כ״ו בתשרי ה׳תשע״ט (October 5, 2018)

Menahot 57a-b: Unleavened Meal Offerings

As we have learned (see above daf 55), most of the meal offerings brought in the Temple were baked as matza and were not permitted to rise and become ḥametz (see 2:11). The Gemara on today’s daf quotes a baraita that offers two possibilities for what the Torah includes when it teaches that “all menaḥot that are sacrificed” cannot be baked as ḥametz

  • Rabbi Yosei HaGelili teaches that this includes meal offerings that accompany sacrifices that have libations. Such meal offerings are not eaten but are burnt in their entirety. Nevertheless they cannot be baked as ḥametz.
  • Rabbi Akiva teaches that this includes the leḥem ha-panim – the Temple Shewbread loaves.

The Gemara questions whether this last teaching can be attributed to Rabbi Akiva who believes that a dry measure of flour does not become sanctified in a keli sharet – a Temple vessel. According to this position, the leḥem ha-panim will only become sanctified after baking was completed, when the Shewbread loaves are placed on the table in the Temple. At that point, there is no possibility that the loaves can become ḥametz.

In response, the Gemara brings a letter sent by Rabbi Reuven who quotes Rabbi Yoḥanan, the great Palestinian amora, as teaching that the correct reading of the baraita switches the opinions around, so we find Rabbi Akiva teaching that meal offerings burned on the altar cannot be ḥametz, and Rabbi Yosei HaGelili teaching that the leḥem ha-panim cannot be ḥametz.

The idea of sharing halakhic traditions from the Land of Israel to the Diaspora is commonplace in the Talmud. While such traditions were often transmitted directly by Sages who traveled between Israel and Babylonia, we also find that letters were exchanged between the two communities. These letters were perceived as reliable teachings and we find questions raised by based on them. Given their acceptance, the author of the letter often took great care to record the information accurately, so we may find a veritable transcript that includes such supportive statements as “this is the opinion of Rabbi So-and-so, and all of the Sages quote it in his name.”