Lecture 67: The History of the Resting of the Shekhina ֠Bringing the Ark to Jerusalem (Part I)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy

Mikdash

 

 

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This shiur is dedicated by Mr. and Mrs. Harold N. Rosen

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This week's shiurim are dedicated
in memory of Mrs. Cela Meisels, Tzerka Nechama bat Shlomo,
whose yahrzeit falls on the 14th of Tevet.

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Lecture 67: The History of the resting of the Shekhina –

Bringing the ark to jerusalem (part i)

Rav Yitzchak Levi

 

 

            Bringing the ark to Jerusalem was David's first important royal action following his conquest of Jerusalem and turning it into the capital of the kingdom of Israel. In our lectures last year, we noted two major novelties related to this action: the daring displayed in David's interest in the ark and moving it, as well as the transfer of the ark to Jerusalem rather than to the Mishkan next to the great bama in Giv'on. In this lecture, we will discuss the relationship between the account of the transfer of the ark in the book of Shmuel and the parallel account in the book of Divrei Ha-yamim, and we will also try to understand David's sin in this regard.

 

I.              THE DIFFERENCE IN THE ORDER OF THE STORIES IN SHMUEL AND IN DIVREI HA-YAMIM AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE 

 

We saw in the previous lecture that the transfer of the ark from Kiryat-Ye'arim is described in the book of Shmuel in a single chapter, following the account of David's establishment of his kingdom in Jerusalem, the expansion of his family, and his two victories over the Pelishtim. In the book of Divrei Ha-yamim, the two stages of the transfer are described in two separate chapters – the transfer of the ark from Kiryat-Ye'arim to the house of Oved-Edom the Gitti in chapter 13, and its transfer from the house of Oved-Edom to the city of David in chapter 15. Between these two stages, we read about the establishment of David's kingdom in Jerusalem, the expansion of his family, and his victory over the Pelishtim.

 

What is the significance of this difference? In a certain sense, at issue is what the proper order is with respect to the establishment of the kingdom and the determination of the site of the Mikdash. According to the beraita in Sanhedrin (20b), the proper order is "to appoint a king, to cut off the seed of Amalek, and to build the Temple," in accordance with the order found in the book of Shmuel: establishment of the monarchy in Jerusalem, victory over the Pelishtim, and only then transfer of the ark. This is also the most logical order: the monarchy is the foundation upon which the Temple is built. Therefore, David first established his monarchy and defeated the Pelishtim, and only after completing this process did he transfer the ark to Jerusalem.

 

The order found in Divrei Ha-yamim follows a different logic. Even before the monarchy was firmly established, the final goal – the erection of the Mikdash in Jerusalem - was determined, and this is what dictated and guided the establishment of the kingdom and the victory over the enemies. Therefore, David brought the ark to Jerusalem immediately following his ascent to the throne, based on his desire that Jerusalem be the future site of holiness. By virtue of this action, his kingdom would be blessed and established, "from up above to below." However, the failure in transferring the ark (which will be analyzed later in this lecture) returned David to the course described in the book of Shmuel. In the end, the transfer of the ark to the city of David is only completed after David's kingdom is firmly established and his enemies are routed. Moreover, it is possible that the failure in transferring the ark to the city of David stirred the Pelishtim to consider the possibility of delaying the process, encouraging them to exploit the weakness that was manifested here.

 

However, in order to consider more deeply the fundamental difference between the two accounts, we must first understand the root of the sin that brought about the interruption of the process.

 

WHAT WAS THE SIN RELATING TO THE TRANSFER OF THE ARK?

 

            The two books describe the transfer of the ark itself in different ways. In Shmuel, the story is related very briefly, with no details offered regarding the causes of the sin and its repair, whereas in Divrei Ha-yamim the story is told in great detail.[1] We shall therefore focus on explaining the repair of the sin according to Divrei Ha-yamim.

