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Rambam-Beit Habechirah (Chap. 3)     


Explanation of the words of Rambam (Hil. Beis Habechirah 3:2): "They were all the goblets embossed by beating them in a manner that their surface resembled tiny almonds" And the question of the Mishneh L'Melech (ibid)  

(5746  Vol. 36 XXVI Pg 183)



A Question Left Unresolved By Our Sages

In his description of the menorah, the Rambam states:

The central shaft of the menorah had four gob­lets, four bulbs, and two flowers.... A third flower was located near the base of the menorah.... Each branch of the menorah had three goblets, a bulb, and a flower. They were all embossed, so that their surface appeared to be covered with small almonds.

The Kesef Mishneh (based on the comments of Mahari Korcus) explains that all three types of ornaments on the menorah were embossed because of a doubt in the interpretation of the Torah’s command. The Torah reads,
“In the menorah, should be four goblets embossed, its bulbs, and its flowers.” Our Sages explain that in this instance — and in regard to four other verses in the Torah — there is a question about the meaning of the verse: Does the adjective ohseuan, “embossed,” refer to the goblets (the antece­dent in the verse) or to the bulbs and flowers (which are men­tioned subsequently). Because of this unresolved issue, the Ram­bam rules that all the ornaments should be embossed. For embossing the ornaments that need not be embossed will not dis­qualify them, while failing to emboss those which are required to be so would leave the Torah’s directive unfulfilled.

The Kesef Mishneh’s explanation raises a difficulty. The questions regarding the unresolved resolution of the other four verses cited by our Sages are all theoretical in nature. In no case is the performance of a mitzvah dependent on either of the in­terpretations. In this instance, however, the question concerns the mitzvah of fashioning the menorah. Although there may be no clear indication in the Written Law itself as to how this verse was interpreted, there surely must have been an explanation in the Oral Law, for otherwise the Torah’s directives concerning this mitzvah would have been incomplete.

Accordingly, we are forced to say that initially, there was clarity concerning the interpretation of the verse. When, then, and why, did confusion arise concerning this matter?

The Historical Background

The question is reinforced by the fact that this question does not concern a rare di­mension of observance, but rather the fashioning of the meno­rah, a sacred article that existed in the Sanctuary, and subsequently in the First and the Second Beis HaMikdash. Through­out that time, there could be no doubt as to which of the orna­ments were embossed. The question could be resolved merely by looking at the menorah.

To explain: The menorah was originally constructed accord­ing to the prophetic vision Moshe our teacher received at Mount Sinai. This same menorah was used from that time on­ward, throughout the entire duration of the First Beis HaMik­dash.

We cannot say that the doubt arose at the time of the Sec­ond Beis HaMikdash, because: a) Ezra was accompanied by many elderly priests who saw the First Beis HaMikdash. Surely, there were some who recalled the structure of the menorah. b) The various differences between the First and Second Batei HaMik­dash are discussed by our Sages in several places in the Talmud (including the very passage concerning the question regarding the embossed ornaments of the menorah). No source states that in the First Beis HaMikdash, the manner in which to decorate the ornaments of the menorah was known, but in the Second Beis HaMikdash, this was an unresolved issue.

Moreover, the Sage who first mentions the existence of this question, Issi ben Yehudah, lived shortly after the destruction of the Second Beis HaMikdash. In his time, it was still possible to resolve this issue by enquiring of those who saw the menorah in the Beis HaMikdash or from Sages who had made such enquiries. Why then was the point a matter of question for him?

Furthermore, if the reason that all the ornaments are to be embossed is because of a doubt, it would have been proper for the Rambam — who states that the purpose of the Mishneh Torah is to provide a person with a guide to observe the mitzvos fully — to state that the question is unresolved, instead of ruling that all the ornaments should be embossed. Of what relevance is this ruling? He cannot be telling us how to build themenorah in the First or Second Beis HaMikdash, for that is past history. Nor will this ruling be relevant in the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash, for this structure will be built in an era when “the knowledge of G‑d will fill the earth,” and G‑d will have re­vealed the solutions to all the unresolved questions concern­ing the construction of the Beis HaMikdash.

