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The Interrelations of the Levels of Holiness

The Interrelations of the Levels of Holiness

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The Mishnah 1mentions ten levels of holiness within Eretz Yisrael: the walled cities, the city of Jerusalem, Mount Moriah, the area within the surrounding rampart, the Women’s Courtyard, the Courtyard of the Israelites, the Priestly Courtyard, the area between the altar and the Entrance Hall to the Sanctuary, the building of the Sanctuary, and the Holy of Holies.

There are two dimensions to these levels of holiness: a) that each is an independent entity with laws relating to its own indi­vidual sphere; b) that these levels are each interrelated with the other.

To explain the latter concept: The lower levels of holiness depend on the higher levels — i.e., the entire sanctity of Jerusalem and the Beis HaMikdash stems from the fact that the Holy of Holies is2 the resting place for the Divine Presence. Because G‑d manifests His presence in the Holy of Holies, the nine lesser rungs of holiness are endowed with sanctity.

Conversely, it can be explained that the lower rungs of holi­ness prepare for the higher rung. For the more elevated levels of holiness cannot become manifest in our material world unless settings are created for them.

Do Our Rabbis See These Levels of Sanctity as Dependent on Each Other

From a halachic perspec­tive, the nature of this interde­pend­ence is a matter of ques­tion. To cite an example: There are opinions that the conquest of the Beis HaMikdash by the gentiles nullified its sanctity.3 Nevertheless, even according to this view, when the gentiles had conquered the exterior portions of the Beis HaMikdash complex, the fact that they had nullified the holiness of these portions did not affect the sanctity of the inner portions of the building. Even at this time, it was possible to eat sacrifices of the highest order in the Sanctuary building.4 From this rul­ing, we see that even when the lower levels of sanctity were nullified, the higher levels remained intact.

We find, however, other views among our Rabbis. For ex­ample, Tosafos 5 states: “Jerusalem was sanctified only because of the Beis [HaMikdash]. How is it possible to say that the sanc­tity of the Beis [HaMikdash] will be nullified, and the sanctity of Je­rusalem will remain?” This clearly implies that the lower level of holiness cannot remain intact if the higher level is nullified.

When All Authorities Accept the Concept of Interdependence

There are several ways to resolve this issue. Even the authorities which maintain that each level of holiness has an independent standing, accept a certain measure of interdepend­ence; to cite an example — the time of the initial manifestation of the holiness of the Beis HaMikdash. At that time, the holiness of the lower levels was derived from the higher levels, and con­versely, the lower levels were necessary for the holiness of the higher levels to be realized. This, however, held true only at the time of the dedication of the Beis HaMikdash. Afterwards, these authorities maintain, when every particular rung of holiness had been endowed with its sanctity, that sanctity would remain for all time, independent of any connection to the other rungs of holiness.6

Moreover, it can be explained that even the authorities that conceive of every separate rung as possessing an independent dimension of holiness, agree that when all ten levels of holiness exist, every particular level is endowed with a greater and more complete measure of sanctity.

May we soon merit the time when all these ten levels be­come manifest, with the rebuilding of the walled cities through­out Eretz Yisrael, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash. And may this take place in the immediate future.

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVIII, p. 207, Vol. XXXI, Parshas Terumah

FOOTNOTES
1. Keilim 1:6, quoted by the Rambam, Hilchos Beis HaBechirah 7:13-22.
2. The present tense is used, because, according to the Rambam, the Divine Presence has never departed from the Beis HaMikdash. See Hilchos Beis HaBechirah 6:16.
3. This reflects the opinion of the Ramban and the Ritva in their gloss to Makkos 19a. As mentioned in the previous note, the Rambam does not subscribe to this view.
4. See Sifri on Bamidbar 18:10, Zevachim 63a.
5. Zevachim 60b.
6. For that reason, it is possible to eat sacrifices of the most holy order in the place of the courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash even when the walls around that site are de­stroyed. See the essay “The Beis HaMikdash and its Utensils” and its source, Lik­kutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, Vayakhel-Pekudei which discusses this concept.
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