The first example is the term: “Se’et” (Genesis 4:7). It is unclear whether the verse should 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.
The second uncertain case is the term: “Meshukkadim” (Exodus 25:34). This verse can be read: “And in the candelabrum four cups made like almond blossoms [meshukkadim]”; or as: “Its knops and its flowers made like almond blossoms [meshukkadim].” In other words, the term meshukkadim can be read either with the first part or the last part of the verse.
Likewise, the term: “Maḥar” (Exodus 17:9) can be read: “And go out, fight with Amalek tomorrow [maḥar]”. Alternatively, it can mean that Joshua must go out to war with Amalek immediately, and Moses added: “Tomorrow [maḥar] 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.
The fourth case is the term: “Arur” (Genesis 49:7). This verse 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.
Finally, the term: “Vekam” (Deuteronomy 31:16) can be read as: “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.”
והתניא הוא יוסף איש הוצל הוא יוסף הבבלי הוא איסי בן יהודה הוא איסי בן גור אריה הוא איסי בן גמליאל הוא איסי בן מהללאל ומה שמו איסי בן עקיבא שמו בדאורייתא ליכא בדנביאי איכא
The Gemara explains the objection presented by this baraita. And wasn’t it taught in a baraita that Yosef of Hutzal is the one called Yosef the Babylonian, as Hutzal is a city in Babylonia; and he is also the person called Isi ben Yehuda, as Isi is a shortened form of Yosef; he is Isi ben Gur Arye, a nickname for Yehuda; he is Isi ben Gamliel; he is Isi ben Mahalalel? And what is his real name? Isi ben Akiva is his name. If they are indeed the same person, Isi ben Yehuda, who is Yosef of Hutzal, says that there are only five verses whose punctuation is unclear, whereas here he adds an additional verse. The Gemara explains: In the Torah itself, there are indeed no more than five verses, but in the Prophets there are more examples of equivocal punctuation, one of which is the verse from I Kings.
ובדאורייתא ליכא והא איכא דבעי רב חסדא (שמות כד, ה) וישלח את נערי בני ישראל ויעלו עולות כבשים ויזבחו זבחים שלמים פרים או דילמא אידי ואידי פרים לרב חסדא מספקא ליה לאיסי בן יהודה פשיטא ליה
The Gemara raises a difficulty: And in the Torah itself, are there no other examples of indeterminate punctuation? But there is this dilemma that Rav Ḥisda raised with regard to the verse: “And he sent the young men of the children of Israel who sacrificed burnt-offerings” (Exodus 24:5); were these burnt-offerings sheep, and when the verse continues: “And sacrificed peace-offerings of bulls to the Lord,” these peace-offerings alone were bulls? Or perhaps these and these were bulls, as the word “bulls” is referring both to the burnt-offerings and the peace-offerings? This is another verse whose punctuation is unclear. The Gemara rejects this contention: This is not difficult; according to Rav Ḥisda it was uncertain how to read the verse, but the interpretation was obvious to Isi ben Yehuda.
מתני׳ החיצונה היתה פרופה מן הדרום ופנימית מן הצפון מהלך ביניהן עד שמגיע לצפון הגיע לצפון הופך פניו לדרום מהלך לשמאלו עם הפרוכת עד שהוא מגיע לארון
MISHNA: The outer curtain between the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies was hooked [perufa] slightly open on the south side of the Sanctuary, and the inner curtain hooked slightly open on the north side of the Sanctuary, and therefore the High Priest could not enter the Holy of Holies directly. Rather, he enters through the southern opening and walks between the curtains until he reaches the opening to the north. When he reaches the opening to the north, he enters the Holy of Holies through that opening, turns his face to the south, and walks to his left along the curtain until he reaches the area before the Ark.
הגיע לארון נותן את המחתה בין שני הבדים צבר את הקטרת על גבי גחלים ונתמלא כל הבית כולו עשן יצא ובא לו בדרך בית כניסתו ומתפלל תפלה קצרה בבית החיצון ולא היה מאריך בתפלתו שלא להבעית את ישראל
When he reaches the Ark, he places the coal pan between the two staves. He piles the incense atop the coals, and the whole chamber in its entirety would fill with smoke. He then exits and comes out the way that he entered. He does not turn around but leaves the Holy of Holies walking while facing the Ark. And he recites a brief prayer in the outer chamber, in the Sanctuary. And he would not extend his prayer there so as not to alarm the Jewish people, who would otherwise conclude that something happened and that he died in the Holy of Holies.
גמ׳ במאי עסקינן אילימא במקדש ראשון מי הוו פרוכת אלא במקדש שני מי הוה ארון
GEMARA: The Gemara asks: With what are we dealing here? To which time period is the mishna referring? If we say it is speaking about the First Temple, were there curtains then? There was only one curtain over the one-cubit partition. Rather, if we say that the mishna is dealing with the Second Temple, was there an Ark there?