A Resolution to the Issue

Based on the above, we are forced to the following conclu­sion: The reason that all the ornaments of the menorah should be embossed is not a result of the unresolved question concern­ing the verse cited above. On the contrary, the embossing of the ornaments is motivated by another concept entirely.

To explain: Embossing the ornaments makes them more attractive. The Rambam writes that “Everything performed for the sake of the G‑d who is good should be attractive and good; e.g.,... If one consecrates an article, it should be from the best of one’s possession.” Thus we are obligated to fulfill all the mitzvos, and surely the construction of the Beis HaMikdash and its utensils, in the most attractive manner possible. Therefore, it follows that since embossing the ornaments makes them more attractive, all the ornaments of the menorah should be embossed.

Thus, there are two dimensions to the embossing of these ornaments: the specific obligation that is mentioned in the verse quoted previously, and the overall obligation that stems from the fact that every mitzvah should be fulfilled in the most at­tractive manner possible.

Therefore, the question as to which of the ornaments does the verse whose interpretation is unresolved apply, is — like the other four verses — only a theoretical matter. In practice, all the ornaments must be — and were always — embossed. What is unresolved is merely whether the particular ornaments were embossed because of an explicit command, or whether they were embossed because of the general charge to perform all of the mitzvosin the most attractive manner possible.

* * *

The above concepts are relevant to the Third Beis HaMikdash, for it will surely be constructed in the most attractive manner possible. In the Era of the Redemption, “good things will flow in abundance, and all the delights will be as freely available as dust.” This prosperity will enable us to build the Beis HaMikdash in the most beautiful manner ever. “And then, the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to G‑d, as in the days of old and as in bygone years.” May this take place in the immediate future.

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXVI, Parshas Terumah (c.f. link for footnortes)



1. Regarding the form of the Menorah, it states in our Parsha (Ex. 25:33-34):

33: “Three goblets, engraved in almond shaped patterns, on one branch, with a knob and a flower. And three goblets engraved in almond shaped patterns, on one branch, a knob and a flower; So shall be (the form) of each of the six branches that extend from (the main stem) of the Menorah.

34: “And the Menorah (the body of the Menorah – the middle stem) shall have four cups, engraved in almond shaped patterns, with their knobs and their flowers.”

לג: שְׁלשָׁ֣ה גְ֠בִעִ֠ים מְשֻׁקָּדִ֞ים בַּקָּנֶ֣ה הָֽאֶחָד֘ כַּפְתֹּ֣ר וָפֶ֒רַח֒ וּשְׁלשָׁ֣ה גְבִעִ֗ים מְשֻׁקָּדִ֛ים בַּקָּנֶ֥ה הָֽאֶחָ֖ד כַּפְתֹּ֣ר וָפָ֑רַח כֵּ֚ן לְשֵׁ֣שֶׁת הַקָּנִ֔ים הַיֹּֽצְאִ֖ים מִן־הַמְּנֹרָֽה:

לד:  וּבַמְּנֹרָ֖ה אַרְבָּעָ֣ה גְבִעִ֑ים מְשֻׁ֨קָּדִ֔ים כַּפְתֹּרֶ֖יהָ וּפְרָחֶֽיהָ:

In Hilchot Beit HaBechirah (3:2), after Rambam delineates the number of the goblets, knobs, and flowers - both those that are on the “main stem of the Menorah” as well as those that are on the “six stems”, he continues:

“They were all ‘Meshukadim’ (embossed) that (their surface) appeared (to be covered with small) almonds, in their making” (והכל משוקדים כמו שקדים בעשייתן)

On Rambam‘s words that they were “They were all ‘Meshukadim’” – meaning that all the goblets, knobs, and flowers in the Menorah were “Meshukadim/embossed”, the Kesef Mishneh cites (from R’ Yosef Korkus) that:

“The rabbi writes this since it is stated in Perek Hotziu Lo (Yoma 52a):

“There are five verses in the Torah whose meaning cannot be decided (Note: it is unclear from the text how the verses should be read) and one of them is the term: “Meshukadim”.

(As Exodus 25:34 states, “And on the Menorah (there shall be) four almond-patterned goblets, its knobs and its flowers).

