Masechet Menachot 16a-22b

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Flour in Hands
24 Mar 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 16a-b: Inappropriate thoughts while sacrificing a meal-offering

The rule with regard to meal-offerings is that the parts of the offering that are eaten by the kohanim are permitted to them only after both the kometz – the fistful of flour taken for sacrifice – and the levonah – the frankincense – are placed on the altar.

The Mishnah on today’s daf discusses whether having an inappropriate thought about eating the meal-offering – that is, planning to eat it when it is forbidden to do so – will disqualify the offering if it happened only when sacrificing just one of these elements. According to the Chachamim, it is only if the inappropriate thought occurred during both the sacrifice of the kometz and that of the levonah that the offering will become pigul and the person who eats of it will be liable to receive karet – excision (a Heavenly punishment). Rabbi Meir rules that an inappropriate thought during either one of those times will suffice to disqualify the offering.

The Mishnah continues and explains that there are some meal-offerings that do not include levonah

In those cases, since there is only one element of sacrifice that acts to permit eating the offering, there is no disagreement.

In the first Mishnah of this perek on daf 13a, we found a disagreement between Rabbi Yossi and the Chachamim about whether an inappropriate thought about sacrificing the levonah would be a problem if it happened when sacrificing the kometz or vice versa. Today’s discussion is a different one – whether thoughts about eating the offering are significant when they occur during only one of the parts of the sacrifice, or if we need both elements together. According to the Sages of our Mishnah, since the offering cannot be eaten until both the levonah and the kometz had been brought, in order for the offering to become pigul the inappropriate thoughts would have to have occurred in both.

Menachot 17a-b: The sharp Sages of Pumbedita

Today’s daf opens with the statement of charifei d’Pumbedita – “the sharp ones of the city of Pumbedita” – that one meal-offering sacrifice can disqualify another meal-offering sacrifice. That is to say, that if at the moment the kohen is placing the fistful of flour taken for sacrifice on the altar he thinks to himself that he will bring the frankincense on the next day – which is after the time that it is permitted to be brought – the sacrifice become pigul, it is disqualified.

The Gemara continues that this is true even according to the opinion that a sacrifice does not become pigul unless the inappropriate thought referred to the entire essence of the sacrifice (see the position of the Chachamim in the Mishnah on yesterday’s daf, as well as that of Rabbi Yossi in the Mishnah on daf 13a).  Nevertheless, here it is considered the entire essence of the sacrifice since the fistful of flour and the frankincense are placed together into the Temple vessel.

Who are the charifei d’Pumbedita who taught this rule?

In Masechet Sanhedrin (17b) the Gemara says that this was the nickname for Eifa and Avimi, the sons of the Sage Rahvah of Pumbedita, who was a student of Rav Yehudah, the founder of the great yeshiva in that city. These two brothers are mentioned a number of times in the Talmud, mainly in the context of questions that they asked others or the halakhic arguments that they had with one another. For example, the Gemara relates how Eifa reviewed all of Masechet Shevuot before Rabbah and Avimi tested him and asked questions on his words.

Although they are identified with the Babylonian yeshiva in Pumbedita, they are quoted in the Talmud Yerushalmi and we find the Israeli sages discussing their teachings.

Menachot 18a-b: The order of the sacrificial service of meal-offerings

Although there are different types of menachot – meal-offerings (see the Introduction to Masechet Menachot) – the general service went as follows:

The individual bringing the sacrifice would bring a measure of fine flour and a measure of oil, and a bit of the oil would be put into an ordinary vessel and covered with the flour. Some more of the oil would be poured on and then these ingredients would be mixed together. After the mixing, the ingredients would be transferred to a kli sharet – a sanctified Temple vessel – and the rest of the oil would be poured on the mixture (some say that the mixing had to be done in one of the Temple vessels), and the frankincense would be added. The kli sharet is then brought to the kohen who takes it to the south-west corner of the altar, where it is placed in a special receptacle in that place. The kohen then moves all of the frankincense to one side and takes a kometz – a fistful of the flour – which he places in a different kli sharet. He then collects the frankincense, adds it to the kometz, puts salt on them, lifts them up and takes them to the altar to be sacrificed. At this point the remainder of the offering is eaten by the kohanim.

The Mishnah on today’s daf discusses what must be done if parts of this process were skipped. According to the Mishnah if any of the steps were skipped –

– nevertheless, the offering is valid.

The Gemara explains that in truth, all of these things had to be done. The Mishnah is teaching that they do not all need to be done according to the ideal of the Torah. Thus, for example, the offering would be valid if these activities were performed by an ordinary person who is not a kohen.

Menachot 19a-b: Establishing rules about the meal-offering

As we learned on yesterday’s daf many of the activities associated with bringing the korban mincha – a meal-offering – are required ab initio, but after the fact the offering would be valid even if these activities are not performed correctly.

What is the source of this ruling?

Rav teaches that when the Torah states a rule regarding the meal-offering and then repeats it, that indicates that that rule is essential and cannot be dispensed with. Shmuel argues that the only two things that are essential in the meal-offering are the flour and the oil. All other elements are supposed to be done, but the offering will remain valid even if it is not done properly.

The Gemara clarifies that even Shmuel agrees that when statements are repeated by the Torah that is an indication that those are true requirements. The point of argument is what should be considered a repetition. Shmuel’s argument is that when the Torah repeats a certain idea when relating a story that occurred, that is not considered a repetition. The basis for this argument is that a mitzvah that is carried out in the Torah may contain elements that are time-specific – they may have been appropriate for that specific moment in time, but are not to be transferred to other times.

