Friday, May 14, 2010

Carrying the aron ha'kodesh

At the end of this week’s sedrah the Torah desribes the mitzva for the leviim to carry the mishkan. The Torah says that the family of Kehas had to carry the kelim from the kodesh hakedoshim including the aron hakodesh:

זֹאת עֲבֹדַת בְּנֵי קְהָת בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד קֹדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים. וּבָא אַהֲרֹן וּבָנָיו בִּנְסֹעַ הַמַּחֲנֶה וְהוֹרִדוּ אֵת פָּרֹכֶת הַמָּסָךְ וְכִסּוּ בָהּ אֵת אֲרֹן הָעֵדֻת... וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יָבֹאוּ בְנֵי קְהָת לָשֵׂאת
“This is the work of Kehas in the ohel moed – the kodesh ha’kedoshim. Aharon and his sons should come when the camp travels and they should take down the paroches and cover the aron hakodesh with it. After this the children of kehas should come to carry…”

Whatever the leviim were carrying, they could only work to the age of 50, as the passuk says:
"ומבן חמשים שנה ישוב מצבא העבודה"
“A levi who is older than 50 should return from the cohorts who do work.“

The Rambam says that both of these halachos are no longer applicable:

In Sefer ha’Mitzvos, aseh 34, the Rambam says that that the mitzva of carrying the aron is no longer the responsibility of the leviim – rather it is now the responsibility of the cohanim:
מצוה ל"ד היא שצונו שישאו הכהנים הארון על כתפיהם כשנרצה לשאת אותו ממקום למקום. והוא אמרו כי עבודת הקדש עליהם בכתף ישאו. ואע"פ שזה הצווי בא ללוים בעת ההיא, אמנם היה זה למספר מיעוט הכהנים החייבים במצוה אם כן המצוה מחוייבת לכהנים והם אשר ישאוהו...
“Mitzva 34 is that Hashem commanded us that the cohanim should carry the aron on their shoulders when we want to carry it from place to place, as Hashem said “כי עבודת הקדש עליהם בכתף ישאו”.

Even although this was initially commanded to the leviim this was because there were very few cohanim, really the mitzva is an obligation of the cohanim and they are the ones who should carry it…”

Over 50’s
The change to the cohanim is not the only change that the Rambam makes in this mitzva. He also does not mention that there is an age limit of 50 for the cohanim. This is very difficult to understand, even if the mitzva has been transferred, why does the halacha of over 50 not apply?

Not only does the Rambam not mention the age limit of 50 with regards to the cohanim, he also says that this does not apply to the leviim any more. The Rambam says in הלכות כלי המקדש והעובדין בו ג' ח':

זה שנאמר בתורה בלוים ומבן חמשים שנה ישוב מצבא העבודה אינו אלא בזמן שהיו נושאין המקדש ממקום למקום ואינו מצוה נוהגת לדורות אבל לדורות אין הלוי נפסל בשנים ולא במומין אלא בקול שיתקלקל קולו מרוב הזקנה יפסל לעבודתו במקדש ויראה לי שאינו נפסל אלא לומר שירה אבל יהיה מן השוערים
“This that it says in the Torah concerning the leviim “ומבן חמשים שנה ישוב מצבא העבודה” only applied at the time that they used to carry the mishkan from place to place, it is not a mitzva that applies for all generations. Now the levi does not become pasul through age or mumim, only if his voice becomes ruined from extreme old age does he become passul for avoda in the beis hamikdash.  It seems to me that in this case he only becomes passul to say shiroh but he can still become one of the gate keepers.”

The Rambam says that because there is no longer any mitzva for the leviim to carry the mishkan and its kelim therefore the age limit of 50 does not apply as the leviim do not need to be strong to sing in the beis hamikdash and do their other work.

The Ramban (sefer hamitzvos, shoresh 3) asks a number of questions on the Rambam:
  • How can you say that the torah has changed? The Torah says that the mitzva of carrying the aron applies to the leviim, how can the Rambam say that this has been transferred to the cohanim?
  • Even if the mitzva was given to the cohanim, why does the age limit of 50 not apply to them?
  • How can the Rambam say that only the mitzva of carrying the aron was transferred to the cohanim? The leviim never had a mitzva to only carry the aron, their mitzva was to carry the mishkan and all its kelim, of which the aron is a part. If the mitzva has transferred to the cohanim then the cohanim should have a mitzva to carry all of the klei hamishkan when they need to be moved?
  • Why does the Rambam not count the mitzva for the leviim to carry the klei hamishkan as one of the taryag mitzvos? The fact that this mitzva is no longer applicable does not exclude it from being one of the taryag mitzvos? For example, the Rambam says that the mitzva to drive the 7 nations out of Eretz Yisroel is one of the taryag mitzvos although this is no longer applicable. This is because the Torah did not place a time limit on the mitzva, simply that the mitzva has no practical application. So too converning carrying the klei hamishkan – the Torah never placed a time limit on this mitzva –just that it is no longer applicable, so why does the Rambam say that this is not one of the taryag mitzvos because it is not le’doros?
Reb Chaim Brisker z”l explains as follows:
The possuk says in פסוק כ"ה   דברי הימים א פרק כ"ג:

