Masechet Menachot 72a-78b

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Meal Offering
19 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 72a-b: Discussing the rules of meal-offerings

The seventh perek of Masechet Menachot begins on today’s daf. Perek “Elu Menachot” deals mainly with clarifying the way the different meal-offerings are brought: the activities done to prepare for each type of mincha, the offering itself, and the laws pertaining to the remainder of the meal-offering that is left over after the fistful of flour is taken to the altar.

For example, the Torah requires kemitzah as a prerequisite for the mincha offering, and that the remnants of the flour are to be given to the kohanim to eat (see Sefer Vayikra2:1-10). The Torah does not specify, however, whether these rules apply to each and every meal-offering, or whether kemitzah applies in those cases where the entire meal-offering is sacrificed on the altar.

The first Mishnah lists those meal-offerings where the ordinary rules apply: the fistful of flour – the kemitzah – is separated from the rest of the offering and is sacrificed, while the remainder is given to the kohanim to eat. These include five types of voluntary menachot typically brought by Jewish men:

  1. Minchat solet – a simple flour mixture
  2. Challot – unleavened cakes
  3. Rekikim – unleavened wafers
  4. Machavat – fried
  5. Marcheshet – cooked, or those same voluntary menachot that are donated by non-Jews – minchat goyim – or by women – minchat nashim.

There are also a number of obligatory menachot, that have this rule, like –

Menachot 73a-b: Can sacrificial offerings be traded?

As we learned on yesterday’s daf, many of the meal-offerings that are brought include a portion that is given to the kohanim in the Temple to eat.

In Sefer Vayikra (7:9), the Torah teaches that it is the kohen who offers the mincha who is given the opportunity to eat it. In the following passage (Vayikra 7:10) it appears that all of the kohanim share equally in the meal-offerings. The baraita that appears on today’s daf explains that the share belonging to the kohanim is divided amongst all of the kohanim and cannot be traded between them. That is to say, a kohen cannot exchange his share in a korban mincha for a share in an animal sacrifice of equal value. The baraita continues and derives from different words in the pasuk that neither can it be traded for a different mincha portion, nor for a sacrifice from a fowl, nor can a sacrifice from fowl be traded for an animal sacrifice, and so on.

Rashi explains that the situation described in the baraita is where one kohen offers to make such a trade with a fellow kohen. Later commentaries discuss the reason for this prohibition – is it because this appears to be a business transaction and it belittles the holiness of the sacrifices, or is it because the kohanim do not actually own the portions of the sacrifices, since they are effectively “eating from the Heavenly table.”

One of the questions raised by the later commentaries is why the baraita needs to find a separate source in the pasuk to prohibit each exchange of offerings. Once we determine that such exchanges are forbidden, it would seem logical that the prohibition applies to all sacrifices. The Hazon Ish explains that since the division of the offerings is based on an agreement among the kohanim, we might have thought that similar sacrifices might possibly be interchangeable, assuming that the two kohanim agreed to the switch. The baraita is emphasizing that such exchanges are forbidden under all circumstances.

Menachot 74a-b: Plumbing under the Temple

As we learned at the beginning of this perek, many meal-offerings are divided, with part sacrificed on the altar and part given to the kohanim to eat. The Mishnah on today’s daf lists cases where the altar is “stronger” than the kohanim, inasmuch as it receives the entire meal offering, and cases where the kohanim are “stronger” than the altar, since they get to eat the entire offering, leaving none to be sacrificed.

Cases where the altar receives the entire offering are:

The Gemara points out that it appears that there are other sacrifices, as well, where the entire offering remains on the altar with none given to the kohanim. In each example brought, however, the Gemara argues that the altar does not receive everything. Thus, for example, regarding an olah – a burnt offering – the kohanim do receive the skin of the animal. Regarding libations, which are poured on the altar and the kohanim receive nothing, the Gemara explains that they are not actually poured on the altar, rather they are poured into the shittin under the altar.

The shittin were pipes and hollow spaces in and beneath the altar. They opened as two small holes on the south-west corner of the altar and the blood and wine libations would run from them to the water tunnel under the Temple Mount and from there to the Kidron Valley. According to a tradition of the Geonim, the shittin were a cubit in width and 600 cubits in depth. Based on this tradition, when the Gemara in Masechet Sukkah (49a) describes how once every 70 years young kohanim would descend and remove the solidified remnants of wine, it is clear that they did not descend to the very bottom of the pipe, rather they went as far down as they could or used special implements to clean the passageway.

Menachot 75a-b: Learning about blessings from the sacrificial service

What blessing do you make on croutons?

Rav Yosef rules that chavitza that has a full olive’s worth of bread crumbs deserves an ordinary ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz. If, however, there is less than a kezayit, then the blessing would be borei minei mezonot. He explains that his source for this is a baraita where we learn that if a person is standing in Jerusalem and bringing meal-offerings that are broken into pieces he makes the blessing of shehechiyanu. Once he eats them, he makes the blessing ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz. This is due to the fact that the Mishnah teaches that when a meal-offering is broken up, the pieces have a kezayit.

There are different definitions offered for the term chavitza:

Rashi is quoted as saying that it is a cooked dish that included pieces of bread. Tosafot argue that a case where the bread was cooked may have a different status than a meal-offering, and the comparison made by Rav Yosef would be incorrect. An alternative suggestion is that the breadcrumbs were placed in the dish after cooking; according to the Aruch it is a dish that is made by first breaking up the bread and then pouring soup over it.

The rishonim also differ about the case brought in the baraita. Why is the shehechiyanu blessing recited?

According to Rashi we are talking about the person who is bringing a meal-offering for the first time in his life. Tosafot point out that it is difficult to suggest that this refers to the owner of the mincha, since the baraita talks about him eating it, and the meal-offering can only be eaten by a kohen.

