Masechet Menachot 58a-64b

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05 May 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 58a-b: What cannot be brought as a meal-offering

According to the Torah, two things cannot be brought as meal-offerings – se’or, leaven, and dvash, honey (see Vayikra2:11). The Gemara on today’s daf quotes a baraita that explains that both of these must be emphasized since each one contains something that we would not know based on the other. Se’or is occasionally permitted in the Temple, e.g. the shtei ha-lechem – the two loaves brought on Shavuot – but dvash is never permitted in the Temple. Dvash can be mixed with the remnants of meal-offerings that are eaten, but those remnants cannot be allowed to become leavened.

Why are se’or and dvash forbidden?

It should be noted that the dvash, which has been translated as “honey” does not refer to bees’ honey, but to honey made from processing fruit. The Sefer HaChinuch allows that it might also include bees’ honey, although there are those who argue that such honey is not equivalent to the sweetness of the seven species of fruit of Eretz Yisrael, which is what this refers to. Rashi and the Rashbam explain that this also does not mean specifically date honey, but can be any sweet fruit-based concoction

Menachot 59a-b: Is Showbread considered a meal-offering?

As we learned in the introduction to Masechet Menachot, there are a variety of different types of meal-offerings. The Mishnah on today’s daf teaches some of the basic rules of menachot:

Some meal-offerings require oil and frankincense, some require oil but not frankincense, some frankincense but not oil, and some neither oil nor frankincense.

  1. These require oil and frankincense:
  1. The meal-offering offered with libations that come with an olah (burnt-offering) or a shelamim (a peace-offering) requires oil but not frankincense.
  2. The Showbread (lechem ha-panim) requires frankincense but not oil.
  3. The two loaves, the sinner’s meal-offering and the meal-offering of jealousy (of a sotah) require neither oil nor frankincense.

The first mincha that we find listed is “the meal-offering of fine flour.” Among the reasons offered for placing this mincha first is that it is the meal-offering where we find the requirement of both oil and frankincense clearly mentioned (see Vayikra 2:1), and therefore serves as the source for the other examples in the list. Rashi adds that someone who volunteers to bring a mincha without specifying which type will be required to bring a standard meal-offering of fine flour.

In his Tosafot Yom Tov, Rav Yom Tov Lippman Heller points out that it is strange to find that the Mishnah brings up the case of lechem ha-panim in the list together with all of the different meal-offerings, for although it does have frankincense included in its composition, it is not really a korban mincha. In response, the Rashash explains at length how we must conclude that in fact the lechem ha-panim must be viewed as belonging to the general category of meal-offerings.

Menachot 60a-b: “Waving” the meal-offering and bringing it near the altar

Aside from the different ingredients that may have been included in meal-offerings, as described in the Mishnah on yesterday’s daf, there also were different activities that were done to the menachot as part of the ceremonial Temple service, not all of which applied to each meal-offering. Specifically, the two activities were hagasha – bringing the offering to the altar – and tenufah – lifting or “waving” the offering.

The Mishnah on today’s daf teaches –

Some meal-offerings require hagashah – bringing near to the altar – but not tenufah -waving – some require bringing near to the altar and also waving, some require waving but not bringing near to the altar, and some require neither bringing near to the altar nor waving.

These require bringing near to the altar but not waving:

The Gemara explains that hagasha – bringing the offering to the altar – which is written specifically regarding the minchat marcheshet – the meal-offering prepared in a pan (see Vayikra 2:8), applies to others, as well, based on the passage in Vayikra 6:7.
It required the kohen to bring the meal-offering to the South-west corner of the altar prior to performing kemitza on the flour.

The requirements of tenufah, or “waving” the offering appear in the next Mishnah and are discussed in detail on daf 62.

Menachot 61a-b: Waving in the east

As we learned on yesterday’s daf there were different activities that were done to the menachot as part of the ceremonial Temple service. Specifically, the two activities were hagasha – bringing the offering to the altar prior to performing kemitzah on the flour – and tenufa – lifting or “waving” the offering.

The Mishnah on today’s daf teaches that the tenufah was performed in the east, while the hagashah was performed in the west; the tenufa was performed before the hagashah.

The “east” and “west” mentioned refer to the eastern side of the altar – where the entrance from the Ezrat Yisrael to the ezrat kohanim was located – and the western side of the altar which was referred to as bein ha-ulam la’mizbe’ach, between the sanctuary and the altar, which had a higher level of holiness.

Rashi explains that there is no obligation to perform tenufah on the eastern side of the altar, the Mishnah is teaching that even the eastern side is considered lifnei Ha-Shem – before God – as required by the Torah (see Vayikra 6:7), and tenufah on that side would be sufficient. The western side of the altar would certainly be appropriate for tenufah, as well.

The Rambam appears to disagree and require that tenufah be performed specifically on the eastern side of the altar. The Gri”z – Rav Yitzhak Soloveitchik – explains that this requirement stems from the fact that all who enter the Temple enter from the eastern side, so they first pass the eastern side of the altar, which is their first opportunity to perform the mitzvah. Given the general principle that ein ma’avirin al ha-mitzvot – that one should not pass on the opportunity to perform a mitzvahtenufah should be done immediately at that point, followed by hagashah at the south-west corner of the altar, as required.

