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Vol. 20 No. 19
Carrying the Copper Altar
(adapted from the Da'as Zekeinim
" … you shall make for it a netting of copper meshwork and you shall make upon the meshwork four copper rings at its four edges. … you shall place it under the surrounding border of the Mizbei'ach below it, and the meshwork shall go to the midpoint of the Mizbei'ach" (27:4).
These rings, explains the Da'as Zekeinim, were to house poles with which the Mizbe'ach was to be transported.
Quoting R. Yechiel, he cites the Gemara in Shabbos (92a) which rules that someone who carries something four Amos in the street above the height of ten Tefachim is Chayav (even though above ten Tefachim does not have the status of a R'shus ha'Rabim, but of a Makom P'tur). And it proves this from the B'nei K'has, who carried the Mizbe'ach, all of which was above ten Tefachim from the ground.
And the Gemara proceeds to prove this as follows:
We have a tradition that whatever is carried on poles, is carried one third above (the poles) and two thirds below. Now, given that (like Moshe) all the Levi'im were ten Amos tall, and that the head measures approximately one Amah, then from the shoulders to the ground was nine Amos. The Mizbei'ach too, measured nine Amos without the K'ronos (the four blocks on the four corners), in which case it would have hung down six Amos (two thirds of nine) from the carriers' shoulders - leaving three Amos (eighteen Tefachim) space from the base of the Mizbei'ach to the ground.
Although the author does not query the Gemara's proof regarding the fact that the base of the Mizbei'ach was more than ten Tefachim from the ground, he does query the Gemara's assumption that whatever is carried on poles, is carried one third above (the poles) and two thirds below, seeing as the Pasuk appears to place the poles at the halfway mark, which is twenty-seven Tefachim from the ground and not eighteen.
To answer the question he answers that what the Gemara means is that even according to the tradition, the Mizbei'ach would have been more than ten Tefachim from the ground; how much more so that the poles were placed not a third of the way down, but a half! In that case however, the tradition cited by the Gemara is of no consequence.
Alternatively, he explains that the rings (that housed the poles) were extremely wide, so that although the bottom of the ring was situated on the midpoint of the Mizbei'ach, its top was situated a third of the way down, as Chazal stated.
Interestingly, the Gemara is uncertain about whether the Levi'im were really ten Amos tall (as Rashi explains).
Consequently, it cites an alternative proof that whoever carries above ten Tefachim in the street is Chayav from the Aron (See Parshah Pearls).
The question arises that if the Levi'im were three Amos tall, like everybody else, how could they possibly have carried the Copper Mizbei'ach?
The Gemara in Zevachim (52b) cites a dispute between Rebbi Yehudah, who interprets the three Amos height that the Torah ascribes to the Copper Mizbei'ach literally and Rebbi Yossi, who ascribes it to the top section of the Mizbei'ach, but who holds that its total height was ten Amos.
Perhaps the second opinion cited in the Gemara concurs with Rebbi Yehudah, in which case there would have been no problem with the Levi'im carrying the Mizbei'ach, even if they were three Amos tall, like everybody else.
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Getting Paid from Hekdesh Money
"And they shall make for Me (Li) a Mikdash" (25:8).
The Torah Temimah cites the Gemara in Temurah (31a) which, interpreting the word "Li" as 'mi'she'Li' (from what belongs to Me), learns from here that one may use Hekdesh money (from Bedek ha'Bayis) to pay workers who perform repairs in the Beis-Hamikdash.
In similar vein, the Torah Temimah observes, the Gemara in Eruvin (27b) rules that one may use money of Ma'aser Sheini to purchase a jar in which to hold Ma'aser Sheini wine, albeit from an entirely different source. The Mitzvah is of course to purchase wine in Yerushalayim and to drink it, yet one is permitted to use part of the money for accessories for the Mitzvah, such as jars (bottles or even wine-glasses) with part of the money.
This Halachah will apply even today, the author points out, where for example, somebody donates wine to one's Shul for (Kidush or) Havdalah, and where the Gaba'im are permitted to use some of the donated money to buy bottles and wine-glasses to use with the wine.
The Poles of the Aron
"And you shall cast for it (the Aron) four rings of gold and you shall place them on its four corners" (25:12).
Rashi explains that the rings (which housed the poles with which the Aron was carried) were on the top corners, just below the lid..
The Ramban argues that this is illogical, a. because, due to the weight of the Aron, it would have been much easier to carry if the rings were at the bottom of the Aron, as that is how one generally carries a heavy weight (from underneath), and b. it is not Derech Kavod to carry the Aron in such a way that it hangs down, but rather to raise it above the shoulders!
According to Rashi on the other hand, there would have been no problem in lifting up the Aron when they began to travel, whereas according to the Ramban, this would have proved a formidable task.
Besides that, Rashi's explanation is based on the Gemara in Shabbos (92a), which specifically states that the Aron (like the Mizbei'ach), was one third above shoulder-height, two-thirds below. See main article.
Ten Amos Tall
From the fact that Moshe single-handedly spread the covers on the Mishkan (which measured ten Amos in height [See Parshas Pikudei, 40:19]), the Gemara in Shabbos (92a) learns that Moshe was ten Amos tall. Moreover, it assumes that if Moshe was ten Amos tall, so were all the Levi'im.
And it initially corroborates this assumption with the fact that it was the Levi'im who carried the Holy Vessels on their shoulders, and one of those vessels was the copper Mizbe'ach, which was ten Amos tall (see main article).
It is astonishing, to say the least, to conceive a nation, who by and large, measured three Amos in height, and one family, whose ancestors were no different than anybody else, where all the children measured not four Amos and not even five, but ten Amos. Incidentally, since the theory of the Levi'im's height is based exclusively on the fact that they were the ones who carried the Holy Vessels, why do Chazal attribute this incredible height to all the Levi'im? Maybe it was only the B'nei K'has, who actually carried the Vessels, who were that tall, but not the B'nei Gershon and Merori. Remember again, that there is no reason to assume that either Levi or his three sons, were significantly taller than anyone else.
According to Rashi's explanation of the Gemara, whether or not, we need to say that the Levi'im were ten Amos tall, hinges upon whether the Gemara's proof (that somebody who carries four Amos in the street above the height of ten Tefachim has transgressed Shabbos or not) is from the Mizbei'ach or from the Aron (see main article).
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