ט׳ בסיון ה׳תשע״א (June 11, 2011)

Menahot 94a-b – Shaping the Shewbread in the Temple

The eleventh perek (=chapter) of Masechet Menahot begins on today’s daf (=page) and its focus is on two offerings –

  • Shetei ha-lehem – the two loaves brought on Shavuot, celebrating the new wheat harvest (see Vayikra 23:17)
  • Lehem ha-panimShew bread, the 12 loaves placed on the table in the Temple on a weekly basis (see24:5-8)

 

These two offerings differ from all other menahot inasmuch as they are baked in a pan that gives them a specific form and are eaten whole by the kohanim. The majority of the perek is dedicated to the leham ha-panim that has many details, both with regard to the loaves themselves as well as the table on which they are placed in the Temple. The Torah does not describe how they were to be kneaded and baked, nor does it specify what their actual shape should be. Although there is some description of the table, its details are unclear, and we have little information about the utensils that are attached to it.

 

The Gemara asks about the shape of the lehem ha-panim, and we find a disagreement between Rabbi Hanina who says that they were shaped like a teivah prutzah – an open box – and Rabbi Yohanan who says that they were shaped like asefinah rokedet – a boat dancing on the waves.

 

The Hazon Ish argues that the disagreement between Rabbi Hanina and Rabbi Yohanan was not what the requirement was for the lehem ha-panim, rather what was the common practice in the Temple, since either method would be acceptable. In fact, the Gemara reaches no conclusion about this question, even though the volume of dough would be different depending on the shape that was used. This presents no problem since it is certainly possible to use a given amount of raw ingredients – which are enumerated in the Torah – and make a dough that is more solidly or loosely prepared.