כ״ז באייר ה׳תשע״א (May 31, 2011)

Menahot 83a-b – Where does Temple produce come from?

The ninth perek (chapter) of Masechet Menahot begins on today’s daf (=page). 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 minhat ha-omer and the shetei ha-lehem (the offerings brought at the end of the barley harvest in Pesach and the wheat harvest on Shavu’ot) 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 muvhar – 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 (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 Mikhmas, Zat’ha is Zano’ah and Aforayim is Efrayim.