Ninety-Three Keilim

Tamid (3:4) | Yisrael Bankier | 11 years ago

As part of the morning service, the Mishnah (3:4) teaches that after the kohanim were told to bring the lamb to slaughter for the morning tamid, they then went to the chamber to take out ninety-three keilim from the avodah. The animal was then given water to drink from one of these keilim and then brought to the slaughter site. A number of questions may be asked. Is there any significance to the number of keilim that were removed explaining why the Mishnah stated this figure explicitly? Why were all the keilim removed at this point if only one was required? Recall also that only one kli was made available earlier for trumat ha’deshen.

The Rambam writes that this number was simply the sum-total of the keilim required throughout the day. The Bartenura notes however, it is not explained why this number of keilim were indeed required. Both however cite the Yerushalmi (Chagigah 3:8) that explains that the number ninety-three corresponds to the number of azkarot (names of Hashem) listed in the prophecies of Chaggai, Zechariah and Melachi.27

R’ Eliyahu Gutmacher from Graditz however offers a different association. He explain that the number of keilim corresponds to the number of letters in the pasuk that mentions the preparation of the mizbeach for Akeidat Yitzchak – another sacrifice, like the Tamid, performed early in the morning (Bereishit 22:9):

They arrived at the place of which Hashem had spoke to him; Avraham built the mizbeach there and arrange the wood; he bound Yitzchak his son, and he placed him on the mizbeach on top of the wood.

The idea of making reference to Akeidat Yitzchak or remembering the merit of the forefathers is common in the Beit Ha’Mikdash. We learnt that when confirming that dawn had arrived, they would ask if the light of the sun had reached Chevron (the burial place of the avot). Also the Tamid was bound in unique manner (Akeidah), similar to the way that Yitzchak was bound in the above pasuk.28

A reminder of the Akeidah would be reason enough, however one could suggest that there was importance even to the details of the pasuk. The Midrash explains that Yitzchak requested that his father bind him. At the time he was thirty-seven years old and he was concerned that he might instinctively jerk from fear of the knife and invalidate the slaughter. Perhaps this pasuk, recalled prior to engaging with the animal, was a reminder for the kohanim to subject not only their actions and emotions but even their very instincts to the avodah to eagerly fulfil the will of Hashem (see also previous article).

This association may also work in the other direction to answer a complexity in the pasuk. A difficulty highlighted by the mefarshim is why was Yitzchak bound prior to being placed on the mizbeach? Why was Avraham, at the time quite elderly, burdened with hoisting his son, a grown man, onto the mizbeach?29 The pasuk in isolation however correlates nicely with the order in the Beit Ha’Mikdash. The kohanim “arrive at the place”, then clean the mizbeach and “arrange the wood”. The tamid is then “bound” and after slaughter it is placed on the mizbeach “on top of the wood”. If so then this would be another instance of “ma’aseh avot siman le’banim”, where the actions of the forefather represent a directive for future generations.


27: The Tosfot Yom Tov however argues that the Yerushalmi should read “the prophecies of Chaggai and Melachi” otherwise there are too many azkarot. (The korban eidah also shares this version). The “math” only works with his version. (He also maintains that it fits in with the entire discussion in the Yerushalmi – see the Tosfot Yom Tov and Yerushalmi). The Tosfot Yom Tov adds that even though a higher number could have been achieved by adding those in Zechariah, it would have unnecessarily burdened the kohanim.

The Tosfot Chadashim, however defends the version of the Rambam explaining that the total number of azkarot in all three prophecies that relates specifically to the second Beit Ha’Mikdash equal ninety three. There are more; however those prophecies relate to the future and not the second Beit Ha’Mikdash, the subject of Masechet Tamid.

28: Note that this is according to Rashi’s understanding (Shabbat 52a). The Rambam explains that they did not bind the Tamid at all. The Lechem Mishnah explaining another Rashi (Bereishit 22:9) understands that they bound the tamid in a manner unlike Akeidat Yitzchak. See the Minchat Yitzchak for an explanation on Rashi’s two understandings.

29: R’ Yehoshua Leib Diskin explains that Avraham was commanded to place Yitzchak on the mizbeach (22:2). Had Yitzchak not been bound it would have been considered as if Yitzchak aided him in this task due to the principle “chay noseh et atzmo” (Shabbat 93b).

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