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Shabbat Parashat Vayikra | 5770

Parashat Hashavuah: A Time for Different Types of Sanctity

Harav Yosef Carmel

Sefer Vayikra begins with descriptions of the avoda (service) in the Temple, whether in the original Mishkan or the eventual Beit Hamikdash. This follows the end of Sefer Shemot, which deals with the commandment to build and then the actual building of the Mishkan. We will discuss who was in charge of the construction and the rules under which this took place, but first we must review the Gra’s fundamental thesis on the changes that these underwent.

During the account of the command to build the Mishkan, Shabbat is mentioned after the command. However, later on, it is mentioned before the description of the actual building. In between these two sections, the Torah tells the story of the sin of the Golden Calf and its aftermath. The disciples of the Gra posit that after the giving of the Torah, Bnei Yisrael reached the level of Adam before his sin. On that level, they should have been able to build the Mishkan even on Shabbat. After the calf, their level plummeted and they had to refrain from construction on Shabbat. Yet, throughout its existence, service in the Mishkan and Temple was permitted on Shabbat. What is the difference between the construction and the service in this regard?

During the miluim (the days of inauguration), Moshe did the avoda in the Mishkan, a duty that was transferred to Aharon and his sons only thereafter. During the pre-Beit Hamikdash preparations of bringing the aron (ark) to Yerushalayim, King David dressed similarly to a kohen and led the “services.” During the inauguration of the Beit Hamikdash, it seems that King Shlomo brought the sacrifices (Melachim I, 8: 62-64), not the kohanim. What was special about the inaugural period?

Our Rabbis have taught us that there are three categories of sanctity: place-related; time-related; and person-related. At least one of these categories has to be functioning in full force in order for there to be a strong spiritual anchor. Before the sin of the Golden Calf, Bnei Yisrael was on a level whereby there was strength in human sanctity. The Divine Presence could dwell in the individual and the world could handle not keeping Shabbat in the quest to make a Sanctuary. After the sin and before there was a Mishkan, there was a need to preserve the sanctity of time of Shabbat even if it meant suspending the building of the Mishkan. After the Mishkan was built, the service that was related to that sanctity could be performed even on Shabbat (thus lowering the sanctity of time) by relying on the sanctity of place.

The mitzva to build a Sanctuary and Temple is a national effort, which is to be done by the king or supreme leader. A citizen, even a special one like a kohen, cannot volunteer to take leadership in this regard until the Temple already is functioning.

Let us pray and make efforts that all elements of sanctity will be restored to their fullest speedily in our times.

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This week’s Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R' Meir ben
Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld

Hemdat Yamim is endowed by
Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker and
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