News & Articles Kranot (corners) of the Showbread

Kranot (corners) of the Showbread

In a Mishna (Menahot 96a) it states –

The Showbread is ten [tefachim/handbreadths] long and 5 [tefachim/handbreadths] wide and its “kranot” are 7 eztbaot (finger widths)”.

Rashi (ibid.) in reference to the Two Loaves offering says –

Its ‘kranot’:  that he would stick dough on each corner זוית of the bread, like horns קרניים and the length of each horn קרן is 4 finger widths”.

And later on he continues regarding the Showbread –

That it should have ‘panim’: flanks/sides. [another version] corners זויות and they are the ‘kranot’

According to Rashi, in reference to the Two Loaves offering, the kranot are pieces of dough that were stuck on the each “corner” זוית. What does Rashi mean by the Hebrew word  זוית? The Two Loaves bread was rectangular, 7 tefachim/handbreadths by 4 tefachim/handbreadths, so it appears that Rashi means the four 90-degree angled corners of the rectangle and that the word זוית means the same as the English word “corner”.

If Rashi’s description “like horns קרניים” is referring to to horns/corners like those on the altars in the Temple, then these horns/corners take the form of a cube. Therefore the ‘kranot’ of the Two Loaves bread are a cube of 4X4X4 fingerwidths.

Rashi describing the altar (Exodus 27:2), infers that the ‘kranot’ were an integral part of the altar and not something that was “stuck on”. Perhaps Rashi thought that to bake a bread in that shape with corners (that were also hollow) like the altar was too difficult a task for a baker, so he simplified it by “sticking pieces of bread on the corners”, like horns, i.e that resembled horns but not exactly horns.

Further on in interpreting the Showbread, Rashi does not discuss the ‘kranot’ in depth as he does with the Two Loaves offering and the natural conclusion from that is whatever he described for the Two Loaves applies also to the Showbread regarding the ‘kranot’, that they were pieces of dough stuck on the corners of the bread, except with the length of 7 fingerwidths (and not 4 like the Two Loaves).

It therefore appears from Rashi that the ‘kranot’ of the Showbread were pieces of dough stuck on the four upper corners, facing upwards, like those on the Two Loaves bread and the altar.

There is a question on this supposed interpretation of Rashi. On the Two Loaves bread there was no height limit.  You would stick pieces of dough 4X4X4 fingerwidths on the corners of the rectangular loaf, that was made from sourdough (presumably the pieces of dough stuck on were also from sourdough). The actual bread rose (uncertain how high) and also the ‘kranot’ these pieces of dough stuck on, also rose (uncertain how high). And there is no problem how high the whole thing rises, because the Two Loaves does not have a height limitation.  The Showbread on the other hand does (12 tefachim/handbreadths).  If Rashi means sticking pieces of dough 7 fingerwidths long on top of the upright flanks of the Showbread which are 2  tefachim (handbreadths) high, whatever the height of that piece of dough, if you have 6 breads stacked on each other, it will exceed that 12 tefachim/handbreadths limit. In addition, if you stick 4 pieces of dough on the corners of the Showbread and then you place another bread (weighing 5-6kg) on top of that, surely these small pieces of dough of the  ‘kranot’ will break? This is a difficult question on Rashi.

So many of the commentators, basing themselves on Maimonides (Hilchot Temidin Umusafin 5:9) where he says – “…..You place the length of the bread across the width of the Shulcan (Table) and you כופל fold  2 tefachim/handbreadths on this side and 2 tefachim/handbreadths on this side” read the word כופל (fold, can also mean ‘double up’)  to mean that the upright flanks of the Showbread are not simply folded upwards, but they are “doubled over” so that the ‘kranot’ are not protruding above the 2 tefachim/handbreadths height of the flank, but radiating inward toward the opposite upright flank. This way there is no added altitude caused by the ‘kranot’ and also a bread laid on top of the one below will not be resting on the fragile ‘kranot’ but on the length of the  upper flank of the Showbread.

This also seems to be the opinion of the Talmud (Menahot 96a) “The ‘kranot’ are pointing inwards and another bread is placed on top”, as follows -


There are a number of issues with this explanation (that the ‘kranot’ radiate inwards).

