Masechet Menachot 100a-106b

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16 Jun 2011

The Coming Week’s Daf Yomi by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim (original ideas) of Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.

Menachot 100a-b: When sacrificial offerings are eaten very rare

According to the Mishnah on yesterday’s daf when Yom Kippur fell out on a Friday – something that cannot happen today, with the establishment of a set calendar – there was a difficult situation regarding the sin-offering that was ordinarily eaten by the kohanim immediately after Yom Kippur ended. Since a sin-offering can be eaten only on the day that it was brought and the evening that follows, it had to be eaten on Friday night. Since it was Shabbat, however, and the Yom Kippur sin-offering was not a Shabbat sacrifice, the meat could not be cooked. This problem was solved thanks to the Babylonian priests who were not so particular about their food, and were willing to eat the meat of the sacrifice when it was still raw.

On today’s daf, Rabbah bar Bar Chana quotes Rabbi Yochanan as teaching that the people who were willing to eat raw meat in the Temple were not, in fact, Babylonians, rather they were from Alexandria in Egypt. The Mishnah refers to people who were lacking in basic niceties of behavior “Babylonians,” since the Babylonians were hated by the Sages of the Mishnah. Upon hearing this explanation – as well as a baraita that supported this clarification – Rabbi Yehuda, whose family roots were in Bavel commented that he was comforted by hearing this approach.

Several explanations are offered to explain why the Babylonians were hated by the Sages of the Mishnah. Rashi suggests that the Babylonians were viewed as voracious eaters, who the Sages looked down on. When describing the behavior of ravenous people who were willing to eat raw meat, they therefore referred to them as Babylonians. Tosafot argue that the Sages of the Mishnah who lived in Israel were angry that the Babylonian Jewish community had not moved to Israel en masse during the time of Ezra, which led to animosity towards them.

In his Yosef Da’at, Rabbi Yosef ben Arza points out that the Sages of the Mishnah did not truly hate the Babylonians, for hatred is forbidden by the Torah both as a negative commandment (see Vayikra 19:17) and as a positive one (see the following passage 19:18). Rather, in this context, it simply means that they avoided interaction with the Babylonians, similar to the definition of someone who “hates” his fellow who is not allowed to testify about him in court, that is, someone who did not speak to his friend for three days out of anger (see Sanhedrin daf 27b).

Menachot 101a-b: Wormy wood on the altar

When someone donates an animal to the Temple as a sacrifice, it immediately becomes fully sanctified and cannot be redeemed, that is, it cannot be exchanged for money and used for mundane purposes, since it must be brought on the altar. If, however, it developed a blemish that will not allow it to be sacrificed, the Torah permits it to be redeemed, and another animal must be purchased as a replacement (see Vayikra 27:11-12).

The Mishnah that opens the twelfth perek of Masechet Menachot deals with questions of redeeming other sanctified items. We learn that meal-offerings and libations can be redeemed so long as they were not placed in a kli sharet – a Temple vessel that would give them full sanctity. Once they were placed in a kli sharet, however, they cannot be redeemed even if they became ritually defiled and cannot be brought as an offering. Similarly, sacrifices brought from fowl, or wood sanctified for use on the altar or frankincense or a keli sharet that became ritually defiled and cannot be brought or used in the Temple, cannot be redeemed. These items will have to be destroyed, since the concept of redemption appears in the Torah only with regard to animal sacrifices that cannot be brought on the altar.

The Gemara on today’s daf teaches that the restriction on redeeming the last three examples – wood, frankincense and Temple vessels – is Rabbinic in origin, and that on a Biblical level they can be redeemed, even if they did not become defiled and were fully usable. The rule forbidding their redemption was established because these things are hard to find, and if they could be redeemed, the Temple may find that it does not have enough of these items.

In response to this the Gemara argues that although one may think that wood is readily available, since wood with worms cannot be used on the altar, such wood is hard to find.

The Me’iri suggests two reasons why wood with worms cannot be used on the altar. One possibility is that only things that can be eaten by Jewish people can be burned on the altar; this would disqualify wormy wood. The other possibility is that they are simply disgusting, and that it would disgrace the altar to place such wood on it.

Menachot 102a-b: Bringing a doubtful sacrifice

Ordinarily, a sin-offering is brought when a person performs a forbidden act accidentally. There is another korban, an asham taluy, which is a sacrifice brought by someone who is uncertain as to whether he committed a sin that requires a sin-offering (see Vayikra 5:17-18). The Gemara on today’s daf discusses a case where someone set aside an animal to be brought as an asham taluy, but before it is offered, he learns definitively that he did not commit the sin. Three opinions appear in the baraita that is brought by our Gemara.

