Shekalim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four



Whereas in yesterday’s mishnah we learned what they did with the surplus from the shekels which remained in the chamber after the appropriation had been made, today’s mishnah teaches what they would do with the surplus of the appropriation itself.  For instance, when the first of Nisan comes along they would begin to buy public sacrifices with a new appropriation, so what did they do with money left over from the old appropriation?


Mishnah Four

What was done with the surplus of the appropriation?  

1)      [They would buy] plates of gold for covering the interior of the Holy of Holies.

2)      Rabbi Ishmael says: the surplus [from the sale] of the produce was used for the altar’s ‘dessert’, and the surplus of the appropriation was used for the ministering vessels.

3)      Rabbi Akiba says: the surplus of the appropriation was used for the altar’s ‘dessert’, and the surplus of the libations was used for the ministering vessels.

4)      Rabbi Hananiah the chief of the priests says: the surplus of the libations was used for the altar’s ‘dessert’, and the surplus of the appropriation was used for the ministering vessels.

5)      Neither of these [two sages] allowed [a profit from the sale of] the produce.



Section one:  According to the first opinion, the extra money from the appropriation would be used to buy plates of gold to cover the walls and ceiling of the Holy of Holies. 

Section two:  Rabbi Ishmael says that the surplus from the appropriation was used to buy ministering vessels.  He holds that since this money was intended to be used for sacrifices it can also be used to buy the vessels which are used in offering the sacrifices. In yesterday’s mishnah we learned that with the money left in the chamber Rabbi Ishmael said they should buy wines, oils and flours and sell them for a profit.  Here he says that the profit is used for the altar’s “dessert.”  This refers to wholly burnt offerings that they would offer on the altar when there were no other sacrifices to be offered.  This is like a “dessert” for the hungry altar.

Section three:  Rabbi Akiva says that “dessert” for the Temple comes from the surplus of the appropriation.  The ministering vessels, on the other hand, were bought from the surplus of libations.  This refers to extra flour and wine which were bought to make libations. The “extra” can happen when merchants promise to provide three seahs worth of flour for a sela (a coin).  If the price of flour goes down to four seahs for a sela, the merchants have to bring four seahs, even though only three seahs are to be consecrated as libations.  The Temple’s treasurers can sell the extra seah and with the profit pay for the ministering vessels.

Section four:  Rabbi Hananiah, the chief of priests, has yet another opinion about what to do with the extra money (doesn’t everyone love extra money!).  His opinion is an opposite version of Rabbi Akiva’s.  I find it interesting that we have here a priest, someone who would seemingly have known very well what went on in the Temple, and yet his opinion does not count any more than any of the other rabbi’s opinion.

Section five:  The mishnah ends by noting that both Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Hananiah agree that they don’t use the shekels to buy produce and then sell it to make a profit, as was the opinion of Rabbi Ishmael.  It seems that the editor of the mishnah strongly disagrees with Rabbi Ishmael and hence wishes to emphasize that all of the other sages disagree with him.