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מסכת כלים פרק יז משנה ח
כזית שאמרו

The size of an olive referred to (with respect to many measures),

לא גדול ולא קטן

is neither large nor small,

אלא בינוני

but rather medium,

זה אגורי

which is an aguri (a particular type of olive).

כשעורה שאמרו

The size of a barley referred to (such as by the minimum amount of a cadaver's bone needed to impart tumah by contact),

לא גדולה ולא קטנה

is neither large nor small,

אלא בינונית

but rather medium,

זו מדברית

this is of the desert (a particular type of barley).

כעדשה שאמרו

The lentil referred to (with respect to the minimum amount of the flesh or blood of a sheretz necessary to impart tumah),

לא גדולה ולא קטנה

is neither large nor small,

אלא בינונית

but rather medium,

זו מצרית

this is the Egyptian.

כל המטלטלין

All moveable objects

מביאין את הטמאה

convey tumah [rabbinically, as a canopy, or ohel]

בעבי המרדע

when the thickness as an ox-goad

לא גדול ולא קטן

neither large nor small,

אלא בינוני

but rather medium;

איזה הוא בינוני

what is a medium ox-goad?

כל שהיקפו טפח

Any with a circumference of a handbreadth.


פרק יז משנה ט

האמה שאמרו

The cubit referred to

באמה הבינונית

is the medium cubit (which was a length of six handbreadths).

ושתי אמות היו

And there were two [model] cubits

בשושן הבירה

in the [chamber of the Second Temple decorated with an engraving of] Shushan the capital city,

אחת על קרן מזרחית צפונית

one on the northeastern corner

ואחת על קרן מזרחית דרומית

and one on the southeastern corner;

שעל קרן מזרחית צפונית

the one on the northeastern corner

היתה יתרה על של משה

was longer than [the cubit established] by Moshe

חצי אצבע

a half finger-breadth,

שעל קרן מזרחית דרומית

and the one on the southeastern corner

היתה יתרה עליה

was longer that it

חצי אצבע

by half a fingerbreadth,


it is therefore found

יתרה על של משה אצבע

it [the southeastern one] was longer than that of Moses by a fingerbreadth.

ולמה אמרו

And why did they say,

אחת גדולה ואחת קטנה

one large one and one small one (i.e. why were these two models kept, both longer than the standard of Moshe, though one longer than the other)?

אלא שהאמנין נוטלין

Only so that the craftsman would take


with the small one

ומחזירין בגדולה

and return with the large one

כדי שלא יבואו לידי מעילה

so that they would not come to me'ilah. (These overly long measures were used for craftsman doing work for the Temple, so that if if the craftsman agreed to create something measured in cubits, the actual measure used would ensure that they would exceed that amount, thus avoiding overcharging or underperforming.  The shorter of the two longer measures was used when the craftsman was using exceptionally valuable material such as gold or silver, to avoid the cost for the craftsman  from becoming overly excessive.)