26 July 2017

The Temple – Sanctity - Past, Present, and Future

Sanctity - Past, Present, and Future
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaLevi Kilav

1. Sacrifices After the Temple's Destruction
2. Sanctifying City and Courtyard
3. Rashba's Position
4. The Approach of Tosefot and Ritvah
5. Rambam's Approach
6. Today's Conquest - Does it impart sanctity?
7. The Sanctity of the Temple According to Rambam
8. Raavad's Position

Sacrifices After the Temple's Destruction

The Talmud, in tractate Megilah 10a, relates the words of R. Yitzchak: "I hear that sacrifices may now be offered in the Temple of Onias." Onias was the son of Shimon HaTzaddik, the High Priest, and after a struggle for the High Priesthood he moved to Egypt and built an altar. R. Yitzchak lived in the period after the destruction of the Second Temple, and he said that it was permissible to offer sacrifices in the Temple of Onias. The Talmud explains that the words of R. Yitzchak are based upon the fact that Onias made an altar in the name of God, not for idolatry, and that "the first sanctification was valid for its own time, but not for the future." In other words, when the Temple was destroyed, its sanctity was abrogated, and it followed that it was again permissible to offer sacrifices outside the Temple.

The Talmud proceeds to bring a number of related comments by Sages, and concludes by proclaiming that R. Yitzchak in fact follows the approach of R. Yehoshua, who was known to have stated, "I have heard that sacrifices may be brought even though there is no Temple; that the most holy foods may be eaten, even though there are no curtains; and that foods of lesser sanctity and second tithe may be eaten even though there is no wall."

The Talmud further informs us that there are two traditions as to the position of R. Yishmael in the name of R. Yose regarding the question of whether or not the Jewish returnees had to re-sanctify the walled cities of Israel in the days of Ezra the Scribe? The answer to this question has practical bearing upon individuals infected by tzara'at (an illness conveying serious ritual impurity): if such a city is deemed sacred, it is forbidden for a metzorah (one infected by tzara'at) to enter therein. At any rate, according to one tradition, R. Yishmael in the name of R. Yose said that Ezra had to re-sanctify the walled cities, and any cities that he did not sanctify would not be considered sacred. According to a second tradition, R. Yishmael in the name of R. Yose said that the sanctity from the days of Joshua remained.

We find, then, that the Talmud does not differentiate between the sanctity of the Holy Temple and the sanctity of Israel's walled cities, for R. Yitzchak says that people may presently offer sacrifices because "the first sanctification was valid for its own time, but not for the future" and the Talmud explains that his opinion follows the position which claims that Ezra had to re-sanctify the walled cities. However, according to the opinion which holds that the first sanctification was also valid for the future, and one may not presently offer sacrifices at the Temple of Onias, the sanctity of the walled city also remained, and metzora'im were not allowed to enter them.

Sanctifying City and Courtyard

The discrepancy over first sanctification appears elsewhere in the Talmud, in tractate Shavuot 16a. In order to sanctify the city and the Courtyard a number of conditions must be met. For example, "The city of Jerusalem and the Courtyard may only be extended by king, prophet, Urim VeTumim, Sanhedrin of seventy-one, two thanksgiving loaves, and song."

And we indeed find that the Book of Nehemiah describes Ezra's dedication of the walls of Jerusalem as being carried out with "thanksgiving loaves and song." R. Huna and R. Nachman are at odds over how to understand this event: according to R. Nachman, the Book of Nehemiah refers to a genuine sanctification of the city and the Courtyard, and though neither king nor Urim VeTumim were present on that occasion, it is really not necessary for all of the conditions mentioned in the Mishnah be met - one of them is enough. The fact that Ezra needed to sanctify the Courtyard proves that the first sanctification was valid for its own time, but not for the future.

R. Huna, though, disagrees. He holds that all of the conditions listed by the Mishnah must be met if sanctification is to take effect. Hence, it is clear that what Ezra did had only symbolic significance, and this proves that the sanctity of the Courtyard in the time of Ezra carried over from the first sanctification, which was valid for its own time and also for the time thereafter. The Talmud concludes by explaining that the discrepancy between R. Huna and R. Nachman is a continuation of an earlier disagreement between Mishnaic Sages, and cites the same discrepancy brought in tractate Megilah. Here too, then, the Talmud draws a comparison between the sanctity of Jerusalem and the sanctity of walled cities with regard to the question of whether the first sanctification was valid for its time alone, or continued to remain valid thereafter.

