Shabbat Hanukkah II
(1 Kings 7:40-50)
December 19, 2009
2 Tevet 5770
The Second Shabbat of Hanukkah is marked with a haftarah reading which records King Solomon\’s manufacture of the furnishings for the Temple. For the haftarah we read the prophetic account of this event. This same episode is also recorded in a later book of the Tanach, the book of Chronicles with a number of differences. In the book of Kings, we read: \”And Solomon made all the furnishings that were in the House of the Lord: the altar of gold; the table for the bread of display, of gold; the menorot (lampstands) – five on the right side and five on the left – in front of the Shrine, of solid gold;…\” (1 Kings 7:48-49) The later account records: He made the ten menorot of gold as prescribed, and placed them in the Great Hall, five on the right and five on the left. He made ten tables and placed them in the great hall, five on the right and five on the left…\” (2 Chronicles 4:7-8)
Rabbi David Kimche raised two questions from these accounts. When these verses refer to placing five menorot or five tables to the right and five menorot or five tables to the left, what is the reference point for their placement? He also notes the discrepancy over the number of tables Solomon crafted for the sanctuary. Was there only one table, as described in Kings or were there ten tables, as noted in Chronicles?
Before we proceed to Kimche\’s answer to his first question, it is necessary to contend with his second question. Kimche\’s working assumption seems to be that Chronicles preserves details that are implicit in the earlier text. Here this means that we accept the account of Chronicles that there were ten tables and ten menorot in the Temple. So then, how were the menorot and tables arranged in the Temple? Kimche, based upon rabbinic tradtion, introduced a new element to the equation. He asserts that Solomon arranged these menorot and tables around the menorah and table made for Moses in the desert. How many menorot and tables were there then? Eleven, Moses\’ menorah and table, one on the north side and one on the south side of the sanctuary and ten additional menorot and tables arranged on the right and left of Moses\’ \”originals\”.
Were all of these menorot and tables used? Kimche assumed that they were but the sages mentioned above disagreed: \”Ten tables made Solomon, as it says: \’And he made ten gold tables\’. Still, they only arranged that of Moses, as it says: \’and the table on which they placed the shewbread was of gold.\’ Ten menorot of gold were made by Solomon, as it says: \’and he made ten gold menorot\’. Still, they only lit that of Moses, as it says: \’the menorah and its lights\” to light each evening.\” (Tosefta Menahot 11:9-10)
Kimche emphatically rejects the sages\’ explanation that only Moses\’ table and menorah were used, concluding that his own explanation is more reasonable. How then does one explain the viewpoint of the rabbis in the Tosefta? Perhaps the sages are conflicted over the issue of innovation. The Temple was a much larger operation than the sanctuary. It needed the added furniture. Still, change which recast the traditional way so that they were no longer recognizable was more than the sages could stand. Instead they symbolically chose a middle path where both innovation and tradition lived in tension with each other. Sound familiar!?
This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
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