1

אש is generally translated as "fire." However, consider Vayikra 1:7:

וְנָתְנוּ בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן אֵשׁ עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ וְעָרְכוּ עֵצִים עַל הָאֵשׁ

The sons of Aharon the Kohen shall put "אש" onto the altar, and they shall arrange wood on top of the "אש"

"Fire" doesn't seem to make sense in this context - the wood would come before the fire. Can אש have a broader meaning which is not just "fire"?

I realize that Rashi's comment here does seem to imply that it refers to fire. I'm not sure what the fire is being caught on to. According to Rashi, is there something else not mentioned in the verse that is already on the altar to which the fire is catching?

  • It was a starter fire, a kindling. Much like in parshas Vayeira 22 6. You put the wood on top of it to get the real fire going. – user6591 Mar 15 '15 at 2:39
  • @user6591 so it was a burning object, not just flames. I'm used to אש meaning flames, i.e. the fire itself. (As much as that seems to be the obvious direction of the verse, can you support that claim?) – Y     e     z Mar 15 '15 at 2:41
  • Just from Vayera where the item called eish was being held in someone's hand. Otherwise ouch! – user6591 Mar 15 '15 at 2:42
  • @user6591 You are talking about someone who was thrown into a fiery furnace and came out okay :) – Y     e     z Mar 15 '15 at 2:47
  • well played sir. – user6591 Mar 15 '15 at 3:01
3

The Talmud (Yoma 45a) quotes a baraita as interpreting this "placing of fire" to mean starting the fire by kindling little wood chips1:

רבי יוסי הצתת אליתא מנא ליה נפקא ליה מהיכא דנפקא ליה לרבי שמעון דתניא (ויקרא א, ז) ונתנו בני אהרן הכהן אש על המזבח לימד על הצתת אליתא שלא תהא אלא בכהן כשר ובכלי שרת דברי ר' יהודה אמר לו רבי שמעון וכי תעלה על דעתך שזר קרב לגבי מזבח אלא לימד על הצתת אליתא שלא תהא אלא בראשו של מזבח

And from where does Rabbi Yosei derive that the kindling of the wood chips should be at the top of the altar? He derives it from the same place that Rabbi Shimon derives it. As it was taught in a baraita: The verse states: “And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar” (Leviticus 1:7), which teaches about the kindling of the wood chips that it may be done only by a fit priest and one who is robed in the priestly vestments of service; this is the statement of Rabbi Yehuda. Rabbi Shimon said to him: There is no need for a verse to teach that a priest must kindle the chips, for could it enter your mind that a non-priest could approach the altar? Rather, this verse teaches about the kindling of the wood chips, that they may be lit only at the top of the altar. 2


1. As user6591 suggested in a comment on the question.
2. English from The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren Noé Talmud, with commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Israel. Used with permission under the CC-BY-NC license.

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