כ״ה בניסן ה׳תשע״א (April 29, 2011)

Menahot 51a-b – What if the kohen dies?

One of the daily sacrifices brought by the was the meal-offering called the minhat havitin. It consisted of loaves that were baked from a measure of flour, half of which were sacrificed on the altar in the morning and the other half which were sacrificed in the afternoon (see Vayikra 6:12-18).

 

According to the Mishnah on today’s daf (=page) if the kohen gadol passed away after the morning minhat havitin had been brought, and no one had been appointed to replace him, Rabbi Shimon rules that the afternoon offering would be brought from the public coffers; Rabbi Yehudah requires those who inherit the kohen gadol to pay for it.

 

Although the source for these two opinions are based on Biblical passages, the Gemara points out that we find a baraitathat lists this law among several that Rabbi Shimon identified as being Rabbinic ordinances. By way of explanation, Rabbi Abahu suggests that there were two separate enactments. As the Gemara originally suggested, Rabbi Shimon believes that the afternoon offering should be brought from the public coffers. When public funding ran short the Rabbis ruled that those who inherit the kohen gadol are obligated to bring the offering. When it became clear that those people were unreliable, the law reverted to the original Biblical requirement.

 

The Hazon Ish points out that the original Rabbinic ordinance was problematic since a minhat havitin could not be brought as a voluntary donation. Since in this case the offerings really should have been brought from communal funds, how could private funds be used?  He suggests that the way the ordinance was developed must have required the heirs of thekohen gadol to donate the money to the public coffers for the purpose of the public minhat havitin offering.