SALT - Monday, 5 Nissan 5780 - March 30, 2020

  • Rav David Silverberg
            Yesterday, we noted the Gemara’s discussion in Masekhet Yoma (23b) concerning the Torah’s instructions in Parashat Tzav for hotza’at ha-deshen – the removal of the ashes from the altar to a designated area outside the Beit Ha-mikdash.  The Torah instructs that before the kohein brings the ashes outside the area of the Temple, he should remove his garments and wear “other garments” (6:4).  Although this might seem to indicate that the kohein changes out of his priestly garments and wears ordinary clothes (which is how the Ramban understood, as we saw yesterday), the majority opinion explains this verse differently.  According to the majority opinion (and, as some Rishonim explain, even according to the minority view), the kohein wears bigdei kehuna (priestly garments) for the hotza’at ha-deshen, but the clothing worn for this procedure is of a lower quality than the standard bigdei kehuna.
            The Rambam, in Hilkhot Temidin U-musafin (2:10), follows this opinion, but surprisingly, he applies it also to the terumat ha-deshen – the daily removal of some ash from the altar.  The Torah instructs the kohein to change his clothing before hotza’at ha-deshen – bringing the collected heap of ash outside the Temple – but according to the Rambam, this requirement applies also to the daily ritual of removing some ash from the altar and placing it alongside the altar.  Such an opinion is cited by Rashi, in his commentary to Masekhet Yoma (12b), but Rashi dismisses this view, noting that the Gemara’s instruction that the kohein change his clothes is said only in regard to hotza’at ha-deshen.  The commentators to the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah offer different theories to explain why the Rambam felt that this requirement applies also to the daily terumat ha-deshen requirement.
            The Radbaz, in one of his responsa (8:205), brings a question posed to him raising several difficulties with the Rambam’s view, including a number of indications that the standard bigdei kehuna were worn for the terumat ha-deshen.  First, the kohein gadol performed all the rituals in the Beit Ha-mikdash on Yom Kippur, and Tosafot in Masekhet Yoma (20b) show from the Gemara that this included the terumat ha-deshen.  The kohein gadol was required to wear his eight special garments whenever he served in the Beit Ha-mikdash, and nowhere is there any indication that he had a lower-quality set of garments for the terumat ha-deshen ritual on Yom Kippur.  Secondly, later in Hilkhot Temidin U-musafin (4:1-2), the Rambam describes the procedure of how kohanim were selected for the various tasks in the Beit Ha-mikdash each day, and he writes that all the kohanim of the day’s shift would assemble in their priestly garments, and lots were cast.  Later (4:5), after explaining how the lots were cast, the Rambam writes that the kohein selected for the terumat ha-deshen also arranged the firewood on the altar, and brought fire from the altar inside to the incense altar.  The clear implication is that the kohein remained in the same, standard bigdei kehuna even after being selected for the terumat ha-deshen, and that he proceeded immediately from the terumat ha-deshen to arranging the wood and bringing fire to the incense altar.  The Rambam gives no indication that the kohein would change his clothing after performing the terumat ha-deshen.
            The Radbaz suggests that possibly, the Rambam followed the view taken by Rashi in his Torah commentary here in Parashat Tzav (6:4) that the kohein is not strictly required to change into lower-quality garments for hotza’at ha-deshen.  This is appropriate, so as not to soil the bigdei kehuna, but is not, in Rashi’s view, an outright halakhic requirement.  (The Ramban, in his comments to this verse, disagrees.)  The Radbaz speculates that the Rambam perhaps subscribed to this view, and for this reason he did not include in his presentation of the laws any mention of the kohein changing his clothes before and after the terumat ha-deshen, as this is not strictly required.