The Two Crowns

Midot (3:8) | Yisrael Bankier | a year ago

When describing the ulam (entrance hall before the heichal), the Mishnah (3:8) explains that there were two gold chains that would hang from the ceiling. The young kohanim would climb these chains to view the "crowns". What were these crowns and why would the kohanim climb the chains to view them?

The Mishnah explains that these were the crowns described in the following pasuk from Zechariya (6:14): "and these crowns shall be a remembrance for Chelem, Tuviya, Yedaya and Chen ben Tzafanya in the Sanctuary of Hashem." The pesukim prior to this describe how these individuals donated gold and silver for the construction of these crowns. One of these crowns was place on the head of Yehoshua ben Yehotzadak -- the kohen gadol. The Radak explains that it was an act of nominating Yehoshua as the kohen gadol. Rashi (on Zechariya) explains that the crowns were placed in the windows of the heichal as a recognition of the generosity of these individuals.1

Why would the young kohanim climb to see these crown? The Rash explains that was simply to appreciate their beauty. The Rosh however argues that that cannot be the reason. We learnt that if the kodesh ha'kodashim required any servicing, the workers were lowered from the ceiling in box, so they could focus on that which needed repairs ensuring their eyes would not gaze elsewhere. Instead the Rosh argues that the young kohanim would climb the gold chains in order to check if anything needed repairs.

In defence of the Rash one could suggest that in the case of the crowns, there was no issue with enjoying their beauty. For example, the Meiri rules that if it was not possible to perform the repairs in the kodesh ha'kodashim in the lowered boxes, then the worker could enter it directly. He explains that ordinarily there is no prohibition of meilah (deriving benefit from hekdesh) with respective to vision. Considering the holiness of the kodesh ha'kodeshim, the Chachamim however treated vision more strictly, but only where possible. Perhaps according to the Rash, our crowns cannot be compared to the kodesh hakodashim. That said the Rosh argues that while there is not prohibition of meilah with respect to vision, there is still a "scent" of a prohibition.

Perhaps we can suggest an additional reason for these gold chain as a means of access to the crown.

Let us first return to Zechariya and ask what was done with the second crown? The Radak maintains it was worn by Zerubavel. Considering that he was the king, it was obvious, and not necessary to state explicitly. The Malbim however disagrees and argues it was important that it was not worn by Zerubavel. He explains that that crown was destined for his descendant, the Mashiach, that would build the compete (and final) Beit HaMidkash. He explains that the crowns were therefore placed at a high point in the Beit HaMikdash to remind Bnei Yisrael that when they do a complete teshuva -- which they must do -- it will be time for the redemption. It will be time for the crowns of the kingship and kehuna gedolah to be finally worn.

Based on the Malbim we can suggest that it was not important whether the young kohanim would go up for repairs or enjoy the beauty. Instead it was important that the crowns were accessible. It was important that even the young kohanim would understand that the accessing these two crown, attaining the final redemption, was in arms reach.

1 According to the simple understanding of the pesukim, those original crowns were the same ones placed in the windows of the heichal. The Tosfot and Rosh however understand that the "crowns" referred to in our Mishnah referred to the domes built into those windows. The Rosh suggests that the pasuk cited in our Mishnah refers to the special domes that were build in memory of those original crowns.


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