Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ascending the ramp in haste


In what Sefer haChinuch lists as the Torah's 41st mitzvah, HaShem instructed the Jews to build a ramp, rather than steps, leading on to the mizbeiach [altar in the Temple]. As the Torah explains, the purpose is, "so as not to reveal your ervah upon it." Certain parts of a person are classified as "ervah" and are to be covered; taking broad steps on the altar, wearing a tunic, would cause those parts to be more exposed than usual.

According to Sefer haChinuch, there is an added dimension involved in this mitzvah. Taking broad steps displays arrogance and/or frivolity, and we try to conduct ourselves with gravity in the Beit haMikdash. Using a ramp forces a person to take smaller steps and therefore walk with a more disciplined gait.

Regardless of whether the issue is ervah or arrogance, this mitzvah is about the gait rather than the ramp; one who takes broad steps in ascending the ramp is in violation of the law.

Have a great day,

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