By Rabbi Moshe Bloom
Torah VeHa’aretz Institute
Our parashah highlights how both G-d and the Jewish People take steps to draw closer to one another, like a groom and bride in preparation for their wedding. This wedding is scheduled to take place in just another two parshiyot, when they seal their covenant at Sinai with the Giving of the Torah. G-d pays back their Egyptian enslavers with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. The Jewish People, on their part, also act with utmost courage, taking the gods of their former masters and publicly preparing to slaughter them at G-d’s command.
It is no wonder that until now the Torah was full of foundational stories but had hardly any practical commandments for the generations; only in our parashah do such commandments make their first appearance. This is another manifestation of this evolving covenant between the two lovers, G-d and the Jewish People. Like a groom and bride whose wedding date is fast approaching, they must now engage in the practical, nitty-gritty details of living their lives together. Among these commandments are two sacrifices whose level of sanctity, as sacrifices go, is the least intense. If sacrifices are divided into kodshei kodashim (holy of holies) and kodashim kalim (sacrifices with a lesser degree of sanctity), the lowest level of kodashim kalim, as we learn in Tractate Zevachim, are the Pesach, bechor (firstborn), and ma’aser beheimah (tithes from domesticated animals) sacrifices. The firstborn and Pesach offerings are first mentioned in our parashah.
Kodashim Kalim And Ma’aser Sheni: Similarities And Differences
Kodashim kalim may be eaten in the entire sanctified area of Jerusalem. Ma’aser sheni, the fruits set aside by the owners and brought up to Jerusalem to be eaten there in a state of ritual purity, may also be eaten only in Jerusalem. The boundaries of Jerusalem for the purposes of ma’aser sheni consumption is identical to that for eating kodashim kalim. The fact that this halachic criterion (area of permissible consumption) is shared for two mitzvot from such completely different areas is perplexing.
Yet, there are several salient differences between kodashim kalim and ma’aser sheni. For instance, it is permissible to eat ma’aser sheni even if one became impure but immersed in a mikveh that day, even if the sun has not yet set (tevul yom). In contrast, in order to eat kodashim — even kodashim kalim — one needs to immerse and wait for sunset. Also, if necessary (for impurities such as zav or metzora), one must also first bring an atonement offering.
The emerging picture is that kodashim kalim is the least intense way that we encounter the Temple service, and they can even be eaten by a Yisrael; while ma’aser sheni, in contrast, is the most sanctified way the Jewish People can elevate their fruit and eat them. One could say that kodashim kalim is an expression of G-d coming down to us, while ma’aser sheni is an expression of our attempt to elevate ourselves to meet Him. This point of encounter in these two attempts of achieving intimacy is Jerusalem.
Jerusalem: The Point Of Connection
Jerusalem is a holy city whose sanctity is derived from the Temple, and like the Temple, its sanctity is permanent. However, it is also a city just like any other city. People live there, not like in the sanctuary (parallel to the machane haShechinah, the Camp of the Divine Presence) or even the Temple Mount (parallel to the machane Leviyah, the Camp of the Levites). In Jerusalem, people can go about their regular lives in their homes and engage in routine behavior that would be considered profane on the Temple Mount: “One may not enter the Holy Mount with his staff, or with his sandal, or with his belt-pouch, or with dust on his feet, and may not make it a shortcut.” (Mishnah Berachot 9:5). Jerusalem is the place where the Divine Presence rests, however it is not the Temple—it belongs to any regular person who wants to live on a more sanctified level. Jerusalemites do not have to nullify their regular lives for this purpose, however. In other words, Jerusalem can include the entirety of human experience. This is not the case on the Temple Mount, where regular people (including Kohahim, and even the Kohen Gadol) cannot live 100% of the time.
Moreover, the area of Jerusalem can expand. Our Sages tell us that Jerusalem will eventually reach Damascus, since the level of sanctity required to live in Jerusalem is a high level, yet it is attainable even by regular human beings. It is considered the most intense place of connection between G-d and the Jewish People—even more than the Temple, where regular people cannot live. The Temple is an even higher place of sanctity, where people must remove their everyday apparel, as sacred as they might be, and adorn themselves in even more exalted, spiritual garments.
May we merit to eat the kodashim kalim sacrifices and ma’aser sheni fruit in the expanded, sanctified Jerusalem speedily and in our day!
Rabbi Moshe Bloom is head of the English department of Torah VeHa’aretz Institute. Torah VeHa’aretz Institute (the Institute for Torah and the Land of Israel) engages in research, public education, and the application of contemporary halachic issues that come to the fore in the bond between Torah and the Land of Israel today. For additional information and inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 972-8-684-7325