Why a Redundancy in the Mishnah?

Both the tractates of Middos and Tamid begin with the same law — that the priests would stand watch in three places in the Beis HaMikdash. The commentaries1 attempt to explain this apparent redundancy as follows: The tractate of Tamid delineates the services performed by the priests in the Beis HaMikdash. Therefore, it begins by mentioning the service of guarding the Beis HaMikdash, the service carried out by the priests from the evening until the dawn. For this reason, the tractate of Tamid mentions only the places where the priests would guard and does not mention the Levites’ guarding of the Beis HaMikdash at all. The tractate of Middos, by contrast, explains the mitzvah of guarding the Beis HaMikdash in its entirety, and therefore, mentions the activities of both the priests and the Levites.

This explanation is, however, still somewhat problematic, for a redundancy does, nevertheless, remain.2 Also, this expla­nation does not elucidate the connection between the mitzvah of guarding the Beis HaMikdash and the tractate of Middos. The tractate of Middos concerns itself with “the measurements of the Beis HaMikdash, its design, its structure, and all of its dimensions.”3 Why is the mitzvah of guarding the Beis HaMikdash mentioned in this tractate?

Two Rationales for This Mitzvah

These difficulties can be resolved through an analysis of the motivating principles for the mitzvah of guarding the Beis HaMikdash. There are two basic rationales offered:

a) that of Rashi 4

b) that of the Rambam who states:5

It is a positive mitzvah to guard the [Beis Ha]Mikdash. Although there is no fear of enemies or thieves, [this mitzvah, nevertheless, applies,] for the guarding [of the Beis HaMikdash] is an expression of respect for it. A pal­ace without guards cannot at all be compared to a palace with guards.

These two perspectives are not, however, mutually exclu­sive, and indeed, support each other. For the awe which is en­gendered by the guards’ presence would prevent undesirable individuals from seeking to enter the confines of the Beis HaMikdash.6 The difference between them is primarily one of emphasis.

According to the perspective that the focus is on preventing undesirable individuals from entering, the mitzvah can be seen as one of the obligations which are incumbent upon the priests and the Levites. In contrast, according to the conception that guarding the Beis HaMikdash enhances its honor, the mitzvah is a token of respect for the building itself. The Beis HaMikdash must be a structure which is honored and one of the expressions of this honor is that guards are placed around it.7

The conception of the guarding of the Beis HaMikdash as an expression of respect also explains why this task was assigned to the priests and the Levites, individuals who were designated for spiritual service. Were the guarding to have been for the pur­pose of protection, it would have been fitting to entrust the re­sponsibility to common people who were suited for such a task. Nevertheless, since this mitzvah contributes to the honor of the Beis HaMikdash, it is proper that it be performed by per­sons of stature.

The Contrast Between the Tractates of Tamid and Middos

On this basis, we can ap­preciate why the guarding of the Beis HaMikdash is men­tioned both in the tractate of Tamid and in the tractate of Middos. Since the guarding of the Beis HaMik­dash relates to both of the dimensions mentioned above, it con­tains an aspect which relates to the subject matter of both of these tractates. The aspect of guarding the Beis HaMikdash, which is part of the personal responsibilities of the priests in the Beis HaMikdash, is expressed in the tractate of Tamid which, as mentioned above, focuses on that subject.

To highlight the concept that guarding the Beis HaMikdash is an expression of honor and is thus one of the dimensions of the structure of the building itself, as it were, the mitzvah is de­scribed in full in the tractate of Middos. For it is precisely this aspect that constitutes the subject matter with which this trac­tate which concerns itself.

Why the Beis HaMikdash Was Not Guarded During the Day

The Rambam’s conception of the mitzvah of guarding the Beis HaMikdash as an expres­sion of honor, enables us to under­stand why he postulates that the Beis HaMikdash was not guarded during the day.8 (mitzvah 388). The guarding of the Beis HaMikdash enhances the honor of the structure, because it demonstrates that the Beis HaMikdash is constantly the focus of our people’s attention.9

Why then was the Beis HaMikdash not guarded during the day? Because this was unnecessary. The sacrificial service in the Beis HaMikdash clearly demonstrated that our people’s attention was directed to the Beis HaMikdash. Every element of their service was an expression of honor to the structure.10 Hence, a further measure, positioning guards around it, was unnecessary.

* * *

May we soon merit the coming of the time when G‑d will “again show mercy to us and to Your Sanctuary, rebuilding it speedily, and increasing its glory,”11 with the coming of the Re­demption and our return to Jerusalem. And may this take place in the immediate future.

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIII, Parshas Korach