Tuesday, March 06, 2007

the mitzvah of bigdei kehunah

I previously posted on why the making of individual kelim such as the shulchan, menorah, etc, are not counted as separate mitzvos. The Ramban writes that making these items are just hechsheiri mitzvah; e.g. making the menorah is not an independent mitzvah, but is just a necessary ingredient to fulfilling the mitzvah of lighting menorah lamps; making a mizbayach is not an independent mitzvah, but is just a necessary ingredient to performing the mitzvah of offering korbanos. The Rambam opined that the making of kelim is not counted as independent mitzvos because these are all just parts of the larger mitzvah of making a Mishkan.

Is making and wearing bigdei kehunah a mitzvah? The Rambam (aseh #33) counts it as one, but the BH”G disagrees. Ramban explain l’shitaso that the wearing of bigdei kehunah is not itself a mitzvah, but is just a hechsher mitzvah to performing avodah. BH”G only counted doing avodah without bigdei kehunah as an issur. The Megillas Esther defends the Rambam l’shitaso as distinguishing between a hechsher mitzvah and a cheilek of a mitzvah. There are many hechsheiri mitzvah which do count as independent mitzvos, e.g. shechting the korban pesach, preparing the ashes of parah adumah – and, according to the Rambam, bigdei kehunah. What does not count as an independent mitzvah is when something is just a part of the broader mitzvah, a cheilek of the mitzvah, e.g. making kelim for the mikdash. It is easy to impose this distinction on mitzvos after the fact based on what the Rambam did or did not count, but I am unclear as to what exactly defines the difference between the two categories. Why indeed is shechting the korban pesach an independent mitzvah and not just a cheilek of the larger mitzvah of properly offering the korban pesach? What rule does one use to determine hechsher or cheilek?


  1. I hear your question generally as to whether bigdei kehunah are a hechsher or separate mitzvah and should be counted - but I don't understand the specific question/example from shechitah of the KP. There, the shechitah of the KP is THE mitzvah -- that is what you are chayav kares for (granted you need to have the zerikas ha-dam and not just the shechitah to avoid kares- but the zerikah is just included in the mitzvah of the shechitah). One could ask why the Rambam then counts the achilah as a separate mitzvah (not all rishonim do -- the Semag does not and Tosfos in one terutz in Pesachim 108 implies that as well) -- but that is a separate question with answers not relating to the hechsher question of bigdei kehunah.

  2. I meant to ask in general how you know something is a hechsher vs. a cheilek of a mitzvah. Why, for example, is making a menorah just a cheilek of the larger mitzvah of making a mikdash, but preparing a parah adumah counts as its own mitzvah instead of being part of some larger mitzvah of becoming tahor.

  3. I understand and I hear the question (though isn't this exactly what the Rambam spends a whole shoresh in his shorashim of the sefer ha-mitzvos talking about?) I just didnt think the KP was a good example.

    Parah Adumah is a good question -- there is no mitzvah to build a mikva - only to use it to become tahor. Beginning to think about an answer but still needs work

  4. Anonymous3:27 PM

    "V'Asu Li Mikdash V'Shachanti B'Socham. K'Chol Asher Ani Mar'eh Osecha Ais Tavnis HaMishkan V'Eis Tavnis Kol Keilav". These Pessukim tell us that the Tavnis HaMishkan V'Tavnis Kol Keilav is part of the Mitvah of V'Asu Li Mikdash.

    OTOH, the creation of the Parah Adumah is stated as a long process. "V'Hayesa L'vnei Yisrael V'Lager HaGar B'Socham LChukas Olam." Not the sprinkling - but the creation of the Parah.

    Only after this process, seemingly separate from it, does the Chumash say "HaNogeia B'Meis... Hu Yischata Bo". Putting the ash into the water, e.g., is not counted as a separate Mitzvah.