כ״ח במרחשון ה׳תשע״ט (November 6, 2018)

Menahot 88a-b: Sacrificial Measuring Cups

The tenth perek of Massekhet Menaḥot began on yesterday’s daf, and it focuses on issues of measurements in the Temple. According to the Mishna, there were seven liquid measurements that were used in the Temple:

  • A hin (12 log)
  • Half a hin (6 log)
  • One-third of a hin (4 log)
  • One-quarter of a hin (3 log)
  • A log
  • Half a log
  • One-quarter of a log

Rabbi Shimon argued that there was no utensil in the Temple that measured out a hin, since there was no Temple service that called for a hin of liquid.

The Gemara on today’s daf brings Rabbi Shimon’s teaching, and suggests that his argument is a good one. In fact, no service in the Temple called for a hin measurement. The Gemara explains that there was, at one time, a service that demanded a hin measurement. When the oil for anointing the Tabernacle and its utensils, as well as the kohanim themselves, was first produced, the Torah teaches that Moshe was commanded to take a full hin-measure of oil for that purpose (see 30:24-25). According to of the Mishna, once such a measurement was produced it remained in the Temple, even though it no longer served an active purpose. Rabbi Shimon disagreed, arguing that once it served its purpose it would have been set aside, and would no longer have been found in the Temple.

The commentaries on this Gemara explain that there was no longer any need for such a measurement because the anointing oil produced by Moshe had a miraculous quality about it inasmuch as it never ran out, even after it was used to anoint all of the vessels of the Tabernacle. Furthermore, even though it was used throughout the generations, nevertheless it remained full. According to the Gemara in Horayot (daf 11b) although King Yoshiyahu was forced to hide it in the Temple (together with the Ark of the Covenant and the container of manna), he did so only because of the impending destruction of the Temple and Diaspora. In any case, that flask of oil is expected to be used to anoint in the rebuilt temple in the future. Since the original hin of oil lasted forever, there was no need to produce another measuring utensil the size of a hin.