ו׳ באלול ה׳תשע״ח (August 17, 2018)

Menahot 7a-b: The Shewbread and its Table

In the course of discussing whether it was essential that the Temple vessels used during the sacrificial service associated with the meal offerings be held by kohanim, or if they could be left on the Temple floor, the Gemara on today’s daf  quotes a Mishna from later on in Massekhet Menaḥot (daf 99b). According to the Mishna, the order of the leḥem ha-panim – the Shewbread – was as follows.

Four kohanim entered the sanctuary on every, two of them bearing the two rows of the Shewbread in their hands and two bearing the two bowls of frankincense in their hands; and four other kohanim went in before them, two to take away the two rows of the Shewbread from the previous week and two to take away the two accompanying bowls of the previous week’s frankincense.

According to the conclusion of the Gemara this description proves that there was no need to hold the Temple vessels off the floor in the course of the meal offering service, since there is no mention of kohanim whose job it was to lift the shulḥan – the table on which the Shewbread was placed – while the service was taking place. By bringing a proof from this case, it is clear that the Gemara works with the assumption that the leḥem ha-panim – the Shewbread – was considered a type of meal offering and that the table was seen as the Temple vessel, while the bowls of frankincense were the equivalent of the kometz – the fistful of flour taken by the kohen for sacrifice on the altar.

According to the Gemara, the shulḥan leḥem ha-panim (the Shewbread table) has two sets of six shelves upon which the fresh loaves are placed every while the loaves that they replaced are eaten by the kohanim. Aside from the shelves, two bowls of frankincense were placed on the table, next to the loaves of the leḥem ha-panim.