 

            Let us first see the two accounts, starting with Shmuel II 6:

 

And David arose and went with all the people that were with him from Ba'alei-Yehuda to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who dwells upon the keruvim. And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Avinadav who was in Giv'a; and Uzza and Achyo, the sons of Avinadav, drove the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Avinadav, which was at Giv'a, accompanying the ark of God; and Achyo went before the ark. And David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of cypress-wood, on lyres, and on lutes, and on timbrels, and on rattles, and on cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nakhon, Uzza put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzza; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. And David was displeased, because the Lord had burst out against Uzza; and he called the name of the place Peretz-Uzza to this day. And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and said, “How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?” So David would not remove the ark of the Lord to him into the city of David; but David carried it aside into the house of Oved-Edom the Gitti. And the ark of the Lord continued in the house of Oved-Edom the Gitti three months; and the Lord blessed Oved-Edom and all of his household. And it was told to King David, saying, “The Lord has blessed the house of Oved-Edom and all that he has because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Oved-Edom into the city of David with gladness. And when those that bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David leaped before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen efod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the shofar. And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Mikhal, Shaul's daughter, looked through a window, and saw King David dancing and leaping before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. And they brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, in the midst of the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before the Lord. And as soon as David had made an end of offering burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. And he made a distribution among all the people, among the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to every one a cake of bread, and a good piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. So all the people departed everyone to his house. Then David returned to bless his household. And Mikhal the daughter of Shaul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, in that he uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the low fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” And David said to Mikhal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me before your father and before all his house, to appoint me prince over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore, will I play before the Lord, and I will be yet more lightly esteemed than this, holding myself lowly. And of the handmaids of whom you have spoken, of them will I be had in honor.” And Mikhal the daughter of Shaul had no child unto the day of her death.

 

            Here are the two parts of the account of the transfer of the ark in Divrei Ha-yamim:

 

And David consulted with the captains of thousands and of hundreds and with every leader. And David said to all the congregation of Israel, “If it seem good to you, and that it be the will of the Lord our God, let us send abroad to our brethren everywhere, who are left in all the land of Israel, and with them also to the priests and Levites who are in their cities that have pasture lands, that they may gather themselves to us. And let us bring back the ark of our God to us, for we did not inquire at it in the days of Shaul.” And all of the congregation said that they would do so, for the thing seemed right in the eyes of all the people. So David gathered all Israel together, from Shichor of Egypt as far as the entrance of Chamat, to bring the ark of God from Kiryat-Ye'arim. And David went up, and all Israel, to Ba'ala, that is, to Kiryat-Ye'arim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God the Lord, who dwells above the keruvim, by whose name it is called. And they carried the ark of God in a new cart out of the house of Avinadav, and Uzza and Achyo drove the cart. And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with lyres, and with lutes, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets. And when they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzza, and He smote him, because he put his hand to the ark; and there he died before God. And David was vexed, because the Lord had broken out upon Uzza; so that place is called Peretz-Uzza to this day. And David was afraid of God that day, saying, “How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?” So David did not bring the ark to himself to the city of David, but carried it aside into the house of Oved-Edom the Gitti. And the ark of God remained with the family of Oved-Edom in his house three months. And the Lord blessed the house of Oved-Edom and all that he had. (Divrei Ha-yamim I 13)

 

