When someone commits to bringing a sacrifice, does he have to supply the wood for the altar, as well?
The Gemara on today’s daf (=page) quotes a baraita that teaches that wood for the altar was never brought from home. The Torah teaches that the sacrifice is brought “on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar” (Vayikra 1:12).Rabbi Elazar ben Rabbi Shimon understands this to mean that just as the altar is public property, so the wood and the fire must be public property, as well. Rabbi Elazar ben Shamu’a interprets this to mean that just as the altar was never used for a mundane purpose, so the fire and the wood cannot have been used for mundane purposes. The Gemara suggests that the difference between these two positions is whether “used wood” is appropriate for this purpose, if it was public property.
The practical source for these laws is the story about the purchase and erection of the altar on the Temple Mount by King David.
The place of the Temple on Mount Moriah is one of three places that the TaNaKH tells us was purchased and paid for in full. In Sefer Shmuel (II Chapter 24) we are told of a plague that struck the Jewish people as a result of King David’s decision to count the people. Gad the Prophet instructs King David to build an altar on the place of the granary of Aravnah the Jebusite, the hilltop that was destined to become the place of the Temple. Aravnah offers his granary, together with his cattle for sacrifices and the morigim and other utensils as firewood, but King David insists on purchasing these from him.
The Gemara explains that according to Rabbi Elazar ben Shamu’a we must say that the morigim and other utensils were new and had never been used before.
Ulla explains that the morigim that Aravnah wanted to donate were boards that were used to thresh the grain. In the time of the Mishnah these implements were still in use – as they still are today – albeit in a more developed form that allowed the animal driver to sit while the wheels of the morigim thresh the grain.