Rashba's Position

Rashba asserts a novel understanding, explaining that the issue at debate is not only the sanctity of Jerusalem and walled cities, but also the sanctity of the Land of Israel as a whole. The Talmud, in chapter two of tractate Yevamot, records a disagreement with regard to the separation of tithes and offerings ("terumot u-ma'aserot") in post-Temple times. According to R. Yochanan, "the first sanctification was valid for its own time and also for the time thereafter," and therefore the obligation to separate tithes is biblically binding even today. Reish Lakish, on the other hand, says that "the first sanctification was valid for its own time, but not for the time thereafter," and hence the obligation to separate tithes is only rabbinically binding today.

Again, the Talmud explains that certain Sages of the Mishnah already debated this point: R. Yochanan follows the opinion of R. Yose, and Reish Lakish follows the Rabbis. The sanctity as regarding tithes and offerings stems from the general sanctity of the Land of Israel. And Rashba deduces from the shared wording of all these texts ("the first sanctification was valid for its own time and also for the time thereafter") that the disputes over the sanctity of all of these matters - Jerusalem, the Temple, walled cities, and the entire Land of Israel - is one and the same dispute. Parenthetically, we should note that the sanctity of Jerusalem and the sanctity of the Holy Temple are one and the same sanctity - Jerusalem as a whole is considered a part of the Temple. We will not expand upon this matter here, but we shall shortly read the words of Rambam which also seem to support such an understanding.

Rashba makes another unique assertion: the status of the second sanctification (i.e., that of the Babylonian returnees) is unconnected of the status of the first (Joshua's conquest). Even if we were to maintain that the first sanctification does not remain valid for the time thereafter, it is still quite possible that a second sanctity did remain valid for the time thereafter. In this case, the dispute between Reish Lakish and R. Yochanan relates to second sanctity (for they lived after the destruction of the Temple), and we should approach the text in tractate Megillah in light of this understanding. There, the Talmud teaches that, according to R. Yitzchak, it is permissible to offer sacrifices today because the first sanctification is not valid into the future, and this accords with the position that says that Ezra had to re-sanctify the city and the Courtyard.

According to Rashba, however, even if the sanctity of the First Temple did cease to exist, it is still possible that the sanctity of Ezra was not discontinued. It appears, then, that according to Rashba, the Talmud only wishes to say that R. Yitzchak has a position on which to rely, for according to him the discrepancy over the sanctity of the First Temple also exists with the Second Temple, but other Talmudic Sages are not bound by this dependence.

Rashba himself infers that second sanctification does not remain valid for the time thereafter.

The Approach of Tosefot and Ritvah

Tosefot and Ritvah are at odds with Rashba. They draw a distinction between the sanctity of the Land of Israel with its attendant precepts on the one hand, and the sanctity of the Temple and the walled cities on the other. Their approach is based upon the text in tractate Hagigah 3b where we are told by R. Eliezer that Ezra conquered a portion of the Land of Israel leaving a portion of the land unconquered in order that the poor might be sustained upon it in the Sabbatical year. Here, then, we find that the first sanctification did not remain valid for the time thereafter. On the other hand, in tractate Megillah, the Talmud tells us that R. Eliezer can hold that the first sanctification remained valid for the time thereafter. This leads Tosefot and Ritvah to conclude that a distinction must be made between the sanctity of the Land of Israel and the sanctity of Jerusalem.

How does Rashba explain the text in tractate Hagigah? As a matter of fact, Ritvah himself explains that there is a variant reading of the Talmud in Hagigah according to which it was not R. Eliezer who did the speaking there. Furthermore, it appears that even if we choose to accept the existing reading, it is possible to say that though R. Eliezer draws a distinction between the sanctity of the Temple and that of the Land of Israel, but not everybody draws this distinction.

Rambam's Approach

The positions of Ritvah and Tosefot are made clearer upon the backdrop of Rambam's approach. In Hilkhot Shmitah VeYovel, Rambam writes that the sanctity bestowed upon walled cities by Joshua and Ezra was discontinued:

"A city which was not walled at the time when Joshua conquered the land, even if it is now walled, is like a courtyard; a city which was walled in the days of Joshua, though it is not now walled, is seen as if [it were even now] walled. When the Jews were exiled with the first destruction, the sanctity of the walled cities from the time of Joshua was discontinued. When Ezra returned...all of the cities that were walled at that time were sanctified, for their arrival in the days of Ezra (which was the second arrival) was like their arrival in the days of Joshua: just as with their arrival in the days of Joshua they counted Sabbatical years and Jubilees and sanctified the houses of walled cities and became obligated in tithes, so too in the days of Ezra they counted Sabbatical years and Jubilees and sanctified the houses of walled cities and became obligated in tithes.