They were uncertain whether this refers just to the goblets, or whether it also refers to the knobs and flowers. Therefore, he explains that it applies to both. In other words, because of doubt we make them all Meshukadim. For even if they make them Meshukadim, and they are not required to be made Meshukadim, there is no loss (הפסד) in this. However, if we refrain from making them Meshukadim, and there is a requirement that they be Meshukadim, there is an issue (איכא קפידא).”

The Mishneh L’Melech asks:

“The doubt (in the Beraita) is only on the first part of verse 34:

“And on the Menorah (there shall be) four almond-patterned goblets, its knobs and its flowers).

 For this refers to the main body of the Menorah.

 However, with regard to the end of the verse, “knobs and flowers in the six stems

(as it states in the end of verse 34: “three goblets engraved in almond shaped patterns, on one branch, a knob and a flower; So shall be (the form) of each of the six branches that extend from (the main stem) of the Menorah”)

there is no doubt whether it needs to be Meshukadim. For that part of the verse is separated (with the intervening words) “on one branch” between “Meshukadim” to “the knobs and flowers”. For if you do not say like this, it should have said:

“Three goblets on one branch, engraved in almond shaped patterns (Meshukadim) on its knobs and flowers –

Why then does Rambam states “They were all ‘Meshukadim’?  Yet, he leaves the matter as “requiring examination” (צ״ע).

2. The Mabit (R’ Moshe ben Joseph di Trani) asks this question and answers according to the explanation of Tosafot regarding the reason that “Meshukadim” – “could not be decided” (אין להן הכרע), namely,

That the doubt is “because there is an Etnachta (אתנחתא)   ֑on the word “goblets” (גְבִעִ֑ים) (a cantillation symbol indicating a separation and pause) in verse 34, “and in the Menorah there are four goblets”. It appears from this that just the knobs and flowers are embossed. And the other verse (v. 33) proves that “Meshukadim” only refers to the goblets, as it states: “Three goblets, engraved in almond shaped patterns”. Regarding this, “there was no decision”

In other words, the “could not be decided” is because of the contradiction between the two verses:

  • From verse 33, regarding the six stems, it is proven that “’Meshukadim’ does not refer except to the goblets”
  • Whereas verse 34: “And on the Menorah (there shall be) four goblets” (which “has an Etnachta in the word ‘goblets’”) it is that “It appears from this that just the knobs and flowers are embossed”.

And since this is so – “we make all of the stems of the Menorah Meshukadim .. for how is the main stem of the Menorah different from the other stems of the Menorah. . if all of the goblets, knobs and flowers of the Menorah require Meshukadim, because there is no decision on which it refers, so too all of the stems require that they be Meshukadim”.

However, this explanation is seemingly not understood:

According to the Mabit it comes out that due to the reasoning of  “what difference is there between the main stem of the Menorah versus the other stems of the Menorah”, there is a doubt (“it could not be decided”) in both verses:

(And as he states, that if we would say that the “Meshukadim” of the Menorah does not refer except to the knobs and flowers, we would have forced ourselves to say that even in the verse 33: “Three goblets, engraved in almond shaped patterns, on one branch, with a knob and a flower“ that “Meshukadim refers to the end of the verse of knobs, and flowers”)

Therefore, according to the explanation of the Kesef Mishneh (from the Maharik- R’ Yosef Korkus) that “because of doubt we make them all Meshukadim” – one must make “them all Meshukadim”. Both the Menorah itself as well as the six stems – since the doubt is in both verses, as aforementioned.

However, it is extremely difficult to say so, since:

  1. How is it possible to say that due to the reasoning of “what is the difference etc.” that we should force ourselves and take out (מפקיע) the verse “Three goblets, engraved in almond shaped patterns” etc. from its literal meaning.
  2. In many places – such as the Yerushalmi, the Beraita d’Melechet HaMishkan, the Mechilta, an others – it expressly states that the doubt is in the (second) verse, “And the Menorah shall have four cups, engraved in almond shaped patterns, with their knobs and their flowers.”


