Masechet Menachot 79a-85b

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26 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 79a-b: A minor blemish in the eye of the sacrifice

Since the loaves that accompany the korban todah – the thanksgiving offering – are dependent on it, the Mishnah (78b) teaches that under certain circumstances if the sacrifice is deemed invalid the loaves do not become sanctified. The Gemara identifies the author of this Mishnah as Rabbi Meir who teaches the general principle that if the condition that makes the sacrifice invalid existed before it was slaughtered, e.g. the animal was a treifah – it had a terminal condition – then the loaves do not become sanctified. If, however, the condition was created after the animal was slaughtered, e.g. the kohen had an inappropriate thought about where or when the sacrifice would be eaten, then the loaves do become sanctified.

What if the sacrifice was found to have a mum – a blemish? According to Rabbi Meir this question is the subject of disagreement between Rabbi Eliezer, who says that the loaves become sanctified, and Rabbi Yehoshua who rules that they do not.

The Gemara searches for an explanation for the position of Rabbi Eliezer, according to Rabbi Meir. If an animal was a treifah we recognize that the sacrifice is invalid and the loaves do not become sanctified; why should the case of a blemish be different?

The Gemara answers that this follows the opinion of Rabbi Akiva who permits certain types of mumim to be brought on the altar, or at least that the sacrifice is not removed from the altar if it had already been brought to it. The case discussed is when the blemish was dukin she-ba-ayin. Since dukin she-ba-ayin is a relatively minor condition – in fact, it is not considered a blemish if it is found in a sacrifice brought from fowl – an animal with such a blemish is permitted, if it found its way to the altar.

Dukin she-ba-ayin is some kind of an eye condition; Rashi explains that it is a cataract on the eye. Another possible explanation presented by Rashi is that it is a blemish on the eyelid.

Menachot 80a-b: What if a sacrifice is misplaced?

Rabbi Aba presents the following situation on today’s daf:

If a man says “this is my todah – my thanksgiving offering – and these are its accompanying loaves,” if the loaves are misplaced, he must replace them, but if the sacrifice is misplaced he does not bring another animal instead.

He explains the reason for this: The loaves come as an accompaniment for the thanksgiving sacrifice; the sacrifice does not come as a consequence of the loaves.

The aharonim point out that when Rabbi Aba rules that the owner of the sacrifice does not replace the lost animal because of the loaves, that only means that he is not required to do so. As Rashi explains, the fact that the loaves are still extant does not require a korban todah to be brought, but the owner can choose to replace it if he wants. Nevertheless, according to the parallel discussion in Masechet Pesachim (daf 13a) in the event that the sacrifice is lost, the loaves cannot be used for a different korban todah, since these loaves were intrinsically tied to the missing sacrifice, so they will have to be redeemed for money, at which point they lose their sanctity and can be eaten in an ordinary fashion.

The Sefat Emet explains that the fate of these loaves may depend on the language that was used at the time that they were sanctified. If the owner of the sacrifice said “these are the loaves that are to accompany the korban todah” then they are tied to the sacrifice and cannot be offered with another. If, however, he said “I accept upon myself to bring loaves to accompany the korban todah” and afterwards he sets those loaves aside for that purpose, since he accepted the obligation on himself the loaves remain an independent obligation and they could be attached to a replacement korban todah.

Menachot 81a-b: Purchasing a sacrifice with “Second Tithe” money

Ma’aser sheni, or what is called “the second tithe,” is produce that is set aside by the farmer in years 1, 2, 4 and 5 of the seven year Sabbatical cycle to be taken to Jerusalem and eaten within the walls of the city. The Torah teaches that if a farmer finds that he has too much of such produce, or if he is far away from Jerusalem, he can redeem the ma’aser sheni in exchange for money, which must be taken to Jerusalem and used to buy food, which then gets the sanctity of ma’aser sheni (see Devarim 14:22-27 for the laws of ma’aser sheni).

