ט״ז באלול ה׳תשע״ח (August 27, 2018)

Menahot 17a-b: The Sharp Ones of Pumbedita

Today’s daf opens with the statement of ḥarifei d’Pumbedita – “the sharp ones of the city of Pumbedita” – that one meal offering sacrifice can disqualify another meal offering sacrifice. That is to say, that if at the moment the kohen is placing the fistful of flour taken for sacrifice on the altar he thinks to himself that he will bring the frankincense on the next day – which is after the time that it is permitted to be brought – the sacrifice become piggul, it is disqualified.

The Gemara continues that this is true even according to the opinion that a sacrifice does not become piggul unless the inappropriate thought referred to the entire essence of the sacrifice (see the position of the in the Mishna on yesterday’s daf, as well as that of Rabbi Yosei in the Mishna on daf 13a).  Nevertheless, here it is considered the entire essence of the sacrifice since the fistful of flour and the frankincense are placed together into the Temple vessel.

Who are the ḥarifei d’Pumbedita who taught this rule?

In Massekhet (17b) the Gemara says that this was the nickname for Eifa and Avimi, the sons of the Sage Raḥava of Pumbedita, who was a student of Rav Yehuda, the founder of the great in that city. These two brothers are mentioned a number of times in the Talmud, mainly in the context of questions that they asked others or the halakhic arguments that they had with one another. For example, the Gemara relates how Eifa reviewed all of Massekhet Shevuot before Rabba and Avimi tested him and asked questions on his words.

Although they are identified with the Babylonian yeshiva in Pumbedita, they are quoted in the Talmud Yerushalmi and we find the Israeli sages discussing their teachings.