"The same will be the case in the future, in the third arrival. When they enter the land, they will begin to count Sabbatical years and Jubilees, and sanctify the houses of walled cities, and every place that they conquer will become obligated in tithes, as it is written, 'And God your Lord shall bring you to the land which your fathers inherited, and you shall inherit it' (Deuteronomy 30:5). The verse likens your inheritance to the inheritance of your fathers: just as with regard to the inheritance of your fathers you must reinstate all of these matters, so with regard to your own inheritance, you must restate all of these matter."

From Rambam's words "they sanctified the houses of walled cities and became obligated in tithes," and then after this, "they will sanctify the houses of walled cities, and every place that they conquer will become obligated in tithes," Mahari Korkos infers that only the walled cities require sanctification, while the Land of Israel with respect to its attendant commandments does not require sanctification. This distinction also appears to be implicit from the words of Rambam in Hilkhot Terumot 1:5:

"Whatever was possessed by those who came up out of Egypt and became sanctified by the first sanctification, lost its sanctity when they were exiled. For, the first sanctity, because it resulted from military conquest alone, was valid for its own time, but not for the time thereafter. When the exiles went up and possessed a portion of the land, they sanctified it with the second sanctification which is eternal, for its own time and for thereafter. And they left those places which were possessed by those who had come up from Egypt, and those who came up from Babylon did not possess them when they came, and they did not exempt them from tithes and offerings in order that the poor might be sustained upon them in the Sabbatical year."

The Rambam writes here that the first sanctification does not stand on its own; rather, it stems from military conquest. Hence, when the conquest comes to an end, so does the sanctity. However, in the days of Ezra there was no military conquest, for the Jews were subject to the rule of the nations. The sanctity came from possession, and even though possession was discontinued, sanctity was not. In the third sanctification all of those places which Ezra did not sanctify will be sanctified. Kesef Mishneh (ad loc.) critiques Rambam's position, commenting that there should be no difference between first and second sanctity: just as the first sanctification was discontinued when the conquest was discontinued, so too, the second sanctification must be discontinued with the discontinuation of the possession!

Radbaz (ad loc.) explains that the act of sanctification in Joshua's conquest was not verbal; rather, the conquest itself was what brought about the sanctification. Hence, when the conquest came to an end so did the sanctity. On the other hand, when sanctifying verbally, the sanctification is effected via the sanctity of speech. And just as when a person sanctifies an object, its sanctity does not expire, so too in our case. To the question of why Joshua did not also sanctify verbally, Radbaz answers that Joshua knew that the Holy Temple would be destroyed. Therefore, he did not want there to be absolute sanctity throughout the land. He wanted to give Israel of the Second Temple the ability to leave places upon which the poor could be sustained in the Sabbatical year."

The words of Radbaz are in consonance with those of Mahari Korkos above who states that there is a kind of sanctity which does not call for verbalization.

It is worth noting that though Rambam writes that second sanctification remains valid for the time thereafter, he is of the opinion that priestly tithes and offerings are today only rabbinically incumbent. He is explicit in this matter, writing that the land must be in the hands of the entire nation, and because in the days of Ezra not all Jews returned to the Land of Israel there was no biblical obligation (this is a very novel assertion, and one which astonished other early authorities who felt that there is no need for the return of all Jews).

Today's Conquest - Does it impart sanctity?

Simply speaking, we can learn from the words of Radbaz regarding our own situation, wherein part of the Land of Israel has been conquered by the Jewish people, and as a result of conquest there is also sanctity. And though it is true that the entire Jewish people did not take part in the military conquest, with regard to our inquiry it is the Jews residing in Israel that count. Indeed, the Sages teach (tractate Horayot) that the Jews who reside in Israel are called "the Congregation of Israel," while those who live abroad do not merit this appellation.

This has practical implications regarding what is known as "the bull brought [in sacrifice] for breach of any of the commandments." If a court issued an erroneous ruling in a matter involving the penalty of karet (excision), causing the majority of the Jewish population to transgress unintentionally, a sacrifice must be offered. In such a scenario we go according to the population of the Land of Israel. In the time of Ezra, only forty-five thousand Jews returned. The majority of the Jewish people remained in exile. It is clear, then, that the conquest carried out by the citizens of Israel is seen as if it had been carried out by all of Israel.

Still, it is necessary to deliberate as to whether a Sanhedrin is needed in order to impart sanctity. It appears that verbal sanctification calls for a Sanhedrin, for the members of the Sanhedrin represent the community. The sanctification of conquest, on the other hand, does not call for the Sanhedrin, for it is not the Sanhedrin which does the conquering but the nation of Israel. This would appear to be so, however, this question really calls for a separate study.

