QUESTION: The Mishnah describes how the Kohanim arranged the fire of the Ma'arachah atop the Mizbe'ach. After the ashes were cleared away and piled in the Tapu'ach at the center of the top of the Mizbe'ach, strips of wood that had been examined and certified to be free of worms would be placed on the Ma'arachah. The Mishnah continues and describes how the wood of the large Ma'arachah, followed by the small Ma'arachah of incense, were arranged in the prescribed way. The Mishnah concludes by depicting how the Kohanim lit both Ma'arachos and then proceeded to descend to the Lishkas ha'Gazis.
The Mishnah here seems to contradict a statement in the Yerushalmi. The Yerushalmi (Yoma 2:1) states that "it is a Mitzvah to light the fire before arranging the wood, as the verse says, '[The sons of Aharon the Kohen shall place fire on the Mizbe'ach,] and they shall arrange the wood on the fire' (Vayikra 1:7)." How does the Yerushalmi understand the Mishnah here that says that the wood was arranged on the Ma'arachah before the fire was lit?
(a) The CHAZON ISH (Menachos 36:12) explains that the Yerushalmi obviously does not mean that the lighting of the fire must precede the placement of all of the wood, because if no wood is placed there first, then there is nothing with which to light the fire! Rather, the Yerushalmi means that there is a Mitzvah to add wood after the Ma'arachah has been lit. This is the Mitzvah of placing two Gezirin of wood onto both the morning and evening Korban Tamid.
The Chazon Ish points out that the Gemara in Yoma (26b) derives this Mitzvah (for the evening Tamid) from the same verse that the Yerushalmi quotes, "And they shall arrange the wood on the fire." If one places wood on the Mizbe'ach before the fire is lit, one fulfills the Mitzvah of making the Ma'arachah, but only by placing two Gezirin of wood after the fire is light does one fulfill the Mitzvah of placing "the wood on the fire." The Chazon Ish cites the KESEF MISHNEH (Hilchos Temidin u'Musafin 4:5) who quotes the RITVA in Yoma (26b) who supports this explanation. The Ritva writes, "After the Ma'arachah and the lighting were arranged, the Kohen places two long planks of wood on the breadth of the Mizbe'ach." (The Ritva's source appears to be the words of RASHI to Yoma 22a, DH Shnei.)
(This explanation also seems to be the approach of the MISHNEH L'MELECH, Hilchos Temidin u'Musafin 2:2.)
(b) However, the MEFARESH (DH Hitzisu) writes that after they arranged the two Gizrei Etzim (planks of wood), the two Ma'arachos were lit. According to the Mefaresh, how the words of the Yerushalmi to be reconciled with the Mishnah here?
The CHAFETZ CHAYIM in LIKUTEI HALACHOS (Toras ha'Kodshim #5) writes that before the Ma'arachah is arranged, the fire must be brought to the Mizbe'ach, as the verse states, "And they shall arrange the wood on the fire." The Chafetz Chayim seems to be referring to the Halachah stated by the Yerushalmi. However, it is also possible that he understands that the procedure of lighting the fire involves first bringing a small fire before the Ma'arachah is arranged (without lighting the Ma'arachah), and then, after the Ma'arachah is arranged, the Ma'arachah -- together with the two Gizrei Etzim -- is lit. (According to this understanding, the words of the Yerushalmi are very precise. The Yerushalmi does not actually say that one should light the fire before the wood, but rather he should be "Makdim" the fire to the wood -- that is, the Kohen must bring a small fire to the Mizbe'ach before setting up the Ma'arachah, and then set the Ma'arachah alight.)
According to the opinion of the Mefaresh who says that all of the wood of the Ma'arachah, including the two Gizrei Etzim, was placed on the Mizbe'ach before the fire was lit, it remains difficult to understand what difference there was between all of the wood of the Ma'arachah and the two Gizrei Etzim. In what way was it recognizable that a separate Mitzvah was being done with the latter?
This question may be answered based on the words of the MIKDASH DAVID (Kodshim 32:4, DH Achar) who writes, based on Rashi in Yoma (22a, DH Shnei), that the two Gizrei Etzim were especially long and were placed breadth-wise on the Mizbe'ach. Since they were longer than the other strips of wood of the Ma'arachah, and they were placed in a different position, it was evident that two separate Mitzvos were being performed -- arranging the wood of the Ma'arachah, and arranging the two Gizrei Etzim. (See also YOSEF DA'AS.) (D. BLOOM)
QUESTION: The Mishnah (28b) says that sometimes there would be 300 Kor of ashes on the ash-heap at the top of the Mizbe'ach. In the Gemara, Rava says that this is an exaggeration ("Guzma"). Similarly, the Gemara quotes the Mishnah later (30a) that says that before slaughtering the Korban Tamid each day, they would give it water to drink from a gold vessel. Rava says that this, too, is an exaggeration.
