Menachos 2 - 8
The Beauty and the Sinner
The delicate balance maintained by the Torah in regard to the sacrifices a sinner offers to achieve atonement comes into sharp focus in our Talmudic section.
The mincha (meal offering) which is offered in atonement for certain involuntary sins by one who can afford neither animal or bird as a sacrifice is offered without the oil and frankincense which accompany regular mincha offerings. The regular chatass sacrifice offered as an atonement for a broad range of involuntary sins is not accompanied by the meal offering and wine libation which accompany the olah and shlamim sacrifices.
These restrictions are obviously intended to limit the esthetics of a sacrifice related to sin. But they are also present in this paradox expressed by the sage Rabbi Shimon:
Logic would have dictated that the mincha of a sinner should be accompanied by oil and frankincense so that he should not gain by being spared the expense of these items. But the Torah did not wish that his offering should be as attractive as those brought voluntarily by people who did not sin. And logic would have dictated that the animal sacrifice of a sinner be accompanied by the meal offerings and wine libations accompanying other sacrifices in order that the sinner not gain - but the same reason prevails of denying the sinner's sacrifice the same esthetic quality.
Despite this reasoning Rabbi Shimon also agrees that if a non-Kohen performs the service of offering the sinner's mincha it is invalid, and we do not say that allowing this service to be performed by an unqualified person should be another expression of denying beauty to such a sacrifice. There is clearly a distinction between limiting the accompaniments which enhance beauty and allowing it to be offered by someone who is not qualified to do so.
- Menachos 6a
Another Dimension of Effort
The Sage Avimi came to Rabbi Chisda to learn Mesechta Menachos. When this was reported to a later generation it raised many eyebrows. Rabbi Chisda was, after all, a disciple of Avimi and once even went on record regarding the tough time that his master had given him in the analysis of a particular section in Mesechta Erachin.
The explanation provided is that as a result of an illness Avimi forgot Mesechta Menachos and went to his disciple Rabbi Chisda in an effort to relearn it.
But why, asks the Gemara, did Avimi not summon his disciple rather than travel to him?
The answer is that he felt that this exertion on his part would increase his chances for success. This, Rashi points out, is based on a Talmudic formula (Megillah 6b) that "if a man tells you I exerted myself in the study of Torah and did not succeed in gaining it - do not believe him." Success in the study of Torah is guaranteed for one who sufficiently exerts himself to achieve that goal.
The usual understanding of exertion is in the academic sense - perseverance and thinking. Avimi's exertion to travel to his disciple reveals a new dimension, one of physical effort which is also a prerequisite for success in Torah study.
- Menachos 7a