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Updated: 2013.09.20

View of Har Zeitim fm approx Mizbeiakh ha-Qetoret on Har ha-Bayit
Har ha-•Bayit: view of Har ha-Zeit•im from ancient site of the Mi•zᵊbeiakh ha-Qᵊtorët

Mi•zᵊbeiakh; altar.

Among all ancient peoples, their was the dining table of their deity—and all other altars were dining tables of rival demons. A diner's religion and nëphësh was determined by which his or her table identified – to which they offered blessings.

"The [shul•khân] upon which food is served became identified in Jewish traditional thought with the [ of the Beit ha-Miq•dâsh]. 'When the [Beit ha-Miq•dâsh] stood, sacrifices would secure [ki•pur] for an individual; now his [shul•khân] does' (Tal•mud Bav•li Ma•sëkët Khagig•âh 27a), was the way it was put by one Talmudic Sage.

(This symbolic identification explains the widespread custom among Jews of not sitting down upon a [shul•khân]; it explains the custom among some of sprinkling salt upon the first morsel of bread eaten—just as was required of the ancient sacrifices; or of removing all knives from the [shul•khân] before the recitation of grace because knives and swords—symbols of war and violence—were forbidden on the [], a symbol of peace; it is even one of the reasons given for the ritual washing before the meal—which is done not only for reasons of cleanliness but also to symbolize the ritual purity required of the [Kohan•im] when they officiated at the offerings.)

Even during the meal we are directed to raise the level of the conversation, as befitting the sacred symbolism of the [shul•khân]. 'Three who eat together and no words of Tor•âh are exchanged, it is as though they ate from pagan offerings… But if three have eaten at a [shul•khân] and spoke words of Tor•âh, it is as though they ate at the [Shul•khân] of [--] (Ma•sëkët Âv•ot 2.4). The Birk•at ha-Mâ•zon, the grace after meals is in fact a minimal satisfaction of this requirement. But the imagery is always in terms of [a ]; and the very act of eating is [thereby elevated to] a form of offering to [--], at which appropriate [tᵊphil•ot] are recited before and after…

As it was forbidden to bring certain animals upon the [] of [--], so is it forbidden to do so upon the [Shul•khân]." (Donin, R. Hayim Halevy, To Be a Jew (New York: Basic Books, 1972), p. 101).

"In the days of the [Beit ha-Miq•dâsh], the served to [provide ki•pur] for us; now it is our table that [provides ki•pur] for us" (Tal•mud Bav•li Ma•sëkët Khagig•âh 27a)." While a superficial understanding of this statement is patently false (since ki•pur depends upon tᵊshuv•âh), a more thorough familiarity with this concept understands that tᵊshuv•âh precedes partaking from the (table), and is, therefore, implied.

See also Shul•khân (table).

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