Menahot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three

 

Introduction

This mishnah deals with the sacrifices offered on Shavuot, and the absence of which sacrifices prevent the fulfillment of the other sacrifices.

I have brought here the relevant verses, Leviticus 23:17-20, for ease of reference:

 

17 You shall bring from your settlements two loaves of bread as an elevation offering; each shall be made of two-tenths of a measure of choice flour, baked after leavening, as first fruits to the LORD.

8 With the bread you shall present, as burnt offerings to the LORD, seven yearling lambs without blemish, one bull of the herd, and two rams, with their meal offerings and libations, an offering by fire of pleasing odor to the LORD.

19 You shall also offer one he-goat as a sin offering and two yearling lambs as a sacrifice of well-being.

20 The priest shall elevate these — the two lambs — together with the bread of first fruits as an elevation offering before the LORD; they shall be holy to the LORD, for the priest.

 

Mishnah Three

1)      The [absence of the] bull, or the rams, or the lambs or the goat does not invalidate the   bread, neither does the [absence of the] bread invalidate them.

2)      The [absence of the] bread invalidates the lambs, but the [absence of the] lambs does not invalidate the bread, the words of Rabbi Akiva.

3)      Rabbi Shimon b. Nanas said: it is not so, but rather the [absence of the] lambs invalidates the bread, while the [absence of the] bread does not invalidate the lambs; for so we find that when the Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years they offered the lambs without the bread, therefore now too they may offer the lambs without the bread.

4)      Rabbi Shimon said: the halakhah is according to the words of Ben Nanas but not for the reason he stated; for every offering stated in the Book of Numbers was offered in the wilderness, but not every offering stated in the book of Leviticus was offered in the wilderness; however, when they came into the land of Israel they offered both kinds.

5)      Why then do I say that the lambs may be offered without the bread? Because the lambs render themselves permissible without the bread, whereas bread without lambs, there is nothing that renders it permissible.

 

Explanation

Section one: The absence of one of the sacrifices mentioned in verse 18, does not invalidate the bread mentioned in verses 17 and 20, neither does the absence of the bread invalidate them. They are separate sacrifices, each their own mitzvah.

Section two: The two lambs mentioned in verses 19 and 20 are elevated (lifted up) with the bread. The bread and these lambs seem to go together. Rabbi Akiva holds that without the bread, the lambs are invalidated. However, since the bread is mentioned alone in verse 17, it is its own offering, and therefore, even if he doesn’t offer the lambs, the bread is still valid.

Section three: Rabbi Shimon ben Nanas holds an opposite opinion. Without the lambs, the bread cannot be offered, but without the bread, the lambs can still be offered. The reason is that when the Israelites were in the desert, they could not offer the bread, because the bread offering must come from grain grown in the land of Israel, as it says in verse 17, “from your settlements.” Since there is a precedent for offering lambs without bread, even after the Temple was built, the lambs could be offered without the bread.

Section four: Rabbi Shimon says that the halakhah is in accordance with Rabbi Shimon ben Nanas, that without the lambs the bread cannot be offered but the lambs can be offered without the bread. However, Rabbi Shimon disagrees with Ben Nanas’s reason. Rabbi Shimon holds that all offerings mentioned in Leviticus were not offered at all in the desert. So there is no precedent for offering the lambs without the bread. Only the offerings mentioned in Numbers 28:27ff. were offered in the desert.

Section five: Now Rabbi Shimon must explain why he agrees with the halakhah stated by Ben Nanas. The lambs can be offered without the bread, because burning the lambs’ innards allows the lambs to be eaten by the priests. In other words, we have a ritual that renders the lambs themselves permissible. In contrast, there is nothing that permits the bread to be eaten, except the sacrifice of the lambs. Therefore, without the lambs, the bread cannot be offered.

 

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