Register |

Holiness of Shiloh vs Jerusalem [Mishna-2]

Presented by:Avrum Leeder

Support Eretz Yisrael Yomi

Sponsor a Torah Lesson

Torah Lesson written by: Yehuda Gold

“אין בין שילה לירושלים אלא שבשילה אוכלים קדשים קלים ומעשר שני בכל הרואה ובירושלים לפנים מן החומה”

The sole difference between Shiloh and Jerusalem is that at Shiloh sacrifices of a lesser degree of sanctity (kodshim kalim) and the second tithe (ma’aser sheini) may be eaten in any place from which the Mishkan (Tabernacle) can be seen, while in Jerusalem they may be eaten only within the (city) walls.

[Mishna Megilla 1:11]

The halacha cited above, which differentiates between the sanctity of Shiloh and that of Jerusalem, requires exposition.

The sanctity of Shiloh was temporary, lasting only as long as the Mishkan stood there, and once the Mishkan was moved from it, Shiloh retained no sanctity. In contrast, the sanctity of Jerusalem is eternal, as the Mishna continues: “קדושת שילה יש אחריה היתר וקדושת ירושלים אין אחריה היתר” (“After the sanctification of (the Mishkan at) Shiloh, high places (bamot) could be permitted again; however, following the sanctification of Jerusalem, they were no longer permitted.”)

It would seem more reasonable to assume that the holier a place, the greater area its sanctity covers. Based on this assumption, it is curious that the sanctity of Shiloh, which is less than that of Jerusalem, spreads to a larger area than the sanctity of Jerusalem, which is limited within the city walls.

The Sanctity of the Building and the Sanctity of the Place

We can explain this curiosity based upon a substantive distinction between two types of sanctity. The sanctity of Shiloh derived from the presence there of the Mishkan, with ארון העדות (the Ark of the Covenant) within it. As long as the Mishkan was within Shiloh, the Shechina rested there and all the laws pertaining to a holy city applied to Shiloh. Once the Mishkan was removed from Shiloh, the Shechina no longer rested within her and Shiloh returned to the status of other cities within the Holy Land.

That is, the sanctity of Shiloh was not inherent within the place, but flowed from the sanctity of the Mishkan. Thus, any place which had a connection to the Mishkan, including simply being able to see the Mishkan, was influenced by the sanctity of the Mishkan. Hence, kodshim kalim may be eaten at any place from which the Mishkan can be seen, since such places are connected to the Mishkan and possessed of its sanctity which spreads outwardly.

On the other hand, though Jerusalem was not sanctified until the Beit Hamikdash (Temple) was built within her, Jerusalem’s sanctity is not dependent upon the existence of the Beit Hamikdash within her, but is a basic and inherent sanctity of the place itself. Jerusalem, the city of which it is said “כי בחר ד’ בציון איווה למושב לו” (“For the Lord has chosen Zion; He desired it for His habitation…”) [Tehillim (Psalms) 132:13], is holy because God chose her. This sanctity is not invalidated with the Beit Hamikdash’s destruction, since “The sanctity of the Beit Hamikdash and Jerusalem stems the Shechina the Shechina can never be nullified.” [Rambam, Hilchot Bet haBeḥira 6:16] Since Jerusalem’s sanctity is not a function of the Beit Hamikdash’s presence within her, but of her inherent sanctity, her sanctity is limited to the area of the city; that is, within its walls, and not beyond. The more basic and substantive the sanctity is, the greater its limitation to the specific area which is worthy of being sanctified.

Thus, it is specifically Jerusalem’s advantage over Shiloh which limits spreading its sanctity beyond the city walls to places from which the Beit Hamikdash can be seen.

Two Forces- Yehuda and Yoseph

An additional explanation is found in the writings of Rabbi Avraham Yitzḥak Kook [Shmuot Reiyah, vaYeishev pp.83-84].

Geographically, Shiloh is located within the portion of the Land given to Yoseph (more specifically, in the portion of Ephraim, Yoseph’s son), while Jerusalem is within the portion of Judah.

