Menahot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Four

 

Introduction

This mishnah completes the description of how the omer was offered.

 

Mishnah Four

1)      They reaped it, put it into the baskets, and brought it to the Temple courtyard;

2)      Then they would parch it with fire in order to fulfill the mitzvah that it should be parched [with fire], the words of Rabbi Meir.

3)      But the sages say: they beat it with reeds or stems of plants that the grains should not be crushed, and then they put it into a pipe that was perforated so that the fire might take hold of all of it.

4)      They spread it out in the Temple courtyard so that the wind might blow over it.   

5)      Then they put it into a gristmill and took out of it a tenth [of an ephah of flour] which was sifted through thirteen sieves.

6)      What was left over was redeemed and might be eaten by any one;

a)      It was liable for hallah but exempt from tithes.    

b)      Rabbi Akiba made it liable both to hallah and to tithes.

7)      He then came to the tenth, put in its oil and its frankincense, poured in the oil, mixed it, waved it, brought it near [to the altar], took from it the handful and burnt it; and the remainder was eaten by the priests.

 

Explanation

Section one: After harvesting the barley, they would put it into baskets and bring it to the Temple courtyard.

Section two: According to Rabbi Meir, they would first parch the grain, while it was still attached to the stalks. Parching a minhah offering is mentioned in Leviticus 2:14, “If you bring a minhah of first fruits to the Lord, you shall bring new ears parched with fire.” The rabbis interpret this verse as referring to the minhah of the omer.

Section three: The other sages say that first they would beat the grain from the stalks, as is normally done with grain. However, they would use soft sticks since the omer came from freshly-harvested barley. Normally, when the grain is more aged, they could use harder sticks. After the grain was separated from the stalks, they would parch it by putting it into a metal pipe which was perforated so that the fire would get in. The rabbis disagree with Rabbi Meir in that the former holds that the stalks were put directly into contact with fire, whereas the sages hold that the parching is done with grains and by using a vessel.

Section four: They would then spread it out to cool it off.

Section five: After the grain was cooled, it was ground and then sifted thirteen times, as we learned in mishnah 6:7.

Section six:  The leftover grain not used for the omer could be eaten by anyone, even non-priests. According to the first opinion in the mishnah, the grain was liable for tithes but not for hallah. This is the rule for holy things that have been redeemed—they are liable for hallah, but not for tithes. Rabbi Akiva says that it is liable for tithes as well, because he doesn’t consider this grain to have ever been holy. When it was sanctified at the outset, the only part that was really sanctified was the grain that was going to be used for the flour necessary to make the one-tenth. All of the extra grain was never holy, and therefore it is liable for all normal agricultural gifts (tithes and terumah).

Section seven: He would then complete the process of offering the omer by adding in the oil and frankincense, mixing it up, waving it and bringing it close to the altar, and then taking a handful and burning it on the altar. The remainder of the 1/10 of an ephah that wasn’t burned is holy and can be eaten only by the priests. 

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