctified in my presence (ve-nikdash bekhvodi). I will sanctify the tent of meeting and the altar, and I will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. I will then abide amongst the Jewish people (ve-shakhanti betokh Bnei Yisrael), and I will be their God" (verses 42-44). This is then followed by the section dealing with the building of the incense altar (itself problematic as it should have appeared in Parashat Teruma) and the command to offer ketoret upon it daily.




1. The chapter begins with God telling Moshe to take Aharon and his sons and the vestments of kehuna and the oil, and the "par chatat" (the sin offering) and the other animals and basket of matzot (8:1-2). The par is termed a chatat from the very outset of the passage. The altar is anointed with oil to sanctify it (verse 10); Moshe brings the "par chatat" (verse 14); the term is then used repeatedly a number of times throughout the section; he then immediately engages in purifying the altar. No further mention is made of any other par or purification ceremony of the altar.


2. The "eil ha-olah" is brought (verses 18-21).


3. The second ram, the "eil ha-Milu'im" (shelamim) is brought (verses 22- 25).


4. The mincha is brought together with the shelamim as outlined in Vayikra (22-31).


5. Aharon and his sons are instructed not to leave the area of the entrance of the tent of meeting - petach Ohel Moed - for the entire seven-day consecration period, "day and night," in order to bring atonement upon themselves - LEKHAPER ALEIKHEM (verse 35).


6. On the eighth day Aharon is commanded to bring a calf (eigel ben bakar) as a sin offering, and a ram as an olah (9:2).


7. The Jewish people are requested to bring a goat (sa'ir) as a sin offering, and a calf (eigel) and a sheep for an olah, together with an ox and ram for shelamim and a mincha sacrifice, for "on this day God will appear to you" (verses 3-4) and God's glory (Kavod) will appear upon you" (verse 5).


8. The text then describes an elaborate atonement ceremony with the word 'kappara' repeated numerous times, and sets up the model, as Ramban and others point out, for what is later expanded into the yearly ritual of Yom Ha-kippurim for the Kohanim. (Note for instance: the par of the Kohen and the Korbanot of the people, the "sa'ir" of the people. Furthermore, the sacrifices are described as playing an atonement role for the Kohen himself and for the people - "vekhaper be'adkha u-va'ad ha-am" etc., all elements echoing the Yom Kippur language later on in Vayikra 16.)


9. The text then continues to describe the appearance of God's Kavod followed by the tragedy of the bringing of the ketoret by Nadav and Avihu and their deaths at the hand of God.




Five striking distinctions emerge from carefully comparing these two texts:


A. While in Sefer Shemot the Par is never called "par ha-chatat," and only once in Shemot 29:14 is it even associated with the term "chatat," in Vayikra it is immediately and always termed as such. (This was already noticed by the Sifrei to Vayikra 8:14.)


B. Related to this point: while in Shemot the impression one gets is of two parim, one to consecrate the Kohen and one at the end to serve an expiatory role for the altar, in Vayikra the presentation speaks of only one par ha-chatat which serves both functions


C. In Shemot, no command is given to the Kohanim to remain at the Ohel Moed for seven days and seven nights in constant presence, as appears in Vayikra (8:33). (Note carefully the language the Torah uses to describe this new directive in contrast to all of the other parts of the consecration ceremony mentioned earlier in the chapter. Regarding these other elements, elements that are in effect fulfillments of the commands in Shemot, such as the wearing of the vestments, the sacrifice of the various korbanot etc., the Torah repeatedly writes that they were done "ka'asher tziva Hashem et Moshe" ("as God commanded Moshe") (v. 9,13,17, 21, 29). In describing the command not to leave the front of the Ohel Moed the Torah shifts terminology with Moshe admonishing the kohanim to fulfill this command "Ki chein tzuveiti" ("for thus have I been commanded")(v. 35).


D. Neither the tamid nor ketoret sections are incorporated into the story in Vayikra as they are in Shemot.


E. Finally and possibly the key to our entire question: in Sefer Shemot, there is no mention whatsoever of the need for a Yom ha-Shemini with its elaborate Yom ha-Kippurim type ritual to bring about the process of divine revelation. In Vayikra, of course, this is a, if not the, central facet of the consecration story and is described in great detail.




