THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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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.
1) THE ATONEMENT ATTAINED BY ONE'S TABLE
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
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)
2) THE DIMENSIONS OF THE MIZBE'ACH
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
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
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)