Vol 26.23 - Tetzaveh 2                   Spanish French Audio  Video

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Rambam- Klei HaMikdash

(5744) Debate of the Sages and R' Eliezer ben Yakov (Tal. Shab. 63b) in the manner of the writing on the Tzitz (showplate) and explanation of Meiri (ibid) that they did not rely on the "eyewitness testimony" of R' Eliezer ben Yakov ( who saw the Tzitz in Rome)  


1. In the command to make the Tzitz (showplate), it states in the verse:

“(And you shall make a Tzitz of pure gold,) and you shall engrave upon it like the engraving of a seal: Holy to the L-rd." - that on the Tzitz one should carve the words “Holy to G-d” (קדש לה׳) .

In the manner of how the two words “Holy to G-d” were engraved “on it” (״כתוב עליו״) there is a debate among the Sages with R’ Eliezer ben R’ Yose:

·         The Sages hold that “it was written in two lines:

”Yud Hei” above and “Kodesh Lamed” below”

(In other words, the complete name of G-d – “YHVH” on the above first line, and “Holy to” - “Kodesh Lamed” in the below line).

tzitz.png   (click image to enlarge)

·         However, R’ Eliezer ben R’ Yose states:

“I saw it in the city of Rome, and “Holy to G-d” was written on one line.”

Rambam rules that

“Upon it is written “Holy to G-d” (קדש לה׳) in two lines etc. and if the words were written on one line it is valid. There were times when they were written on one line.”

From this it is understood that notwithstanding the testimony of R’ Eliezer ben R’ Yose, the Sages did not retract from their opinion that “it was written on two lines” (״כתוב עליו בב׳ שימין״)

(Therefore Rambam rules like the Sages. However it is just that: “after the fact (bedieved) the Halacha it that it is kosher like R’ Eliezer ben R’ Yose. and this is why Rambam writes that “There were times when they were written on one line”, referring to the testimony of R’ Eliezer ben R’ Yose and therefore from this testimony, one must say that, bedieved, it is kosher even if written on one line).

The Me’iri explains that:

“Although one of the great Sages (R’ Eliezer) testified that ‘I saw it written on one line in Rome and it was written one line’, they (the Sages) did not reject that which was known to them (that it was written on two lines) - even because of (that) visual testimony. (״עדות ראי׳״)”.

It is seemingly puzzling:

We are speaking here of “visual testimony” from “one of the great Sages” – R’ Eliezer – (in which there is no doubt, G-d forbid)?

And even according to the ruling of Rambam (according to the aforementioned explanation) - It follows that the Avodah of the Kohen Gadol in those years (and especially the Tzitz that atoned even when he was not wearing it on his forehead) was with a Tzitz that was only kosher bedieved?!

In addition “bedieved” etc. only applies to the time when one must engrave the two words – “Holy to G-d” - on a plate of gold – and therefore, according to the above,  it comes out that, in this timeframe, the Beis HaMikdash was captured and the Tzitz was taken?!

2. One can understand this from a related aspect (of which we have spoken of many times, at length):

On the “victory arch” (שער הנצחון), that they built in Rome for Titus, may his name be erased, - after his victory over Yerushalayim, there is an engraving (a depiction) of the Menorah, which some say is the form of the Menorah that was in the Beis HaMikdash. That Menorah is depicted in a manner that the six branches of the Menorah, spread out (from a middle branch) in a semi-circular manner (חצאי קשת, (האלב־קיילעכדיק)).


Rashi explicitly states that the branches of the Menorah were “in each direction diagonally going upwards” (באלכסון נמשכין ועולין״,), which means that they extended in a straight slant, which is the translation of “branch/reed” (קנה) in the Written and Oral Torah – a straight growth, as we see, along the bank of every river. And this is exactly the very same way the branches are drawn (אויסגעמאלט) in Rambam (as we see in the depiction in the actual holy writing (שבגוף כי‟ק) of the Rambam, and as R’ Avraham ben HaRambam testifies that – when his father depicted the branches of the Menorah, “straight . . and not circular” (ביושר. . לא בעיגול) it was intentional).

Therefore, this does not coincide with the depiction of the Menorah which is on the aforementioned Arch, which is, seemingly an aspect of “visual testimony”?

One could say the explanation of this is – simply that:

The engraved Menorah on the Arch is not the (true) form of the Menorah in the Mikdash. And we see this in many of the parts – that they do not coincide with the form of the Menorah in the Mikdash, so much so, that on the “Menorah” of the Arch, a form of a dragon is engraved on it!

(Diagram:  https://www.templeinstitute.org/history-holy-temple-menorah-11.htm(external link))

Therefore it is reasonable to say that the form of the Menorah which is on the Arch, was, from the very onset, not replicated after the Menorah of the Mikdash, but rather, after another Menorah, which had certain similarities to the Menorah in the Mikdash.

