1) USING GREEK LETTERS IN THE BEIS HA'MIKDASH
QUESTION: The Mishnah says that the letters Alef, Beis, and Gimel were written on the three boxes used for the Terumas ha'Lishkah to denote which box was separated first. Rebbi Yishmael notes that the three letters on the boxes were written in Greek -- Alpha, Beta, and Gamma.
Why were these letters written in Greek?
ANSWER: The KORBAN HA'EDAH explains that the use of Greek letters on the boxes of the Terumas ha'Lishkah is based on the verse, "Yaft Elokim l'Yefes v'Yishkon b'Ohalei Shem" -- "Ascribe beauty to Yefes, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem" (Bereishis 9:27). The beauty of Yefes in this verse refers to the script of Greek letters (Greek, or "Yevanis," is the language of Yavan, the patriarch of Greece, who was one of the sons of Yefes). The "tents of Shem" refers to the Beis ha'Mikdash (as the Gemara in Megilah (9b) says; based on this verse, the Gemara there permits a Sefer Torah to be written with Greek script).
On a deeper level, this may be understood as follows. Hash-m created many objects of physical beauty in the world. They were not created to serve man's indulgences and gratify his appetite for pleasure. Rather, they are meant to be used in the service of Hash-m by inspiring awe for His majesty. As the verse states, "Grace is falsehood, beauty is vain; the woman who fears Hash-m -- she will be praised" (Mishlei 31:30). Beauty is falsehood, unless it is used for the sake of Yir'as Hash-m, the fear of Hash-m. For this reason, the Midrash (Shemos Rabah 35) teaches that the world is not entitled to use such beautiful items as gold and the cedars of Levanon; those items were created only for use in the Beis ha'Mikdash and the Mishkan. Similarly, the Gemara in Kidushin (49b) says that when Hash-m put beauty into the world, He gave nine portions of beauty to Yerushalayim and one portion to the rest of the world. Yerushalayim is the place where beauty is utilized in the way it was intended to be used -- for the service of Hash-m.
The Greeks prided themselves in their ability to beautify their language and all of the objects of their creativity, which they channeled towards self-indulgence and hedonism. The use of the letters of the Greek alphabet in the Beis ha'Mikdash, where such beauty inspires awe for Hash-m's majesty, demonstrates that the proper purpose of physical beauty is for the sake of serving Hash-m.
This also explains a practice described by the Gemara in Horayos (12a). When the Kohen Gadol is anointed, oil is smeared on his head "in the shape of the Greek letter, Xi." When the Kohen Gadol performs the Avodah in the Beis ha'Mikdash and wears his regal garments of "honor and glory" (Shemos 28:2), he is a living demonstration of how beauty is channeled towards Yir'as Shamayim. Similarly, oil is smeared on the Rekikin loaves of the Minchah offerings "in the shape of the Greek letter, Xi" (Menachos 74b). (See also Insights to Menachos 75:1.)
2) A "KOS SHEL BERACHAH" WITH WINE OF "SHEVI'IS"
QUESTION: The Gemara asks whether one fulfills his obligation to drink the four cups of wine on Pesach with wine of Shevi'is. The Gemara quotes Rav Oshiya who taught a Beraisa which states that one does fulfill his obligation with wine of Shevi'is.
What was the Gemara's question? Why would one have thought that he cannot fulfill his obligation with wine of Shevi'is?
(a) The TIKLIN CHADTIN says that the Gemara's question was whether one may fulfill his obligation with wine of Shevi'is after the time of Bi'ur, when Shevi'is products become forbidden to be eaten. The time of Bi'ur for grape products happens to be Erev Pesach, the day before Pesach (Pesachim 53a).
The Gemara answers that one may fulfill his obligation with wine of Shevi'is. Since he uses the wine for the fulfillment of a Mitzvah, the benefit he derives from the wine is not considered unlawful benefit, because of the principle of "Mitzvos Lav l'Hanos Nisnu" (Rosh Hashanah 28a) -- the physical benefit one derives from a Mitzvah is not considered benefit.
RAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY in the name of the CHAZON ISH adds another dimension to this explanation. Once the time of Bi'ur arrives for a particular Shevi'is fruit, one still may eat three meals' worth of that item. The Gemara in Eruvin (29a) says that one Revi'is of wine is considered one meal's worth (with regard to making an Eruv Techumin with it), and thus three Revi'iyos are considered three meals' worth of wine. However, on Pesach night, one needs to drink four Revi'iyos in order to fulfill the obligation to drink the four cups. Therefore, the Gemara asks whether one may use Shevi'is wine only for the first three cups of wine (which is three meals' worth) on Pesach night, or whether he may drink all four cups from wine of Shevi'is, since they are all needed for the meal and they are considered wine for a single meal.
(b) The KORBAN HA'EDAH explains that one might have thought that he does not fulfill his obligation with wine of Shevi'is because wine of Shevi'is is Hefker and does not belong to anyone. He does not own the wine when he drinks it. The Gemara in Pesachim (38a) teaches that in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of Matzah on Pesach night, one must own the Matzah that he eats (see Insights to Pesachim 38:2). Perhaps the same requirement applies to the Mitzvah to drink the four cups of wine. The Gemara answers that one fulfills his obligation with wine of Shevi'is, and there is no obligation (at least b'Di'eved) to own the wine.
(c) RABEINU MESHULAM explains that since wine of Shevi'is comes from grapes that were Hefker, the wine is not of a high quality. Grapes that were not carefully tended and nurtured produce wine of a lower quality. One might have thought that he does not fulfill his obligation with such wine.
(d) The OR SAME'ACH (end of Hilchos Shabbos) writes that the Gemara in Bava Basra (97a) teaches that Kidush (and other Mitzvos that require a cup of wine) may be recited only over a type of wine which may be used for Nesachim, the wine libations that are poured on the Mizbe'ach. Wine of Shevi'is is not permitted to be used for Nesachim, because such wine is permitted only for human consumption. The Gemara's question is whether Shevi'is wine is considered unfit for use as a Kos Shel Berachah because it may not be used for Nesachim.
The Gemara answers that one may fulfill his obligation with such wine, because the wine is not inferior in any way; it is merely unfit for Nesachim due to the law that it must be consumed by man. When the Gemara in Bava Basra teaches that wine that is unfit for Nesachim may not be used for a Kos Shel Berachah, it refers to wine that is unfit for Nesachim because of its inferiority.