Therefore, one must seemingly learn that in the first verse, “Three goblets, engraved in almond shaped patterns” there is no doubt that Meshukadim just refers to the goblets (since there is the separation of the words, “on one branch” before the words “knobs and flowers”) (and like the precise wording in Tosafot: “And the other verse proves that Meshukadim only refers to the goblets” – and does not say (like beforehand) “it appears”).

The doubt (even according to Tosafot) is only to the second verse, in other words:

Whether Meshukadim refers to knobs etc., as is implied since there is an Etnachta with the goblets (not by the six stems which the goblets are Meshukadim)

Or one should say that Meshukadim refer to the goblets since we learn so from the previously verse, where it is “proven that Meshukadim only refer to the goblets”

Therefore, the question returns. Why should the knobs and flowers of the six stems be Meshukadim?

3. Other commentators say that even though the doubt is indeed only in the second verse (as aforementioned). However, since here is a reasoning to liken and combine (as a proof) the second verse with the first verse (since “it is reasonable that they are equal”) Therefore, Rambam learns that just as we make them “all Meshukadim” by the main stem of the Menorah (since there is “could not be decided”). So too, we make them all Meshukadim by the six stems (even though we are not obligated to do so) - “in order to make them equal” (since “there is no issue with adding”)

However, even this answer requires major examination:

For, is then, the reasoning “in order to make them equal” sufficient to innovate a law that “all Meshukadim”, even when there, the “verse does not obligate it” (and especially that Rambam does not states regarding this “and it appears to me” and so forth) – such an innovation in Halacha must seemingly have a source

4. One can understand this by prefacing an explanation in the aforementioned Beraita (R’ Issi Ben Yehuda learned”) that Meshukadim “could not be decided”.

For seemingly:

How can one, in general, say that the Torah states a law in a manner that it “cannot not be decided”? – Namely, that there should arise a doubt in the manner, and one does not know how to fulfill the Mitzvah?!

(One can understand this with regard to the other four terms in the verses:

  • שאת / “Se’et” (Genesis 4:7).

(Note: This can be read: “If you do well, shall it not be lifted up se’et?” in which case se’et involves forgiveness and pardon; or: “If you do well, but you will lift up se’et your sin if you do not do well.” According to this interpretation, se’et is referring to remembrance: If you do not do well, your sin will be remembered.)

  • מחר / “Macḥar” (Exodus 17:9)

(Note: This can be read: “And go out, fight with Amalek tomorrow macḥar”. Alternatively, it can mean that Joshua must go out to war with Amalek immediately, and Moses added: “Tomorrow macḥar I will stand on the top of the hill” (Exodus 17:9), but today you do not need my prayer. Once again, the issue is whether this term belongs to the beginning or the end of the verse.)

  • ארור / “Arur” (Genesis 49:7).

(Note: This can be read: “Cursed arur be their anger for it was fierce, and their wrath for it was cruel,” on account of Levi and Simeon’s treatment of Shechem. Alternatively, this term, which appears at the beginning of the verse, can be read as the last word of the previous verse: “And in their anger they cut off cursed arur oxen” (Genesis 49:6–7). According to this interpretation, “cursed oxen” is referring to the oxen of Shechem, who descended from the accursed Canaan.)

  • וקם / “Vekam” (Deuteronomy 31:16)

(Note: This can be read: “Behold, you are about to sleep with your fathers and rise up vekam” at the time of the resurrection of the dead; or: “And this people will rise up vekam and go astray.”)

For this is only related to knowing how to translate the verse. However, with regard to “Meshukadim”, it is a command regarding the manner of making the Menorah)

One must (seemingly) say that “could not be decided” does not mean that from the very onset, and in essence, the Torah “did not decide”. For certainly the Torah commanded how to make the Menorah in a specific manner, and indeed Moshe Rabbeinu actually made it accordingly. The doubt (“could not be decided”) first arose only at a later time.

The question arises:

Since there was always a Menorah in the Mishkan and the Mikdash – at what time (and how) did this doubt arise?

