All meal offerings were brought from solet – fine flour. The Mishna on today’s daf teaches that the flour was sifted very carefully before use –
- when the Minḥat ha-omer – the meal offering brought on Passover, celebrating the new harvest (see Vayikra 23:10-11) – was prepared, 13 sifters were used in preparing the flour;
- when the Shetei ha-leḥem – the two loaves brought on Shavuot, celebrating the new wheat harvest (see Vayikra 23:17) – were prepared, 12 sifters were used
- when the Leḥem ha-panim – the 12 loaves places on the table in the Temple on a weekly basis (see Vayikra 24:5-8) – were prepared, 11 sifters were used.
Rabbi Shimon disagrees, arguing that there was no specific number, rather that each one simply had to be prepared from carefully sifted flour, basing his position on the passage in Vayikra (24:5) regarding the leḥem ha-panim that simply says that solet must be taken for their preparation.
The Gemara quotes a baraita that derives other laws from the passage quoted by Rabbi Shimon. Based on this pasuk the baraita suggests that the solet for the leḥem ha-panim could be purchased as either prepared flour – as was the case for all other meal offerings – or in their raw form as wheat. Rabbi Elazar explains that this stems from the Torah’s desire to be frugal with money belonging to the Jewish people. Since the volume of flour required to prepare the 12 loaves of leḥem ha-panim on a weekly basis was quite large in comparison to the amount needed for the once-a-year minḥat ha-omer or shetei ha-leḥem, the Torah permitted its purchase in raw form, which made it cheaper.
According to the Gemara, Rabbi Elazar’s source for the idea that God is concerned about the finances of the Jewish people comes from the story in Sefer Bamidbar (Chapter 20) when there was no water to drink, and God supplied a miracle whose purpose was to allow the people – and their cattle – to drink. Clearly, according to the Torah, the possessions belonging to the Jewish people merited a miracle, as well.