The solution to these clearly distinct presentations lies in the chronological context in which they appear; namely Sefer Shemot being pre-"cheit ha-eigel," the sin of the golden calf, and Parashot Tzav and Shemini being post-"cheit ha-eigel." Before the sin of the golden calf, the Milu'im ceremony is a consecration ritual in which the basic types of korbanot, including a chatat, are played out. In truth, however, there is no actual sin for which the par will atone; it is not really a par chatat in the true sense (and is thus not termed as such) but rather a korban that is treated with the status of a chatat, "CHATAT HEE." In Vayikra however, we are after the cataclysm of the cheit ha-eigel that almost destroyed the relationship between God and the Jewish people, as well as, due to Aharon's role in the sin of the golden calf, the position of Aharon and the Kohanim in the divine scheme (see Sifrei Shemini beginning of ch. 4). In Shemini, the par has now been transformed into a "par ha-chatat," as it helps to bring atonement for Aharon and his family as they seek to reestablish contact with God (see also Rav Kasher zt"l's reading of the Sifrei cited above, in Torah Sheleima - Parashat Tetzaveh, pg. 200, note 19). The par of atonement, which in Tetzaveh only appears at the end of the section in relation to atoning for the altar - shiv'at yamim tekhaper al ha-mizbe'ach (v.37), (implying that there were two separate parim as we noted above) is transformed in Shemini into one par, a par ha-chatat, playing a dual role from the very outset of the ritual, bringing atonement for the altar (Shemini 8:15) as well as kappara for the kohanim. Indeed it is striking to note that in our passage here in Shemot the Torah tells us that the Kohanim should engage in this ritual for seven days ("lemalei et yadam," verse 35) and concludes that the ritual of the par chatat for the alter shall be done seven days to atone for the altar - shiv'at yamim tekhaper al ha-mizbe'ach." In sharp contrast in Shemini the entire procedure of the Milu'im is presented as being for the atonement of the kohanim. It is thus they who must remain in front of the sanctuary - petach Ohel Moed - for seven days - LEKHAPER ALEIKHEM (verse 34), a term and concept wholly absent from the Shemot passage.


Taking this a step further it would appear that had the sin of the Golden Calf not occurred, there would have been no ceremony of the eighth day, as the seven days alone would have been sufficient in their own right (See Ramban, Shemini 9:3). The manifestation of God's presence would have automatically begun with daily worship in the Mishkan, with the korbanot ha-tamid and the ketoret, as is indicated by the juxtaposition and language of the text in Shemot 29. Instead of the eighth day with its special ritual, there would have been an immediate commencement of the daily ritual, the daily sacrifice and daily incense. Once the altar was purified, that which was to be constant - "tamid" both in the morning and evening - was the bringing of certain regular sacrifices. It was these acts, the Torah very suggestively tells us, which were to be done constantly "petach Ohel Moed lifnei Hashem, asher e'eva'eid shama, veno'aditi shama livnei Yisrael, ve-ne'ekdash bekhvodi... ve-shakhanti betokh Bnei Yisrael"(verses 42-50).


Unfortunately this was not to be, as Jewish history went awry and the Milu'im along with other elements in God's relationship to the Jewish people were transformed (see for example the extremely significant Ramban at the beginning of Parashat Behar). By Parashat Shemini, the Milu'im have been transmuted from a unit in which the consecration itself takes place, into one of preparation for an eighth day; it is no longer a seven-day unit followed organically by the regular patterns of religious existence, i.e. the tamid and ketoret. At this point, that alone will not suffice to heal the rupture between God and his servants. The Milu'im becomes a preparatory seven-day period paving the way for the climax of an eighth day. (It is significant to note that Chazal derive from this seven-day period followed by an eighth day, the exact model for the Mishna's ruling that seven days before Yom Kippur, the day of atonement for all eternity, the Kohen Gadol is set aside to practice the rituals of atonement! Yoma 3b). What in Tezaveh is associated with the korbanot tamid and ketoret, namely their constantly being performed day and night - petach Ohel Moed - is now transformed into a mitzva for the kohanim themselves to sit constantly, day and night - petach Ohel Moed! (Shemini 8:35). And of course, now the need for the eighth day, for the ritual of atonement with its korbanot of "eigel," so suggestive of the sin of the Golden Calf, together with the other elements of the Yom Kippur ritual falls into place. God's revelation at this juncture of Jewish history will not occur with the implementation of the regular Milu'im and the flow into the regular pattern of Avodat ha-Korbanot (i.e. Tetzaveh). Things are not simply as they were, and the need to reestablish contact with God and delineate the new boundaries and contours of that relationship are necessary. Now it is only in the aftermath of the ritual of the eighth day, the mini Yom Kippurim of Aharon and his sons, that God's presence will be manifest. The natural process was interrupted, and repairing the damage, of literally restoring the loving relationship between the estranged couple, between Knesset Yisrael and the Ribbono shel Olam requires that much more work.


For further study:


We noted above that no "asham" sacrifice is brought as part of the Milu'im ceremony. It is interesting to note that the same holds true for a parallel consecration ceremony described in Bemidbar 7, the Chanukat ha-Mizbe'ach and the sacrifices brought by the nese'im, the princes of the various tribes. Each prince brings a package that includes a mincha, ketoret, a buland lamb for an olah, a goat for a chatat, and finally two bulls, five rams and five male lambs, all shelamim. In all of the dedication ceremonies of the Mishkan and kohanim there are no Ashamot. One might explore the unique aspects of Asham as opposed to all other korbanot in the Torat haKohanim that might explain this glaring absence. Study carefully the portions of Vayikra 1-7 and note what common denominator might bind all the other korbanot and their use in the service in the Mishkan, in the Avodat ha-Korbanot, that does not exist in regards to the asham. Good luck and Shabbat Shalom