כ״ח בתשרי ה׳תשע״ט (October 7, 2018)

Menahot 58a-b:What Cannot Be Brought As Meal Offerings

According to the Torah, two things cannot be brought as meal offerings – se’or, leaven, and dvash, honey (see 2:11). The Gemara on today’s daf quotes a baraita that explains that both of these must be emphasized since each one contains something that we would not know based on the other. Se’or is occasionally permitted in the Temple, e.g. the shtei ha-leḥem – the two loaves brought on Shavuot – but dvash is never permitted in the Temple. Dvash can be mixed with the remnants of meal offerings that are eaten, but those remnants cannot be allowed to become leavened.

Why are se’or and dvash forbidden?

In his commentary on the Torah, the Ramban suggests that pagan sacrifice usually included offerings that had risen and become leavened, and were mixed with honey, leading the Torah to forbid such practices.

Another approach brought by the Sefer HaḤinnukh suggests that the Torah did not want sacrifices brought from powerful elements that affect others – like se’or that causes leavening and dvash that changes the flavor of whatever is mixed with it – rather ordinary middle-of-the-road types of things. He parallels this to Creation, when God mixed the attribute of justice and the attribute of mercy to create a situation of normalcy in the world.

The Da’at Zekeinim suggests that this may stem from the fact that salt is added to all sacrifices, and neither se’or nor dvash accepts salt easily.

It should be noted that the dvash, which has been translated as “honey” does not refer to bees’ honey, but to honey made from processing fruit. The Sefer HaḤinnukh allows that it might also include bees’ honey, although there are those who argue that such honey is not equivalent to the sweetness of the seven species of fruit of Eretz Yisrael, which is what this refers to. Rashi and the Rashbam explain that this also does not mean specifically date honey, but can be any sweet fruit-based concoction.