Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Strange Shape of the Marcheshet Pan

                             The Strange Shape of the Marcheshet Pan
                                                             By Eli Genauer

“The underlying basis of our work is that pictures are an organic part of the commentary, and it possible that Rashi even allowed himself to limit his explanatory words when a picture was available to the reader. This is in the sense of "a picture is worth a thousand words". The picture is an integral part of the written book, no less important than the words.” 

                                                               Dr Ezra Chwat
                                                     Department of Manuscripts, National Library of Israel
                                                      Giluy Milta B'Almah Blog
                                                           January 15, 2017

There were many vessels used in the Beit HaMikdash. Nevertheless, without pictures or diagrams drawn contemporaneous to their existence, there remains some doubt as to exactly what they looked like. I would like to discuss one vessel used quite often in the Temple and see what the diagrams of the Rishonim can tell us about its makeup. I would also like to analyze a diagram in Rashi’s commentary to Talmud Bavli and see how it fits into our discussion.

Massechet Menachot 63a
האומר הרי עלי במחבת, לא יביא במרחשת; במרחשת, לא יביא במחבתמה בין מחבת למרחשת--אלא שהמרחשת יש לה כסוי, ולמחבת אין לה כסוי, דברי רבי יוסי הגלילי; רבי חנניה בן גמליאל אומר, מרחשת עמוקה ומעשיה רוחשין, ומחבת צפה ומעשיה קשין
One who says, “I take upon myself [to offer a grain offering prepared] on a griddle, he must not bring [one baked] in a pan. If [he says “I take upon myself to offer a grain offering prepared] in a pan,” he must not bring [one prepared] on a griddle. What is the difference between a griddle and a pan? The pan has a lid to it, but the griddle has no lid – [these are ] the words of Rabbi Yose Hagili; Rabbi Hanina ben Gamliel says : a pan is deep and what is prepared is spongy, a griddle is flat and what is prepared is hard.[1]

Leaving  aside the opinion of Rabbi Yossi Haglili, let us concentrate on the statement of Rabi Chanina ben Gamliel

We would imagine that the Marcheshet is a deep vessel, and the Machvat is flat, as it is described as a griddle.  Perhaps like this:


The Gemara then cites a Braita which deals with the following situation.  If a person takes a vow saying “I take upon myself a Marcheshet”, it remains unclear whether he meant he will bring the vessel called a Marcheshet, or the normal Korban Mincha that is brought in a Marcheshet. Beit Hillel is of the opinion that since there was a specific vessel in the Beit Hamikdash called a Marcheshet, we understand that he is talking about that vessel and we require him to donate it to the Beit HaMikdash.[2] Here are the words of the Braita which describe in some detail the appearance of this Marcheshet pan:
כלי היה במקדש ומרחשת שמה ודומה כמין כלבוס עמוק וכשבצק מונח בתוכם דומה כמין תפוחי הברתים וכמין בלוטי היוונים
There was a vessel in the Temple called Marhesheth, resembling a deep mould, which gave the dough that was put into it the shape of Cretan apples and Grecian nuts. (The Soncino Hebrew/English Babylonian Talmud)

Rashi goes to great lengths to explain this uncertain statement and includes a diagram in his commentary. This diagram first appeared in printed form in the early 18th century but unfortunately, it does not align with the words Rashi uses to describe the overall shape of the pan.  Additionally, It does not match the diagram we have in a manuscript of Rashi nor diagrams in manuscripts of other Rishonim.

But first some background

The diagrams we have today in the Vilna Shas in Rashi and other Rishonim come from earlier printed editions. The first printed edition of the entire Talmud to contain diagrams was the Behrmann Shas printed in Frankfurt on Oder, 1696-98.[3] Raphael Natan Nata Rabinowitz posits that by the time diagrams were included in the printed text, there were very few manuscripts around because most had been placed in Genizah.[4]  He therefore concludes that manuscripts were not used in the early 18th century as a source for diagrams. What was the source of those diagrams for the Behrmann Shas ? According to the editors of the Behrmann Shas, they mostly came from the Chochmat Shlomo of 1582.[5] It’s an extremely reliable source because it was written by Rav Shlomo Luria who specifically wrote it to correct the text of the Bomberg Shas and to insert the relevant diagrams. Rav Shlomo Luria lived at a time when there were still many manuscripts around, so either he used those manuscripts for his textual emendations and as a source for his diagrams, or he used his own capabilities to come up with his changes and additions. Since most of our present day diagrams follow from the Behrmann edition, they have an aura of authenticity attached to them.[6]

The problem arises when we discover that Chochmat Shlomo does not include all the diagrams we have today. For example, in our case, there is no Chochmat Shlomo on Menachot.

