Bar-Yokani is a legendarily large bird. The yoke of the egg was enough to drown sixty cities (Bechorot 57b). Its face must have been enormous. So if we are deriving the size of the ark-cover from the size of a face, maybe the face would have be as large as this bird’s face.
The Talmud rejects this with the same principle we saw earlier—whenever possible we should be minimalist in deriving measures. We should derive the “face” of the ark-cover from the smallest face, and not from the largest one.
he Talmud now turns to the opposite extreme. The smallest face belongs to that of a small bird (called the tziparta). So why not learn the size of ark-cover from that small face.
The answer comes from an amora, R. Huna. R. Huna compares the use of the word “face” in Leviticus with the same word that appears in Genesis, where it refers to Isaac. Thus we should learn the size of the ark-cover from a human face, not a small bird’s face.
There is yet another “face” mentioned in the Torah—the “face” of God. Such a face is huge. So why not derive the height of the ark-cover from the face of God.
Again, the Talmud rejects this by referring to the minimalist principle. We shouldn’t learn from God’s face because that’s the largest face there could possibly be.
Finally, there is another verse that uses the word “face” in reference to the cherubim, the two angelic figures that were on top of the ark-cover. Why not derive the height of the ark-cover from there?
R. Aha answers that indeed we could have learned the height of the ark from the size of the cherubim for they too were at least one handbreadth high. Indeed, according to R. Aha, R. Huna did derive the height of the ark-cover from the height of the cherubs.
Finally, we get a folk-derivation of the word “cherub.” R. Abahu says that it comes from two words “like” (כ) and “a child” (רביא). Thus the word from the Bible is connected to Aramaic.
summary, there are many faces, big birds, little birds, God and cherubim. But if we want to learn we should learn from a human face.
Yesterday we concluded by learning that the face of the cherub is like that of the face of a person. Today’s passage begins by questioning that assumption.
The verse from Ezekiel seems to imply that the face of the cherub looks different than that of a man. But this contradicts what was said in the previous lines.
The answer is that the cherub has a little face, albeit human, whereas the face of a man in Ezekiel’s vision implies the face of an adult.
The Talmud now goes back to questioning the very issue of learning the height of the sukkah from the height of the ark and cover. How do we know that the sukkah’s empty space must be 10 handbreadths high? Perhaps the skhakh can be inside the 10 handbreadths minimum height requirement as long as the some of the skhakh is above 10 handbreadths?
The Talmud will now learn, in quite an indirect fashion, that the skhakh must be above ten handbreadths. The ten handbreadth minimum measure does not include the skhakh.
The first Temple, built by Solomon, was 30 cubits high. The height of top of the cherubs was 10 cubits. So the cherub reached to a height of 1/3 of the Temple.
There is a tradition that the same proportion of height of cherub to height of Temple existed in the Tabernacle, the wandering “temple” in the desert.
The height of the Tabernacle was ten cubits, which is 60 handbreadths. So the top of the cherubs would have reached a height of 20 handbreadths.
The ark was ten handbreadths high, including the ark-cover. The Torah uses the word “skhakh,” translated here as “covering” to refer to the cherubs who must be above 10 handbreadths. Hence, using this calculation we can conclude that the skhakh must be above 10 handbreadths.
On a more “midrashic” note we might find it interesting that the skhakh is described as above us like the cherubs who seem to be the seat of God’s throne on earth. By extension, we could say that the skhakh is our version of building God’s throne.
The Talmud still persists on asking. The cherubs sat 10 handbreadths high. How do we know that their wings were above that? Maybe there wings were exactly at 10 handbreadths which would mean that the skhakh could be included in the 10 handbreadths.
R. Aha b. Jacob says that we learn this from the word “above.” The wings were above their head. And this doesn’t mean that the wings were very high, for if that was the intended meaning it would have repeated the word high. Thus we can learn that while the cherubs sat exactly at 10 handbreadths, their wings were above the 10 handbreadth mark, just as our skhakh must be.
Earlier on this page we learned that the ark was nine handbreadths high, based on the fact that the Torah said it was to be 1 and 1/2 cubits. This works under the assumption that a cubit is 6 handbreadths. But there was some dispute in the rabbinic world about the size of the cubits referred to in the Torah.
The whole system above was based on R. Meir’s assumption that all of the cubits mentioned in connection with the Sanctuary were 6 handbreadths. But R. Judah holds that the measurements of the vessels are based on smaller cubits—only five handbreadths.
According to R. Judah the ark was 7.5 handbreadths (=1.5 cubits) and the cover was one handbreadth. If the tops of the cherubim reached a height of 20 handbreadths, then there remains a space of 11.5 handbreadths underneath their wings. That would imply that a sukkah would have to be at least 11.5 handbreadths high, according to R. Judah. Obviously, this can’t be because we have never heard that R. Judah makes such a requirement.
The Talmud answers that according to some rabbis there is no way of deriving the laws of minimum measures from the Torah. These laws are called “halakhah from Moses at Sinai.” This, in my opinion, is often just the rabbis’ ways of saying that there is no way of deriving the halakhah. It just is. The sukkah is a minimum of 10 handbreadths high but this is just an accepted halakhah.
There are two other matters that are considered “halakhah from Moses at Sinai.” The first is “interpositions” which refers to what things block an immersion in a mikveh from being successful. For instance if someone immerses in a mikveh and is wearing their clothes, they are not pure.
The other issue is the height of various partitions, which is usually 10 handbreadths.
The next daf will continue to address these three topics.
At the end of yesterday’s daf we learned that the minimum measures found in the Torah are “halakhah to Moses from Sinai.” Today’s Talmud brings a contradictory tradition.
The seven species mentioned in the famous verse in Deuteronomy are all related by R. Hanin to various minimum measures used in a wide array of halakhot. This implies, as we shall see, that the minimum measures were given by the Torah.
Wheat is in reference to a house that has some type of scale affliction (see Leviticus 14). The Talmud quotes Mishnah Negaim 13:9. This mishnah teaches that with regard to the time for clothes brought into an afflicted house to become defiled there is a distinction between clothes carried into a house afflicted with scale disease and clothes worn into such a house.
In the first case, since he wasn’t wearing the clothes, shoes or jewelry, they are considered to be vessels which are brought into a house. They become impure immediately upon entrance to the house.
However, if he is wearing his clothes, shoes or jewelry, they must be in the house for as long as it would take to eat half a loaf of wheat bread with some sort of condiment/dip, and while reclining (concerning this amount see Eruvin 8:2). This is derived from Leviticus 14:47 which states: “Whoever sleeps in the house must wash his clothes, and whoever eats in the house must wash his clothes.” For his clothes to be impure he need not actually eat or sleep in the house. Rather he must be there long enough so that he could eat a minimum measure of a meal, which is considered to be half a loaf of wheat bread.