Among the foods that can be purchased with ma’aser sheni money are voluntary sacrifices whose meat is eaten by the owner of the offering. Such money cannot be used to purchase obligatory sacrifices – even those whose meat is eaten by the owner – since obligatory sacrifices can only come from ordinary money and not from sanctified money. The Mishnah on today’s daf discusses whether a korban todah – a thanksgiving offering – and its associated loaves can be brought from ma’aser sheni money. Four cases are mentioned in the Mishnah –

  1. Someone who commits to bring a korban todah must bring both the sacrifice and the loaves from his own, personal money
  2. Someone who says that he will bring the korban todah from his own money, but the loaves from ma’aser sheni money must bring both from his own money. Since the loaves come as a consequence of the sacrifice, once he obligated himself in the sacrifice, he is obligated in the loaves and cannot use ma’aser sheni money for it.
  3. Someone who says that he will bring the korban todah from ma’aser sheni money, but the loaves will be brought from his own money, can do so (he can also bring the korban todah from his own money if he wants).
  4. Someone who says that he will bring both the sacrifice and the loaves from ma’aser sheni money can do so (again, he can also bring them from his own money if he wants to).

Menachot 82a-b: Trading sanctities

As we learned on yesterday’s daf, only voluntary sacrifices whose meat is eaten by the owner of the offering can be purchased with money from redeemed ma’aser sheni (second tithes). Such money cannot be used to purchase obligatory sacrifices – even those whose meat is eaten by the owner – since obligatory sacrifices can only come from ordinary money and not from sanctified money.

The Mishnah on today’s daf searches for a source for this law. The passage that is suggested says that the korban Pesach – the Pascal sacrifice – must be brought from tzon u’bakar – cattle (see Devarim 16:2). We know, however, that only certain types of cattle can be used for the korban Pesach – specifically a lamb or a goat (see Shemot 12:5). The Mishnah concludes that the purpose of using a broader term – “cattle” – is to connect other sacrifices to the korban Pesach so that we can conclude that just as the korban Pesach is brought from personal funds and not sanctified money (since at the time when the first koban Pesach was brought the laws of sanctified money did not yet exist), similarly, all other obligatory sacrifices must come from personal funds and not from sanctified money.

The acharonim ask why we need to find a source in the Torah to teach that obligatory sacrifices cannot be brought from ma’aser sheni money. While it is reasonable to demand a biblical source for cases where the obligation to bring a sacrifice was created by the person himself – e.g. if he said “I accept upon myself a korban todah” – in cases where the person is truly obligated to bring a sacrifice – e.g. someone who must bring a sin offering or a guilt offering – it would appear obvious that he cannot fulfill his obligation with sanctified money.

In his Olat Shlomo, Rav Shlomo Zalman Lifshitz suggests that we can understand this according to the approach suggested by the Rambam (whose source is in the Talmud Yerushalmi). The Rambam believes that once an animal is purchased for sacrifice using ma’aser sheni money, the sanctity of the ma’aser sheni is removed and replaced with the new sanctity of the sacrifice. Based on this perspective, one may have thought that other sacrifices could remove the ma’aser sheni sanctity, as well; we need the parallel to korban Pesach to teach that this is not the case.

Menachot 83a-b: Where does Temple produce come from?

The ninth perek (chapter) of Masechet Menachot begins on today’s daf. Its focus is on the materials that are brought as offerings in the Temple that are not animals or fowl, that is, the grain brought in meal-offerings, the oil and the wine used as libations. While the Torah does teach what all of these must come from, they lack specific requirements, e.g. whether they must be made from the produce of the Land of Israel or can be brought from imported raw materials.

According to the first Mishnah, only the Minchat HaOmer and the shtei ha-lechem (the offerings brought at the end of the barley harvest in Pesach and the wheat harvest on Shavuot) must be brought from grain grown in Israel from the recent harvest. All other offerings can be brought from anywhere. One requirement common to all such offerings is that they come from the muvchar – from the choicest of the required harvest. The Mishnah continues by teaching where the choicest produce was found: the solet – the fine wheat flour – was brought from Makhnis and Zat’ha as a first choice, with Aforayim as a second choice.

Tosafot point to the passage in Sefer Devarim (12:11) as the source for the requirement that the produce come from the choicest harvest. The Sefat Emet asks whether this is true only ab initio, or if this requirement would disqualify a lower quality offering. He suggests that we would not need a Biblical passage to teach that the choicest materials should be brought in the Temple, which would lead to the conclusion that this is a basic requirement, and that the fact that the Mishnah allows produce to be brought from other countries, that is because choice crops can be found there, as well. The conclusion of the Mishnah, however, which allows substituting imported produce instead of the harvest brought from the particular cities that are mentioned, does seem to indicate that even second tier crops would be acceptable.

