In Tamid 1:4, in describing the daily service of clearing the previous day's ash from the Altar, the Mishna tells us of a reminder the assembled kohanim would give to the one kohen selected for the ash job:

וְהֵם אוֹמְרִים לוֹ, הִזָּהֵר שֶׁמָּא תִגַּע בַּכְּלִי, עַד שֶׁתְּקַדֵּשׁ יָדֶיךָ וְרַגְלֶיךָ מִן הַכִּיּוֹר, וַהֲרֵי הַמַּחְתָּה נְתוּנָה בַמִּקְצוֹעַ בֵּין הַכֶּבֶשׁ לַמִּזְבֵּחַ, בְּמַעֲרָבוֹ שֶׁל כָּבֶשׁ.‏

"Be careful to not touch the utensil [the shovel] until you have sanctified your hands and feet from the laver." And [they would continue saying],"Look, the shovel is placed in the corner between the ramp [of the altar] and the altar, on the west of the ramp."

I understand why it would make sense to make warning the ash-clearer to wash before starting the service part of the routine. The Torah tells us (Ex. 30:20-21) that making sure to wash before serving in the Temple is a matter of life and death:

בְּבֹאָ֞ם אֶל־אֹ֧הֶל מוֹעֵ֛ד יִרְחֲצוּ־מַ֖יִם וְלֹ֣א יָמֻ֑תוּ א֣וֹ בְגִשְׁתָּ֤ם אֶל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֙חַ֙ לְשָׁרֵ֔ת לְהַקְטִ֥יר אִשֶּׁ֖ה לַֽיהוָֽה׃ וְרָחֲצ֛וּ יְדֵיהֶ֥ם וְרַגְלֵיהֶ֖ם וְלֹ֣א יָמֻ֑תוּ וְהָיְתָ֨ה לָהֶ֧ם חָק־עוֹלָ֛ם ל֥וֹ וּלְזַרְע֖וֹ לְדֹרֹתָֽם׃

When they enter the Tent of Meeting they shall wash with water, that they may not die; or when they approach the altar to serve, to turn into smoke an offering by fire to the LORD, they shall wash their hands and feet, that they may not die. It shall be a law for all time for them—for him and his offspring—throughout the ages.

I don't understand the motivation for the second reminder.1 Why follow a dire warning to comply with the rules with an apparently routine reminder of the location of the tool to use? There are many details of the service about to be performed that the kohanim could remind ash-clearer of, including the location to deposit the ash (described later in this mishna). Why specifically remind him, every time, of where the shovel is?

1. Tosafot Yom Tov s.v. "והרי המחתה" explicitly interprets the second sentence as part of the statement of the kohanim, as is rendered in the Sefaria translation quoted here. This strikes me as consistent with the word "והרי" introducing that sentence. I haven't seen any commentators that interpret this sentence as a description by the mishna rather than an instruction by the kohanim.

  • 3
    Are you sure the shovel location is part of the quotation and not an explanation for us?
    – WAF
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 14:07
  • 1
    @WAF A few commentaries indicate as much explicitly, and I've yet to see one indicate the contrary. I'll add a footnote to that effect. Also, "וַהֲרֵי" sounds a lot like a continuation of the statement. I guess if you've got an interpretation of this mishna that undermines this question by explaining that line as being part of the Mishna's description, that'd be a valid answer.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 14:10
  • 1
    Going to the mefarshim to the Mishnah as cited in the pseudo-Gemara on Tamid (28a), Mefaresh learns like you do (והרי המחתה - כל זה היה אומר לו), and the Rosh learns similarly (הרי המחתה נתונה - מראין לו מקומו של מחתה), but the Raavad argues (actually printed after the Masechta concludes, due to how much time he spends throughout the Masechta itself on page 27; והרי המחתה - פירוש שהרי המחתה הוה במקצוע בין כבש למזבח במערבה של כבש).
    – DonielF
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 16:45
  • And no, the pseudo-Gemara itself doesn’t say anything on the topic.
    – DonielF
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 16:47
  • @DonielF Thanks. An answer based on the Raavad would be worthwhile.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 16:54

2 Answers 2


I suspect (no source) that it's a combination of a two factors:

  • No one else was around when he fetched the shovel. (He was the only kohen to go to the other side of the ramp at this time.)

  • He hadn't done this task often if ever. (A tip of my hat to WAF for pointing out that the Yachin commentary on this mishna says this. Note that only one person did this job per day, so I'd guess most kohanim never did it at all.)

As for the location to deposit the ash (which you mention in the question), that was on the near side of the ramp, so they could remind him when they saw him come down.

  • I think it also sounds like it was pretty well hidden: sefaria.org/…
    – Loewian
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 15:28
  • @Loewian, well, in the corner, anyway. Nothing blocking it, presumably, but it was in the mizbeach's shadow in the very early morning light. Do you mind if I add this point to my answer? Feel free to post one yourself, instead.
    – msh210
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 15:44
  • 2
    Also in R. Shimshon Bloch on the spot: "למה אמרו לו 'והרי המחתה וכו'? הא זה בודאי ידע מי שהיה רק פעם אחת שם. אלא ש"מ שיש כהנים דלא עבדו מעולם עבודת הציבור ולכך צריכים להודיע"
    – WAF
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 17:52
  • related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/108436/170
    – msh210
    Commented Sep 18, 2019 at 13:49

First, Melechet Shelomo makes an allusion to you astonishment

והרי המחתה כל זה היה אומר לו הרי המחתה נתונה בזוית בין הכבש ולמזבח כן פירש המפרש שבדפוס ולא משמע כן מפירוש הראב"ד ז"ל.‏

I will translate his word in a dialectical way. KUSHIA. "However the shovel..." is a part of what he says him. This is strange because that's a redundant statement. CHANGING OF PSHAT BECAUSE OF THE KUSHIA But according to Raavad’s comment it seems that that isn't, and that is an extended paraphrase by the Mishna narrator.

The Perush you wrote from Tosfot Yom Tov is in Rashi (it is perhaps from Rivan).

והרי המחתה. כל זה היה אומר לו הרי המחתה נתונה בזוית בין הכבש למזבח למערבו של כבש כלומר באלכסון היא נתונה ממוצעת בין כבש למזבח בזוית הכבש היא נתונה אצל מקום שכלה הכבש דהיינו בין הכבש ולמזבח:‏


והרי מחתה וכו' פירוש שהרי המחתה הוה

Raavad translates VAHARE as SHEHARE, "because."

I don't know if the deduction of Melechet Shlomo is really obvious. But, even assuming that his deduction is not right, we have an answer.

  1. If one says the two statements, he mentions the importance to avoid touching an utensil, and explains why he address this, the shovel is very easily touched when you stay there (remembering a general din and its relevance for the actual situation).
  2. If the narrator of the Mishna says the second statement, he explains that they says this because of the risk of touching the shovel (the narrator explains which utensil it at risk).

The commentary of the Rosh holds that they say the two statements and VAHARE is "look there, the place of the shovel." It seems to be a very satisfying translation of the Mishna.

והרי המחתה נתונה. מראין לו מקום של מחתה

  • There’s no Rashi on Tamid. According to the Raavad, the question doesn’t really start; I’m not sure how anything beyond what you’ve labeled as #1 answers the question. See my comments to the OP.
    – DonielF
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 23:15
  • I wrote perhaps rivan
    – kouty
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 23:16
  • I dunno if Rivan wrote it, but it certainly isn’t Rashi. Take a look at Artscroll’s introduction to the Masechta.
    – DonielF
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 23:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .