Tuesday, May 08, 2018

the location of the mizbeiach

I found the language the Rambam uses when he describes the place of the mizbeiach (Hil Beis haBechira 2:2) to be striking:

ומסורת ביד הכול, שהמקום שבנה בו דויד ושלמה המזבח בגורן ארוונה--הוא המקום שבנה בו אברהם המזבח ועקד עליו יצחק, והוא המקום שבנה בו נוח כשיצא מן התיבה, והוא המזבח שהקריב עליו קין והבל.  ובו הקריב אדם הראשון כשנברא קרבן, ומשם נברא; אמרו חכמים, אדם ממקום כפרתו נברא.

What does the Rambam mean here by it being a "masores b'yad ha'kol" -- everybody knows this tradition?  Does he mean this tradition goes above and beyond what the "ba'alei mesorah," the leaders of each generation from Moshe through Ravina and Rav Ashi who were charged with preserving and transmitting torah sheba'al peh (as the Rambam writes in the intro to the Yad), dealt with?  In what way is this mesorah different than any other mesorah of torah sheba'al peh and why?  

Might the opposite be true -- could "masores b'yad ha'kol" mean this is simply a folk tradition and not part of what was preserved by the "ba'alei mesorah?"  That strikes me as a far weaker reading than the first one, but I'm throwing it out there just to consider everything.

I haven't seen anyone who discusses this point.  Suggestions, as always, welcome.  


  1. look at the commentators at
    it seems to me that its a medrash with many sources

    1. The question is not what the source is, but rather why does the rambam quote it and what is the significance of it being 'masores b'yad ha'kol.'

    2. I don;t think the midrashim use the expression 'masores b'yad ha'kol'. It's an interesting, unusual phrase.

      I believe Breishees Rabba and Pirkei d'rebbi Eliezer are just being cited as sources for all of these various things occurring at the location of the mizbeyach on har habayit. I don't see 'masores b'yad ha'kol' in those sources.

      In fact, searching with Bar-Ilan I can't find the phrase '(u-)masores b'yad ha'kol' except anywhere else except this Rambam (and those discussing or quoting him).

  2. "What does the Rambam mean here...?"

    (and why does he list the 4 previous altars in a prescription for the third Temple, when it will simply come down to whether its builders know the exact altar location? in passing, Rambam evidently assumes here a correspondence with his 4 logical propositions that require no proof [his Logic, perek 8]-- 1. perception: Avraham sees the place for the binding of his son; 2. convention: Noach repays his Benefactor; 3. tradition: Kayin learns from his father; 4. first intelligibles: it is axiomatic to Adam ha'rishon that he atone in the place that he was made... ...one could also mention 4 korbans: olah, thanksgiving (gomel), nedavah, chatas, and 4 types* of national tribute to be brought by the goyim to the 3rd Temple: olah, to bitul their nationalism; gomel, for national survival since the dor ha'flaga; nedavah, spreading, as the knowledge of G-d spreads as the waters fill the sea; and chatas, from those nations that know all too well their historical persecution of Israel) *even if not technically delineated as such

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  4. Might the opposite be true -- could "masores b'yad ha'kol" mean this is simply a folk tradition...

    No. It sounds like when the Gemorah say Eidus Tzrichim Mumchim Chometz L'Kol Mosura. Meaning that it is so well know that you don't have to be a Talmid Chocom to be aware of it.

  5. I wonder if perhaps Rambam says masores b'yad ha'kol because the only mekoros for this are in midreshei aggadah -- not in the Gemara or in mechilta/sifra/sifrei.

    At the end of halacha 2, he says "amru chachamim" when he mentions Adam being created from that same spot -- maybe because that part is in the Gemara (Yerushalmi Nazir 7:2):

    אמר רבי יודה בן פזי: מלא תרווד אחד נטל הקב"ה ממקום המזבח וברא בו אדם הראשון. אמר – הלואי ייברא ממקום המזבח ותהא לו עמידה. הדא הוא דכתיב: וייצר ה' אלקים את האדם עפר מן האדמה. וכתיב: מזבח אדמה תעשה לי – מה אדמה שנאמר להלן מזבח, אף כאן מזבח

    Just a theory, but maybe in Mishneh Torah, Rambam reserves amru/kiblu chachamim for statements with sources in the Talmud or midrash halacha. Here, since the only sources were in midrash aggada collections, he called it a "masores b'yad hakol" instead.

  6. it's not a masoret Chazal, but it's in Tanakh. See Divrei Hayamim 2: 3,1; which states that Shlomo built the mikdash on Har Hamoriya, at Goren Ornan. Note that the Akeida doesn't state it הר המוריה but ארץ המוריה.
    Also, Rambam makes clear (Moreh, 3:45) that there was a masoret that went from Avraham to Moshe and onwards about the location of the Akeida-Mikdash. So this is a stronger, more ancient masoret. it relates to the meaning of במקום אשר יבחר ה.

  7. What are the requirements regarding the building of the mizbeiach? Does it have to be in that exact location? Also which mizbeiach are we talking about, inside or outside?

  8. Might the opposite be true -- could "masores b'yad ha'kol" mean this is simply a folk tradition

    I was thinking about this further and remembered that the Gemorah in the end of H'Chovel brings sources from the Torah for all sorts of folk sayings. The Rishonim explain that they do so because if something is so universally recognized as true it must really be true.

    Of course there is a difference between something that is universally intuitively recognized and a folk tradition .Even so "masores b'yad ha'kol" wouldn't come to weaken a point.