The Mishna on our daf describes the thirteen tables that were in the Temple. Eight of them, made of marble, were used, in effect, to butcher the animals in preparation for their sacrifice on the mizbe’ah. There were also tables made of gold for the lehem ha-panim, the shewbread. The Gemara comments that silver tables were not used for the lehem ha-panim because the heat of the tables might cause the bread – which was left on the shulhan (table) for an entire week – to become moldy. Even though the freshness of the bread was one of the daily miracles of the Temple, the Gemara argues that we do not rely on miracles.
Issues having to do with the presence of the meat and bread in the Temple are among the ten daily miracles that are recorded by the Mishna in Massekhet Avot (2:5). They include:
- No women ever miscarried from smelling the meat of the sacrifices
- The meat of the sacrifices never spoiled
- No fly was ever seen in the Temple
- The High Priest never became impure before Yom Kippur
- There was never a problem with the Omer that was cut, nor with the shtei ha-lehem, nor with the lehem ha-panim
- The people would be crowded together, and yet would have room to bow down
- Neither snake nor scorpion ever injured someone in Jerusalem
- No one ever complained that there was no room for him in Jerusalem.
Although these are all described as miracles, in his commentary on Aggada, Shem-Tov ibn Shaprut argues that they can all be explained rationally, and that the “miracle” was not in an unnatural event, rather in the care and concern engendered by the holiness of the Mikdash that kept these things from taking place. For example, the kohanim were so careful and committed to their work that they made sure that the sacrifices were brought in a timely fashion so that the meat never spoiled nor attracted flies, the communal sacrifices never were found to have problems and the kohen gadol never became impure. Jerusalem was such a popular and busy place that snakes and scorpions never found ruins or abandoned areas to breed. Finally, thanks to the high level of friendliness and concern for one another, the people looked out for each other and made sure that there was always room for everyone.