Talmud Tips

For the week ending 26 February 2022 / 25 Adar Alef 5782

Chagigah 2 - 8

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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To Appear and To Bring

“Everyone is obligated in the mitzvah of re’iyah… except for a minor… Below what age is a minor is exempt?... Beit Shamai says the minimum cost of a re’iyah is two kesef… and Beit Hillel says it is one kesef.”

This mishna, the first in Masechet Chagigah, teaches about the mitzvah of re’iyah in the Courtyard of the Mishkan (or, later in time, in the Beit Hamikdash) on the three “pilgrimage” festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Succot. The first word that appears in the mishna is hakol, which means everyone, and teaches that even a minor is obligated in the mitzvah of re’iyah by Rabbinic law.

What exactly is the mitzvah of re’iyah that is taught at the beginning of our mishna? Rashi explains it as being fulfillment of the mitzvah to appear in the Courtyard of the Beit Hamidkash during the festival, in accordance with the verse, “Three times during the year (Pesach, Shavuot, Succot), every male will appear in front of the Master, Hashem.” (Shemot 23:17) Due to this question, these commentaries explain that re’iyah refers to the Korban Re’iyah throughout the entire mishna.

The latter part of the mishna teaches about the minimum amount of money one should spend for the Korban Re’iyah and the Korban Chagigah. There, too, the mishna speaks about the mitzvah of re’iyah. However, here the re’iyah is clearly a reference to the Korban Re’iyah brought for the festival, and not the mitzvah to appear in the Beit Hamikdash. A number of commentaries, including Tosefot here, point to an apparent inconsistency in Rashi’s explanations for the word re’iyah in our mishna. Why does Rashi choose to define re’iyah as “appearing” at the beginning of the mishna, when he needs to explain it in a different manner at the end of the mishna — the Korban Re’iyah?

One approach to explain Rashi’s view is to focus on the obligation or exemption of a minor to bring a korban. The middle part of the mishna cites a dispute between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel regarding the type of minor that the mishna explicitly states is exempt from the mitzvah of re’iyah. Beit Shammai says that only a minor who is not able to ride on his father’s shoulders from Jerusalem to Har Habayit (the place of the Beit Hamikdash) is exempt from this mitzvah. Beit Hillel is more lenient, as is usually the case, saying that a minor is exempt from the mitzvah only if he is too young to hold his father’s hand and ascend from Jerusalem to Har Habayit. However, according to both views a minor is obligated in the mitzvah of re’iyah while still a minor. Rashi explains that this is a result of the Rabbis’ obligating the child’s mother and father to educate their child as a minor in mitzvah performance, so that the child will be well prepared to fulfill the mitzvah as an adult.

However, this rabbinical obligation can refer only to the appearance in the Beit Hamikdash and not to bringing a korban. A minor is not able to consecrate an animal to be brought as a korban, and a korban brought by a minor would be a serious issue of what is known as chullin b’azarah. Therefore, Rashi refuses to learn the first obligation in the mishna as being korban related. It must be teaching about the mitzvah of re’iyah to appear in the Courtyard. This is despite the latter part of the mishna teaching the mitzvah of re’iyah to bring a korban. This is the mitzvah for an adult to bring a korban when appearing in the Beit Hamikdash, in accordance with the verse, “And they will not appear before Me with empty hands.” (Shemot 23:15) This is an approach for understanding why Rashi defines the first mitzvah of re’iyah as “appearing,” while the later re’iyah clearly refers to the burnt-offering re’iyah korban. (Rabbeinu Tam explains the mishna differently, with even the first part being a reference to the Korban Re’iyah.)

The Sefer HaChinuch, as is his way with all of the mitzvahs, explains the concept to bring offerings when ascending to Jerusalem for these festivals (Aliyah La’Regel.) He states that it would be a sign of disrespect to appear before Hashem at these special times with empty hands. Appearing in the Beit Hamikdash is good, but not enough. A person must appear with an offering or offerings. However, he makes clear that we must be careful not to think that Hashem needs or benefits from our offerings. Hashem lacks nothing. Hashem is the source for the sustenance of all of existence and it would be absurd for us to even entertain the notion that He would need us to provide anything for Him!

Rather, whenever Hashem commands us to bring offerings, it is for our benefit. The Beit Hamikdash is a sacred place on a sacred site. It is a unique place for the Jewish People to earn Hashem’s blessings with heartfelt prayers and generous actions. Therefore, it is correct to bring offerings to the Beit Hamikdash, and, G-d willing, merit receiving Hashem’s countless blessings. And although we hope to be deserving of great blessings from Above, our primary intent in bringing offerings is to draw ourselves closer to Hashem.

  • Chagigah 2a

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