And David made houses for himself in the city of David, and prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched for it a tent. Then David said, “None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the Lord has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister to Him forever. And David gathered all Israel together to Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the Lord to its place, which he had prepared for it. And David assembled the children of Aharon and the Levites. Of the sons of Kehat: Uriel the chief, and his brethren a hundred and twenty. Of the sons of Merari: Asaya the chief, and his brethren two hundred and twenty. Of the sons of Gershom: Yoel the chief, and his brethren a hundred and thirty. Of the sons of Elitzafan: Shemaya the chief, and his brethren two hundred. Of the sons of Hevron: Eliel the chief, and his brethren eighty. Of the sons of Uziel: Aminadav the chief, and his brethren a hundred and twelve. And David called for Tzadok and Evyatar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaya, and Yoel, Shemaya, and Eliel, and Aminadav, and he said to them, “You are the chiefs of the fathers' houses of the Levites: sanctify yourselves, you and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. For because you did not do so at first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, because we did not seek Him according to the prescribed form.” So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God upon their shoulders, the bars being upon them, as Moshe had commanded according to the word of the Lord. And David spoke to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of music, lutes and lyres and cymbals, playing loudly to raise sounds of joy. So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Yoel, and of his brethren Asaf the son of Berekhya, and of the sons of Merari their brethren, Etan the son of Kushayahu, and with them their brethren of the second degree, Zekharyahu, Ben, and Ya'azi'el, and Shemiramot, and Yechi'el, and Uni, Eliav, and Benayahu, and Ma'aseyahu, and Matityahu, and Eliflehu, and Mikneyahu, and Oved-Edom, and Ye'i'el, the gatekeepers. So the singers, Heman, Asaf, and Etan, were appointed to sound with cymbals of brass; and Zekharya, and Azi'el, and Shemiramot, and Yechi'el, and Uni, and Eliav, and Ma'aseyahu, and Benayahu, with lutes to Alamot; and Matityahu, and Eliflehu, and Mikneyahu, and Oved-Edom, and Ye'i'el, and Azazyahu, with lyres to the Sheminit to lead. And Kenanyahu, chief of the Levites, was over the song: he was master in the song, because he was skillful. And Berekhya and Elkana were gatekeepers for the ark. And Shevanyahu, and Yoshafat, and Netan'el, and Amasai, and Zekharyahu, and Benayahu, and Eli'ezer the priests did blow on the trumpets before the ark of God; and Oved-Edom and Yechiya were gatekeepers for the ark. So David, and the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the house of Oved-Edom with joy. And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams. And David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, and all the Levites who bore the ark, and the singers, and Kenanya the master of the song with the singers; David also had upon him an efod of linen. Thus, all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting, and with sound of the shofar, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, making a noise with lutes and lyres. And it came to pass, as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came to the city of David, that Mikhal the daughter of Shaul looking through a window saw King David dancing and playing; and she despised him in her heart. So they brought the ark of God, and set it in the midst of the tent that David had set up for it; and they offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before God. And when David had made an end of offering the burnt-offerings and the peace-offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord. And he distributed to every one of Israel both men and women, to every one a loaf of bread, and a good piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. And he appointed certain of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, and to invoke and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel… So he left there before the ark of the covenant of the Lord Asaf and his brethren, to minister before the ark continually, as every day's work required. And Oved-Edom with their brethren, sixty eight; and Oved-Edom the son of Yeditun and Hosa to be doorkeepers; and Tzadok the priest, and his brethren the priests, before the Tabernacle of the Lord in the high place that was at Giv'on, to offer burnt-offerings to the Lord on the altar of the burnt offering continually morning and evening, and to do according to all that is written in the Law of the Lord, which He commanded Israel; and with them Heman and Yedutun, and the rest who were chosen, who were expressly named, to give thanks to the Lord, because His steadfast love endures forever; and with them Heman and Yedutun with trumpets and cymbals for making a loud sound, and with musical instruments of God. And the sons of Yedutun were posted at the gate. And all the people departed every man to his house; and David returned to bless his house. (Divrei Ha-Yamim I 15-16)

 

            Before we go into the various understandings of the sin committed during the first attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem, it is important to emphasize several points.

 

            The initiative itself to transfer the ark to Jerusalem was a welcome and desirable initiative, as is indicated by the blessing that rested on the house of Oved-Edom the Gitti owing to the ark of God. This is also attested to by the Divine assistance provided during the second attempt, as it says: "And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams" (Divrei Ha-Yamim I 15:26).

 

            In the wake of Uzza's death following his attempt to lessen the disgrace of the fall of the ark, David mends his ways, and apparently also his inner attitude toward the meaning of the moving of the ark. Scripture seems to allude to this in the parallel that it draws between David's criticism of Shaul – "and let us bring back the ark of our God to us, for we did not inquire at it in the days of Shaul" (ibid. 13:3) – and his self-criticism in the wake of Uzza's death, in his words to the chiefs of the fathers' houses of the Levites: "For because you did not do so at first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, because we did not seek Him according to the prescribed form" (ibid. 15:13). David, as it were, compares the failure to seek the ark during the days of Shaul, when the ark was in Kiryat-Ye'arim, to his own seeking of the ark not in the prescribed form, and he remorsefully accepts full responsibility. The expression, "And David was vexed" (ibid. 13:11), which the Malbim understands to mean, "He was vexed with himself in the manner of one who is sorry and frightened," and the next verse, "And David was afraid of God that day" (ibid. v. 12), indicate that David recognized his sin. And as stated above, David's main virtue lies in his repair of the manner in which the ark was brought up from the house of Oved-Edom the Gitti to Jerusalem, as will be spelled out in detail below.