Rabbi Meir rules that once the owner has learned that he did not commit the sin, it is clear that the sacrifice was brought in error. He can, therefore, return the animal to the herd without redeeming it.

According to the Chachamim, we treat it like any sacrifice that cannot be brought. That is, we leave it on its own until it becomes blemished in a manner that precludes it from being brought as a sacrifice. At that time it can be redeemed, and the money will be given to the Temple to use for another sacrifice.

Rabbi Eliezer says that the animal should nonetheless be offered as an asham taluy. His argument is that although he knows that he does not need to bring a sacrifice for this sin, it will serve as an atonement for some other sin that he no doubt did at some point in his life.

In the Gemara in Masechet Keritot (l7b-18a) the Sages debate the precise definition of the doubt which requires bringing an asham taluy sacrifice. During the Second Temple period, it was commonly offered even by individuals who had no real doubt, but merely a slight suspicion that they had committed a sin. Therefore, it was also called the guilt-offering of the pious.

Menachot 103a-b: Promising an extraordinary meal-offering

As we have learned throughout Masechet Menachot, a standard meal-offering is made up of solet – fine wheat-flour – mixed with oil and frankincense that is prepared in one of a number of different ways. There are meal-offerings that are made differently – e.g., the minchat ha-omer, brought on the second day of Passover that is made from barley or the minchat sotah, brought by a woman who was suspected of an extra-marital affair, which does not include oil and frankincense – but those are not voluntary meal-offerings.

What if someone decided to bring a meal-offering, but specifically stated that he wanted to bring it in a manner that was unusual?

The Mishna on today’s daf deals with that question. According to the Tanna Kamma, whatever statement was made must be corrected so that a proper meal-offering will be brought. Thus, if someone says “I accept upon myself a meal-offering of barley” he must bring a mincha of wheat. If he said “I accept upon myself a meal-offering from ordinary flour” he must bring a mincha made of solet. If he said that he would bring a meal-offering that did not include oil and frankincense, the mincha that he brings must include them. If he said that he would bring it with solet measuring half an isaron, he must bring a full isaron, which is the normal amount of flour that is brought.

Rabbi Shimon disagrees with the Tanna Kamma and rules that in all of these cases, since the type of offering that he committed to bring cannot be brought, the individual does not have to bring a meal-offering at all.

The first approach of the Gemara is to identify the Tanna Kamma of this Mishnah with Bet Shammai, who says that when someone speaks we always listen to the first statement that he makes. Since, in this case, the first thing that the person said was that he wanted to bring a meal-offering, that is what he must do, even if his later qualification makes that impossible. Ultimately, however, Rabbi Yochanan explains that the Tanna Kamma of our Mishnah would agree that if the person bringing the offering insisted that he only wanted to bring a mincha made of barley (or one of the other unusual cases), he would not be able to do so and would be free of any obligation. If his response was that he simply was unaware of the proper way meal-offerings were brought, and he really intended to commit to bring an ordinary meal-offering, then his first statement obligates him in a korban mincha.

Menachot 104a-b: When you haven’t specified your meal-offering

In general, when a person makes a statement that indicates that he accepts upon himself the obligation to bring a sacrifice, through the power of his stated intention the object referred to becomes sanctified. Nevertheless, since it is his statement that sanctification takes effect, we must clarify what must be said and how to deal with situations where someone’s intentions are not clearly expressed. The thirteenth perek of Masechet Menachot begins of today’s daf, and its focus is on the language that is used when committing to bring a meal-offering.

According to the Mishnah, if a person simply says “I accept upon myself a meal-offering” he can choose any one of the five different types of menachot that an individual can bring. The five different types are enumerated in Sefer Vayikra 2:1-10, and they include:

  1. solet – a simple flour mixture
  2. challot – unleavened cakes
  3. rekikim – unleavened wafers
  4. machavat – fried
  5. marcheshet – cooked

Rabbi Yehuda disagrees, and he rules that the person must bring a meal-offering of solet, since it is the meal-offering that is simply referred to as a mincha in the Torah (see Vayikra 2:1).