Menachot 62a-b: “Waving” sacrifices

According to the Mishnah (daf 61a), the special Shavuot sacrifices – the shtei ha-lechem and the kivsei atzeret – the two loaves and the lambs brought for sacrifice – needed tenufah – waving – done to them. Tenufah is defined in the Mishnah as lifting them forwards and backwards, upwards and downwards.

The Gemara brings a number of explanations for this practice –

Rabbi Chiya bar Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan, forward and backward, that is to Him unto Whom the four directions belong; upward and downward, that is to Him unto Whom heaven and earth belong.

In the West (in the Land of Israel) it was taught as follows: Rav Hama bar Ukva said in the name of Rabbi Yosi bar Rabbi Chanina, forward and backward, in order to keep off violent winds; upward and downward, in order to keep off harmful dews.

Rabbah said, Likewise with the lulav. Rabbi Aha bar Yaakov used to swing it forward and backward, and hold it out and say, ‘An arrow in the eyes of Satan!’ But it is not proper to do so, for it is a challenge to Satan to contend with him.

Rishonim point out that there is a practical difference between the reason suggested by Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba in the name of Rabbi Yochanan and the one raised by Rav Hama bar Ukva in the name of Rabbi Yosi bar Rabbi Chanina. According to the first approach, the point of waving the sacrifices in different directions is in order to offer thanks to God who rules the entire world. Such recognition would be appropriate in all sacrifices. The second approach, which connects waving the sacrifices with wind and dew, would appear to be appropriate specifically at seasonal crossroads, e.g. the holiday of Shavuot when the fruits of the tree are judged and on Sukkot when judgment is made regarding rain for the upcoming season.

Menachot 63a-b: The barley meal-offering on Passover

The sixth perek of Masechet Menachot begins on today’s daf, and it is devoted, in its entirety, to the laws of minchat ha’omer – the meal-offering brought on the second day of Passover – and the laws of chadash – the new grain – associated with it (see Sefer Vayikra 23:9-16).

The minchat ha’omer differs from other meal-offerings in a number of ways, all of which are discussed in this perek. Aside from the ordinary commandment to sacrifice the meal-offering, the minchat ha’omer also must be harvested in a special way. It is also brought from barley, rather than from wheat, and involves a unique process of preparation before it is brought. Much of the discussion in this perek focuses on harvesting and bringing the omer, since the Torah offers little information about how it was done. From the passages in the Torah we do not know how much had to be brought, how it was to be harvested, whether it can be done on Shabbat, and so forth.

In fact, many of the laws related to harvesting the omer were established by the Sages in response to the position taken by the Baitusim sect who believed that the minchat ha’omer could only be brought on a Sunday – based on their interpretation of Vayikra 23:11, which says that it must be brought on the day following Shabbat – which is understood by the Sages of Mishnah as referring to the first day of the Passover holiday.

The Mishnah describes how the harvesting took place – with three scythes (each called a magal) and three baskets (each called a kupah) that were used for short stalks of grain that could not be tied properly into sheaves.

Rabbi Chanina Sgan ha-Kohanim rules that although this was true if the 16th day of Nissan occurred during the week, if it fell on Shabbat there was only a single harvester who had just one magal and one kupah.

Menachot 64a-b: Greek wisdom and the end of sacrifices

According to the Mishnah on today’s daf, although ideally the minchat ha’omer sacrifice brought on the second day of Passover was to be harvested near the Temple, once it was brought from Gagot Tzrifin, a place far from Jerusalem. The Gemara quotes a baraita that attributes this to a particular historical event.

After the death of Shlomtzion HaMalkah who bequeathed her kingdom to her son Hyrkonos, his brother Aristoblus contested the decision and succeeded in ousting his elder brother. With the encouragement of Herod‘s father, Antipater, Hyrkonos gathered an army and attacked the city, forcing Aristoblus and his supporters to barricade themselves in Jerusalem. During this siege, which took place in 65 BCE, the Jews inside the city offered to purchase animals for daily sacrifices in the Temple in exchange for large sums of money.

The baraita relates that someone who was there who was knowledgeable in Greek wisdom hinted to the men outside the city that it was only the Temple service that kept Jerusalem from falling. The next day, in exchange for the coins that were sent down, instead of the promised sacrifice the soldiers sent back a pig, which reached out with its hooves halfway up the wall and caused the ground to shake. At that point the sages established an enactment forbidding the raising of pigs in Israel and teaching Greek wisdom to children.

This story appears in Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 14:2), where it is related that the Jews inside the city offered 1000 drachmas for every Pesach sacrifice. The consequence of the story according to Josephus was a storm that destroyed almost all of the harvest in the land of Israel. Perhaps this incident is what the baraita means when it says that “the earth shook.”

Chachma Yevanit – Greek wisdom – does not appear to be secular knowledge generally, but rather refers to knowledge of Greek culture, music, literature, etc. Few people spoke classical Greek, and the story in our Gemara may indicate that the man “knowledgeable in Greek wisdom” was able to hint his intentions to others by presenting his message in a manner that only a select few could understand.

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.