1) THE DISEASED PIECE OF MEAT
QUESTION: The Gemara relates the incident involving Rav Sheshes and the servants of the Reish Galusa. They served him meat with a bone that could have caused him to choke. Rav Sheshes (who was blind) felt the bone and wrapped it in a cloth. RASHI explains that he wrapped both the bone and the piece of meat that was on it. When he finished eating, the servants saw that he had wrapped something in a cloth and they were curious as to what it was, so they accused him of stealing a silver cup. They checked him and found the piece of meat and accused him of coming not to eat but to torment them. He told them that he came to eat the meat but that he did not eat that piece of meat because it had the taste of diseased meat which is not healthy.
Rashi proves that Rav Sheshes wrapped the piece of meat as well as the bone from the words of the Gemara itself. When the servants of the Reish Galusa found something wrapped in cloth and accused Rav Sheshes of coming to torment them and not to eat with them, Rav Sheshes said that he did not eat the meat because it was diseased, and he showed them the meat he had wrapped. Clearly, he had wrapped up the meat and not only the bone.
TOSFOS explains that Rav Sheshes wrapped up the meat since it truly tasted diseased, as Rav Sheshes said to the servants when they found the meat, and not because he knew that there was a bone in it. Why, according to Tosfos, does the Gemara relate that he felt the bone in the meat and that is why he wrapped up the meat? Perhaps he was entirely unaware of the bone, and he wrapped up the meat simply because it tasted diseased!
ANSWER: The MAHARSHA answers that if not for the fact that Rav Sheshes found the bone, he simply would have discarded the diseased meat. Once he found the bone, however, he wanted to keep it as evidence to show the Reish Galusa that his servants are lowly, unscrupulous evildoers.
According to the Maharsha's explanation, it is not clear why Rav Sheshes needed to take the whole piece of meat and then offer other reasons for why he did not eat the meat. He simply should have taken the bone and shown it to the Reish Galusa to prove that his servants were trying to harm him.
The MAHARAL explains that if Rav Sheshes would have removed the bone from the meat, he would not have been able to prove that the servants served him meat with a dangerous bone in it. He did not want them to be able to claim that the bone was not left with the meat, and therefore he left the bone attached to the meat so that he would have clear, undeniable evidence of their conduct.
However, if the reason why he kept the meat was to prove that the servants acted wickedly, why did he say that he wrapped it up because it was diseased?
The Maharal explains that Rav Sheshes told the servants that he did not eat the meat because it tasted diseased because he did not want the servants to be aware that he suspected them of attempting to murder him. He wanted to prove their behavior to the Reish Galusa. Hence, he used the fact that the meat was diseased as an excuse why he did not eat it, implying that he had every intention to eat it if it had not been diseased. (The Maharal points out that this explanation is compatible with Rashi's explanation of the Gemara, but Tosfos writes that the reason why he did not eat the meat indeed was because it tasted diseased.)
2) THE EXISTENCE OF THE "SHAMIR" IN THE ERA OF THE SECOND BEIS HA'MIKDASH
OPINIONS: The Gemara in Sotah (48b) teaches that when the Beis ha'Mikdash was destroyed, the creature known as the Shamir ceased to exist. Does this refer to the destruction of the first Beis ha'Mikdash or the second? Did the Shamir exist in the times of the second Beis ha'Mikdash?
(a) TOSFOS here (DH Ika) explains that the Gemara means that after the second Beis ha'Mikdash was destroyed, the Shamir ceased to exist, but it did exist and was used during the time the second Beis ha'Mikdash stood. Tosfos proves this from the Gemara here which says that when Shlomo ha'Melech cut the stones for the construction of the Beis ha'Mikdash, he used the Shamir which Moshe Rabeinu used for cutting the stones of the Efod when he engraved in them the names of the Shevatim. This implies that the Shamir is needed to cut the stones of the Efod. Since the Gemara in Kidushin (31a) says that in the times of the second Beis ha'Mikdash they sought to buy new stones for the Efod, they must have had the Shamir to cut them.
(b) The RAMBAN in Parshas Terumah (quoted by the RASHASH here) explains that there was no need for the Shamir to cut the stones of the Efod. He says that only for the stones of the Choshen was there a need for the Shamir, since the Torah writes that they must be "b'Milu'osam," in their state of completion. The Torah does not write this with regard to the stones of the Efod, and therefore the names of the Shevatim on those stones may be etched out with a tool and there is no need for the Shamir to cut them. The Ramban understands that when the Gemara says that Moshe Rabeinu used the Shamir for the Efod, it does not mean that he used it for the stones on the straps of the Efod, but rather he used it for the stones that were on the Choshen which was connected to the Efod. (See Shmuel I 23:9.)
According to the Ramban's opinion, there is no proof that the Shamir existed in the times of the second Beis ha'Mikdash since, as the Gemara in Kidushin relates, they needed stones only for the Efod and not for the Choshen.
However, the Gemara in Avodah Zarah (52b) teaches that the Chashmona'im could not use the stones of the Mizbe'ach which were defiled by the Syrian-Greeks. The Gemara explains that they could not cut them and then use them, because metal tools may not be used to cut the stones of the Mizbe'ach. TOSFOS asks that according to his own view that the Shamir existed in the time of the second Beis ha'Mikdash, why did the Chashmona'im not use it to cut the stones of the Mizbe'ach?
Tosfos answers that although the Beis ha'Mikdash was built from "Even Sheleimah" (complete stones) and the Shamir was used to cut those stones, the Shamir could not be used for the cutting of the stones of the Mizbe'ach since they had to be perfectly smooth to the extent that one's fingernail would not get caught on them. The Shamir could not produce such a smooth cut.
Tosfos' opinion that the Shamir could not be used for the Mizbe'ach is consistent with his view that the Shamir existed in the times of the Chashmona'im. In contrast, according to the Ramban's opinion, since it is possible that the Shamir did not exist during the times of the second Beis ha'Mikdash it was not used for the stones of the Mizbe'ach; had the Shamir been available during that era, though, it would have been used to cut the stones of the Mizbe'ach.
This approach may also explain the RAMBAM's opinion. The Rambam (Hilchos Beis ha'Bechirah 1:14) writes that a stone with a bump on which one's fingernail may snag is unfit for the Mizbe'ach, because the Torah requires that the Mizbe'ach be built from "Avanim Sheleimos" (complete stones). The Rambam adds that the same law applies to the stones of the Beis ha'Mikdash.
The Rambam equates the requirements for the stones of the Mizbe'ach with the requirements for the stones of the Beis ha'Mikdash (at least with regard to the requirement of "Avanim Sheleimos"). Consequently, the Rambam could prove from the Gemara here that if the Shamir may be used for the stones of the Beis ha'Mikdash, it also may be used for the Mizbe'ach. Why, then, did the Chashmona'im not use the Shamir for the stones of the Mizbe'ach? It must be that they did not have the Shamir (as the Ramban maintains). (See Rambam, Hilchos Klei ha'Mikdash 9:7 and 9, who does not mention how they cut the stones of the Choshen and Efod. Also see Rambam in Perush ha'Mishnayos 9:11, where he writes that the Shamir was used for the Urim v'Tumim.)