כי אמר דוד, הניח ה' אלוקי ישראל לעמו, וישכון בירושלים עד לעולם, וגם ללויים אין לשאת את המשכן ואת כל כליו לעבודתו

“Dovid said – Hashem has given rest to his people and he will rest in Yerusholayim forever. And also for the leviim there will be no necessity to carry the mishkan and its artefacts for His service.”

Reb Chaim explains that there was never any mitzva to carry the klei hamishkan, rather the mitzva was to move the mishkan. Part of moving the mishkan was to carry its kelim.

As the possuk says (Bamidbar 1:50):
וְאַתָּה הַפְקֵד אֶת הַלְוִיִּם עַל מִשְׁכַּן הָעֵדֻת וְעַל כָּל כֵּלָיו וְעַל כָּל אֲשֶׁר לוֹ הֵמָּה יִשְׂאוּ אֶת הַמִּשְׁכָּן וְאֶת כָּל כֵּלָיו
"And you should appoint the leviim on the mishkan and all its artifacts and on all that pertains to it, they should carry the mishkan and all of its artifacts."

When Hashem fixed the place of the beis hamikdash in Yerusholayim, He was saying that the mishkan and its artifacts should not be moved anymore. Therefore this is a positive removal of the mitzva of the leviim to carry the mishkan. This is not similar to the mitzva to drive the 7 nations out of  Eretz Yisroel as there Hashem never removed the mitzva.

As the possuk says:” וגם ללויים אין לשאת את המשכן ואת כל כליו, לעבודתו” – the leviim should not carry the mishkan and the klei hamishkan because the mishkan would no longer move.

The question then is, why does the Rambam say that there is a mitzva to carry the aron, surely this mitzva has been cancelled along with the mitzva to carry the mishkan?

Reb Chaim z”l answers as follows:
The passuk says in Ekev:

בָּעֵת הַהִוא הִבְדִּיל ה' אֶת שֵׁבֶט הַלֵּוִי לָשֵׂאת אֶת אֲרוֹן בְּרִית ה' לַעֲמֹד לִפְנֵי ה' לְשָׁרְתוֹ וּלְבָרֵךְ בִּשְׁמוֹ עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה
“At that time, Hashem seperated the tribe of Levi to carry the aron that contains the covenant of Hashem, to stand before Hashem to serve him and to bless in His name until this day.”

We see from this passuk that there is a separate mitzva to carry the aron, not related to moving the mishkan. This is the mitzva which the Rambam counts in aseh 43 for the cohanim. The cohanim are part of the shevet levi. Just as the mitzva in this possuk of le’vorech bi’shmo applies to the cohanim from the shevet levi – so too the mitzva of carrying the aron applies to the cohanim from shevet levi.

Reb Chaim proves this as follows:
There is a machlokess between the Sifri and the gemara in Bava Basra whether the shivrei luchos were in the same aron as the luchos sheniyos or in a separate aron. The gemara says that they were in the same aron. The sifri says that they were in a different aron and this is the aron that was taken out to war against the Pelishtim in the days of Eli and captured.

Dovid was punished (through the death of Uzia) for not carrying the aron when he brought it back from the Pelishtim. Therefore you see that the mitzva to carry the aron habris is not dependant on the aron being part of the mishkan because this aron was not part of the mishkan.

The age limit of 50 does not apply to the cohanim carrying the aron because there was never an age limit stated in regards to the mitzva to carry the aron, there was only a limit stated with regards to carrying the entire mishkan.

1 comment:

Chaim B. said...

Assuming that the geder of kedushas mikdash is established davka by the aron and luchos (see R' Hershel Shachter's essay in Eretz haTzvi quoting RYBS), it follows that the Rambam who holds that kedushas mikdash (and yerushalayim) is permanent would hold that the makom ha'aron became fixed in place in the mikdash, never to be moved again.

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