Introduction to Tractate Menahot
Tractate Menahot deals with the minhah, or meal-offering. The main passage that deals with this offering is in Leviticus 2, but I have included here several other passages in Leviticus that mention how the minhah was offered.
1When a person presents an offering of meal to the LORD, his offering shall be of choice flour; he shall pour oil upon it, lay frankincense on it,
2 and present it to Aaron’s sons, the priests. The priest shall scoop out of it a handful of its choice flour and oil, as well as all of its frankincense; and this token portion he shall turn into smoke on the altar, as an offering by fire, of pleasing odor to the LORD.
3 And the remainder of the meal offering shall be for Aaron and his sons, a most holy portion from the LORD’s offerings by fire.
4 When you present an offering of meal baked in the oven, it shall be of choice flour: unleavened cakes with oil mixed in, or unleavened wafers spread with oil.
5 If your offering is a meal offering on a griddle, it shall be of choice flour with oil mixed in, unleavened.
6 Break it into bits and pour oil on it; it is a meal offering.
7 If your offering is a meal offering in a pan, it shall be made of choice flour in oil.
8 When you present to the LORD a meal offering that is made in any of these ways, it shall be brought to the priest who shall take it up to the altar.
9 The priest shall remove the token portion from the meal offering and turn it into smoke on the altar as an offering by fire, of pleasing odor to the LORD.
10 And the remainder of the meal offering shall be for Aaron and his sons, a most holy portion from the LORD’s offerings by fire.
11 No meal offering that you offer to the LORD shall be made with leaven, for no leaven or honey may be turned into smoke as an offering by fire to the LORD.
12 You may bring them to the LORD as an offering of choice products; but they shall not be offered up on the altar for a pleasing odor.
13 You shall season your every offering of meal with salt; you shall not omit from your meal offering the salt of your covenant with God; with all your offerings you must offer salt.
7 And this is the ritual of the meal offering: Aaron’s sons shall present it before the LORD, in front of the altar.
8 A handful of the choice flour and oil of the meal offering shall be taken from it, with all the frankincense that is on the meal offering, and this token portion shall be turned into smoke on the altar as a pleasing odor to the LORD.
9 What is left of it shall be eaten by Aaron and his sons; it shall be eaten as unleavened cakes, in the sacred precinct; they shall eat it in the enclosure of the Tent of Meeting.
10 It shall not be baked with leaven; I have given it as their portion from My offerings by fire; it is most holy, like the sin offering and the guilt offering.
11 Only the males among Aaron’s descendants may eat of it, as their due for all time throughout the ages from the LORD’s offerings by fire. Anything that touches these shall become holy.
9 Further, any meal offering that is baked in an oven, and any that is prepared in a pan or on a griddle, shall belong to the priest who offers it.
10 But every other meal offering, with oil mixed in or dry, shall go to the sons of Aaron all alike.
Leviticus 2 lists minhahs that are brought as voluntary offerings. There are five such minhahs:
1) A minhah of choice flour (verses 1-3)
2 + 3) A minhah baked in the oven (verse 4). There are two kinds of such minhahs: loaves, and wafers.
4) A minhah cooked on a griddle (verses 5-6)
5) A minhah cooked in a pan (verse 7).
In addition there are several cases where the Torah mandates that a person bring a minhah:
1) As a sin-offering for a poor person (Leviticus 5: 11-13).
2) The minhah of a Sotah (Numbers 5:15).
3) The minhah of the anointed priest (Leviticus 6:13-16).
4) A minhah that accompanies one of the following:
a) a voluntary olah or shelamim (Numbers 15:2-16);
b) the Tamid and Musaf offerings (Numbers 28:5);
c) the olah bullock (Numbers 15:24);
d) the Nazirites sacrifices (Numbers 6:15);
e) with the omer sacrifices or two loaves of bread (Leviticus 23:13, 18);
f) the metzoras (one afflicted with skin-disease) sacrifice (Leviticus 14:10);
g) the minhah of the omer (Leviticus 2:14-16; 23:10-11);
h) the two loaves of bread (Leviticus 23: 16-17);
i) the showbread (Leviticus 24:5-9).
Tractate Menahot deals with the laws governing the various types of minhahs as well as other bread-type offerings, such as the loaves of thanksgiving.
For those of you who learned Zevahim, many of the laws here should be familiar. The thoughts and actions that invalidate animal and bird sacrifices also invalidate minhahs. This means that if the priest intends to eat the minhah at the wrong time it is piggul, and one who eats it is liable for karet, and if he intends to eat it in the wrong place it is disqualified. When it came to animal sacrifices there were four actions that had to be performed with the right intent: slaughtering, receiving the blood, carrying the blood to the altar and sprinkling it on the altar. With the minhah there are also four critical actions, but they are different:
1) Removing the handful.
2) Putting the handful in a vessel.
3) Carrying it to the altar.
4) Turning it into smoke on the altar.
We can see here that the two lists create a clear parallel between the fistful of the minhah that is put on the altar and the blood. Each is the critical part of the offering and it is what effects atonement (in an expiatory sacrifice).
Good luck learning Menahot!