שלא תגעו בשלחן
that you not touch the table of the shewbread. If you defile it by touching it, it would need to be removed for immersion, and this would lead to the temporary suspension of the mitzva of the shewbread, which had to be on the table at all times.
כל הכלים שהיו במקדש יש להם שניים ושלישים שאם נטמאו הראשונים יביאו שניים תחתיהן כל הכלים שהיו במקדש טעונין טבילה חוץ ממזבח הזהב ומזבח הנחשת מפני שהן כקרקע דברי ר"א וחכ"א מפני שהן מצופין:
The mishna continues: All the vessels that were in the Temple had second and third substitute vessels, so that if the first ones became impure they could bring the second ones in their place. All the vessels that were in the Temple required immersion after the Festival, apart from the golden altar and the bronze altar, because they are considered like the ground and therefore, like land itself, not susceptible to impurity. This is the statement of Rabbi Eliezer. And the Rabbis say: It is because they are coated.
גמ׳ תנא הזהרו שמא תגעו בשולחן ובמנורה ותנא דידן מ"ט לא תני מנורה שלחן כתיב ביה תמיד מנורה לא כתיב בה תמיד
GEMARA: A tanna taught in a baraita that they would say to the am ha’aretz priests: Be careful lest you touch the table, as explained above, or the candelabrum, as the Gemara will explain. The Gemara asks: And regarding the tanna of our mishna, what is the reason he did not teach that they were instructed not to touch the candelabrum as well? The Gemara answers: With regard to the table it is written: “Shewbread before Me always” (Exodus 25:30), indicating that the table holding the shewbread must always be in its place, whereas with regard to the candelabrum it is not written “always,” and therefore it can be removed for immersing.
ואידך כיון דכתיב (שמות כו, לה) ואת המנורה נכח השלחן כמאן דכתיב בה תמיד דמי ואידך ההוא לקבוע לה מקום הוא דאתא
The Gemara asks: And regarding the other tanna, in the baraita, why does he include the candelabrum? The Gemara answers: Since it is written: “And you shall set the table without the veil and the candelabrum opposite the table” (Exodus 26:35), indicating that the candelabrum must always be placed opposite the table; it is as though it is written “always” with regard to the candelabrum as well. And the other tanna, in the mishna, who does not object to removing the candelabrum for immersion, would reply: That verse comes only to establish a place for the candelabrum, to describe where it must be positioned, but it does not mean to say that it must be opposite the table at all times.
ותיפוק לי דכלי עץ העשוי לנחת הוא וכל כלי עץ העשוי לנחת לא מטמא מאי טעמא דומיא דשק בעינן מה שק מיטלטל מלא וריקם אף כל מיטלטל מלא וריקם
The Gemara poses a question concerning the requirement to keep amei ha’aretz away from the table: And let us derive it, i.e., let it be established, that it is not necessary to take care against contact with the table, as it is incapable of contracting ritual impurity. This is because it is a wooden vessel designated to rest in a fixed place, and the halakha is that any large, wooden vessel designated to rest in a fixed place cannot become impure. What is the reason for this halakha? Since wooden vessels and sacks are juxtaposed in the verse describing their impurity (Leviticus 11:32), we require a wooden vessel to be similar to a sack in order to be capable of contracting impurity, in the following manner: Just as a sack is carried when it is both full and empty, so too any wooden vessel that is carried full and empty can contract impurity, as opposed to vessels, such as the table, that are designated to rest in a fixed place. The table should therefore not be susceptible to impurity at all.
האי נמי מיטלטל מלא וריקם הוא כדר"ל דאמר ר"ל מאי דכתיב (ויקרא כד, ו) על השלחן הטהור מכלל שהוא טמא
The Gemara answers: The table too is in fact carried full and empty, in accordance with the words of Reish Lakish. For Reish Lakish said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “And you shall set them in two rows, six in a row, upon the pure table” (Leviticus 24:6)? The words “pure table” teach by inference that it is capable of becoming impure, and therefore the Torah warns us to make sure it is pure when the twelve loaves of bread are placed there.