Seemingly, one could say that the doubt arose in the time of the Babylonian Exile (Galut Bavel). This is similar to the what the Talmud states there (before this subject) with regard to the Amah Teraksin that (only first) in the Second Temple was it that:

“The rabbis were in doubt regarding its sanctity, whether it was from the interior (of the Kodesh HaKadoshim) or from the exterior (of the Kodesh) (and the doubt is because of the question how the verse (“and the ‘Dvir’” etc.) is translated – on the interior or on the exterior)

However, in addition to the difficulty in the matter –

that among those who returned with Ezra, there were “many of the kohanim . . the elders that saw the First Temple”-

additionally and primarily:  There is not one mention, in any place, that says that there was a change in the form of the Menorah between the First Temple and the Second Temple. Namely, that specifically in the Second Temple it was “all Meshukadim”!

(One can also cannot say that the doubt first arose wth “Issi ben Yehuda” (or in his era) – since

(in addition to that which there is room to examine whether if in his era – his being a Tanna – it was already forgotten how the Menorah looked, and it was impossible to clarify the matter – in addition to this and primarily)

according to this, there is no room to explain the ruling of Rambam (“it is all Meshukadim”) regarding the Menorah in the Beit HaMikdash on the foundation of “it could not be decided” – a doubt which according to the what was previously mentioned, only arose after the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash!)

5. There are well-known debates regarding how there arose a doubt and debate in the manner of the observance of Mitzvot, that were observed since the time of Moshe Rabbeinu.

(Among the famous debates:

The debate of Rashi and Tosafot in Tefilin. For seemingly, how is there a debate in this - is should and must have been easy to clarify by looking at their forefather’s Tefilin to see how they are arranged – either according to this view or the other?!

However, the explanation of this is known. Namely, that this debate did not begin in the era of Rashi and Tosafot. Rather, these differing opinions existed even in the prior generations (and in conjunction with these opinions, even the actual Tefilin were made accordingly in two manners).

The question however remains:

Since Yidden have put on Tefilin since the time of Moshe Rabbeinu, there must have been a tradition (Masorah) from father to son etc. since the generation of Moshe. How then did a debate arise even in such an early time?

Similarly, with regard to the debate between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel with regard to Tzitzit – “how many strings are placed” – what was the Masorah, that accordingly. the Yidden fulfilled the Mitzvah of Tzitzit since the time of Moshe Rabbeinu and later – without pause?

And (there are) other examples).

Yet, however one can explain the possibility of the doubt in the aforementioned debates – nevertheless, with regard to the Menorah in our case, it is not understood:

Moshe’s Menorah (which was in the form of “which you are shown on the mountain”) existed for hundreds of years in the First Temple, in a manner that one saw exactly how it was formed

(and as stated previously –there is no place anywhere that says that there is a doubt in this matter, even not in the time of Galut Bavel).

6. One could say that the explanation of this is that the question itself is the answer (דהיא הנותנת):

The two aforementioned questions regarding “could not be decided”:

  1. How is it possible that G-d’s command regarding the Menorah, should be specifically manifested in a manner that there is created a doubt how to perform the practical Halacha?
  2. They should have been able to clarify the doubt from the Menorah that Moshe made

force us to say that, in actuality, regarding Moshe’s Menorah, it was “all Meshukadim” (not because of a doubt and stringency, but rather) due to the law and the Halacha (i.e. due to the reason that will be explained further on in par. 7).

 The term: “Could not be decided” - does not mean that there is a doubt in the law (namely, which parts of the Menorah were “Meshukadim”). Rather, it is just in the explanation of the verses.

(and specifically according to this, does it fit that this is precisely, like the other four verses, as aforementioned Par. 4).

In other words, whether the word “Meshukadim” pertains to the prior or latter (למעלה או למטה) – However, the actual Menorah was “all Meshukadim”.

Therefore, it comes out that the Rambam’s ruling that they were “all Meshukadim” is not a result of a stringency in the doubt (“could not be decided”) which arose in previous eras. Rather, it is an aspect of established Halacha (הלכה קבועה). The source of this ruling is from the “could not be decided” which forces one to say that they are “all Meshukadim”, as aforementioned.

7. The explanation of this is:

The aspect of “Meshukadim” is not a law in the form of the Menorah

(In other words, that on the walls of the goblets etc. there must be embossings (בליטות) in the “form” of “almonds” (״שקדים״ / מאנדלען) - similar to that which the Menorah must have goblets, knobs, and flowers).