The Gemara continues and quotes the Mishnah in Midos (3:8) that says that there was a golden vine at the entrance to the Heichal, on which donations of gold grapes or clusters would be hung, and 300 Kohanim were needed to move it.
The Gemara continues to discuss exaggerations, and concludes with the Mishnah in Shekalim (8:5) that states that it took 300 Kohanim to hold the Paroches when immersing it in the Mikvah.
The Chachamim always take great care to show that every word of the Mishnah is meticulously chosen. Why does the Gemara here say that the Mishnah's words are an exaggeration?
(a) The VILNA GA'ON (Kol Eliyahu, Parshas Terumah, see also TIFERES YISRAEL to Shekalim 8:5) offers an ingenious explanation to explain why the Mishnah says that 300 Kohanim were needed to immerse the Paroches. The Vilna Ga'on demonstrates that this number was not chosen at random.
The Mishnah teaches that the Paroches was 40 Amos long and 20 Amos wide. Since the Amos used in the measurements of the Beis ha'Mikdash consisted of five handbreadths each (Kelim 17:10), the perimeter of the Paroches was 120 Amos (2 X (40 + 20)), or 600 handbreadths. Therefore, if as many Kohanim as physically possible would participate in the Mitzvah of immersing the Paroches, there would be room for exactly 300 Kohanim to grasp it, since each Kohen would hold two handbreadths of the perimeter with his two hands!
Why, then, does the Gemara say that the number 300 is an exaggeration? The answer is that although it was theoretically possible for 300 Kohanim to grasp the Paroches, it was never actually handled by this number of people. It would have been unusual for the Kohanim's hands to be so closely spaced as to allow them to cover every centimeter of the perimeter of the Paroches. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Mishnah did not choose the number 300 as its "exaggerated" figure randomly. This number was chosen because it represents the theoretical maximum number of Kohanim who could participate in this Mitzvah.
The YEFEH EINAYIM here in Tamid, however, raises a serious objection to the calculation of the Vilna Ga'on. According to the Mishnah in Kelim (17:10) and the Gemara in Menachos (97b), the special five-handbreadth Amah measurement that was used in the Beis ha'Mikdash was used only for building the movable articles of the Beis ha'Mikdash, such as the Aron, Shulchan, Mizbe'ach ha'Zahav, etc. When they built the actual structural parts of the Beis ha'Mikdash, they used the regular, six-handbreadth Amah measurement. (This is the opinion of Rebbi Yehudah. Rebbi Meir maintains that the six-handbreadth Amah was used in an even more limited capacity.) Accordingly, the Paroches -- whose 20-by-40-Amah dimensions were for the purpose of filling the entire breadth of the Heichal in order to enclose the Kodesh ha'Kodashim (or to shield the entrance to the Ulam) -- would have to be measured with the same Amah that was used for measuring the sanctuary itself, or a six-handbreadth Amah. The perimeter of the Paroches would then measure 720, and not 600, handbreadths!
To answer this question on the Vilna Ga'on's explanation, we may suggest that when the Kohanim would grasp the Paroches in order to immerse it, they would not hold it on all four sides. One side had to be left free in order to allow it to be lowered into the Mikvah. If the Kohanim would have grasped the Paroches on the three sides that measured 40, 40, and 20 Amos, and they left the other side (20 Amos) free, then they would have covered 100 Amos, or 600 handbreadths, of the perimeter. (It is likely that this was the actual explanation that the Vilna Ga'on gave, and not as recorded in Kol Eliyahu.) (M. KORNFELD)
(b) The exaggeration of the vine may be explained in a similar manner. Perhaps all of the Kohanim would want to take part in dismantling the vine and bringing the money that was hanging on it into the proper chamber, just as the Kohanim all wanted to participate in the immersion of the Paroches, according to the Vilna Ga'on.
