Carrying Torches on Shabbat

Tamid (1:3) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

The study of masechet Tamid follows the order of service in the Beit Mikdash. In last week’s issue, we learnt that the kohanim that would be serving the next day would sleep the night before in the Beit HaMoked on the perimeter of the Azarah. The Mishnah (1:3) explains that the next day, as they entered the Azarah they would split into two groups and progress in opposite directions performing an inspection of the perimeter. Given the early hour, the Mishnah teaches that each group carried a torch.

The Tosfot Yom Tov notes that the Mishnah does not appears to differentiate between the different days of the year implying that they would carry these torches even on Shabbat. He explains that this should be of no surprise. Simply carrying a torch on Shabbat does not violate a biblical prohibition. Rather it is muktzeh and considered a shevut(prohibited rabbinically). He adds since there is a general rule that such injunctions do not apply in the Beit HaMikdash there should be no issue.

The Rambam however rules that they did not carry torches on Shabbat. Instead they would use the light from the candles that were lit and setup from before Shabbat. The Kesef Mishnah explains that even though the prohibition is only a shevut, it is different since there is another viable option.

The Tifferet Yisrael however comments that having another options does not prevent the performance of a shevut in the Beit HaMikdash. One example comes from the Mishnah Yoma. If necessary they would warm the mikveh of the kohen gadol with iron heated prior to Yom Kippur. This is despite the fact that they could have preheated water and added some to the mikveh. The Tifferet Yisrael therefore understands that any shevut would be permitted provided that there was some reason, even though the desired outcome could be achieved without performing it. The only exception is if they alternative could be very easily achieved, e.g. removing the blister from korban pesach prior to Shabbat instead of on Shabbat itself.

Instead the Tifferet Yisael explains that not all shevutim are considered equal. He directs to a few different comments of the Tosfot that indicate that not all shevutim were permitted. The Mikdash David explains that handling muktzeh items was not permitted as it is more severe than other shevutim.Unlike the Tosfot Yom Tov that differentiates between the circumstance and if there is a another option, the Tifferet Yisrael understands that the distinction is between the types of shevutim.

The Tosfot Yom Tov however also suggests another reason. When carrying the torch there is a real concern that it might be tilted thereby violating the prohibition of maavir (kindling). Since the potential for biblical violation is real, the practice was avoided.

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