י״ג באלול ה׳תשע״ח (August 24, 2018)

Menahot 14a-b: The Power to Effect Acceptance

The tzitz – the priestly crown or frontplate – was worn by the  as part of his Temple uniform. According to the Torah (Sefer Shemot 28:38) the tzitz served a specific purpose. By wearing it, “Aaron shall bear the iniquity committed in the holy items, which the children of Israel shall sanctify, even in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.” This was understood by to mean that it atones for ritual defilement that might occur in the Temple.

This idea is brought in the Gemara on today’s daf by Rav Pappa as an explanation of the disagreement in the Mishna. In a situation where part of the Temple service became ritually defiled, e.g. when one of the two loaves brought on Shavuot becomes ritually defiled, or one set of the leḥem ha-panim – the shewbread (see above daf 7) becomes impure, can the remaining bread be eaten? Rabbi Yehuda rules that they must all be destroyed, since a communal offering cannot be divided into parts. The Sages of the Mishna disagree and rule that what has become ritually defiled must be destroyed, but that the rest remains unaffected and can be eaten.

Rav Pappa suggests that this difference of opinion is based on how broad the power of the tzitz should be viewed. According to the Sages, the power of the tzitz to effect acceptance – to atone for ritual defilement in the Temple – is such that it works not only on sacrifices that have already been brought so that they are considered valid, but also on things that are to be eaten by the kohanim. Although it cannot purify a ritually defiled offering, it can give it the status of a valid offering to the extent that the sprinkling of the blood of such a sacrifice would be acceptable and the remaining parts of the offering will be considered valid and can be eaten by the kohanim according to their regulations. Rabbi Yehuda limits the power of the tzitz, and since part of the sacrifice has become disqualified the blood cannot be sprinkled and the loaves cannot be eaten.

Ultimately, the Gemara rejects Rav Pappa’s explanation, and Rabbi Yoḥanan concludes that Rabbi Yehuda simply had an longstanding oral tradition that a partial communal offering cannot be brought.