Let us now take a look at the diagram in Rashi on Menachot 63a.

The first time it appeared in print was in the Frankfurt am Main edition of 1722, exactly 200 years after the diagramless Bomberg edition. We know its source was not a manuscript of Rashi nor was it the product of the Maharshal.

Putting aside the diagram for a moment, let us concentrate on the words of Rashi as he tries to describe the Marcheshet:
כלבוס - גלואו"ן שם כלי עשוי כעין מחבת שלנו והדופן באמצעות כלפי פנים כזה  ומצוייר תוכו גומות גומות וכשהבצק מונח בתוכו [נכנס] הבצק בגומות:
Rashi concentrates on the word כלבוס as the Gemara itself says that a Marcheshet is shaped like a deep כלבוס. Rashi first gives us an old French word which is normally translated as “tongs”.[7] He says that the Marcheshet is like his present day Machvat pan and that the “wall in the middle faces the inside, like this”. The problem is that the diagram does not seem to show a wall in the middle facing the inside. Additionally, if a כלבוס is a pair of tongs, and the shape of the vessel looked somewhat like a pair of tongs, how does that align with the diagram which is circular?

The Shita Mekubetzet which is included on the standard page of the Vilna Shas has a completely different diagram.

Notice that the word Dofen is in the middle of the diagram just as Rashi says והדופן באמצעות כלפי פנים

The volume of the Bomberg edition that belonged to Rav Betzalel Ashkenazi the author of the Shita Mekubetzet contains the exact same diagram inserted in the blank space of the Rashi.

Jerusalem - The National Library of Israel Ms. Heb. 4°79 (link).

In his book Dikdukei Sofrim on Menachot (Munich, 1886) R.N.N. Rabinowitz writes about the importance of the comments of the Shita Mekubetzet as they were addressed to the Bomberg edition of 1522 and relied heavily on manuscripts which included a Rashi manuscript.[8] The Acharit Davar printed at the end of the Vilna Shas also extols the importance of the Shita Mekubetzet on Kodshim as it came from a manuscript and was based in part on a manuscript misidentified but actually of Peirush Rashi.[9]

Going back in history, we can get an idea if a diagram did in fact exist in Rashi manuscripts by looking at the first printed edition of Menachot which was Bomberg 1522. Its source had to be from manuscripts because no printed edition preceded it.

You can see that the Bomberg editors included the word “כזה” in the text of the Rashi and left 2 spaces indicating that their manuscript included 2 diagrams. This may explain why our present diagram does not reflect the shape of the overall pan as there may have been one diagram depicting its shape and a second one depicting the apple like insets. In fact, a notation in the Oz Vehadar edition states quite clearly that our diagram just illustrates the words “גומות גומות”.

As mentioned before, the words of Rashi seem to support the idea that the Marcheshet pan was semicircular in nature. In addition, the shape of the vessel is likened to a כלבוס which is an item dealt with a number of times by Rashi

For example this Rashi on Shabbat 59b:

Rashi states that an item worn by women called a “מנקתא פארי” ( starting with the letters “וי״מ” for ויש מפרשים) is “כּמין חצי עגול עשוי כמין כלבוס” and then draws your attention to a diagram of a semi circle.

Fortunately I was able to find a manuscript of Rashi on Menachot which is identified as Vatican 487  and is from the 13th century. (Made available by the Polonsky Digitization Project) It pictures the Marchseshet pan in a semicircular shape and thus fits in more with the words of Rashi.

It’s clear that the diagram included only deals with the semicircular nature of the vessel and not the little depressions inside the “Tocho Shel Kli”. This diagram is very similar to the one in the Shita Mekubetzet and it is possible it served as a source for the Shita Mekubetzet.[10]

We are confronted with another diagram of the Marcheshet pan in what is known as the Peirush Rabbeinu Gershom first printed in the Vilna Shas. This Peirush describes the vessel being shaped like a כלבוס and then says it is “כמו פגום”, which means incomplete. One would expect to see a vessel like in the Shita Mekubetzet and in the Rashi manuscript which is not either completely circular or square in nature. Nevertheless, the diagram in the Vilna Shas depicts this vessel as being square like this
In the Achrit Davar the editors of the Vilna Shas state that they had a manuscript of this Peirush Rabbeinu Gershom however the following manuscript shows the pan as having an indentation and not being square.