 

            The story of the transfer of the ark is expounded at length in Bamidbar Rabba 5:8, and in Sota 35a. The Abravanel in his commentary to Shmuel counts four major offenses that were committed, and we shall discuss them from now until the end of this lecture.

 

1.             TRANSPORTING THE ARK BY CART AND NOT ON THE SHOULDERS

 

God cast upon the Levites, descendants of Kehat, to bear the ark on their shoulders, "because the service of the sanctuary belonged to them; they bore it on their shoulders" (Bamidbar 7:9), but David decided to move the ark on a new cart.

 

This fits in with the correspondence between the transport of the ark by David and the return of the ark to Bet-Shemesh by the Pelishtim. When it is brought from Kiryat-Ye'arim, the ark is called "the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who dwells upon the keruvim" (Shmuel II 6:2), and when it is brought out to battle at Even-ha-Ezer, it is called "the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who sits upon the keruvim" (Shmuel I 4:4). The Pelishtim returned the ark to Israel on a new cart (ibid. 6:7), and David sets the ark on a new cart (Shmuel II 6:13). The meaning of this correspondence is not clear. Does David wish to follow the Pelishtim in a certain sense and return the ark to its place by way of things that had never been used for work, "owing to the sanctity of the ark,"[2] or was his intention to improve in some way upon what the Pelishtim did and create a more proper attitude toward the ark?

 

In any event, the fact that carrying the ark by cart was a sin follows explicitly from what is stated in the second attempt: "And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God upon their shoulders the bars being upon them, as Moshe had commanded according to the word of the Lord" (Divrei Ha-Yamim I 15:15).

 

What is the meaning of the command that the ark must be carried on the shoulders?[3]

 

The midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 5:8) describes the significance of carrying the ark on the shoulders (in contrast to the way that the rest of the Mishkan was transported, i.e., by cart) in a way that explains the sin committed when the ark was being transported to Jerusalem:

 

And the highest among the tribe of Levi was the family of Kehat, for a Levite would put his load – whether the boards or the bars or the sockets or anything else – on the carts. But the family of Kehat would carry [their load] on their shoulders, for they were not permitted to put the ark in a cart, as it says, "But to the sons of Kehat he gave none" (Bamidbar 7:9)… You see then that even though they were greater than the other families, and needless to say [greater] than [ordinary] Israelites, they were not arrogant, but rather subservient before the ark. Why is this so? Because there is no greatness before God. You see then that even though the family of Kehat were like palace guards, when they carried the ark, they carried it like slaves.[4]

 

There is an essential difference between transporting the ark by cart and carrying it on the shoulders. The cart-driver – no matter what he is hauling – guides and directs the cart and, to a certain degree, controls it. Carrying something on one’s shoulders, on the other hand, indicates a certain degree of subjugation to the load.

 

The prophet seems to be alluding to this when he cites David's reaction in the wake of the falling of the ark: "And David was afraid of the Lord that day; and he said, ‘How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?’" (Shmuel II 6:9). The word "eilai," "to me," may allude to a certain possessiveness that David felt regarding the ark. David, as it were, wonders: Did I actually take the ark to Jerusalem – to the royal city that will eventually serve as the foundation for the building of the house of God – or perhaps I took it to me, for my own good and in service of my kingdom?

 

It is also possible to explain the words "And David was vexed (va-yichar)" (Shmuel II 6:8) as a direct parallel of the words "And the anger of the Lord burned (va-yichar) against Uzza" (ibid. v.7), in which case Scripture alludes, contrary to the interpretation of the Malbim, that David was angry with God that he had initiated something very positive, moving the ark to Jerusalem and renewing the connection to it, and Uzza was killed.

