ט״ו בכסלו ה׳תשע״ט (November 23, 2018)

Menahot 105a-b: A Simple Burnt Offering

As we learned on yesterday’s daf if someone commits to bring a meal offering, but does not specify which of the five types he plans to bring, Rabbi Yehuda rules that he must bring a minḥat solet – a meal offering of fine flour. The reason offered in the baraita in explanation of Rabbi Yehuda’s position is that the minḥat solet is the first one mentioned, which teaches that it is the standard meal offering.

The Gemara asks whether this is true in all cases. According to this logic, if someone commits to bring an ola – a burnt offering – according to Rabbi Yehuda he should be obligated to bring cattle, since that is what is mentioned first (see VayikraChapter 1). Yet we learned that according to of the Mishna, he brings a lamb, which is the least expensive of the animals, and according to Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya he can bring one of the birds that is brought as a burnt offering – a tor or a ben-yona – and we do not find that Rabbi Yehuda disagrees.

This forces the Gemara to conclude that Rabbi Yehuda’s ruling is based on the fact that a minḥa of solet is viewed as the simplest meal-offering, and it is not because it is mentioned first.

According to the Torah (Sefer Vayikra 1:14), the two types of birds that can be brought as sacrifices are torim and benei yona – turtledoves and pigeons. The tor that is referred to is identified as Streptopelia turtur, while the yona is identified as Columba livia domestica. These birds are consistently referred to differently, the former are called torim, while the latter are called benei yona. This is understood by the Sages to mean that a tor is only qualified to be brought as a sacrifice when it is an adult bird, while the yona can only be brought when it is young, before it reaches adulthood. According to the Mishna in Massekhet Ḥullin (1:5), these two periods are mutually exclusive, and what would be an appropriate sacrifice in a pigeon would be inappropriate in a dove, and vice versa. The cut-off point between the two is just four or five days after hatching, when the bird’s body becomes covered with plumage – gold in the case of torim and yellow in the case of benei yona.