Shekalim 13 - Wonderful administrators

There were fifteen administrators in the Temple, all listed by name. For example, Petachia ben Pinchas was responsible for the box where the moneys for bird sacrifices were collected, Hugras the Levi was the conductor, and the family of Garmu was baking bread. Of course, the same people could not possibly be administrators for all 420 years of the Second Temple; rather, it is the righteous among them who are singled out by name, or according to another opinion, these were their names in the generation when this rule was composed.

Rabbi Akiva was one of the greatest teachers, and he arranged the vast body of the Torah knowledge in divisions and groups to facilitate learning. His students also enumerated multiple laws together, such as " four types of damages ," "fifteen women who do not need a yibum," " thirty-nine labors on Shabbat " and so on.

And yet - said Rabbi Chaggai - the earlier generations have plowed and planted, weeded, threshed, winnowed, ground, sifted, kneaded and baked knowledge for us, and we don't have a mouth to eat. This agrees with the Talmud's idea that man's capacity for learning wanes with generations, so if previous generations were like angels, then we are like humans compared to them, and if they were like people, then we are like donkeys, and not even like the donkey of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair.

And what is the story of this she-donkey? It was stolen by robbers, but refused to eat stolen food. After three days the robbers let it go, and it came back, but still refused to eat. Rabbi Pinchas asked the inn-keeper, have you separated the tithes? The inn-keeper answered that the animals were not obligated to keep the laws of doubtful tithes (d'mai). To that Rabbi Pinchas answered that this was true, but she was very stringent with herself and accepted not to eat even doubtfully untithed produce. They gave her properly tithed food, and she ate.

Art: The Three Generations by James Clarke Waite