Shabbat Chanukah II
(1 Kings 7:40-50)
December 23, 2006
At first glance, this special haftarah for the second Shabbat of Hanukkah seems like an unusual choice. It reads like little more than a list of the final few implements made for Solomon\’s Temple before its dedication. Among the items mentioned were the menorot and the table of the display bread: \”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 lampstands (menorot) – five on the right side and five on the left – in front of the Shrine, of solid gold…\” (verses 48-9) It is worth noting that the version of this verse found in 2 Chronicles contains a small variant. There, it speaks not of a single table for the bread of display, but rather notes that there were multiple tables: \”the tables for the bread of display.\” (2 Chronicles 4:19)
In light of these two verses, a dispute arose among the sages: \”Our sages have taught in a baraita: Solomon made ten tables but the [kohanim] arranged the bread of display only on the table of Moses, as it is stated: \’the table for the bread of display\’ \” (1 Kings 7:48) [Similarly,] Solomon made ten menorahs but [the kohanim] only lit the menorah of Moses, as it says: \’a golden menorah and its lamps to light in the evening\’ (2 Chronicles 13:11) Rabbi Elazar ben Shamua disagrees: \’They would set up the bread on all of the tables.\’ [Some sages think this means that the bread would be set up on only one of the tables. – See Rabbeinu Gershom.], as it says: \’the tables with the bread of display on them\’ (1 Chronicles 4:19) [Similarly,] they kindled all of the menorahs, as it says: \’and the menorot and their lamps, to kindle them as required before and sanctuary… of the finest gold\’ (Ibid. 20)\” (Menachot 99a)
A later midrashic collection (11th century Europe) records a compromise position: \”And even though Solomon made ten tables, [the kohanim] would not set up the bread first on any table other than that of Moses… and then, afterwards, on the other tables. And even though Solomon made ten menorot, [the kohanim] would light that of Moses first and only afterwards light the other menorot.\” (Adapted from Yalkut Shimoni Kings Remez 185 Heman ed. p. 435)
One might infer from this debate some deeper significance than simply one sage following the explicit meaning of the verses found in one book of the Tanach, a second sage following the other tradition, while a later book adopted a compromise position, utilizing the verses from both books. The first sage, who asserted that one must do exactly like Moses, saw in Moses\’ practice the ideal for all generations while the second sage, who used Moses\’ model to facilitate Solomon\’s innovations, saw in Moses a model for the generations. The compromise position seems to want to preserve both Moses\’ ideal and his model. The choice between these different alternative positions on how to fulfill God\’s will still engages us to this day.
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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