It appears that there is a disagreement among the rishonim regarding how to rule in this case. The Mishneh la-Melech points out that while the Rambam in Hilkhot Ma’aseh ha-Korbanot (17:5) clearly accepts the first position – that the person bringing the offering can choose any one of five types of menachotRashi, in his commentary on the Torah (Vayikra 2:1) appears to  explain the passage by accepting the position of Rabbi Yehuda. Rav Eliyahu Mizrahi, however, in his supercommentary on Rashi, argues that in his Torah commentary Rashi does not aim to offer rulings of halacha, rather he simply tries to present the approach that best fits in with the simple, straightforward, meaning of the Torah. In this case, Rabbi Yehuda’s approach fits in with the simple meaning of the Torah, but we cannot conclude that this is Rashi’s ruling on the matter.

Menachot 105a-b: Bringing a sacrifice from fowl

As we learned on yesterday’s daf if someone commits to bring a meal-offering, but does not specify which of the five types he plans to bring, Rabbi Yehuda rules that he must bring a minchat solet – a meal-offering of fine flour. The reason offered in the baraita in explanation of Rabbi Yehuda’s position is that the minchat solet is the first one mentioned, which teaches that it is the standard meal-offering.

The Gemara asks whether this is true in all cases. According to this logic, if someone commits to bring an olah – a burnt-offering – according to Rabbi Yehuda he should be obligated to bring cattle, since that is what is mentioned first (see Vayikra, Chapter 1). Yet we learned that according to the Sages of the Mishnah, he brings a lamb, which is the least expensive of the animals, and according to Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah he can bring one of the birds that is brought as a burnt-offering – a tor or a ben-yonah – and we do not find that Rabbi Yehuda disagrees.

This forces the Gemara to conclude that Rabbi Yehuda’s ruling is based on the fact that a mincha of solet is viewed as the simplest meal-offering, and it is not because it is mentioned first.

According to the Torah (Sefer Vayikra 1:14), the two types of birds that can be brought as sacrifices are torim and bnei yonah – turtledoves and pigeons. The tor that is referred to is identified as Streptopelia turtur, while the yonah is identified as Columba livia domestica. These birds are consistently referred to differently, the former are called torim, while the latter are called bnei yonah. This is understood by the Sages to mean that a tor is only qualified to be brought as a sacrifice when it is an adult bird, while the yonah can only be brought when it is young, before it reaches adulthood. According to the Mishnah in Masechet Chullin (1:5), these two periods are mutually exclusive, and what would be an appropriate sacrifice in a pigeon would be inappropriate in a dove, and vice versa. The cut-off point between the two is just four or five days after hatching, when the bird’s body becomes covered with plumage – gold in the case of torim and yellow in the case of bnei yonah.

Menachot 106a-b: Contributing wood to the Temple

The Mishna on today’s daf teaches that if someone obligates himself to bring wood to the Temple, he must bring at least two pieces of wood, as are usually placed on the altar together every morning and afternoon.

The Gemara quotes a baraita that teaches that contributing wood to the Temple is considered like committing oneself to bringing an actual sacrifice. This is derived from an extra word korban that appears in the Torah (either, according to Rashi, in Vayikra 2:1, or, according to Rabbeinu Gershom, in Vayikra 1:2) and is supported by a passage in Sefer Nechemiah(10:35) that specifically talks about “the sacrifice of wood.”

Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi goes so far as to claim that as a sacrifice, wood brought to the Temple must be accompanied by salt and must be brought ceremoniously up to the altar, just like any other korban. Rava continues this thought by suggesting that according to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi’s reasoning, the wood should need kemitzah, as well.

Kemitzah is one of the Temple services that is specifically identified with meal-offerings, where the priest takes a handful of flour, which is then placed on the altar. Rava understands that when the Torah creates a relationship between the wood and meal-offerings by juxtaposing their laws, it obligates us to view them as halakhot that are closely related to one another. How was kemitzah to be performed on wood? According to Rashi, soft chips must be taken from the wood for this purpose, or, perhaps, the wood must be processed into smaller chips. Tosafot add that all of the laws of kemitzah would apply – the handful of wood chips must be taken by the kohen in his right hand, placed in a special Temple vessel (a kli sharet), etc.

Another approach to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi’s teaching – one that appears inconsistent with our Gemara – is offered by the Peirush Kadmon in Masechet Me’ilah, who argues that the intent is simply to point out that whoever contributes wood to the Temple is required to bring a meal-offering together with it. This meal-offering must include salt, etc.

In addition to his monumental translation and commentary on the Talmud, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored dozens of books and hundreds of articles on a variety of topics, both Jewish and secular. For more information about Rabbi Steinsaltz’s groundbreaking work in Jewish education, visit or contact the Aleph Society at 212-840-1166.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.