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Menachos, 97

MENACHOS 96-99 - Two weeks of study material have been dedicated by Mrs. Estanne Abraham Fawer to honor the fourth Yahrzeit of her father, Reb Mordechai ben Eliezer Zvi (Weiner), who passed away 18 Teves 5760. May the merit of supporting and advancing Talmud study during the week of his Yahrzeit serve as an Iluy for his Neshamah.


OPINIONS: The Gemara quotes the verse, "The altar of wood was three Amos high, and its length two Amos; and it was square (lit. it had corners); its length and its walls were of wood. And he said to me, 'This is the table that is before Hashem'" (Yechezkel 41:22), and asks why the verse first refers to the Mizbe'ach as "the altar," and then refers to it as "the table." The Gemara answers that the verse is teaching that when the Beis ha'Mikdash was standing and Korbanos were offered on the Mizbe'ach, the Mizbe'ach served to attain atonement for a person's sins. Now, when the Beis ha'Mikdash is not standing, a person's table attains atonement for the person's sins.

In what way does a person's table attain atonement for his sins?

(a) RASHI (DH Shulchano) explains that one's table is Mechaper for him because he gives food from his table to poor guests (see Rashi to Chagigah 27a, DH Shulchano, and SHITAH MEKUBETZES here, #9). Rashi's explanation seems to be based on the Gemara in Berachos (55a) which quotes this statement to prove that "one who stays at his table for a long time is praiseworthy," since he gives of his food to poor people. According to Rashi, the atonement mentioned by the Gemara here refers to the atonement gained through doing acts of Tzedakah with one's food.

TOSFOS adds that this statement is based on the teaching of the Gemara in Sanhedrin (103b) that says "Gedolah Legima" -- great is the act of providing food for guests. The Gemara there explains how important it is to give food to wayfarers and guests. The Gemara says that one who gives food with to wayfarers is rewarded by having Hashem place His Shechinah upon him. Tosfos quotes the Gemara there to show how the specific act of sharing food from one's table can earn great reward.

We can understand the idea of one's table atoning for his sins through the acts of kindness that one does with one's food in a deeper way, based on the words of RAV MOSHE SHAPIRO shlit'a. When the RAMBAM (Hilchos Tum'as Ochlin 1:1) enumerates the types of foods that can become Tamei with Tum'as Ochlin, he writes, "Any food that is designated for human consumption, such as bread, meat, grapes, and olives, and the like are Mekabel Tum'ah." The four foods that the Rambam specifies as examples of food designated for man are the same four types of food that are offered upon the Mizbe'ach -- Menachos (bread), Korbanos (meat), Nisuch ha'Yayin (grapes), and Shemen that is mixed with most of the Korbanos (olives). The Rambam understands that the things offered on the Mizbe'ach are directly related to the foods that we eat. The fact that the Torah chose these four food types for the Mizbe'ach shows that it considers these four to be the primary forms of food.

The verse in Yechezkel quoted by our Gemara is discussing the Mizbe'ach. The end of the verse refers to the Mizbe'ach as the "Shulchan Asher Lifnei Hashem." The verse is not calling our tables a Mizbe'ach. Rather, the verse is calling the Mizbe'ach a table used for eating. In what way is the Mizbe'ach a table used for eating?

The answer seems to be that all of the food that Hashem gives to us is really just leftovers from the "table that is before Hashem." We give to Hashem's table everything that He has given to us in this world. In the merit of serving Hashem in this way, we are entitled to partake of the food from *His* table. This is similar to the concept mentioned in the Gemara (see Bava Kama 12b) that "Kohanim mi'Shulchan Gavo'ah Ka Zachu" -- the Kohanim receive the portion of the Korbanos from "Hashem's table." Any person who serves Hashem merits to eat from the food brought to Him.

When the Beis ha'Mikdash is not standing and there is no way to bring food to the Mizbe'ach, one merits the right to partake of Hashem's food through the acts of kindness that he does at his table. By giving one's food to the poor, one shows that he understands that his possessions are not his own to do with as he pleases, but rather they are given to him by Hashem in order to use to serve Him by doing acts of kindness.

(b) The MAHARSHA here points out that the Mishnah in Avos (3:3) quotes the same verse from Yechezkel (41:22) to teach that when people speak Divrei Torah at the table, they are considered to have partaken from the table of Hashem. The TIFERES YISRAEL there explains that just as Kohanim eat from the Korbanos that are brought on the Mizbe'ach in order to strengthen their bodies for serving Hashem, one who says Divrei Torah at his meal shows that his intention in eating is in order to strengthen his body to serve Hashem. In this way, one's table attains atonement for him.

The IYUN YAKOV adds that both approaches -- that of Rashi, that the Chesed done at one's table atones for him, and that of the Maharsha, that the Torah that one says at his table atones for him -- are expressed in the verse, "b'Chesed ve'Emes Yechupar Avon" -- "Through kindness (Tzedakah) and truth (Torah), iniquity is atoned" (Mishlei 16:6).

