Terumas HaDeshen

ושמו אצל המזבח   ו:ג

This pasuk is describing the mitzvah of terumas ha’deshen, the daily removal of ashes from the mizbeiach and placing them on the floor right next to it.  The Gemara in Pesachim (26a) says that we also learn from this pasuk that the ashes remain assur b’hanaah.  It is prohibited to derive benefit from them.  Normally, once the mitzvah of a particular kadosh item is completed – naaseis mitzvaso – its prohibition falls away.  It is no longer forbidden to derive benefit from it.  (For example, blood of korbanos that has already been sprinkled on the mizbeiach, one is m’d’Oraysah allowed to use as fertilizer.)  This is a general rule: naaseis mitzvaso, the mitzvah has been completed so the item is no longer prohibited to use for personal benefit.

Terumas ha’deshen, though, asks the Gemara, seems to be a contradiction to this rule.  The korban has already been fully burned on the mizbeiach – its mitzvah is done – yet the ashes remain forbidden for personal benefit!  The Gemara there answers that we find another exception to the rule of naaseis mitzvaso – either bigdei kohein gadol or eglah arufah – and we therefore apply the concept that we cannot learn a general rule from two examples of the same principle (shnei kesuvin ha’bain k’echad).

Reb Chaim (Brisker) holds that the rule of naaseis mitzvaso only applies to kadshei mizbeiach but not not kadshei bedek ha’bayis.  The reason, explains Reb Chaim, is that the rule of naaseis mitzvaso is not an inexplicable gezeiras ha’kasuv but a milsah d’sevara.  It is simple logic.  To understand the logic, it is necessary to understand the fundamental difference between the kedusha of korbanos, on the one hand, and that of the general Beis Ha’Mikdash estate/treasury, on the other.  Kadshei mizbeiach, korbanos and everything associated therewith, are kadosh l’mitzvaso.  In other words, the whole kedusha of a korban is in order to do with it the appropriate mitzvah pertinent thereto.  It being designated for the mitzvah of sacrificial offering is what generates its kedusha.  As such, once the mitzvah is done, the kedusha has been used up.  Since there is no further sacrificial mitzvah left to be done with it, it reverts back to being full-fledged chullin, a regular non-kadosh item.

Kadshei bedek ha’bayis, on the other hand, are not kadosh because of a particular mitzvah that needs to be done with them.  Even when an item of the general Beis Ha’Mikdash estate/treasury does have some mitzvah that needs to be done with it, that is not the source and cause of its kedusha.  Rather, what makes it kadosh is the fact that it belongs to Hekdesh.  Temple Treasury is a fully legal entity.  Kadshei bedek ha’bayis means that it belongs to Hekdesh, the Temple Treasury.  It is the statutory ownership of Hekdesh that makes the item kadosh.  Therefore, naaseis mitzvaso – its mitzvah having already been done - has no bearing on this kedusha.

This all being the case, it is quite difficult to understand why the Gemara had a kashya from terumas ha’deshen on the rule of naaseis mitzvaso.  If not for the pasuk of v’samoh eitzel ha’mizbeiach, what would we have thought?  That after it is fully burned, the mitzvah is finished and it is no longer forbidden to derive benefit from it.  Now, what is the pasuk telling us?  That there is still a mitzvah to be done with it!  You have to take from the ashes, put it on the floor next to the mizbeiach, and it has to remain there.  Terumas ha’deshen, then, remains with a mitzvah.  Its mitzvah is never finished.  So in what sense is it an exception to the rule of naaseis mitzvaso?!  On the contrary, it would seem to be completely in accordance with this rule.  It would have been permissible to derive benefit from the ashes if no more mitzvah would be left to do with it – as the rule of naaseis mitzvaso dictates – and the pasuk tells us that, really, there is a mitzvah left to do with it.  Namely, terumas ha’deshen.  So, again, in what way is it an exception to the rule of naasesi mitzvaso?

Apparently, the answer is that the mitzvah of terumas ha’deshen is not that it has to remain next to the mizbeiach, but just to place it there.  Once that placement has been executed, there really is no more mitzvah left to do with it, and yet it remains assur b’hanaah.  This, then, is indeed an exception to the rule.

Provided courtesy of VayigdalMoshe.com