Menahot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Five

 

Introduction

This mishnah describes how the showbread was placed on the table.

 

Mishnah Five

1)      The table was ten handbreadths long and five wide; the showbread was ten handbreadths long and five wide. Each cake was placed lengthwise across the breadth of the table, and two and a half handbreadths were turned up at either side so that its length filled the entire breadth of the table, the words of Rabbi Judah. 

2)      Rabbi Meir says: the table was twelve handbreadths long and six wide; the showbread was ten handbreadths long and five wide. Each cake was placed lengthwise across the breadth of the table, and two handbreadths were turned up at either side; and there was a space of two handbreadths between [the two sets] so that the wind could blow between them.  

3)      Abba Shaul says: there they used to put the two dishes of frankincense for the showbread.

a)      They said to him:  Has it not already been said, “And you shall put pure frankincense upon [al] each row” (Leviticus 24:7)?  

b)      He replied, But has it not also been said, “And next unto [al] him shall be the tribe of Manasseh” (Numbers 2:20)?

 

Explanation

Section one: Exodus 25:23 says that the table was two cubits in length and one cubit in width. According to Rabbi Judah, in the Temple each cubit was five handbreadths, so the table was ten by five handbreadths. Each cake was ten handbreadths long and five wide. When they would make the cakes, they would fold them up two and half handbreadths on either side, so that each cake would be five handbreadths long and five wide. They would then stack them on the table, six on each pile, thereby filling up the table.

Section two: According to Rabbi Meir, in the Temple each cubit was six handbreadths. This means that the table was 12 x 6 handbreadths. They would fold up the cakes two handbreadths and in between the piles there was an empty space of two handbreadths (since the table was twelve and the width of each pile only five). This space allowed the wind to blow in between the loaves to cool them off.

Section three: Abba Shaul says that in between the two piles of loaves they would put the two dishes of frankincense (see Leviticus 24:7). The other sages disagree with Abba Shaul because the verse says “on each row” which means that the frankincense should be placed on top of the cakes and not in between them. However, Abba Shaul replies that the Hebrew words “al” can also mean “next to” as it does in Numbers 2:20. Therefore, he can interpret the verse to mean “next to the rows.”

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