(c) The MAHARSHA in Bava Basra (60a) explains the Gemara differently. He says that a person's table atones for his sins because of what a person does not eat. This is based on the Gemara there that describes how the holy people abstained from eating meat and drinking wine after the Beis ha'Mikdash was destroyed. Although a general decree of that nature was not enacted, since it would be too difficult for the people to abide by it, nevertheless the Gemara says that at every meal, a person should omit from his meal an important food (see Maharsha there). The Maharsha explains that every person, according to his own standard of living, must deny himself some degree of comfort in order to remember the Churban. By feeling grief over the loss of the Beis ha'Mikdash and the Avodah, one shows that he is fit to receive the Kaparah that the Avodah in the Beis ha'Mikdash granted. Hence, a person's table -- referring to the food that a person denies himself -- attains atonement for him. (Mordechai Zvi Dicker)


OPINIONS: The Gemara says that the Amah measurement used in the Mishkan was comprised of 6 Tefachim, except for certain measurements of the Mizbe'ach, for which an Amah of 5 Tefachim was used, as described in the verse in Yechezkel (43:13), "And these are the measurements of the altar by Amos: the Amah is an Amah and a Tefach; the foundation ('Cheik,' or the Yesod) shall be an Amah, and the breadth ('Rochav,' or the Sovev) an Amah, and its border by its edge all around (the Keranos) shall be a Zeres (the span of a hand)."

The Gemara says that the "Cheik ha'Amah," the first measurement of the Mizbe'ach for which an Amah of 5 Tefachim was used, refers to the Yesod. The Gemara first assumes that this refers to the width of the part of the Yesod that protrudes beyond the wall of the middle section of the Mizbe'ach. According to the Gemara's conclusion, this refers to the height of the Yesod.

The "Amah Rochav," the second measurement of the Mizbe'ach for which an Amah of 5 Tefachim was used, refers to the Sovev, the middle section of the Mizbe'ach. The Gemara first assumes that this refers to the height of the Mizbe'ach from the Yesod until the Sovev, but it concludes that this refers to the width of the Sovev that protrudes past the upper section of the Mizbe'ach.

With which Amah measurement -- 5 Tefachim or 6 Tefachim -- was the width of the protrusion of the Yesod measured?

(a) RASHI explains that "v'Amah Rochav" refers only to the Sovev, since the Yesod was already mentioned in the verse ("v'Cheik ha'Amah"), where the verse discussed the height of the Yesod.

(b) The RAMBAM maintains that "v'Amah Rochav" refers to both the Sovev and the Yesod. The extensions of both parts of the Mizbe'ach was measured by an Amah of 5 Tefachim.

This Machlokes is the basis for another Machlokes regarding the width of the Keranos at the top of the Mizbe'ach. The verse says, "And its border by its edge all around shall be a Zeres," referring to the Keranos. The Navi says that the measurement of each Keren should be a Zeres (half of an Amah) from the center of the Keren to each direction, making each Keren a square Amah. This Amah was also measured with an Amah of 5 Tefachim.

Rashi, who maintains that the width of the Yesod was 6 Tefachim, understands that the Navi here refers to the height and width of the Keranos. Accordingly, each side of the Yesod was each 192 Tefachim (32 Amos, with an Amah of 6 Tefachim). Since the Yesod extended 6 Tefachim beyond the Sovev on each side, each side of the Sovev was 180 Tefachim (30 Amos, with an Amah of 6 Tefachim). Since the Sovev extended 5 Tefachim from the upper platform, each side of the upper platform was 170 Tefachim. The Keranos extended 5 Tefachim from the side of the Mizbe'ach, giving each side of the top of the Mizbe'ach a length of 160 Tefachim. From this length, 12 Tefachim were subtracted for the path on which the Kohanim walked, leaving 148 Tefachim, or 24 Amos and 4 Tefachim. The verse (Yechezkel 43:16) describes this area, the top of the Mizbe'ach, as being 12 Amos from the center toward each direction, making each side 24 Amos long. The Navi does not mention the remaining 4 Tefachim, since they do not amount to a full Amah. These are the dimensions of the Mizbe'ach according to Rashi.

(The RA'AVAD (Hasagos, Hilchos Beis ha'Bechirah 2:8) resolves this problem by suggesting that the Keranos were recessed 2 Tefachim from the actual corners at the top of the Mizbe'ach, thus making the distance from one Keren to the other exactly 24 Amos.)

According to the Rambam, the dimensions are different. The Rambam maintains that the Yesod extended *5* Tefachim on each side. Accordingly, the length of each side where the Keranos rest is 162 Tefachim (and not 160), leaving 150 Tefachim (after subtracting 12 Tefachim, or 2 Amos, for the path on which the Kohanim walked) for the top of the Mizbe'ach. This equals exactly 25 Amos, though, which is not consistent with the verse in Yechezkel (43:16) that says that the length of the side of the top of the Mizbe'ach was 24 Amos! Therefore, it must be that the Rambam maintains that the width of the Keranos was 6 Tefachim, and not 5 Tefachim, leaving the top of the Mizbe'ach with 148 Tefachim (which equals 24 Amos and 4 Tefachim). When the verse says that the Keranos were 5 Tefachim, it is referring only to the height of the Keranos. (Mordechai Zvi Dicker)

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