1. The ‘kranot’ are supposed to point upwards ,like the altar, not sideways.
2. The language of Maimonides (above) is taken word for word from a Mishna (Menahot 96a) where the word used is כופל fold. The letters “כ” and “ק” are interchangeable (see the section of R. Yohanan, Menahot 96b, and again on 87b, once it uses “כ” and the other it uses “ק”). So inferring that the word  כופל with a  “כ” means “doubling up” instead of "fold", is not necessarily accurate.
3. In Menahot (96b) it states - ”R. Yehoshua ben Levi says a big miracle occurred with the Showbread – its state when it was removed [after a week]  was the same as it was when it was first placed on the Table”. In other words the bread remained exactly as it was a week earlier after it had just been baked – in all respects, it was fresh, it was still warm and it was still exactly the same shape! Bread is not static. Due to loss of moisture, the bread dries out and deforms. After a week the bread would look like this –

i.e the ‘kranot’ would no longer be radiating inward, they would be drooping down.  This has been verified in an experiment in our Institute. All the other parts of the bread do not change shape because they have support from the various components of the Shulchan (Table), the kanim (pipes), the snipim (uprights), etc. However there is no supporting component for these inward radiating ‘kranot’.

You may say that it was a miracle! But one must not rely on a miracle. Great lengths were taken to assure the resilience of this bread, as reflected by the numerous components of the Table, that prevented it from deforming and becoming moldy. Why then was there no component to support the ‘kranot’?

Due to the numerous issues relating to this interpretation that the ‘kranot’ radiated inwards, it is unlikely that this was the solution and further investigation of the Talmud (Menahot 96a) “The ‘kranot’ are pointing inwards”, is required.

The above is not the only proposed solution to the ‘kranot’ structure.

Rabbi Avraham  ben Avigdor theorizes that the two folded flanks on the sides of the Showbread are in fact the ‘kranot’ themsleves, echoing Rashi's [alternative] explanation in Menahot 96a (above). This opinion is also problematic because it specifically states in the Mishna that the ‘kranot’ were 7 fingerwidths and the height of the flanks were 2 tefachim/handbreadths = 8 fingerwidths, not 7.

Another opinion, the Kesef Mishna on Maimonides (Hilchot Temidin Umusafin 5:9) is that according to the Rambam, there are no ‘kranot’ and that ‘kranot’ is referring to the thickness of the bread. Again, this interpretation is problematic because the thickness of the showbread is specified explicitly in Tractate Pesachim (97a) as being 1 tefach/handbreadth.

The Ralbag (Biur Hamilot, Exodus 25) states – “And the matter of the ‘kranot, it appears to me that the Showbread did not have 4 complete edges, but rather 8 edges, 4 at a diagonal on the sides and these were called ‘kranot’ and each was 7 fingerwidths in length”.

As follows –

This method is more feasible in numerous aspects – stability of the bread, exact dimensions, etc. but seems to contradict Rashi in that the ‘kranot’ were stuck on the dough, here they are “cut out” of the dough and also they are unlike those on the altar, not pointing upwards, like the Two Loaves bread.

I would like to propose another solution to this puzzle of the ‘kranot’ that manges to reconcile all the above discrepancies. I believe that the Ralbag was on the right track, but instead of instead of cutting the edges at a diagonal, why not cut them in the actual shape of the ‘kranot’ of the altar and like the Two Loaves? As follows –

This can be reconciled with Maimonides’ “height 7 fingerwidths” above, height, not thickness. The height of the flank is in total 2 tefachim/handbreadths (8 fingerwidths)- including the ‘kranot’  but the actual height of each flank is only 7 fingerwidths (without the ‘kranot’). The length of the ‘kranot’ is 7  fingerwidths, not the height of the ‘kranot’, which can be reconciled with the Mishna (Menahot 96a) above, like Rashi (ibid.) It also solves the total stack height problem and the bread stability problem.

It is similarly possible to create the ‘kranot’ for the shape of the Sfina Rokedet (dancing-ship), as follows –

Rashi most probably had doubts if it was possible to bake a bread in that shape, so he used the term “like” horns.

In the Showbread Institute we have designed special baking pans, both tfor the Teiva Perutza (open-box) shape and for the Sfina Rokedet (dancing-ship) shape in which these ‘kranot’ are an integral part of the bread itself, like the ‘kranot’ on the altar, and not stuck on as an afterthought.

We have not yet tried making these’ kranot’ hollow like those on the actual altar, but instinct tells us that this would detract from the stability of the bread.

Regarding the kanim (pipes) with this configuration. If there is an indentation in the middle, where did the middle of the three pipes sit? In open air?

It is important to remember that the purpose of the kanim (pipes) was to support the bread from below and provide air circulation. The kanim (pipes) were supported on the sides by the snipim (uprights) and it did not mater if under the middle pipe there was an open space, the pipe did not need to rest on the bread below, but on the snipim (uprights) alongside them for support.

This imho was the structure of the ‘kranot’ of the Showbread.


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