ואמאי כלי עץ העשוי לנחת הוא ואינו מקבל טומאה אלא מלמד שמגביהין אותו ומראין בו לעולי רגלים לחם הפנים ואומרים להם ראו חיבתכם לפני המקום סילוקו כסידורו דא"ר יהושע בן לוי נס גדול נעשה בלחם הפנים כסידורו כך סילוקו שנאמר (שמואל א כא, ז) לשום לחם חום ביום הלקחו
And why indeed is the table susceptible to ritual impurity, being that it is a wooden vessel designated to rest in a fixed place and should therefore not be susceptible to impurity? Rather, this verse teaches that they would lift the table with the shewbread on it to display the shewbread to the pilgrims standing in the Temple courtyard, as it was prohibited for Israelites to enter the Sanctuary, where the table stood, and they would say to them: Behold your affection before God, Who performs a perpetual miracle with the bread, for when it is removed from the table on Shabbat it is just as fresh as when it was arranged on the previous Shabbat. As Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: A great miracle was performed with the shewbread: As its condition during its arrangement, so was its condition during its removal, as it is stated: “To place hot bread on the day when it was taken away” (I Samuel 21:7), indicating that it was as hot on the day of its removal as it was on the day when it was placed.
ותיפוק לי משום ציפוי דהתנן השלחן והדולפקי שנפחתו או שחיפן בשייש ושייר בהם מקום הנחת כוסות טמא ר' יהודה אומר מקום הנחת החתיכות
The Gemara asks another question: Let us derive this fact, i.e., that the table can contract ritual impurity, not because it is portable but due to its golden coating. For didn’t we learn in a mishna (Kelim 22:1): Concerning a table and a dulpaki that some of its surface became broken off, or that one coated with marble, i.e., stone not being susceptible to impurity: If he left on them a place on the surface that remained unbroken or uncoated, big enough for placing cups, it remains susceptible to impurity as a wooden vessel. Rabbi Yehuda says: It must have an unbroken and uncoated place big enough for placing pieces of meat and bread as well in order to maintain susceptibility to impurity as a wooden vessel. It is clear from this mishna that if a table is completely coated with stone it is not susceptible to impurity, showing that the status of a vessel follows its external coating, not its main material. The Temple table, which was coated with gold, should have the status of a metal vessel.
וכי תימא שאני עצי שטים דחשיבי ולא בטלי הניחא לר"ל דאמר לא שנו אלא בכלי אכסלגים הבאין ממדינת הים אבל בכלי מסמים לא בטלי שפיר אלא לרבי יוחנן דאמר אפילו בכלי מסמים נמי בטלי מאי איכא למימר
The Gemara proposes a possible answer: And if you would say that acacia wood, from which the Temple table was made, is different, as it is an important, valuable kind of wood and is therefore not nullified by a coating, this works out well according to Reish Lakish, who said: They taught that a wooden vessel is nullified by its coating only with regard to vessels made of cheap akhselag wood which comes from overseas, but vessels made of expensive masmi wood are not nullified by a coating. According to this opinion it is fine, for we can say that the acacia wood of the table is also not nullified by its golden coating. But according to Rabbi Yoḥanan, who said: Even expensive masmi vessels are also nullified by a coating, what is there to say?
וכי תימא כאן בציפוי עומד כאן בציפוי שאינו עומד הא בעא מיניה ר"ל מרבי יוחנן בציפוי עומד או בציפוי שאינו עומד בחופה את לבזבזיו או בשאינו חופה את לבזבזיו
The Gemara proposes another possible answer: And if you would say that the mishna is not applicable because here in the mishna the wood is nullified by its coating because it is speaking of a fixed coating, whereas there in the case of the Temple table the golden coating is not fixed onto the wood, this is impossible. For didn’t Reish Lakish inquire of Rabbi Yoḥanan: Does this law that vessels follow their coating deal only with a fixed coating or even with a coating that is not fixed? And he asked him further: Does it deal only with a coating that covers the table’s rim as well as the table itself, or even with one that does not cover its rim?
וא"ל לא שנא בציפוי עומד ולא שנא בציפוי שאינו עומד לא שנא בחופה את לבזבזיו ולא שנא בשאינו חופה את לבזבזיו אלא שאני שלחן
And Rabbi Yoḥanan said to him in response: It is not different if it is a fixed coating and it is not different if it is a coating that is not fixed; and it is not different if the coating covers the table’s rim and it is not different if it does not cover its rim. Therefore, since the coating always determines the status of the vessel, the Temple table, with its gold coating, should be susceptible to impurity. Rather, we must say a different explanation as to why the coating does not make the table susceptible to impurity: The table is different