The basic argument between Rav and Shmuel in this case focuses on the fact that some of the laws of mincha are taught in Parshat Vayikra (see Vayikra Chapter 2) and then repeated in Parshat Tzav (See Vayikra Chapter 6). Regarding these laws there is no disagreement – all are required. The disagreement revolves around those laws that were stated in Parshat Tzav and are repeated in the story of the sanctification of the Tabernacle in Parshat Shemini (see Vayikra Chapter 9). While Rav views those as significant repetitions, Shmuel does not. Thus, Shmuel’s ruling is that only the laws of flour and oil – as well as other similar laws that are stated and repeated as obligatory for all generations – are required even after the fact.

Menachot 20a-b: Salting the meal-offering

As we learned on yesterday’s daf many of the activities associated with bringing the korban mincha – a meal-offering – are required ab initio, but after the fact the offering would be valid even if these activities are not performed correctly. This is derived from the repetition of certain of the laws of korban mincha in the Torah.

One of the examples in the Mishnah of this rule is the need to salt the meal-offering before placing it on the altar. Since salt is not repeated, the tanna of the Mishnah does not deem it an essential part of the mincha offering.

The Gemara on today’s daf points out that this ruling regarding salt and the korban mincha is not agreed upon by all. A baraita is quoted where we find that Rabbi Yehudah understands a passage in the Torah to require that all sacrifices be brought with salt (according to the reading in our Gemara, the passage in question is from Sefer Bamidbar 18:19. Rabbenu Tam in Tosafot argues that that passage does not relate to sacrifices, and suggests an alternative reading, which has Rabbi Yehuda’s source as Vayikra 2:13, where it clearly states that the covenant of salt should never be left out when bringing sacrifices). The baraita also offers the opinion of Rabbi Shimon who learns this rule from the parallel covenantal language found in Bamidbar 18:19 regarding salt and in Bamidbar 25:12 regarding kohanim. Rabbi Shimon argues that just as sacrifices cannot be brought without kohanim, similarly they cannot be brought without salt.

Rashi understands that there is no real difference between Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Shimon; they simply derive the same law requiring salt on all sacrifices from different biblical passages. The Kesef Mishnah argues that according to the Rambam there are differences between them. He suggests that according to Rabbi Yehuda only meal-offerings require salt, while Rabbi Shimon rules that this law applies to all sacrifices. In his Meshech Chachma, Rabbi Meir Simcha HaKohen of Dvinsk suggests that they differ in a case where a meal-offering is brought on a bamah – a private altar – at a time that it was permissible to do so. In such a case Rabbi Yehuda would still require salt; Rabbi Shimon would argue that since we do not need kohanim to perform the service on a private altar, we do not need salt, either.

Menachot 21a-b: Salting sacrifices in the Temple

Salt was an integral part of each and every sacrifice, as the Torah clearly states in Sefer Vayikra (2:13), that the covenant of salt should never be left out when bringing sacrifices.

According to the baraita quoted on today’s daf there were three places where the salt was applied in the Temple:

Regarding the “salt office” in the Temple, Tosafot point to a Mishnah in Masechet Middot (5:3) where it appears that the “salt office” was where the salt for the sacrifices were stored, and the hides from the sacrifices were treated with salt in a different office nearby that was called lishkat ha-parva (the “hide office”). Tosafot suggest that the baraita in our Gemara wrote in shorthand, and what it means is that the “salt office” was where the salt was stored for use in salting the hides in the nearby lishkat ha-parva. An alternative approach raised is that the “salt office” in our Gemara really refers to the lishkat ha-parva, where the actual salting was done – similar to the ramp and the altar where the salt was actually applied. The office mentioned in Masechet Middot refers to a storage office that is not mentioned in our Gemara, whose sole focus is on where the salting took place.

In this diagram we see the three salting places:

Adjoining the salt office we find the lishkat ha-parva (Number 7).

Menachot 22a-b: Who pays for the wood that fuels the altar?

When someone commits to bringing a sacrifice, does he have to supply the wood for the altar, as well?

The Gemara on today’s daf quotes a baraita that teaches that wood for the altar was never brought from home. The Torah teaches that the sacrifice is brought “on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar” (Vayikra 1:12). Rabbi Elazar ben Rabbi Shimon understands this to mean that just as the altar is public property, so the wood and the fire must be public property, as well. Rabbi Elazar ben Shamu’a interprets this to mean that just as the altar was never used for a mundane purpose, so the fire and the wood cannot have been used for mundane purposes. The Gemara suggests that the difference between these two positions is whether “used wood” is appropriate for this purpose, if it was public property.

The practical source for these laws is the story about the purchase and erection of the altar on the Temple Mount by King David.

The place of the Temple on Mount Moriah is one of three places that the TaNaKH tells us was purchased and paid for in full. In Sefer Shmuel  (II Chapter 24) we are told of a plague that struck the Jewish people as a result of King David’s decision to count the people. Gad the Prophet instructs King David to build an altar on the place of the granary of Aravnah the Jebusite, the hilltop that was destined to become the place of the Temple. Aravnah offers his granary, together with his cattle for sacrifices and the morigim and other utensils as firewood, but King David insists on purchasing these from him.

The Gemara explains that according to Rabbi Elazar ben Shamu’a we must say that the morigim and other utensils were new and had never been used before.

Ulla explains that the morigim that Aravnah wanted to donate were boards that were used to thresh the grain. In the time of the Mishnah these implements were still in use – as they still are today – albeit in a more developed form that allowed the animal driver to sit while the wheels of the morigim thresh the grain.

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.