Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 20   No. 37

This issue is sponsored by
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Parshas Korach

The Avodah of the Levi'im (1)
(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)

" also your brothers the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father bring close with you; they will accompany you and they will serve you and you and your sons with you shall be before the Ohel Mo'ed" (18:2).

Guarding the Beis-Hamikdash

The Gemara in Tamid (26b) learns from this Pasuk together with Pasuk 4 ("And they shall accompany you and they shall charge your charge in the Ohel Mo'ed") a. that whereas the Kohanim perform the main Avodah in the Beis-Hamikdash, the Levi'im are charged with performing secondary acts of Avodah - such as transporting the Mishkan whenever they traveled, and singing (also known as the "Avodah of an Avodah"). And b. although the Levi'im guarded just as the Kohanim did, they guarded in a secondary capacity - the Kohanim on top (in three upper-story areas called the 'Beis Avtinus', the 'Beis ha'Nitzutz' and the 'Beis ha'Mokad', and the Levi'im below.

The Rambam in Hilchos Beis ha'Bechirah (8:4) states that the Kohanim guarded inside and the Levi'im, outside. This is indeed what the Sifri says, but the Torah Temimah wonders, why the Rambam favours the Sifra over the opinion of the Gemara in Tamid (27b)?


Washing the Kohanim's Hands


The Beis Yosef (in Orach Chayim, Si'man 128) does not know of a source for the obligation of the Levi'im to wash the Kohanims' hands when they go up to Duchen other than the Zohar.

The Torah Temimah suggests that it lies in the current Pasuk. Bearing in mind the Gemara in Kidushin (22b) which considers washing the hands an act of worship (Sheirus) and the Gemara in Zevachim 18b), which categorizes Duchening as an Avodah, when the Torah writes "they will accompany you and they will serve you", it is instructing the Levi'im to wash the Kohanims' hands when they go to serve (i.e. to Duchen).


The Avodah of the Levi'im (2)
(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)

The Avodas ha'Shir

" but to the holy vessels and the Mizbe'ach they shall not approach, so that they shall not die, neither they (the Levi'im) nor you (the Kohanim)" (18:3).

The Gemara in Erchin (11a) asks for the source in the Torah for Shirah. In reply, Rebbi Yonasan quotes the above Pasuk, and commenting on the end of the Pasuk, he says 'Just as "you" refers to the Avodah concerning the Mizbe'ach, so too does "they" refer to the Avodah concerning the Mizbe'ach'. Now the only Avodah that the Levi'im did that was connected to the Mizbe'ach, the Torah Temimah explains, was Avodas ha'Shir (the singing that accompanied the Korbanos).


Switching Tasks


From the words ("so that they shall not die, neither they (the Levi'im) nor you", the B'raysa there comments: 'If you do their Avodah or they do your Avodah, you are Chayav Miysa, but if they (the Levi'im) switch Avodos, they transgress a La'v but are not Chayav Miysah.

In other words, the Torah Temimah explains, if a Kohen sings or guards the gates he is Chayav Miysah (bi'yedei Shamayim), as is a Levi who performs the Avodas ha'Korbanos.

A Levi, on the other hand, who moves from the gates to the choir or vice-versa, transgresses a La'v but is not Chayav Miysah.

Rashi does not know the source for this La'v. The Torah Temimah however, suggests that the source lies in the Pasuk at the end of Parshas Bamidbar " and assign each man to his task and to his burden" (See continuation of the author's words DH 'u'Piresh Rashi').

See also the two following Diburim, where he discusses the Rambam, who rules like Abaye. In the Gemara in Erchin, Abaye maintains that a Levi who guards the gates is Chayav Miysah.

He concludes there that, even though Abaye contradicts a B'raysa, the Rambam rules like him, because he uses the word 'naktinan', which has connotations of tradition, and tradition has the power to overrule even a B'raysa.

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Parshah Pearls

Visiting the Sick

"If these people will die like everybody dies , then G-d did not send me!" (16:29).

The Gemara in Nedarim (39b) learns from this Pasuk the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim, visiting the sick. What Moshe is then saying is that if Korach and his followers suffer a final illness and then, after their friends have visited them on their sick-bed, they die, in the way that most people do, then G-d did not send him - just as Korach claimed.

It is not, however, clear how we learn this from the above-mentioned words.

Rashi therefore explains that it is from the second phrase that the Gemara derives it "and the destiny of all men is visited upon them", with its connotation of 'visiting' that the Gemara actually learn it.


As the Torah Temimah points out, Chazal (in Bava Kama, 99a) also learns Bikur Cholim from the Pasuk in Yisro, from the word "yeilchu" (they shall go) regarding the advice that Yisro gave to Moshe there - "And inform them about the way on which they shall go".

I once heard it said, in answer to the She'eilah as to whether one is able to fulfill the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim over the telephone, that the Torah hints the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim in the words "the way on which they shall go" to teach us that one cannot do so.


A Zar who Performs the Avodah

" you shall safeguard your Kehunah regarding whatever concerns the Mizbe'ach and you shall serve (va'avad'tem), the service of a giift (giving) and a Zar who comes near shall die" (18:7).

The Gemara in Sanhedrin (83b) learns from here that a Zar who serves in the Beis-Hamikdash is Chayav Miysah (bi'Yedei Shamayim).

On the other hand, the Gemara in Yuma learns from the earlier part of the Pasuk that even though a Zar is not permitted to perform any part of the Avodah that pertains to the Kohanim, he is only Chayav Miysah for four specific Avodos - Z'rikah (sprinkling the blood on the Mizbe'ach), Haktarah (burning the relevant parts of the Korban on the Mizbe'ach), Nisuch ha'Mayim and Nisuch ha'Yayin (the water and the wine libation, the former only on Succos).

This is how it precludes from there Miysah with regards to all other Avodos:

"the service of giving", 'and not of removing' - to preclude the Avodah of T'rumas ha'Deshen (the daily early -morning Avodah of removing the ashes from the Mizbe'ach).

"va'avad'tem", 'avodah tamah' (an Avodah that completes, and not one that still needs to be completed) - to preclude Shechitah (which in any case is not considered an Avodah, and is permitted to a Zar), Kabalah (receiving the blood in a bowl) and holachah (carrying the bowl to the Mizbe'ach).


Tamei T'rumah In the Hands of a Kohen

" I have given to you the charge of My T'rumos" (18:8).

Bearing in mind that the Pasuk refers to "My T'rumos" in the plural, and that the Kohen is obligated to eat Tahor T'rumah, the Gemara in Shabbos teaches us here that when burning Tamei T'rumah (as we will explain shortly) one may derive benefit from it. As the Gemara there explains it is necessary to burn Tamei T'rumah, in order to prevent the Kohen from inadvertently eating it. On the other hand, the Torah inserted the word "l'cho" (to you), which implies that it is his to derive benefit from it (See the opening Rashi in "Lech-L'cha").

Consequently, the Chachamim concluded that although the Kohen has no option other than to burn Tamei T'rumah, he is permitted to use it (for cooking or heating purposes) even as he fulfills the Mitzvah of burning it (adapted from the Torah Temimah).

Incidentally, benefitting from Isurei Hana'ah, such as Orlah or Chametz on Pesach whilst burning it, is prohibited.

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