Menahot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Six

 

Introduction

Today’s mishnah deals with a person who pledges to bring an olah, a wholly burnt offering, but does not clarify what type of animal he wishes to bring. The laws of the olah are found in Leviticus 1.

 

Mishnah Six

1)      [If one said,] “I take upon myself to offer an olah,” he must bring a lamb.    

a)      Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah say: [he may bring] a turtle-dove or a young pigeon.

2)      [If he said,] “I specified a beast of the herd but I do not know what it was I specified,” he must bring a bull and a calf.

3)      [If he said, “I specified] a beast of the cattle but I do not know what it was I specified,” he must bring a bull, a bull calf, a ram, a he-goat, a he-kid, and a he-lamb.

4)      [If he said,] “I specified [some kind] but I do not know what it was I specified,” he must add to these a turtle-dove and a young pigeon.

 

Explanation

Section one: According to the first opinion in this section, if a person offers to bring an olah he must bring at minimum a lamb, which is the lowest level of olah that comes from a beast (a behemah). This opinion assumes that when he stated that he wished to bring an olah, he must have had a behemah in mind. Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah believes that it is also possible that he had a bird olah in mind (see Leviticus 1:14ff). Therefore, he can bring a bird, either a turtle-dove (and a partridge in a pear tree, I can’t help it!) or a young pigeon, both of which are valid for bird olahs.

Section two: In this case he knows that he specified a herd animal (and not a flock animal) but he is not sure which animal specified. Therefore he must bring both a bull (an adult of two or three years) and a calf (one year old). He can’t just bring one lest he volunteered to bring the other and he wouldn’t fulfill his obligation by bringing the other one. Note that he need not bring female animals because only male animals may be offered as an olah.

Section three: “Cattle” means in Hebrew domesticated animals. This is a broader category than “herd” because it includes flock animals. Therefore, it is possible that he pledged an animal either from the herd (bull or bull calf) or from the flock. These include the ram (two years old), the he-goat (two years old), a he-kid (one year old) or a he-lamb (one year old).

Section four: If he has no idea what he pledged, then he must also bring bird offerings, both a turtle-dove and a pigeon. This poor shlepper is going to have to bring 8 animals! Let this be a warning—if you pledge to bring an olah, try to remember what animal you pledged.  

 

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