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Please include Israel's captive soldiers in your tefillot: Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam Baumel, Tzvi ben Penina Feldman, Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah Katz, Ron ben Batya Arad, Guy ben Rina Chever.

May HaKadosh Barukh Hu have mercy upon His people and upon His land.

This week's SALT shiurim are dedicated in memory of my grandfather Rav Yehuda Leib Silverberg z"l, whose yahrzeit is
Sunday 22 Tamuz, July 20th

Monday,  23 Tammuz 5774 – July 21, 2014             

             We read in Parashat Masei God’s command to Benei Yisrael, “Ve-horashtem et ha-aretz vi-yshavtem bah” – “You shall take possession of the land and reside therein” (33:53).  The Ramban, in his commentary to this verse, famously explains that the Torah here establishes an affirmative command to live in and take possession of the Land of Israel.  In his critique of the Rambam’s Sefer Ha-mitzvot, the Ramban charges that the Rambam mistakenly omitted this command from his listing of the mitzvot.


            Numerous different theories have been proposed to explain why the Rambam did not include in his listing of the mitzvot a command to live in Eretz Yisrael.  Among the more creative theories that have been advanced is that of the Avnei Neizer (vol. 2, Y.D. 454), who suggests that there is in truth no substantive debate between the Rambam and the Ramban.  According to the Avnei Neizer, the debate revolves strictly around the methodology of listing the mitzvot.  The Rambam did not list settling Eretz Yisrael as a mitzva because this obligation is included in the command to dispossess the pagan nations in the land, which the Rambam lists as the 187th affirmative command.  The purpose of taking possession of Eretz Yisrael, of course, is so that the Jewish nation can live there, and thus the mitzva of living in the land is naturally included in the mitzva to take possession of the land.  The Ramban, however, disagrees, and maintains that both the means – taking possession – and the goal – residing in the land – should be counted as separate mitzvot.


            The Avnei Neizer boldly suggests connecting this debate between the Rambam and the Ramban with their debate in a different context, namely, the command to build a Temple.  The Rambam lists a single mitzva (asei 20) for the construction of the Mikdash and all its appurtenances, whereas the Ramban maintains that the construction of the building is separate and apart from the command to build the individual furnishings.  Just as the Rambam lists a single mitzva requiring the conquest of Eretz Yisrael and residing in the land, which are essentially two components of a single obligation, he similarly counts the construction of the Temple and its furnishings as part of a single mitzva.  The Ramban, however, separates the Temple and its furnishings into independent mitzvot just as he counts the conquest of the land and residing in the land as separate affirmative commands.


            We might, however, distinguish between the two contexts.  The Ramban disagrees with the Rambam with regard to the furnishings of the Mikdash because, as he explains, he views these furnishings as preparatory stages of mitzva fulfillment (hekhsher mitzva).  The Ramban felt that building the menorah, for example, is not a mitzva, but rather a necessary stage for fulfilling the mitzva to kindle the menorah, just as fashioning the altar is required to facilitate the sacrificial offerings, as so on.  This issue relates to the question of how to perceive the furnishings of the Mishkan, and not to the methodology of counting the mitzvot.


            More generally, the disagreement between these Rishonim with regard to the Temple furnishings most likely relates to their different perspectives on the fundamental definition of Mikdash.  Both in Sefer Ha-mitzvot and in his opening remarks in Hilkhot Beit Ha-bechira, the Rambam defines the Biblical command as requiring that we build a site for sacrificial offerings and the festival pilgrimages.  Necessarily, then, this command requires the construction of both a building and the furnishings necessary for the obligatory rituals.  The Ramban, however, in several different contexts, describes the Mikdash as a place of the Shekhina’s residence, as opposed to a place of avoda.  As such, the command to construct the altars, menorah and other furnishings is not included under the obligation to construct a Mikdash.  Clearly, this debate has nothing at all to do with the question of methodology in listing the 248 affirmative commands.


Rav David Silverberg       


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(c) 2014 Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash, Yeshivat Har Etzion.







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