והתניא משנגנז ארון נגנזה עמו צנצנת המן וצלוחית שמן המשחה ומקלו של אהרן ושקדיה ופרחיה וארגז ששגרו פלשתים דורון לאלהי ישראל שנאמר (שמואל א ו, ח) וכלי הזהב אשר השיבותם לו אשם תשימו בארגז מצדו ושלחתם אותו והלך
The Gemara elaborates: But wasn’t it taught in a baraita that when the Ark was buried, along with it was buried the jar of manna that was next to it, and the flask of oil used for anointing, and Aaron’s staff with its almonds and blossoms, and the chest that the Philistines sent as a gift [doron] to the God of Israel after they captured the Ark and were stricken by several plagues, as it is stated: “And put the jewels of gold that you return to Him for a guilt-offering, in a coffer by its side, and send it away that it may go” (I Samuel 6:8)?
ומי גנזו יאשיהו גנזו מה ראה שגנזו ראה שכתוב (דברים כח, לו) יולך ה' אותך ואת מלכך אשר תקים עליך עמד וגנזו
§ And who buried the Ark? Josiah, king of Judea, buried it. And what did he see that he decided to bury it? He saw that it is written: “The Lord will bring you, and your king whom you shall set over you, to a nation that you have not known” (Deuteronomy 28:36). Since he knew that the Jewish people would ultimately be exiled, he felt it was better that the Ark should not be disgraced in exile, and therefore he arose and buried it.
שנאמר (דברי הימים ב לה, ג) ויאמר ללוים המבינים לכל ישראל הקדושים לה' תנו את ארון הקודש בבית אשר בנה שלמה בן דוד מלך ישראל אין לכם משא בכתף עתה עבדו את ה' אלהיכם ואת עמו ישראל
The Gemara cites the source for the tradition that Josiah buried the Ark. As it is stated: “And he said to the Levites who taught all of Israel, who were sacred to the Lord: Put the sacred Ark in the house that Solomon, son of David, king of Israel, built. There shall no more be a burden upon your shoulders; now serve the Lord your God, and His people Israel” (I Chronicles 35:3). In other words, from now onward the Levites will no longer carry the Ark on their shoulders, and they should dedicate themselves to their service of singing and locking the gates of the Temple.
ואמר ר' אלעזר אתיא שמה שמה ואתיא דורות דורות
And Rabbi Elazar said: The matter is derived by means of a verbal analogy, as it is written with regard to the Ark: “That is by the Ark of the Testimony, before the Ark cover that is above the testimony, there will I meet with you” (Exodus 30:6), and it is written: “Take a jar and put a full omer of manna there, and place it before the Lord for safekeeping throughout your generations” (Exodus 16:33). And it is further derived by verbal analogy from the term “Generations” written here and “generations” written with regard to the oil used for anointing: “This shall be a sacred anointing oil for Me throughout your generations” (Exodus 30:31).
ואתיא משמרת משמרת
Rabbi Elazar continued: And it is likewise derived by verbal analogy from the term “safekeeping” stated here and “safekeeping” stated in connection to the staff of Aaron: “Place back the rod of Aaron before the testimony for safekeeping” (Numbers 17:25). These verbal analogies teach that all of these items were hidden together with the Ark. Evidently, there was no Ark in the Holy of Holies even before the First Temple period ended. How, then, can the mishna speak of the Ark during the Second Temple period?
לעולם במקדש שני ומאי הגיע לארון מקום ארון והא קתני נתן את המחתה לבין שני הבדים אימא כבין שני הבדים
The Gemara answers: Actually, the mishna is referring to the Second Temple, and what is the meaning of the phrase: Reaches the Ark? It means the place of the Ark. The Gemara raises a difficulty: But it is taught that he places the coal pan between the two staves, which indicates that the staves of the Ark were present. The Gemara answers: Emend the text and say: As though it was between the two staves, i.e., in the place where the staves had been located when the Ark was there.
צבר את הקטרת על גבי גחלים תנן כמאן דאמר צוברה תני חדא צוברה פנימה שהיא חוצה לו ותניא אידך צוברה חוצה שהיא פנימה לו
§ The mishna taught: He piles the incense atop the coals. The Gemara comments: We learned in the mishna in accordance with the opinion of the one who said that he piles the incense on the coals and does not scatter it there. It was taught in one baraita: He piles the incense in the section of the coal pan closest to the Ark, which is farthest from the High Priest, until he reaches the other side of the coal pan. And it was taught in another baraita: He piles it in the section of the coal pan farthest from the Ark, which is closest to him.
אמר אביי תנאי היא ואמר אביי מסתברא כמאן דאמר פנימה שהיא חוצה לו דתנן מלמדין אותו הזהר
Abaye said that this issue is a dispute between tanna’im. And Abaye said: It is reasonable to explain in accordance with the opinion of the one who said that he piles the incense in the section of the coal pan closest to the Ark, which is farthest from him. As we learned in a mishna that they would teach the priest who burns the incense: Be careful