Accordingly, the following calculation may be made. The entranceway to the Heichal, over which the vine hung, was 20 Amos high by 10 Amos wide (Midos 4:1). Although the Amah used for the measurements of the vessels of the Beis ha'Mikdash consisted of five handbreadths, the Amos used for the measurements of the structural parts consisted of six handbreadths (Eruvin 4b). Accordingly, the entranceway to the Heichal had a perimeter of (20 X 6) + (20 X 6) + (10 X 6) handbreadths, or a total of 300 handbreadths! If each Kohen grabbed exactly one handbreadth of the gold (since gold is lighter than the Paroches, each Kohen was able to grab some of it with just one hand), then exactly 300 Kohanim would be able to remove the gold from the vine of the Heichal entranceway! (M. KORNFELD)
(c) Reb Yisroel Dovid Slutzkin zt'l (of Rechavia, Jerusalem, who passed away a few years ago; may these words be a merit for his Neshamah) once related to us an ingenious explanation for the exaggeration of the 300 Kor of ash on the Mizbe'ach.
The Kor is a measure of volume corresponding to 30 Se'ah-measures. Mr. Slutzkin pointed out that according to the Gemara in Pesachim (109b), the minimum size of a Mikvah -- 40 Se'ah of water -- corresponds to three cubic Amos of water. Accordingly, each cubic Amah contains the volume of 40/3, or 13.33, Se'ah. Since a Kor is equal to 30 Se'ah, the 300 Kor mentioned by the Mishnah with regard to the amount of ash on the Mizbe'ach would correspond to 9000 Se'ah of ash. This is equal to 9000/13.33, or 675, cubic Amos of ash.
The Mishnah in Midos (3:6) teaches that the base of the Mizbe'ach was 32 by 32 Amos. However, the top of the Mizbe'ach was two Amos narrower than its base on every side (south, east, north, and west). Thus, the top surface of the Mizbe'ach measured only 28 by 28 Amos. On the four corners of the top of the Mizbe'ach, there were four protrusions called Keranos. The dimensions of each Keren was one Amah by one Amah by one Amah, a perfect cube. Because the Keranos were an Amah wide, the entire outer one-Amah of the Mizbe'ach (including the part between the Keranos) was referred to as the Keranos area (Midos ibid.) and was never used for burning Korbanos. The area on top of the Mizbe'ach that remained available for burning Korbanos was 26 Amos by 26 Amos -- an area of 676 square Amos.
(In truth, an additional width of one Amah on each side of the top of the Mizbe'ach was reserved for the passage of the Kohanim who stood atop the Mizbe'ach (see Midos ibid.). This reduces the area on the Mizbe'ach available for burning to only 24 Amos by 24 Amos. However, we may suggest that in rare situations ashes would be allowed to overflow into that area. The ashes were allowed to overflow there because they did not impede the movement of the Kohanim, since the Kohanim could still walk in the Amah of the Keranos area, stepping on or over the Keranos to get from one edge of the Mizbe'ach to the next.)
How high was the accumulation of ash on the top of the Mizbe'ach allowed to reach? The verse in Tehilim (118:27) says, "Bind up the offerings, up to the Keranos of the Mizbe'ach." The verse implies that the Korbanos burned on the Mizbe'ach were never piled higher than the height of the Keranos -- a height of one Amah (see Sukah 45b).
Now that we have determined that the surface of the Mizbe'ach measured 676 square Amos and that the ashes were never piled higher than one Amah, we can see that the maximum volume of ash on the Mizbe'ach was 676 cubic Amos. However, we know that there is a requirement to have a fire burning on the top of the Mizbe'ach at all times (see Vayikra 6:6). Allowing for a space of one square Amah to be left free of ash in order to allow the fire to continue burning on the roof of the Mizbe'ach (since the wood used for the Ma'arachah was one Amah by one Amah, as the Gemara in Zevachim 62b teaches) results in a maximum volume of 675 cubic Amos of ash, which is equal to 300 Kor of ash, as shown above! We find that once again the Mishnah does not choose a random number in its exaggerated account of the ashes on the Mizbe'ach, but rather it gives the exact number of Se'ah that could have accumulated in the theoretical maximum accumulation!
(d) Mr. Slutzkin added that the word which the Chachamim use to describe an exaggeration -- "Guzma" -- might be understood as an acronym for the words, "Gam Zo Mah" -- "This is also something." Even when the Chachamim exaggerated, they did so with an exact calculation in mind! (See Parshah Page, Terumah 5755; see also Insights to Shekalim 21:3 and Chulin 90:3.)