Haftarah Parshat Vayikra
March 24, 2012
1 Nisan 5772
This Shabbat we celebrate the last of the four special Shabbatot before Pesah – Shabbat Hahodesh. Its purpose is to remind us that Pesach is soon approaching and that it is time for us to get ourselves ready. In Temple times, this meant getting ready for a visit to the Temple itself, a requisite of Pesah as one of the Shalosh Regalim – the three pilgrimage festivals (Pesah, Shavuot, and Sukkot). This obligation is indicated in the special haftarah for this Shabbat: “But on holidays, when the common people came before the Lord, whoever enters by the north gate to bow low shall leave by the south gate…” (46:9)
This verse from Ezekiel indicates that on festivals, a person visiting the Temple would enter from one side of the Temple and exit on the other side. Under normal circumstances, this practice was prohibited since it looked as if one was using the Temple Mount as a shortcut (kapandaria) to get from one place to another. (See Mishnah Berachot 9:5) The Talmud records a discussion of what this means: “What is the meaning of kappandaria? Raba said: A short cut, as its name implies. R. Hanah b. Adda said in the name of R. Sama the son of R. Meri: It is as if a man said, instead of going round the block [makkifna adari], I will go in here.” (Berachot 62b) What distinguished the practice on festivals from the prohibited practice was that the intention on festivals was not to use the Temple as a short cut but rather for the performance of a commandment.
The Talmud applies this same principle in a discussion over whether a synagogue can be used as a kapandaria: “R. Nahman said in the name of Rabbah: If one enters a synagogue not intending to use it as a short cut, he may use it as a short cut. R. Abbahu said: If there was a path there originally, it is permitted. R. Helbo said in the name of R. Huna: If one entered a synagogue to pray, he may use it as a short cut, as it says, ‘But on holidays, when the common people came before the Lord, whoever enters by the north gate to bow low shall leave by the south gate.’” (Ibid.)
In this discussion, Rabbi Abahu is the odd man out. He stands for citizen’s rights. He asserts that if the synagogue was built over a shortcut then people have a right to use the synagogue as a shortcut. For the other sages, Rav Nahman and Rabbi Helbo, a synagogue can only be used as a shortcut if along the way, the individual intended to have a worthy task in the synagogue. This Pesah, may we be blessed to find the shortest path (kapandariah) to the synagogue in order to tarry awhile for the purposes of tefillah (prayer), Torah study and other good deeds (maasim tovim) inside.