The End and Beginning of Carrying

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

by R. Gil Student

We recite Psalm 24 (Le-David mizmor La-Shem ha’aretz u-mlo’ah) frequently throughout the year but with particular emphasis on Rosh Hashanah. Most people wonder about the confusing repetition in the chapter. The last two verses are almost identical with the preceding two verses:

Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, The Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah

The Gemara (Shabbos 30a) says that Shlomo, on bringing the ark for the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, could not open the gates to Holy of Holies. He recites this psalm and then invoked David’s merit, on which the gates opened. Why did Shlomo need to ask twice for the gates to open?

Malbim (Ps. 24:9) connects the repetition to the two types of fear of God — fear of punishment (yiras ha-onesh) and awe of God’s power (yiras ha-romemus). Shlomo commanded the gates to open out of fear of God, in each of the two senses, which explains the repetition. Rav Gershon Zaks, the founding rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim in Monsey, offers a Brisker explanation in his recently published Mo’adei Ha-Gershuni (ch. 5).

The Bahag, author of the Halakhos Gedolos, includes in his list of the 613 commandments the requirement that a Levi over the age of fifty may not serve in the Mishkan or Temple (Num. 8:25). Rambam, in his Sefer Ha-Mitzvos (Shoresh 3), disagrees because commandments that only applied for a limited time should not be counted among the 613. This age requirement only applied in the desert, when the utensils of the Mishkan were carried and the Levi’im had to be strong to carry them. In later years, there is no need to carry the utensils and therefore the prohibition does my apply and should not be counted.

Ramban, in his glosses to Sefer Ha-Mitzvos, defends the Bahag, as usual. He argues that the prohibition applied in the Temple, as well. He points out that sometimes the ark is carried out to war, to which the Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Kelei Ha-Mishkan 2:12) agrees.

Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, known as the Brisker Rav, explains the Rambam’s position (Chidushei Maran Riz Ha-Levi Al Ha-Rambam, p. 77ff.). The Rambam sees two aspects to carrying the ark. One aspect is carrying it as part of the holy utensils. In that role, only Levi’im could carry the ark and only when they were under the age of fifty. However, the ark in itself–and not as a utensil–is sometimes carried, such as to the battlefield. In this aspect, the ark is carried by Kohanim and the age requirement does not apply.

The carrying of the utensils ended when they finally rested in the Temple in Jerusalem. That was the end of their journey and the end of the rules regarding who can carry them. However, the carrying of the ark continued throughout the Temple period and will resume when the Temple is rebuilt, if necessary. This type of carrying has no age restriction. [1]I found this difficult for one reason–Rambam says the prohibition ended after the desert, not many years later when the Temple was built. I was gratified to see that Rav Yitzchak Sorotzkin … Continue reading

Rav Gershon Zaks builds on this insight to explain the repetition in Psalm 24. When Shlomo attempted to place the ark in the Holy of Holies in order to dedicate the Temple, the doors would not open. He recited this psalm and they opened. This psalm serves as a request to the gates to open, to allow Shlomo (or his Levi’im) to carry the ark. Since at that time there two aspects to carrying the ark, Shlomo made his request twice.

While Rav Zaks explains the repetition, I still wonder why any of this was necessary. While carrying the ark is a mitzvah, maybe even two, what difference does that make to the closed doors? I think this double mention is a tribute the old and a call to the new. The standard text of the siyum recites after completing a large course of study (usually a tractate of Talmud) begins with the often-distorted phrase: hadran alakh ve-hadrakh alan, we will return to you and you will return to us. We speak of our intent to review what we have learned (we return to it) and our hope to remember what we have learned (it returns to us).

When we complete something holy, we take time out to think about what we have accomplished. We will miss the challenge, the opportunity. And we also look forward to the opportunities that lie in our future. This applies not only to Torah study but to any mitzvah. One of the sources for making a siyum celebration is the celebration observed on the 15th of Av (Tu Be-Av), which according to one opinion (Ta’anis 31a) marked the end of the cutting of wood for the Temple services (the dry season was over and the wood was now wet). The completion of this mitzvah deserves a siyum, not just the completion of a course of Torah study.

Similarly, when Shlomo reached the completion of the centuries-long mitzvah of carrying the holy utensils, he called on the gates of the Holy of Holies to recognize this. Then he called on the gates to recognize the mitzvah that will continue and will be the sole mitzvah of carrying the ark. At the end of Psalm 24, Shlomo effectively says hadran alakh ve-hadrakh alan.

 

Endnotes

Endnotes
1I found this difficult for one reason–Rambam says the prohibition ended after the desert, not many years later when the Temple was built. I was gratified to see that Rav Yitzchak Sorotzkin (Rinas Yitzchak, Num. 8:25) asks more questions on this approach that he leaves unanswered. We will set aside these questions for the time being.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter


The latest weekly digest is also available by clicking here.

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter

Archives

Categories