Vol. 22 No. 43
Three Times a Year
(Adapted from the Ramban)
"And you shall Shecht (ve'zovachto) the Pesach-offering for Hashem your G-d, sheep and cattle, in the location which G-d will choose to rest His Name" (16:2).
In Pasuk four, the Torah prohibits leaving over from the Pesach that one Shechted in the afternoon (of the fourteenth) until the morning (of the fifteenth). The Korban had to be eaten at nighttime, because it was during the night that Par'oh granted Yisrael permission (no, he ordered them!) to leave Egypt, as Rashi explained in the previous Pasuk.
That is why, in Pasuk six, commenting on the words, still in connection with the Korban Pesach "in the afternoon (bo'erev) when the sun sets, at the time when you left Egypt", Rashi explains - 'Three specific time periods: "In the afternoon" … after six hours, Shecht it; "when the sun sets" (after nightfall) … eat it; "at the time when you left Egypt" … burn it (i.e. it becomes Nosar and has to be burned)'.
The Ramban however, in his overview of the Parshah of the Chagim that the Torah is currently discussing, explains (in his first explanation) that the Torah omits any mention of the Mitzvah of bringing Korbanos at all -either with regard to the Korban Pesach or with regard to the Shalosh Regalim, as they have already been discussed in Parshas Bo and in Parshas Emor.
The Torah is focusing here on the Mitzvah of eating the Korban Pesach, he explains - and in that light, he translates "ve'zovachto" (in both Pesukim) with reference to eating the Pesach and the Matzah at nighttime mentioned in Pasuk three. Presumably, this is acceptable - despite the fact that the word 'Zevach' generally means 'to Shecht', in view of the fact that Pesach is the only Korban that is brought in order to be eaten, and that if it was not eaten, it was not valid. Consequently, whereas all other Korbanos become validated once they are Shechted, the Korban Pesach becomes validated only when it is eaten.
The Ramban points out further, that the Torah confines itself to the aspects of the Yom-Tov that are to do with Simchas Yom-Tov and with the Mitzvah of going to Yerushalayim on Pesach, Shavu'os and Succos. Hence, it deals exclusively with the Shalosh Regalim and not with the other Mo'adim, as it does in Parshas Emor.
And it is by the same token that the Torah does not mention the counting of the Omer, the Mitzvah of Lulav, or the Isur of Melachah on any of the Yamim-Tovim. (The Ramban refers to the fact that, in Pasuk eight, it does mention the Isur Melachah on the seventh day of Pesach exclusively, though his explanation is unclear, as the commentaries point out [See also Rashi there].)
To quote the author verbatim, the Torah inserts this Parshah here, he explains, to teach us 'to make the pilgrimage on these three Yamim Tovim to the place which G-d will choose, to celebrate there each man with his gifts, in accordance with G-d's blessing, to rejoice before Him and to thank him for all the goodness which He has bestowed upon him, in keeping with His mercy and His abundant kindness.
This is in contrast to Parshas Emor, where it discusses the respective Halachos that pertain to each of the Mo'adim, including Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur - as well as the various Korbanos that one is required to bring on each one, with the exception of the Korban Musaf, which the Torah discusses independently in Parshas Pinchas.
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(Adapted from the Ramban)
Seeking the Shechinah
"You shall seek His Presence and come there" (12:5).
The Ramban interprets this Pasuk with regard to two different issues: 1). When coming to Yerushalayim from a distant location, one should make a point of asking people along the way for directions, and discuss with one another about how to get there; 2). One should delve into building the Beis ha'Mikdash before the Navi issues instructions as to how to build it. In fact, it is only after one has clarified the details concerning its construction that the Navi will step forward and corroborate one's findings - and this is what happened to David ha'Melech, the first person after Yisrael's entry into Eretz Yisrael to display an interest in building the Beis ha'Mikdash and work on its plans.
Elkanah (the husband of Chanah) fulfilled the Ramban's first explanation to its fullest extent. The Medrash Yalkut describes how, on Yom-Tov, Elkanah would slowly make his way to Shiloh (which housed the Mishkan before the Beis ha'Mikdash was built), encouraging people to join him on the tri-annual visit to the House of G-d. And it adds that, in order to increase the number of Olei Regel, he never took the same route twice. In this way, he was responsible for numerous families performing the Mitzvah. And it was as a reward for his efforts in causing so many people to perform this Mitzvah that he merited to have a son, Shmuel, who would teach Yisrael to perform Mitzvos.
Bring it to Shiloh
" … You shall bring there (to Shiloh) your burned-offerings and your peace-offerings …" (12:6).
