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Vol. 22 No. 32
Yeshaya ben R' Baruch z"l
Appointing the Sons of
Gershon, K'has and Merari
(Adapted from the Ramban)
Why Mention Aharon?
"According to the word of Aharon and his sons shall be all the work of the sons of Gershon …" (4:27).
'Which of his sons?', asks Rashi. 'Isamar', as the Torah goes on to explain in the next Pasuk.
In that case, asks the Ramban, why does the Torah mention Aharon at all, particularly as the Torah specifically writes there "Isamar ben Aharon"?
He therefore explains that Aharon joined Isamar in appointing the sons of Gershon and of Merari to their tasks. As a matter of fact, he adds, Moshe too, was present, as the current Pasuk continues "And you (plural) shall appoint them to their tasks" - Moshe included. The actual appointment however, was performed by Isamar.
The Leaders of the Levi'im
Although the three sectors of Levi (Gershon. K'has and Merari) each had their own 'prince' - Elyasaf ben La'el, Elitzfan ben Uzi'el and Tzuriel ben Avichayil, respectively, Aharon's son Elazar, was the overall leader of the tribe. Each prince oversaw the dismantling of the Mishkan, the transportation of its parts and its reconstruction, all described at the end of last week's Parshah.
Although each unit was responsible for the parts of the Mishkan over which it was designated, Elazar was personally in charge of the oil for the Menorah, the Ketores, the Minchas ha'Tamid and the anointing oil (as described there).
The appointment of the three units of Levi'im was done, not by their 'prince', but by Isamar, who was in charge of Gershon and Merari, and Elazar, who was in charge of K'has. Indeed, whenever the Camp of Yisrael camped, says the Ramban, each ben Levi would report to Isamar (or Elazar) and place before him whichever component of the Mishkan had been placed in his charge.
Appointing the Levi'im (1)
Isamar would inform each member of Gershon and Merari whether he was to take charge of a certain aspect of the Mishkan, whether he was to join the choir or to be a gatekeeper and whether he was to carry curtains, boards or pillars. A gatekeeper who joined the choir or vice versa was forbidden to change his task. Even assisting one another earned one the death-sentence.
Appointing the Levi'im (2)
" … and you shall appoint them by name over the vessels that they are to carry on their watch" (4:32).
The Ramban explains that Isamar did not simply appoint the Sons of Merari to carry the planks, sockets, pillars and bolts of the Mishkan. He actually instructed each ben Levi exactly which plank/s etc. he had to carry. And the same applied to the Sons of Gershon with regard to the curtains, and to the Holy Vessels which were carried by the Sons of K'has, and who were appointed to their tasks by Elazar.
The Pegs and the Cords
"And the pillars of the courtyard all around, their pegs and their cords …" (Ibid.)
Citing a B'raysa, the Ramban explains that the pegs and the cords of the hangings of the Courtyard were carried by the Sons of Merari, whilst the pegs and the cords of the Mishkan (the bottom set of curtains) and of the goat-skin curtains that covered the Ohel Mo'ed were carried by the Sons of Gershon. He differs from Rashi, who maintains that the pegs and cords of both the hangings and the curtains were carried by the Sons of Gershon.
The author also disagrees with Rashi's statement that the pillars too, had copper pegs as well as cords. According to him, copper pegs were only used to tie down the curtains and hangings, but not for the pillars.
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(Adapted from the Ramban)
Placing the Parshiyos in Perspective
" … and they shall send every Metzora, Zav and Tamei Meis out of the camp" (5:2).
Now that the Mishkan had been set up, G-d commanded Moshe to clear the Camp of Yisrael of all Teme'im, so that the Camp should be holy, and fit for the Shechinah to dwell in its midst.
And having counted the tribes of Yisrael, and placed them around the Mishkan, and having segregated the Eirev Rav (who retained the status of Geirim), the Torah proceeds to present the Parshah of the Guilt-offering that a thief is obligated to bring, which concludes with the Din pertaining to someone who steals from a Ger.
Kodshim and their Owners
"A man's Kodshim shall belong to him. What a man gives to the Kohen shall belong to him" (5:10).
This Pasuk teaches us a number of things, says the Ramban. It teaches us that …
a. Kodshim that are not listed in Korach among the Matnos Kehunah may be eaten by the owner - despite the fact that they fall under the heading of 'Kodshim'.
b. Even Kodshim that one is obligated to give to the Kohen belong to the owner, inasmuch as he can give them to whichever Kohen he chooses, and no Kohen has the right to help himself to them (This is known as'Tovas ha'no'oh le'ba'alim' [the owner's right to choose]); and …
c. having given the Kohen the Kodshim that are his due, they belong to him, and no other has the right to take them from him.
Kodshim that Belong to the Owner
Kodshim that remain the owner's include Ma'aser Sheini, Neta R'vai, Ma'aser Beheimah, the Korban Shelamim and the Korban Todah. All other forms of Kodshim must be given either to the Kohen or to Hashem. The former are eaten by the Kohen, the latter are, for the most part, burnt on the Mizbe'ach.
The Nazir's Sin-Offering
" … on the eighth day, he (the Nazir) shall bring two pigeons … to the Kohen, one, a Chatas, the other, an Olah" (6:10/11).
What has the Nazir done wrong, asks the Ramban, that warrants a sin-offering?
He answers that his sin lies in the fact that he ended his period of Nezirus. Having attained such a high state of Kedushah and Avodas Hashem, he should have remained there and not reverted to his regular mundane way of life.
Rabeinu Bachye disagrees with the Ramban, in that we do not find a sin-offering that is brought on future sins, only on sins of the past. Consequently, he claims, the reason for the Korban Chatas must be a kabbalistic one, which is beyond our comprehension.
Initially, I thought to answer R. Bachye's question by attributing the Nazir's sin-offering, not to his future mundane life, but to the fact that he came down from his high spiritual level.
This is not possible however, since the term of a Nazir (generally after thirty days) terminates automatically; he is not permitted to continue, even if he so wishes. That being the case, when he does, he has done nothing wrong that warrants a sin-offering.
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