Among the Gemara (Talmudic) explanations for the halacha that kodshim kalim may be eaten within eye contact of the Mishkan is that it is in the merit of Yoseph, in whose portion Shiloh is located. As Yoseph guarded his eyes and did not follow their temptation in the matter of the wife of Potiphar, so any point within eye contact of Shiloh is sanctified for eating kodshim kalim. [Gemara Zevaḥim 118b]

Thus, the unique sanctity of Shiloh stems from the power of Yoseph. Rabbi Kook explains that the special power of Yoseph is the ability to infuse the nations of the world with the sanctity of Israel. Yoseph, who was destined by Divine decree to be the viceroy of Egypt and to “Supply all the people of the land” [Bereishit (Genesis) 42:6], was chosen for this task because of his unique abilities which allowed him to deal with mundane matters and to have ongoing contact with the nations of the world without being adversely affected. Quite the contrary, Yoseph was able to influence those with whom he had contact and to elevate them from their base level.

Yehuda, on the other hand, was destined from the outset to lead his brothers, as his father blessed him prior to his death “ישתחוו לך בני אביך” (“Your father’s sons shall bow before you”) [Bereishit 49:8] It is from Yehuda that the eternal dynasty of leadership for Am Yisrael (the nation of Israel) stems, the House of David.

Yehuda’s special quality is leading Am Yisrael (the Nation of Israel) according to God’s will, stressing the uniqueness and additional sanctity of Am Yisrael in comparison to the nations of the world. This function is summarized in the verse “עם לבדד ישכון ובגויים לא יתחשב” (“It is a nation that will dwell alone, and will not be reckoned among the nations”) [Bamidbar (Numbers) 23:9].

For many generations, the powers of Yehuda and of Yoseph operated together within Israel, while a painful schism was reached with the division into the kingdoms of Israel and of Yehuda during the First Beit Hamikdash Period.

The two forces, of Yehuda and of Yoseph, are meant to bring about Israel’s redemption, with “משיח בן יוסף” (the Messiah son of Joseph) appearing first to establish Israel’s tangible status as a nation, with its own homeland, with a strong economy and army, as all nations have. Once this stage of redemption is completed, the second stage, that of Yehuda, through “משיח בן דוד” (Messiah son of David), will arrive. The function of “משיח בן דוד” is to elevate Israel to the highest spiritual level and to perfect itself. At this point, Israel will be revealed to the nations of the world as God’s nation, and its lofty status will be evident to all.

This significant distinction between the power of Yehuda and that of Yoseph explains the distinction between the sanctity of Jerusalem and that of Shiloh.

The sanctity of Shiloh, arising as it does from the power of Yoseph, expands outwardly to encompass everything within sight, that is, anything which has a connection to Shiloh. For this is the power of Yoseph, to expand sanctity even to mundane places and to elevate the mundane to the level of sanctity.

Jerusalem, on the other hand, relates to the qualities of Yehuda, and as such, its sanctity does not expand outwardly, but remains within its defined area, within which it intensifies and reaches the highest levels. The essence of Jerusalem is being the holy city, distinct and separate in the highest level of sanctity, at which there is no contact with anything outside it.

Our Contemporary Role

In our generation, in which have been privileged to see the return of sons to their borders and the rebuilding of Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), we must pay special attention to the two forces which power the process of our redemption. On one hand, we must act to the best of our ability in the physical rebuilding of our Land, settling it and improving it; on the other, we must work on the building up of Am Yisrael (the Nation of Israel) spiritually and reveal to the world the unique spiritual level inherent within us as a nation.

Our task is to combine the dimensions of the forces of the two Messiahs, “משיח בן יוסף” and “משיח בן דוד” (son of Yoseph and son of David/Yehuda) which are at play as we approach the end of redemption. We must focus our desires and our efforts on personal and national progress and spiritual elevation in anticipation of complete redemption.

Share the lesson >>