כ״ט באב ה׳תשע״ח (August 10, 2018)

Zevahim 119a-b: Ramifications of a Lost Ark

As we have learned, there were periods during biblical times when sacrifices were limited to a specific place (i.e. in the Tabernacle in the desert, when the Tabernacle was established in Shiloh and when the permanent Temple was built), but there were times when sacrifices could be brought on private altars, as well, like when the Tabernacle was standing in Nov and Givon.

The city of Nov became the resting place of the mishkan after Shiloh was destroyed at the time of Eli HaKohen’s death (see Sefer Shmuel I, Chapter 4 and Sefer Yirmiyahu 7:12). Nov was destroyed by King Shaul at about the time of Shmuel’s death (see Sefer Shmuel I, 22:19), at which time the mishkan was taken to Givon (see Sefer Divrei HaYamim, or Chronicles I 16:39).

While the Tabernacle was standing in Nov and Givon, the aron – the Holy Ark – was not in the mishkan. Rather, after it had been captured in battle by the Pelishtim, upon being returned seven months later it was placed in Kiryat Ye’arim (see Sefer Shmuel I, Chapters 6-7), where it stood until being taken to Jerusalem by King David (see Sefer Shmuel II, Chapter 6).

The fact that the aron did not reside in the mishkan had halakhic ramifications. As Rabbi Yoḥanan explains to Reish Lakish on today’s daf, without the aron in its place, ma’aser sheni which was usually eaten by its owner within the walls of the city of Shiloh or of Jerusalem, was not eaten.

This ruling of Rabbi Yoḥanan is subject to different interpretations. According to Rabbeinu Ḥananel, during this period, the obligation of ma’aser sheni was simply suspended. Without the aron, there could be no fulfillment of eating the tithe lifnei HaShem – “before God” (see  12:18) – so this tithe was not taken, even as the other tithes remained obligatory. Others suggest that once the obligation to separate ma’aser sheni was established with the erection of the Tabernacle in Shiloh it could not be suspended, rather it had to be redeemed and exchanged for money. Finally, according to Rashi the ma’aser sheni had to be separated, but it could be eaten anywhere.