 

David repaired this sin in a major way with his second attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem, through the sanctification of the Levites, through carrying the ark on the shoulders, through the offering of sacrifices, and through the participation of the entire people. It seems to me, however, that the real and all-encompassing repair of the sin takes place at the time of Avshalom's revolt. When David left Jerusalem so as not to confront Avshalom in the city, he decided to leave the ark of the Lord in Jerusalem, with Avshalom, against the advice of Tzadok the priest to take it with him, and despite the great public benefit that would be reaped if the ark, the site of the resting of the Shekhina, would accompany David in exile. David thereby gives unequivocal expression to the view that it is not the ark that follows after the king – as David himself had thought when he brought the ark from Kiryat-Ye'arim to Jerusalem ("How shall the ark of the Lord come to me") – but rather the king who must follow after the ark. If Jerusalem was chosen as the royal city connected to the Mikdash, the ark's place is in Jerusalem, even if the rebellious Avshalom will benefit from it. David expressed this in his response to Tzadok: "If I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord, He will bring me back, and show me both it and His habitation. But if He thus says, ‘I have no delight in you;’ behold, here am I, let Him do to me as seems good in His eyes" (Shmuel II 15:25-26). As it were, it is only here that David internalizes the full significance of his absolute dependence on God and his kingdom's dependence on Divine consent. He therefore no longer takes the ark or tries to control it.[5]

 

But how did David err regarding an explicit Torah law? The Radak, in his commentary to Shmuel II 6:6, proposes the following explanation: "Because he said: God commanded at that time in the wilderness, for since the Mishkan was carried by the carts, He commanded that the ark should be carried on the shoulders, to show that the sanctity of the ark is greater than the sanctity of the Mishkan. But when there was no Mishkan, he thought that there would be no sin if they carried it by cart." The idea that the Torah's command to carry the ark on the shoulders only applied during the period of the wilderness may have stemmed from the understanding that carrying the ark on the shoulders of the Levites was miraculous, and therefore should not apply in Eretz Yisrael, where God reveals Himself in earthly reality.[6]

 

2. TOUCHING THE ARK

 

            The second sin noted by the Abravanel was touching the ark:

 

For even the Levites should not have touched the ark of God, and they would not carry [the ark] itself, thereby touching it, but rather they would carry it with poles. Accordingly, it would have been a sin if the Levites touched the ark itself, all the more so the rest of Israel.[7]

 

            Some explain that the Torah's prohibition, "The poles should be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it" (Shemot 25:15), was meant to ensure that the ark would not be touched unnecessarily, for carrying it by its poles does not require coming into actual contact with the ark itself.

 

            There may be an allusion to this in the words, "Uzza put out his hand" (va-yishlach yado), an expression found in Divrei Ha-yamim.[8] "Shelichut yad" is an active term with a negative connotation.[9] Even though Uzza's intentions were good – to prevent the ark from falling – nevertheless, he was guilty of a sin, because his "shelichut yad" was based on the assumption that man can control the ark and its stability.[10] The oxen's shaking was not by chance,[11] and it was inappropriate for Uzza to put out his hand and try to support the ark and thus, in essence, control it. This act was a breach of the excessive caution that is necessary whenever one draws near to the holy, and it expressed a crossing of the boundary between the human realm and that of God. Carrying the ark on the shoulders, by way of poles and without having to touch it, symbolizes not only the sanctity of the ark as a holy vessel, but also, in great measure, the prohibition to express human control over anything connected to the holy, and the distancing needed in order to properly draw near to the holy.

 

3. TRANSPORT OF THE ARK BY WAY OF LEVITES, AND NOT BY WAY OF ISRAELITES

 

            The first attempt to move the ark was made by Uzza and Achyo, the sons of Avinadav,[12] who were not priests. Nowhere in the text is there even an allusion to any role played by the priests and the Levites.

 

            David's repair regarding this matter expressed itself on various plains. First, he transported the ark to the house of Oved-Edom the Gitti, who was a Levite (Divrei Ha-yamim I 15:18, 21, 24).[13]

 

            Afterwards, before transferring the ark to Jerusalem, "then David said, ‘None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the Lord has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister to Him forever’" (Divrei Ha-yamim I 15:2), as it is stated, “They shall bear the Mishkan, and all its vessels; and they shall minister to it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle… and the stranger that comes near shall be put to death" (Bamidbar 1:50-51) and "At that time the Lord separated the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord" (Devarim 10:8).

 

            Indeed, Scripture describes at length the great change that occurred during the second attempt to move the ark regarding the role played by the priests and the Levites. David assembled them and told them to sanctify themselves: "So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel" (Divrei Ha-yamim I 15:14). Later, various tasks were placed upon them. The Levites were assigned the tasks of carrying the ark on their shoulders by way of its poles (Divrei Ha-yamim I 15:2, 26); playing musical instruments to enhance the joy (ibid. vv. 16-21); singing in a choir as part of the celebration (ibid. v. 16); and serving as gatekeepers for the ark in the new tent (ibid. vv. 23-24). On the priests it fell to blow the trumpets (ibid. v. 24).

