April 23, 2024
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April 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.

This week we learned Zevachim 64. These are some highlights.

Should kohanim start training now to throw light objects far distances?

It is related about the Chafetz Chaim that he sought to train himself to be ready for the services of the Beit Hamikdash. People once saw him pile up several boxes, make a ramp leading to them, and then run up and down the ramp. As a kohen, once the Beit Hamikdash will be restored he would have to perform service. He was preparing for this eventuality. It is even said that when wagons would come to transport the Chafetz Chaim he would not allow them to stop and wait for him to get in; he would tell them to keep driving and he would run and jump into the moving carriages, for he wanted to prepare for the running and passion that kohanim are supposed to display in the Beit Hamikdash. Rav Zilberstein wonders: our Gemara states that for the olat ha’of, the bird brought as an ascent offering, the kohen would remove skin, feathers and the digestive tract of the bird. The kohen would take these light items and throw them from the corner of the altar to the pile of ash that was on the floor, close to the altar. Sometimes the kohen would have to throw these items more than 30 amot. Each amah is at least a foot and a half. Do the math. The kohen was throwing these bird pieces more than 45 feet! It is not easy to throw a light item far. Yet the kohen would throw these light items these great distances. If there is a kohen who would like to act like the Chafetz Chaim, should he start training and practicing throwing light items far distances?

Rav Zilberstein suggests that the answer to this question depends on a thought of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, o.b.m. Rav Shteinman wonders if the kohen’s ability to throw light items very far was a natural skill, something he would train for and master, or it was a miracle. There were many miracles that occurred daily in the Mikdash: The ash from the altar and the digestive organs of the olat ha’of would miraculously melt into the floor of the Mikdash and descend down to the depths. Perhaps the kohen’s ability to throw light items far was also a miracle. Alternatively, it was a skill that was learned as other skills are learned. If it was a learned skill, kohanim who would like to act like the Chafetz Chaim should start practicing now to try to acquire this skill. But if it was a miracle, there is no point in kohanim in our day preparing for it. You cannot train and prepare for a miracle. Once Hashem brings down the Mikdash from heaven, kohanim will successfully throw light items far distances.

Rav Zilberstein suggests that later commentators argue about this question. Shu”t Torah Lishmah seems to feel that the kohen throwing a light object a far distance was a display of strength and might. Torah Lishmah (Siman 288) made this point in regard to an oath. A man was boasting about his physical strength. His friend said to him, “If you are really strong, show me one display of great strength.” He responded, “I will show you the strength that the kohanim used to display!” Now, he did not know what he should do to display the strength of the kohanim. He had made the commitment thinking that kohanim must have been really mighty people. He did not actually know what they would do that would display strength. A rabbi told the man to demonstrate kidah, a form of bowing in which the person bowing puts all his weight on his thumbs. They brought this proposal to the Torah Lishmah. Torah Lishmah rules that while it takes strength to perform kidah, this act is not particular to a priest. The fact that a person could perform kidah would not be a display of priestly might. Torah Lishmah told the man about our daf. Our daf teaches that the kohanim had to throw light items—the skin, feathers and digestive tract of the olat ha’of—a far distance, and this was one of the hardest acts of service. Torah Lishmah said the man could make his vow true by throwing feathers and gizzards more than 30 amot. From the words of the Torah Lishmah it would seem that the feat the Gemara describes was a physical skill. Even in our days people can do it if they are very strong. Kohanim who wish to prepare for the service of the Mikdash should therefore start practicing this service, according to this point of view.

Eyn Eliyahu (here on Zevachim) seems to write that the lengthy throws of the kohanim were miracles. He explains that Hashem wants to demonstrate that those doing His service are blessed with great strength and abilities, v’kovei Hashem yachalifu koach. This is how commentators explain the fact that Hashem sent Moshe, who had a speech difficulty, to speak to Paroh. Normally, it was hard for Moshe to get the words out, especially when he was in a stressful situation. But when he brought Divine messages to Paroh he had no problem saying all the words fluently. The fact that Moshe could suddenly speak clearly, articulately and effectively was a proof that he was communicating Godly messages and the Almighty was putting the words in his mouth. The same would occur with the kohen who had to throw the light pieces of the olat ha’of. No one can throw such a light item such a far distance. When the kohen would do so, it was a sign to all that Hashem was helping him and that his task was a Godly mission. This seems to indicate that it was a miraculous feat. If it was a miraculous feat, there would be no point in currently training for it. In fact, it is better not to train for the day when we will again be throwing bird pieces far. If we do not train, and still the kohanim merit to throw these pieces so far, it will be a greater miracle. If we will have trained for this activity, when kohanim will do it, it will not appear to all to be a miracle.

In light of the Ayn Eliyahu, Rav Zilberstein feels that kohanim in our day should not be training to throw bird pieces far distances. However, the act of melika—in which the kohen kills the bird offering with his thumb—is clearly a matter of skill and not a miracle. Kohanim who would like to emulate the ways of the Chafetz Chaim should start practicing the service of melika.

By Rabbi Zev Reichman
(Chashukei Chemed)


Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.

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