The Pasuk is issuing instructions to bring all Korbanos to Shiloh, and subsequently, to Yerushalayim, as it states in Pasuk eleven.
The Sifri explains how we derive all the Korbanos from the various words in the Pasuk, and it is not clear why Menachos - flour-offerings - are not included.
As for "your Ma'asros" and the "T'rumah of your hands"(bearing in mind that T'rumah Gedolah and Ma'aser Rishon can be eaten anywhere, not exclusively in the Beis-ha'Mikdash), they refer specifically to Ma'aser Beheimah & Ma'aser Sheini and to Bikurim, as Rashi explains, which had to be brought to Yerushalayim and eaten there.
The Ramban, in his own inimitable way, explains the Pasuk simply, even with regard to T'rumah Gedolah and Ma'aser Rishon, which, he says, they were advised to bring to the Mishkan and to the Beis-ha'Mikdash, as the Pasuk writes in Mal'achi 3:10, so that the Kohanim and the Levi'im who were serving there should rejoice together with those who brought their Korbanos.
Ezra and Nechemyah later instituted bringing T'rumah and Ma'aser to be distributed in the Beis-ha'Mikdash as an obligation when they saw that the people were not giving the Kohanim and the Levi'im their dues in the granaries.
In an alternative explanation, the author agrees with the Sifri's interpretation of 'Ma'asros', but translates 'the T'rumah of your hands' as 'a gift that a person sets aside for Hashem' - and he cites a number of examples where the word 'T'rumah' has this connotation. In fact, it refers to any animal that one designates as a Korban, or money that one sets aside either to purchase a Korban to go on the Mizbe'ach or as a gift to Bedek ha'Bayis. Whatever the case, it had to be brought to the Mishkan in Shiloh or to the Beis-ha'Mikdash in Yerushalayim.
Changing from the Way it Was
"Do not do all that we are doing here today, where each man does as he sees fit" (12:8).
According to the I'bn Ezra, this refers to the state of Yisrael in the desert, who lacked the fear of G-d and who tended to do as they pleased - even to the point of sacrificing to the hosts of the heaven.
One of the reasons the Ramban rejects the I'bn Ezra's explanation is the Torah's insertion of the word "we", suggesting that Moshe was including himself among the sinners.
He therefore ascribes the Torah's statement to the free hand that Yisrael had in serving G-d where and when they wished.
He notes how, in the desert they brought freewill offerings exclusively, and that, when they did, they brought them to the Mishkan, wherever it happened to be, but not to any specific location. There was no obligation to go to the Mishkan at any time - even on Yom-Tov. Moreover, if and when they did bring a peace-offering there, they were not limited as to where they ate it - even outside the camp, should they so wish. Hence the Torah writes "each man as he sees fit".
All this changed once first Shiloh, and then Yerushalayim, was built. From then on, 'They had to bring all their Korbanos, Ma'asros (Beheimah & Sheini) to the chosen place, and to eat it there, within the walls, in front of Hashem'.
The Ramban's explanation is really an extension of Rashi, who interprets the Pasuk along similar lines, in connection with the concession of sacrificing on Bamos anywhere. That concession was withdrawn he explains, when Shiloh and Yerushalayim respectively, were built.
Incidentally, the source of the prohibition of individuals to sacrifice obligatory Korbanos on a Bamah is the Gemara in Zevachim (Daf 17b), which derives it from this same Pasuk, as Rashi explains.
"Tithe all the crops of your seeds …" (14:22).
Clearly, says the Ramban, the Torah is not talking about Ma'aser Rishon - that one gives to the Levi, since the Torah goes on to permit redeeming it if need be and taking the money to Yerushalayim, whereas Ma'aser Rishon could be eaten anywhere.
The Pasuk must therefore be referring to Ma'aser Sheini, that the owner takes to Yerushalayim and eats there.
The reason for this Mitzvah, the Ramban explains, is in order to learn Yir'as Shamayim, as the Pasuk itself states. Bear in mind, that it is in Yeruhalayim that he would see the Kohanim - the 'teachers of Yisrael' - performing the Avodah, and it was in Yerushalayim that the greatest sages sat and convened to judge the people.
Although initially, the Torah talks about tithing "all the crops", in the following Pasuk it modifies this to "your corn (incorporating the five species of grain - wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt), your wine and your oil". And it emerges from Chazal that it is only these three commodities that need to be Ma'asered min ha'Torah. The Ramban dismisses the Rambam's opinion, that whatever grows from the ground is included in the Mitzvah, as a mistake. Moreover, he says, even grapes and olives only become subject to Ma'asering once they have been made into wine and oil.
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