Rather, it is as Rambam precisely states:

“They were all ‘Meshukadim’ (embossed) that (their surface) appeared (to be covered with small) almonds, in making them (בעשייתן)

This means that It is a law in the manner of making the Menorah. This is like Rambam clarifies in his Pirush HaMishnayot:

“Meshukadim .. this is a well-known procedure among bronze craftsmen, that they strike with a hammer etc., almonds (שקדים שקדים) all over . This is a well-known practice that does not require explanation”.

This means that since the goblets etc. were for the purpose of beautifying the Menorah (נוי) (as Rashi states “they were placed on it only for beauty”) Therefore, the Torah commanded that it should be made in a manner of “Meshukadim”, which is an artisanal craft (מעשה אומנות) which brings out the form of the goblets etc., most beautifully and exquisite.

Therefore, it is understood that after the Torah reveals that the “beauty” of the Menorah requires the craftsmanship in a manner of “Meshukadim” – there is no room to differentiate in the Menorah between the goblets and the knobs and flowers. It is a simple thing to understand, that all of the parts of the Menorah, must be made with this craftsmanship.

The reason that the Torah states this only by one detail of the Menorah (either by the “goblets”, or by the knobs and flowers) does not mean that it excludes the other.

Rather it is the opposite: The verse comes to teach us, from this detail, that it applies to the other parts, as we find in many places.

(Or to explain this in a slightly different manner:

Since “Meshukadim” is an aspect of “beauty” of the Menorah. Therefore, automatically there is an obligation to make the Menorah “Meshukadim” (not only due to the express command regarding the Menorah, but rather) also due to the general command (ציווי כללי) of “this is my G-d and I will glorify Him” (זה א־לי ואנוהו) – (to perform a Mitzvah as beautifully as possible such as writing the Torah) with beautiful ink etc. , and as it states, “all superior quality (fat) belongs to the L-rd”, as Rambam explains that”

“Everything given for the sake of the Almighty who is good” (and certainly in our case, where it speaks of the vessels of the Temple) must be “from the most desirable and superior type . .from the most attractive and highest quality”

 This means that in the obligation of Meshukadim, there are two laws:

  1. The obligation of “Meshukadim”, as a specific command regarding the Menorah. This command expressly written in the verse, refers either to the goblets, or to the knobs and flowers (in a manner that it “could not be decided”)
  2. Due to the general command of “I will glorify Him” “all superior quality (fat) belongs to the L-rd”.  Due to this, the obligation of “Meshukadim” equally applies to the goblets as well as  the knobs and flowers–  “they are all Meshukadim”)

According to this, it is understood why this aspect, namely that Meshukadim “could not be decided”, is just a doubt in the explanation of the verse. However, there is no ramification in Halacha – since in all manners, the law of Meshukadim applies to all the parts of the Menorah.

(Even according to the aforementioned, second manner, which accordingly there (seemingly) is a ramification in Halacha. namely whether “Meshukadim” is a law that restricts (לעיכובא) (due to the express command regarding the Menorah) or it is just an obligation that is required at the outset (לכתחילה) (due to “this is my G-d and I will glorify Him”, “all superior quality (fat) belongs to the L-rd”).

Nevertheless, one could not clarify, from Moshe’s Menorah, the “it could not be decided” in the explanation of the verse. For one could not know which parts are “Meshukadim”, due the command (in the verse of the Menorah), and which – are due to the general obligation).

Therefore, the question of the Mishneh L”Melech is answered automatically. For with the Rambam’s statement “they are all Meshukadim” even with regard to the six stems (even though there is no doubt in them) – For the reason to say  that “they are all Meshukadim” is (not due to the doubt, but rather) since the scope of “Meshukadim” is that its essence is an aspect and obligation on “all” – on all parts of the Menorah.

Therefore, it applies both to the main stem as well as the six stems – all of them must specifically be “I will glorify Him”, “from the most desirable and superior type . .from the most attractive and highest quality”.

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Matot – Ma’asei 5742




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