Shekalim, Chapter Five, Mishnah One

 

Introduction

This mishnah lists and names fifteen officers who performed various services in the Temple.  There are various interpretations as to the names.  Albeck explains that in every generation the officers who filled these functions were called by these names.  Another explanation is that this is the list of the names of those who served in the Temple at the time when this mishnah was composed.

 

Mishnah One

These were the officers in the Temple:

1)      Yohanan the son of Pinchas was over the seals.

2)      Ahiyah over the libations. 

3)      Mattityah the son of Shmuel over the lots.

4)      Petahiah over the bird-offering.  (Petahiah was Mordecai. Why was his name called Petahiah? Because he ‘opened’ matters and expounded them, and he understood the seventy tongues). 

5)      The son of Ahijah over the sickness of the bowels. 

6)      Nehuniah, the digger of ditches.

7)      Gevini, the crier.

8)      The son of Gever over the locking of the gates.  

9)      The son of Bevai over the strips [for lighting the menorah].  

10)  The son of Arza over the cymbal.

11)  Hugras the son of Levi over the song.

12)  The house of Garmu over the making of the showbread.  

13)  The house of Avtinas over the preparing of the frankincense. 

14)  Elazar over the curtains.

15)  And Pinchas over the priestly vestments. 

 

Explanation

1)      Yohanan the son of Pinchas was over the seals:  This will be explained below in mishnayot 3-5.     

2)      Ahiyah over the libations:  This too will be explained in mishnayot 3-5.

3)      Mattityah the son of Shmuel over the lots:  Lots were cast between the priests in order to determine who got to offer which sacrifice.

4)      Petahiah over the bird-offering.  (Petahiah was Mordecai. Why was his name called Petahiah? Because he ‘opened’ matters and expounded them, and he understood the seventy tongues):  Petahiah sold bird-offerings to those who needed to bring them.  The section in parentheses is a late addition to the mishnah that is missing from most manuscripts.  Petahiah comes from the word “petach” which means to open and can refer to the opening of a midrashic sermon. 

5)      The son of Ahiyah over the sickness of the bowels:  Many priests had gastrointestinal ailments.  This is probably due to their frequent contact with raw meat and infected water.  The son of Ahiyah was responsible for the medicines and other cures for these illnesses.

6)      Nehuniah, the digger of ditches:  Nehuniah oversaw the digging of wells, cisterns and irrigation channels.

7)      Gevini, the announcer:  Gevini would cry out each morning, “Rise up priests to your worship (avodah), Levites to your stands and Israelites to your stations (maamadot).”

8)      The son of Gever over the locking of the gates:  He would close the gates in the evening.  

9)      The son of Bevai over the strips:  these were the wicks used in lighting the menorah.  

10)  The son of Arza over the cymbal:  The cymbal was used to signal to the Levites to begin to sing.

11)  Hugras the son of Levi over the song:  he conducted the Levites in their daily songs.

12)  The house of Garmu over the making of the showbread:  this house of priests was responsible for baking the twelve loaves that were on the table throughout the week.  

13)  The house of Avtinas over the preparing of the frankincense:  they crushed the herbs and prepared the mixture.

14)  Elazar over the curtains:  he sewed the curtains and then maintained them.

15)  And Pinchas over the priestly vestments:  he made the vestments, put them on the priests and then took them off when their service was completed.    

 

 

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