כ״ו בכסלו ה׳תשע״ח (December 14, 2017)

Shevuot 16a-b: Forever Holy

As we learned on yesterday’s daf, in order to add to the Temple in a way that the addition will be made holy it must be consecrated in the presence of the king, a prophet, the Urim VeTummim, the full of 71 Sages, and two thanksgiving sacrifices – all accompanied by the singing of the levi’im. The Mishna (14b) concludes that if this formula was not followed, the additional area does not have the full kedusha of the Temple, and someone who enters in a state of ritual defilement will not be obligated to bring an atonement.

In today’s Gemara we find that Rav Huna understands that the Mishna requires that all of the different elements of the ceremony must be done; Rav Naḥman says that even having just one of them would suffice to give holiness to the new addition. The Gemara explains that their disagreement stems from a basic difference in how they view the holiness of the land of Israel after the destruction of the Temple that was followed by a mass exile. Rav Huna believes that the original kedusha remains forever and there was no real need to perform a ceremony when the Second Temple was erected. When we find in Sefer Neḥemia that they did have a ceremony, it was just a remembrance. Rav Naḥman believes that the original holiness no longer existed, so Ezra needed to perform the ceremony in order to ensure that there would be kedusha in the Second Temple.

The idea that the holiness given to the Land of Israel may have been established in such a way that it would last forever is subject to a dispute among the Tanna’im and Amorai’m, and extends to the rishonim, as well.

Tosafot accept the simple reading of the Gemara, which seems to view the holiness of the Land of Israel and that of Jerusalem as being the same, so if the destruction of the Temple removes the holiness from the Land, it does so for Jerusalem as well. The Rambam, on the other hand, sees the two as distinct and rules that even if the holiness of the Land is removed, kedushat Yerushalayim – which stems from the presence of God – can never be removed. With the return of the Jews to Israel under Ezra HaSofer and the building of the second Temple, the center of the kedusha was the rebuilt Temple – the seat of the Almighty – and the rest of the Land derived its holiness from Jerusalem. Thus the Rambam rules that even with the destruction of the Temple, kedushat Ezra remains forever.

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