Since the Menorah in the Mikdash had such a great worth, they used to make Menorahs with similar appearances to the Menorah in the Mikdash. This was especially so of the idol worshipers who did so for their own idolatry (and this explains the addition of a . . dragon, which is an idol) – and they patterned the Menorah on the Arch, after one of these ‘menorahs’.

3. Similarly, one could say that the same is in our case, regarding the aspect of the Tzitz according to the Me’iri:

Even though R’ Eliezer ben R’ Yose saw a Tzitz in Rome, nevertheless, it was not a conclusive proof that this was the Tzitz of the Kohen Gadol. It could be that it was a replication which someone made in a form that was (somewhat) similar to the Tzitz, and afterward, that very same replication was placed

(for whatever reason – and perhaps in order to save, the actual Tzitz, from the Romans; (in fact, one could say the same regarding the Menorah)

together with the other vessels of the Mikdash which lied in Rome.

(Especially since regarding the Priestly garments we do not find a prohibition of “Do not make (an image of anything that is) with Me” – “A house in the image of the Temple courtyard (Heichal)” etc. Therefore it is permissible for one to make for himself an item that is similar to the Tzitz. And even if one would say that there is, indeed, a prohibition of “Do not make (an image of anything that is) with Me” – it could be that a non-Jew replicated it)


Since the Sages had a tradition (“kabbalah”) - or in the words of the Me’iri: “it was known to them” (ידוע אצלם) – that the words “Holy to G-d” were written on two lines, it is therefore clear that this was the reality (מציאות). And the tradition itself forces one to conclude that the Tzitz that R’ Eliezer ben R’ Yose saw in Rome was not the Tzitz of the Kohen Gadol.

By R’ Eliezer ben R’ Yose himself, who did not have this tradition from his teacher – when he saw the Tzitz in Rome, he was not obligated to accept such a remote possibility, that among the vessels of the Mikdash, a (forged) Tzitz could be mixed in from the outside – in other words, that the true Tzitz had not been replicated– and the one formed before him was not the Tzitz of the Kohen Gadol, but rather a replica etc. that someone made – which was different from the (real) Tzitz. Therefore, he could bring a proof that “Holy to G-d” was written on one line”.

Since, however, the Sages had such a tradition (“kabbalah”) they “did not reject that which was known to them even because of (that) “visual testimony” – because in that tradition there was no doubt. However, regarding the visual testimony one could say that this is not the Tzitz of the Kohen Gadol, as aforementioned.

4. According to the above – one must seemingly examine the ruling of Rambam, especially - the aspect of actually having in the Mikdash a “bedieved Tzitz” – one that is kosher only after the fact- for an extended period, as aforementioned?

One could say, by preface:

How could one fool the Romans with a Tzitz that never had such a form in the Mikdash? Especially according to the known writings even in their books regarding the particulars of the Beis HaMikdash and the Avodah therein?

Therefore, one must say that Rambam is forced to explain that it is kosher bedieved, and that it actually occurred, albeit for a short time.

And even more so the Or HaChayin writes that:

“Even according to the Tanna Kamma (the Sages) it does not invalidate it and therefore one should not find the ruling of Rambam difficult in chapter nine of Hilchot Klei HaMikdash”.

Accordingly one could say that – at least possibly – another reason for the ruling of Rambam (and perhaps – it is the primary reason) – that it is in order that one does not ‘entertain dispute’ (שלא לאפושי במחלוקת), (especially since, according to the plain explanation of the Me’iri, it is an actual dispute).

Accordingly, one must also not come to the aforementioned differentiation that R’ Eliezer ben R’ Yose did not have the aforementioned tradition etc., and this is simple to understand, yet this is not the place to elaborate.

5. From all the above, one also has a lesson for our times:

In latter times, caches (גניזות) of scrolls of aspects of Tanach have been discovered, and among them are many differences compared to our Masorah (tradition - מסורה), regarding “chaser” or “yeter”.

(Note: There are certain vowel sounds in Hebrew words that can be spelled solely with vowelization (chaser=defective) or also with a letter vav or yud (yeter=plene). Both spellings are grammatically equivalent and are pronounced the same.) 

One must know that these “caches/Genizot”, even though they appear to be “visible testimony”, are completely unlike our Masorah. This is especially so since one cannot know who the authors of these “Genizot” are – whether they are from the “Great Sages” (גדולי התכמים״) or not.

Moreover, it could be that the scrolls were hidden specifically because they were written not according to Halacha!

Whereas the Masorah that we have, which is passed down from person to person, generation after the preceding generation - until Moshe Rabbeinu – it is certain that it is true.

m’Sichas Shabbat Parshat Tetzaveh 5743






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