The Sanctity of the Temple According to Rambam

We have discussed the Talmudic debate that appears in tractate Shavuot regarding the necessary conditions for adding to the city and the Courtyard. The question was, do all of the conditions mentioned in the Mishnah ("king, prophet, Urim VeTumim, Sanhedrin of seventy-one, two thanksgiving loaves, and song") need to be met, or is a single one of them enough? Rambam, in "Hilkhot Beit HaBechirah" rules according to Rav Huna, who maintains that all of the conditions are necessary:

"Wherever all of these acts were not performed in this specific order, a complete sanctification has not been achieved, and Ezra's employing the two thanksgiving loaves was an act of symbolic remembrance, and the place was not sanctified through his actions, for neither king nor Urim VeTumim were present. And so through what was it sanctified? Through the first sanctification which Solomon carried out, for he sanctified the Courtyard and Jerusalem for its own time and also for the future. Therefore all sacrifices are offered even though there is no Temple standing there.

"And why do I say that in the Temple and in Jerusalem the first sanctification was valid for its own time and also for the time thereafter, while when it comes to the rest of the Land of Israel, regarding the Sabbatical year and priestly tithes and offerings, [I say that] the first sanctification was not valid for the time thereafter? This is because the sanctity of the Temple and Jerusalem results from the Divine Presence, and the Divine Presence is never discontinued. Behold, He says, 'I will make your Sanctuaries desolate' (Leviticus 26:31), and the Sages comment, 'Even though they will be desolate, they will continue to be holy.'

"However, [regarding] the land [we] must observe the Sabbatical Year and the tithes because [it came into their possession through] mass conquest, and when the land was taken from their possession, the conquest was nullified, and it became exempt from the Torah, and from the tithes, and from the Sabbatical year, and when Ezra went up and sanctified it, he did not sanctify it through conquest but through legal possession. Therefore, every place that the returnees from Babylon took possession of and was sanctified by the second sanctity - that of Ezra - is sacred today, even though the land was taken from us, and calls for observance of the Sabbatical year and tithes..."

The Rambam, in keeping with the positions of Ritva and Tosefot, draws a distinction between the sanctity of Jerusalem, which cannot be nullified, and the sanctity of the Land of Israel and its attendant commandments.

Incidentally, this passage clarifies that which we mentioned earlier regarding the City of Jerusalem, namely, that it is part of the Temple. For, Rambam invokes the verse "I will make your Sanctuaries desolate," which deals with the Temple, in order to prove that Jerusalem's sanctity was not discontinued. Jerusalem is also called "your Sanctuary," however there are varying levels of sanctity even in the Temple itself - the Holy of Holies, the Holy, the Courtyard, etc.

Raavad's Position

In the two places where Rambam clarifies his own position, Raavad, in his critical commentary to Mishneh Torah, records his own objection. Raavad rules that second sanctity remains valid, and therefore there is a biblical obligation to separate tithes and offerings even today. However, in "Hilkhot Beit Habechira," Raavad writes that this is true only regarding the general sanctity of the Land of Israel - not Jerusalem and the Temple: "For Ezra knew that the Temple and the city were destined to change and to become sanctified with a different, permanent sanctity," and Raavad concludes with the interesting comment that "this secret of God was revealed to His pious ones; therefore, one who enters therein today does not incur karet (excision)."

In sum, the Rambam and Raavad hold opposite positions. According to Rambam, the sanctity of the Temple endures eternally because it stems from the Divine Presence, not from the sanctity of the rest of the land. Apparently Rambam disagrees with Raavad's assertion that Jerusalem is destined to be sanctified with an exalted sanctity. In Rambam's opinion, it is not possible that there could be any kind of sanctity greater than the sanctity of the Divine Presence. On the other hand, when it comes to land-related commandments, the sanctity was discontinued and returned in the days of Ezra only to those areas which he sanctified.

The third approach is that of Rashba who rules like Reish Lakish who holds that the obligation of priestly tithes and offerings today is rabbinic, for the first and second sanctities were valid in their time, but not thereafter. Rashba draws no distinction between the Land of Israel and the Temple. He is of the opinion that all sanctity in the Land of Israel stems from a single source.

May it be God's will that very soon we merit climbing the stairs of the Temple on our way to greet the Messiah, Amen.


4 comments:

lea said...

Did you catch Rabbi YY's 2 hour quantam physics shiur!? In a nutshell he explains time as fluid not linear esp to Hash'm. That's why there's free will even though Hash'm so to speak already saw the movie. Therefore the past is the present is the future. The beis hamikdash is here in potential so we can treat the macomb hakodesh "as if" as most of us do anyway.

Neshama said...

I learned that about “already seeing the movie” several years ago and it is always in my mind. Maybe I did hear it. What is the link, so I can check it out.

Neshama said...

Google search is frozen on my computer. Wonder if it is worldwide, or local here in Israel. My internet is ok, so far. Send me the link anyway.

Neshama said...

Finally, got it! Thanks.