Roma - Biblioteca Angelica Or. 1 (link):

It could be they that had a manuscript depicting a square pan, or it is possible that their manuscript had a pan with an indentation and this was not transferred successfully to the printed page. Certainly the words of the Rabbeinu Gershom indicate the latter.


Nowadays it is easy for us to transfer an image from a manuscript to a printed or electronic page. All we have to do is point, shoot, copy and paste. The result is an exact duplicate of what is on the manuscript, and it is even easier to work with than the original. But hundreds of years ago it was not so simple. A woodcut or an engraving of the image could be made and then transferred to the printed page, but that was time consuming and expensive. Because of this, images such as diagrams were just left out, and when they were added, they were often misleading and sometimes even incorrect. The printing revolution was a giant step forward for the dissemination of Jewish knowledge, but, at least at its beginning, played havoc with many important diagrams.

[1] English translation from
[2] The Rambam Paskens according to Beit Hillel. Since Beit Hillel speaks about the Marcheshet being different than a Machvat,  and not just having a cover) it is clear that the Rambam holds like Rav Chananya ben Gamliel
[3] Maamar 'al hadpasat ha-Talmud with Additions, ed. A.M. Habermann, Mossad ha-Rav Kook, Jerusalem: 2006, p.41. The Soncino family printed individual editions of the Talmud between 1483- 1518, but not an entire set. Some of those editions such as Eiruvin did contain diagrams and some did not. The first complete set of the Talmud was the Bomberg edition 1519-1522. That edition did not contain diagrams, only empty spaces which were to indicate where diagrams were to go (the only exception was Sotah 43a). There were numerous full editions of the Talmud printed between 1522-1697, but these also did not contain diagrams. 
[4] Printing the Talmud: A History of the Earliest Printed Editions of the Talmud, Marvin J. Heller, Im Hasefer 1993 p.6 states as follows: “Rabbinovicz attributes the dearth of Talmud codices to the manner in which they, and many other manuscripts, had been written; without any commentaries, with errors and erasures, and lacking even lines. Rashi and Tosafot (additions by Ashkenazic luminaries after Rashi) were separate manuscripts, suffering from the same conditions. As a result, learning must have been difficult, with the reader having to continuously peruse three different works, assuming that he owned them. Therefore, when the Talmud was printed with Rashi and Tosafot, “men no longer learned from their manuscripts, but considered them as utensils without further value, placing them in genizahs, so that they no longer exist.”
[5] Other sources mentioned by the editors of the Behrmann Shas are Maharsha and Maharam Lublin. Neither of those sources contain diagram for our Rashi.
[6] A good summary of the subject of where our present day diagrams came from can be found in the introduction to the Shas Nehardea, under the heading of "המקור לציורי הש"ס". (Vagshal Publishing Ltd, Jerusalem, 2008, p.5 of the introduction. The overall section on diagrams starts on page 4 of the introduction under the heading "מבוא לציורי הש״ס".)There are a few diagrams that are not in the Berman Shas but first appear in the Frankfurt am Main edition of 1720-1722. Here too, the editors of that edition say that the source of their diagrams was the Chochmat Shlomo.
[7] All the Meforshim understand that Beit Hillel is saying that the Marcheshet pan is shaped like a כלבוס, meaning the pan is shaped like a pair of tongs.  I would imagine tongs to look like this, with the top part being semicircular especially in the open position

Jastrow renders our Braita saying that a Marcheshet is “a baking form in the shape of forceps with cavities”
[8] Rabbinowitz writes on page 1 of his introduction that when he wrote his emendations on Menachot that “I had in my hand a handwritten manuscript of the Shita Mekubetzet by Rav Betzalel Ashkenazi…..And he wrote his comments on the 1522 Venetian edition including Gemara, Rashi and Tosafot with the help of handwritten manuscripts he ( Betzalel Ashekenazi) had in his hands”
[9] Achrit Davar at the end of Masechet Nidah, p.6
[10] The Oz VeHadar edition of the Talmud actually changes the diagram inside the Rashi to the diagram of the Shita Mekubetzet

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