 

            The importance of the Levites' carrying the ark is understandable. The Levites had been set apart from the people of Israel to serve in the Mikdash; they were not given a tribal territory, they do not go out to war, and they do not receive a share in the booty. "The Lord God of Israel is their inheritance" (Yehoshua 13:33). The Levites are servants of God in their very essence, and as such they are responsible for the proper attitude toward the Mikdash and its vessels. Only they can execute the Divine command in the most precise manner, with the knowledge that they are God's servants.

 

4. LACK OF FAITH (THE ARK BEARS ITS CARRIERS AND ITSELF)

 

            The Abravanel lists another sin: By sending out his hand to support the ark, Uzza diminished the ark's sanctity, in that he demonstrated, as it were, that the ark cannot stand on its own, without the person carrying it. As the gemara states: "The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: Uzza, it bears those who carry it; all the more so itself" (Sota 35a). In other words, if the ark can bear those who carry it, it certainly can bear itself.

 

            This midrash expresses the same point that arose in what we said above: it is the ark that leads its carrier, and not the other way around. The ark requires no human help. When the tables are turned and man thinks that he himself can lead the ark – on a cart and not on the shoulders, by actual contact and not by means of poles, by way of an Israelite and not Levites, God's chosen servants – then the ark falls, and the matter requires repair.

 

SUMMARY

 

            In this lecture, we examined the differences between the descriptions of the transfer of the ark in the books of Shmuel and Divrei Ha-yamim. We then reviewed the various understandings proposed by the Abravanel regarding the sin committed during the first attempt to move the ark, and we tried to bring support for these understandings from the plain sense of Scripture. In the next lecture, we will complete our examination of the sin and relate to additional aspects of the story.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)



[1] There is room to expand upon the comparison between Shmuel and Divrei Ha-yamim regarding Temple matters in general and this story in particular. This may be connected to the way Ezra, author of Divrei Ha-yamim (according to Bava Batra 15a), understood the Mikdash, but we cannot go into further detail here. An interesting analysis of the story is found in A. Malkiel, "Ha'ala'at Ha-Aron Mi-Kiryat-Ye'arim al Yedei David," in Sefer Zeidel: Ha-Chevra Le-Cheker Ha-Mikra, pp. 119-141.

[2] This approach is formulated by the Radak to Shmuel I 6:7.

[3] The Rambam brings this mitzva in Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, positive commandment, no. 34, and in Hilkhot Kelei Ha-mikdash 2:12. Sefer Ha-chinukh brings it in commandment no. 379, and the Ramban in the third root principle in his comments on Sefer Ha-mitzvot. They discuss at length when this mitzva applies and upon whom it falls – on the priests or on the Levites – and we will not expand upon this here. In our context, we will bring the words of the Rambam in Sefer Ha-mitzvot: "And when David commanded to carry the ark a second time, he said in Divrei Ha-yamim: 'And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God upon their shoulders the bars being upon them, as Moshe had commanded according to the word of the Lord' (Divrei Ha-yamim I 15:15). And similarly when he mentions in Divrei Ha-yamim the division of the priests into twenty-four guards, and says afterwards, 'These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of the Lord, according to the form prescribed to them by the hand of Aharon their father, as the Lord God of Israel had commanded them' (ibid. 24:19), the Sages explain that this alludes that it is the service of the priests to bear the ark on the shoulders, and this is [the meaning of], 'as the Lord God of Israel had commanded them.' As the Sifrei states: 'According to the form prescribed to them… as the Lord God of Israel had commanded them' (Sifrei, Bamidbar, no. 46) – where did He command them? 'But to the sons of Kehat he gave none: because the service of the sanctuary belonged to them' (Bamidbar 7:9)."

The Chinukh (commandment no. 379) writes regarding the roots of the commandment: "For the entire glory of Israel lies in the Torah, by which they were set apart from the rest of the nations and made the lot of God. It is therefore proper and fitting that it be carried on the shoulders of the most distinguished and sanctified people. And there is no need to go on at length about something that is clear to schoolchildren." It seems that he is referring primarily to the identity of those who carry the ark, and not to the manner in which it must be carried.

