Talmud Tips

For the week ending 25 August 2018 / 14 Elul 5778

Menachot 2 - 8

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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A Time for a Beautiful Offering

Rabbi Shimon says: It would be logical to think that a mincha (flour) sacrifice of a “sinner” should require the same oil and frankincense that are part of regular mincha offerings, so that the sinner should not be rewarded (by not needing to offer these components). And why doesn’t the mincha sacrifice of a sinner actually require these elements? They are lacking so that his sacrifice not be seen as beautiful. And it also would be logical, continues Rabbi Shimon, that the chatat (sin-offering) for eating chelev (forbidden fats, but Rashi explains that the same is true for any chatat) should be accompanied by oil libations and mincha offerings as is true for other types of sacrifices (such as peace-offerings and burnt-offerings), so that the sinner should not be rewarded. And why doesn’t the chatat sacrifice of a sinner require these elements? They are lacking so that his sacrifice not be seen as beautiful.

The sacrifices that a sinner brings in order to facilitate his atonement differ substantially from other, voluntary, sacrifices that a regular person would bring. A regular, voluntary sacrifice is offered in a special manner of beauty that is lacking in the case of a sacrifice brought by a sinner.

What is the impetus for Rabbi Shimon’s explanation? The gemara is “puzzled” by the text of the mishna on our daf. It states that whether it be a mincha offering of a ‘sinner’ (one who was impure and entered the Mikdash or defiled holy objects and cannot afford and animal offering), or whether it is the case of all other meanchot, in all cases where the mincha was offered by someone unfit to perform the service, it is invalid. The gemara raises a question: Why does the mishna create two categories for the menachot — a mincha of a sinner and a category for all other menachot? Why not just mention them all together in one category since they all have the same ruling regarding being invalid under the circumstances listed in the mishna?

The answer is, based on the teaching of Rabbi Shimon, that I might have thought that just as the mincha of a sinner is somehow “lesser” in that it is not required to be beautified with oil and frankincense, likewise it would still be valid even if offered by an unfit person, despite other menachot clearly being invalid if offered by an unfit person.

According to the gemara, it appears that we conclude that, despite this reasoning of Rabbi Simon, he 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.

It is suggested to see the commentary of Rabbi Akiva Eiger on this mishna for a deeper understanding of this mishna and the gemara. In particular he addresses, as does our gemara, why a very similar mishna in Masechet Zevachim does not mention both a sin-offering for eating forbidden fats, along with the other sacrifices, which would lead to the same analysis and discussion as we find in our sugya in Masechet Menachot.

  • Menachot 6a

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