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Behar Bechkukotai 5769

By: Rav Yonatan Horovitz

Shabbat and Mikdash – Rav Yonatan Horovitz We are familiar with phrases or complete pesukim which occur more than once in the Torah. Parshat Behar, the first of the two parshiot we read this week ends with a pasuk which is found earlier in the Torah: " Et shabbetotai tishmoru umikdashi tirau, ani Hashem, You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary, I am the Lord" (Vayikra 26:2) This very same pasuk is found in Parshat Kedoshim too.(Vayikra 19:30) The obvious question is, why is this pasuk repeated? However, before we try to explain why the pasuk appears in this week's parsha, we will delve into its actual meaning. The first issue dealt with by the mefarshim (on Vayikra 19:30) is the need for yet another warning about Shabbat. Ramban explains that the reason for the many warnings about Shabbat which appear in the Torah is due to the fundamental nature of the mitzvah of Shabbat. Quoting a midrash which states that Shabbat is considered equal to all the other mitzvoth together, Ramban claims that one who breaks Shabbat is in fact denying the Creation and therefore the entire Torah. This is a well known notion but is not necessarily sufficient reason for the mention of Shabbat in this specific pasuk. Let us take a closer look at the second phrase of this pasuk, the commandment of "morah mikdash" to revere God's sanctuary. According to Rashi, based on the Sifra, this includes the various laws pertaining to one who enters the site of the mikdash, Har Habayit. These include the prohibition to wear regular shoes or to be carrying a money pouch and other similar restrictions on one who ascends the site of the mikdash. Sefer Hachinuch also lists these halachot as the mitzvah of morah mikdash. He then adds a comment found in Sifra that " we are not to revere the mikdash but rather He who ordered us about the mikdash. This last statement makes us wonder as to the nature of this mitzvah. If all we are in fact doing is revering God Himself, why do we need a specific commandment about the reverence of the mikdash. We suggest that this question could be applied to much of the Torah. Many mitzvoth are designed to enhance our belief in God, our understanding that He both created the world and continues to be involved in its occurrences on a daily basis. To give one example from this week's parsha, the mitzvah of shemitta is understood on one level as an opportunity for us to internalize the idea that the land we own is not really ours but belongs to God. This is achieved through the requirement to allow the land to rest for the shemitta year, described as a Shabbat La'Hashem. In a similar way, the commandment to revere the mikdash allows us to demonstrate our reverence to Hashem through our attitude towards His mikdash. In the sense that the concept of a sanctuary for God is somewhat strange and is obviously meant as a medium though which we are to cling to Hashem, the mitzvah of morah mikdash is simply one aspect of that framework. Let us return to our pasuk. How is Shabbat connected to mikdash? Rashi quotes another midrash which derives from the juxtaposition of these two commands that the commandment to build the mikdash does not override Shabbat. This is in fact not the first time that Shabbat and mikdash are found in close proximity. The structure of the parshiot which deal with the mishkan towards the end of Sefer Shemot, demonstrates the clear connection between these two ideas. In addition to the halachic corollary of this juxtaposition, it would seem that the two concepts are connected thematically. Shabbat and Mikdash are the two prime examples of kedush. They reflect sanctity or dedication of time and place; kedushat haz'man and kedushat hemakom. In this sense they are two halves of one coin, the kedusha aspect of our avodat Hashem. Thus far, we have related to the phrases in the pasuk. Whilst much has been said and written about the context of this pasuk in Parshat Kedoshim we will focus on the reason for its appearance a second time, in our parsha. Parshat Behar deals, amongst other things, with the laws pertaining to a slave and reiterates the fact that Am Yisrael are not destined to be slaves to a fellow man but rather are avdei Hashem. Ramban (Vayikra 26:2) explains that the mitzvoth of Shabbat and morah mikdash instill within a person that same feeling of reverence to the Almighty and remind us that we are in fact avadim only to Him. Other mefrashim relate this pasuk to the earlier part of parshat Behar which deals with the shemitta and yovel years. Chizkuni, quotes a Yerushalmi which translates the word Shabbatot as a reference to the shemitta years and the word "mikdashai" as alluding to the yovel year about which is says "kodesh tiheyeh lachem, it shall be dedicated to you". This is a novel way of looking at the pasuk. We can understand why Shabbat and shemitta are connected. They both involve the number seven, they both include prohibition of work and the shemitta year is termed Shabbat by the Torah. The conection between the Yovel year and the mikdash is less obvious. The Yerushalmi quotes a pasuk to explain this connection, but we assume that this only hints at a deeper link between the two ideas. The Yovel year which takes place once every fifty years, is a crucial link in the social policy formulated by the Torah. It is the Yovel year which sends all slaves back to their families, returns all land to the original landowner and ensures some form of equal status for all members of Clal Yisrael. We propose that this attitude of equality for all is also the outlook required for those who enter the mikdash. This is the crux of the argument between David Hamelech and Michal found in Shmuel Bet, chapter 6. As the aron hakodesh is being brought to Yerushalayim, David dances with all his might in front of the ark, rejoicing in the uniqueness of the moment. His wife, Michal, observes this spectacle and castigates him, king of Israel, for acting as a peasant, a commoner. This kind of behavior was not fitting for a monarch and as a member of a royal household he should act in a more appropriate manner. David's retort hinges on the words "lifnei Hashem". Before God, says David, I am like any other member of the nation. I may be king, but in front of God, as we accompany His aron through the streets of Yerushalayim, we are all equals (and as oppose to George Orwell's society described in Animal Farm, here there are no equals who are more equal than others). This ceremony in which the aron was brought to Yerushalayim was the initial part of the process of building the mikdash. It seems that David Hamelech's words have an affect on how we are to relate to the Bet Hamikdash. Before God, we are all equal. The notion emphasized in the mikdash and its use finds its legal expression in the legislation of the Yovel year. In contemporary times we are able to keep the mitzvah of Shabbat but what of morah mikdash? One answer is that on going up to Har Habayit one fulfills the various halachic and conceptual aspects of this mitzvah. However, although there are those who go to Har Habayit on a regular basis (I happen to be one of them) for many this is a subject still shrouded in mystery and therefore foreign. We could suggest that we are constantly to feel as if we are "lifnei hashem". In the absence of that particular feeling which encompassed those who had the zechut to enter the Bet Hamikdash, we have to try and recapture that feeling wherever and whenever we can. On a different level Seforno brings this mitzvah closer to home for many of us. He explains, also quoting Chazal on a verse in Yechezkel (11:15) that following the destruction of the Bet Mikdash, the batei Knesset and batei midrash become the mikdash me'at, the minor sanctuaries. If we adopt this approach, we can fulfill the commandment of morah mikdash by the way we act in our shuls and our batei midrash. We should revere these places of worship and study and act within them accordingly. As we are all aware, this is by no means an easy task. But, as we attempt to rise to this challenge, we would do well to remember one point – in this matter we are all equals. Shabbat shalom, Rav Yonatan ryh@harova.org

 

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