Temura 29 - Keritot 6
How They Were Paid
When repairs were made in the Beit Hamikdash there was a need to pay the builders who did the work. The mishna informs us that such payment could not be made from anything donated for sacrificial purposes. This implies that materials dedicated for the upkeep of the Beit Hamikdash could be used as payment for the builders.
As the source for this Rabbi Abahu cites the passage They shall make a Sanctuary to Me (Shemot 25:8), which indicates that G-d wished that the payment for expenses incurred in the construction or repair of the Sanctuary should come from materials dedicated to Me.
Tosefot raises the question as to why such scriptural proof is needed, since it is obvious that the builders must be paid from some Sanctuary source. The answer given is that without such a source we would have assumed that any materials dedicated to the upkeep of the Sanctuary or Beit Hamikdash could be used only in the actual construction because they could thus maintain their sacred status. To use them as payment to the builders, however, would mean that they lost their sacred status since the builders could us them for any secular purpose. Payment for the services of the builders would then have to come from funds which were donated to the Beit Hamikdash for the express purpose of effecting such payment. The words to Me dispel this notion by enabling us to use the very materials dedicated to G-ds Sanctuary for payment for the services of the builders.
In his commentary on these very words Rashi on Torah explains them as for Me, a command to build the Sanctuary with pure intentions that it serve as a dwelling place for the Divine Presence.
- Temurah 31a
The Stuff Idols Are Made Of
You shall not make for yourselves gods of silver and gods of gold. (Shemot 20:20)
This prohibition against making and serving idols is certainly intended to include those made of lesser materials such as wood. We nevertheless find the Sage Rabbi Papa raising the possibility of a Jew misconstruing the command and assuming that only those made of gold and silver could not be worshipped.
It was such a Jew who could be guilty of multiple sins of idol worship but responsible for only a single sin offering. Although he was aware that it was forbidden for a Jew to worship idols through slaughtering, burning, pouring a libation or bowing to it, he was ignorant of the fact that this applied to an idol not made of silver or gold. His multiple worship of a wooden idol out of ignorance of the law is therefore considered a single unintentional sin of idol worship requiring only a single sacrifice as atonement.
That idol worshippers did indeed use baser materials to form their idols is evident from the warning issued in the Torah (Devarim 4:28) that Jews driven from their own land for serving idols will end up serving man-made gods of wood and stone in the land of their exile.
Whats in a Name?
Of the eleven spices which went into the production of the ketoret incense daily offered by the kohanim in the Beit Hamikdash the one called shechailet (Shemot 30:34) required special treatment to bring out its beauty and its strength. Referred to as tziporen (onycha) in our gemara because its smooth texture resembled that of a fingernail, this sweet spice had to be treated with a strong dose of bous karshina to remove its natural unsightly blackness. To bring out its fragrance it had to be soaked in a strong solution called kaprisin wine.
Jews, who introduce their daily morning and afternoon prayers with a recital of this gemara about the incense are familiar with what Rabbi Shimon said about another acidic solution which could have done even a better job. It was called mai raglayim which literally translates as urine. The reason it was not used is because it would be undignified to bring such an ingredient into the Sanctuary where the incense production was done.
One approach of the commentaries is that it is literally human urine which is here discussed. Another approach, however, is that there was a certain grass bearing the same name as that used for urine, and that being thus associated with something of an undignified nature ruled out its use in the sacred precincts of the Beit Hamikdash.
- Keritot 6a