[4] A similar idea is found in Midrash Mishnat Rabbi Eliezer, p. 185 (brought in Torah Sheleima, Bamidbar 7:9, #59): "Great is modesty, in which the descendants of Kehat were great, for they were the chosen among the tribe of Levi, and they would carry the poles on their shoulders, as it is stated, 'But to the sons of Kehat he gave none; because the service of the sanctuary belonged to them; they bore it on their shoulders' (Bamidbar 7:9)."

[5] Exceedingly instructive in this context is the view of Chazal, who connect the switch from Evyatar to Tzadok to the incident involving the flight from Avshalom: "Any priest who does not speak with the holy spirit and the Shekhina rests upon him, we do not inquire of him, for Tzadok inquired and he succeeded, whereas Evyatar inquired but did not succeed, as it is stated: 'And Evyatar went up until all the people had finished passing out of the city' (Shmuel II 15:24)" (Yoma 73b). One of the problems of the house of Eli was their attitude to the ark as a vessel that had magical power, not at all dependent upon the people's actions – an attitude that found expression in the ark's being brought out to the battle at Even-ha-Ezer based on the trust that this would bring Israel victory (Shmuel I 4:3-4). David's first attempt to transfer the ark to Jerusalem – "come to me" – may reflect a continuation of this attitude; there may be a subtle allusion here that David wished to bring the ark to Jerusalem in order to benefit from its power. This accords especially well with the account in Divrei Ha-yamim, according to which the first attempt preceded the firm establishment of David's kingdom and the building of the royal buildings in Jerusalem, as was mentioned at the beginning of this lecture. The replacement of Evyatar from the house of Eli (descendants of Itamar, who merited the High Priesthood after Pinchas ben Elazar was rejected at the time of the incident of the concubine in Giv'a) with Tzadok, a descendant of Elazar, was part of a change in David's attitude toward the ark. In light of this, we can understand why it was the family of Tzadok that was established as the family of the High Priesthood, and why it will serve in that capacity in the future Mikdash as well (see Yechezkel 44:15).

[6] R. Stiskin expands upon this point in his article, "Le-Darko Shel David, 'Erdof Oyevai Va-Asigem,' Le-Pesher Parashat Ha'ala'at He-Aron,” Nitzanei Eretz 7 (5750). Other explanations have been offered to deal with this problem. For example, in the wilderness, the ark was used to cause the enemies to flee and to guide Israel in their journeys, and it is possible that David thought that the command to carry the ark on the shoulders only applies at a time of war. In our usual manner, we have tried to follow the plain sense of the text. 

[7] Most of the Rishonim do not consider touching the ark an independent prohibition, but R. Sa'adya Gaon in his Sefer Ha-Mitzvot does count it as such (negative commandment no. 112). See at length R. Perla's comments in his commentary, ad loc.

[8] In Shmuel II 6:6, it says: "Uzza put out his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it." Here, too, Uzza takes hold of the ark, but the term "shelichut yad" does not appear.

[9] Compare, for example, "Lay not your hand (al tishlach yadkha) upon the lad, neither do anything to him" (Bereishit 22:12).

[10] This is true irrespective of the issue of the weight of the ark, which we shall not discuss here, and also irrespective of the precise manner in which Uzza sent out his hand or took hold of the ark.

[11] The proof is that the oxen did not shake when the Pelishtim sent the ark by cart from Ekron to Bet-Shemesh. The argument that the difference stems exclusively from the fact that the Pelishtim were not commanded whereas Israel was commanded does not seem to suffice.

[12] Many have noted that the name Avinadav alludes to the names Nadav and Avihu, whose deaths also stemmed from drawing near to God in an inappropriate manner. Moreover, in both incidents, the sin involved doing something that God had not commanded. This, however, is not the place to expand on this correspondence.

[13] Carrying the ark to the house of Oved-Edom after God burst out against Uzza is similar to its being brought to the house of Avinadav in the Giv'a after God smote the people of  Bet-Shemesh when it was returned from Sedeh-Pelishtim: "And he sanctified Elazar his son to keep the ark of the Lord" (Shmuel I 7:1).