An alternative explanation brought by Rashi is that this refers to a kohen who is sacrificing a mincha for the first time in his life. The Sefat Emet points out that the first sacrifice brought by every kohen is a special minchat chinuch, which is burned on the altar in its entirety and is not eaten.

Tosafot explain that this may refer to a kohen who is bringing a meal-offering for the first time this year. Since there were 24 groups of kohanim, each of which consisted of six families, a given kohen served in the Temple only two days a year. Therefore when he brought a korban mincha for the first time since his previous service, it is considered an occasional mitzvah that deserves a shehechiyanu blessing.

Menachot 76a-b: Preparing fine flour for meal-offerings

All meal-offerings were brought from solet – fine flour. The Mishnah on today’s daf teaches that the flour was sifted very carefully before use –

Rabbi Shimon disagrees, arguing that there was no specific number, rather that each one simply had to be prepared from carefully sifted flour, basing his position on the passage in Vayikra (24:5) regarding the lechem ha-panim that simply says that solet must be taken for their preparation.

The Gemara quotes a baraita that derives other laws from the passage quoted by Rabbi Shimon. Based on this pasuk the baraita suggests that the solet for the lechem ha-panim could be purchased as either prepared flour – as was the case for all other meal-offerings – or in their raw form as wheat. Rabbi Elazar explains that this stems from the Torah‘s desire to be frugal with money belonging to the Jewish people. Since the volume of flour required to prepare the 12 loaves of lechem ha-panim on a weekly basis was quite large in comparison to the amount needed for the once-a-year minchat HaOmer or shtei ha-lechem, the Torah permitted its purchase in raw form, which made it cheaper.

According to the Gemara, Rabbi Elazar’s source for the idea that God is concerned about the finances of the Jewish people comes from the story in Sefer Bamidbar (Chapter 20) when there was no water to drink, and God supplied a miracle whose purpose was to allow the people – and their cattle – to drink. Clearly, according to the Torah, the possessions belonging to the Jewish people merited a miracle, as well.

Menachot 77a-b: Thanksgiving offerings

The eighth perek of Masechet Menachot begins on today’s daf. Its focus is the korban todah – the thanksgiving offering – which is a type of korban shelamim (peace offerings) discussed in Masechet Zevachim with the other animal sacrifices. Nevertheless its unique character brings it into Masechet Menachot, as well, since every korban todah was accompanied by four meal-offerings, some made of matzah and some made of chametz (see Sefer Vayikra 7:11-15). This chapter is dedicated to explaining the laws pertaining to these menachot, how they are made, their size, and so forth.

Among the unique halakhot connected with these meal-offerings was the requirement to offer terumah – a gift to the kohen – from them (see Vayikra 7:14). The Torah offers no explanation for the terumah beyond its requirement; the Mishnayot in this perek deal with questions of whether it has the same laws as ordinary terumah (e.g. that a non-kohen who eats it is liable to receive a Heavenly death penalty and must repay its value plus a 20% penalty), or if it simply must be given to the kohen.

The Mishnah teaches that accompanying a korban todah there were ten loaves made of chametz (leaven) and 30 of matzah. The 30 matzot were divided into ten each of three types – challot (loaves), rekikim (wafers) and revukhah (boiled). The Mishnah continues and teaches that one of each type was taken and set aside as terumah for the kohen who sprinkled the blood of the associated thanksgiving sacrifice, while the rest were left for the owner of the sacrifice to eat.

The Mishnah does not explain clearly who takes the terumah – does the kohen do it himself, or is it the responsibility of the owner of the sacrifice? One suggestion is that the Torah seems to indicate that it is the kohen who takes it, since we find that Moshe – who was acting as a kohen during the ceremony anointing Aharon as High Priest (see Vayikra 8:26) – is the one who took the terumah from the meal-offering and handed it to his brother, Aharon.

Menachot 78a-b: Sanctifying 40 out of 80 loaves

As we have learned on yesterday’s daf whenever a korban todah – a thanksgiving offering – was brought in the Temple, it was accompanied by 40 loaves that served as meal-offerings. These 40 loaves were divided up so that there were ten loaves made of chametz (leaven) and 30 of matzah – see Sefer Vayikra (7:11-15).

The Gemara on today’s daf presents a case where the individual bringing the korban todah brought 80 loaves to accompany the thanksgiving offering. Chizkiya rules that 40 of these loaves become sanctified; Rabbi Yohanan says that they do not become sanctified. In explaining this argument, Rabbi Zeira explains that the disagreement is limited:

If the individual bringing the korban says that he wants 40 of the loaves to become sanctified, the holiness takes effect. Similarly, if he is insistent that all 80 become sanctified, then none become holy. The difference of opinion between Chizkiya and Rabbi Yochanan is only in a case where the owner does not specify his intentions. Chizkiya argues that he most likely brought the extra ones in order to guarantee that if there was a problem, he would have extra. Rabbi Yochanan suggests that he must have wanted to bring “a big sacrifice” which he cannot do, so none of the loaves become sanctified.

Tosafot point out that the case where all agree that the loaves become sanctified appears, at first glance, to be a question of bereira – that is to say, whether when there is a question about the status of a given object, can an act that takes place later clarify the status retroactively. This would be problematic since we know that Rabbi Yochanan does not accept bereira, yet he accepts the ruling that 40 out of 80 loaves become sanctified. They explain that cases of bereira are dependent on a later action that may or may not occur (e.g. someone who wishes to eat untithed produce now, based on the fact that he will tithe the fruit at a later time). In our case, although we are unaware of the status of the loaves at the time when the korban todah is brought, the 40 loaves can immediately become sanctified where they are.

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.