Given the many variations of names that appear in manuscripts, it is difficult to identify the cities mentioned in the Mishnah. Some suggest that Makhnis is Michmas, Zat’ha is Zanoach and Aforayim is Ephraim.

Menachot 84a-b: Dreaming Torah thoughts

The Gemara on today’s daf quotes a Mishnah from Masechet Bikurim (1:3) that teaches that bikurim – first fruits brought to the Temple – are only brought from the seven species of fruit about which Israel is uniquely praised (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates – see Devarim 8:8). Even these are limited to quality produce. The Mishnah continues and teaches that dates growing on hilltops or fruit growing in valleys also cannot be brought as bikurim.

What if such lower quality fruits were set aside as bikurim?

Rabbi Yochanan teaches that even if these fruits were brought they would not become sanctified; Reish Lakish rules that they would become sanctified, just as lower quality animals brought as sacrifices in the Temple would be acceptable, assuming that they met the basic requirements of a sacrifice.

The Gemara asks: Why does Rabbi Yochanan disagree?

In response, Rabbi Elazar says that he saw Rabbi Yochanan in a dream, and he said a wonderful thing. The passage that commands that bikurim be brought (Devarim 26:2) says that the farmer must take me-reishit – “of the first of all the fruit” – which is a limiting expression that teaches that not all fruit is taken – only the seven species. Furthermore, the pasuk continues, that the bikurim come from me-artzecha – “from your land” – which, again, is a limiting expression teaching that it is not brought from anywhere in the land – excluding low quality fruits from hills or valleys.

We find a number of times in the Talmud that Rabbi Elazar relates that Rabbi Yochanan, his friend and teacher, appeared to him in a dream, leading to a new interpretation and clarification of Rabbi Yochanan’s teaching. The Gemara is not clear, however, about whether Rabbi Elazar actually spoke to Rabbi Yochanan in the dream and that his teacher shared this approach, or if his appearance in the dream simply served as an affirmation that Rabbi Elazar’s suggestion was correct.

In his Chachma u’Mussar, Rav Simcha Zissel Ziv, the Alter of Kelm uses this story to teach that a Sage’s Torah teachings are only accepted in the upper worlds if they are understood and accepted in the lower world. From this he concludes that it is the responsibility of every person to make sure that his activities, traditions and Torah teachings are clarified in the course of his lifetime.

Menachot 85a-b: “Carrying coals to Newcastle”

As we have learned, the Mishnah at the beginning of this perek (see daf 83) teaches that only the choicest produce was to be used for Temple offerings. The second-tier city for produce mentioned in the Mishnah was Aforayim. The Gemara on today’s daf attempts to show how common grain was in this city from the following midrashic story.

When Moshe approached the Egyptian Pharaoh armed with the magical feats that had been prepared for him by God (see Shemot, Chapter 7), the response was that such magical feats were unimpressive in Egypt, given how ubiquitous such sorcery was in that country. In fact, the Pharaoh’s sorcerers responded in kind. According to the midrash, Yohana and Mamre – the Pharaoh’s chief sorcerers – taunted Moshe by saying “Why are you bringing grain to Aforayim?” i.e. why bring something to a place where it is commonplace? Why bring magic to Egypt, which is overflowing with such sorcery? In response Moshe said to them that it is a common expression that one should take his vegetables to the place of vegetables. That is to say, if someone wants to sell vegetables, the best place to do that is the place where vegetables are found, since that is where the buyers will come. Similarly, the place where the awesomeness of the Israelite God will be appreciated through magic, is specifically in Egypt where sorcery is commonplace.

In Midrash Rabbah (Bereshit Rabbah 76:5) the Sages relate a similar story regarding Yosef, who was seen performing miracles in the house of his Egyptian master, Potiphar. From the text in Bereishit Rabbah it appears that this expression is one of a list of examples of things that are commonplace in a given locale and are, therefore, inappropriate to bring there. Aside from grain to Aforayim the list includes bringing earthenware pots to Kfar Chanina (apparently there was excellent and plentiful clay there), bringing wool to Damascus (where flocks of sheep were common) and sorcery to Egypt.

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.