Shekalim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three
Above in mishnah one we learned that Yohanan the son of Pinchas was responsible for the seals and that Ahiyah was responsible for the libations. In todays mishnah and in tomorrows we will learn what their responsibilities are.
The libations refers to grain offerings which include flour mixed with oil and a libation of wine. These grain offerings accompany certain animal sacrifices: an offering of well-being, a burnt offering and the sin and guilt offerings of a leper. The amount of grain, oil and wine would vary depending upon the animal used in the sacrifice. The following chart should be helpful:
Sheep or goat (one year old)
1/10 of a measure
Ram (two years old)
Cow or calf
Someone who needed to bring a libation (a grain offering) with his/her sacrifice could buy the exact amount of flour, oil and wine directly from the Temple. This would ensure that the offering was pure. He would pay the money to Yochanan ben Pinchas who would give him a note with a stamp on it. He would then take the note to Ahiyah who would give him the correct amount of flour, oil and wine.
1) There were four seals in the Temple, and on them was inscribed [respectively]: calf, ram, kid, sinner.
2) Ben Azzai says: there were five and on them was inscribed in Aramaic [respectively] calf, ram, kid, poor sinner, and rich sinner.
3) [The seal inscribed] calf served for the libations of cattle, both large and small, male and female.
4) [The seal inscribed] kid served for the libations of flock animals, both large and small, male and female, with the exception of rams.
5) [The one inscribed] ram served for the libations of rams alone.
6) [The one inscribed] sinner served for the libations of the three animals [offered] by lepers.
Section one: According to the first opinion there were four seals, one for each of the three types of animals described above in the chart and one inscribed with the word sinner, for the leper who brings three offerings, a guilt offering, a sin offering and a burnt offering, each of which come from various types of sheep (see Leviticus 14). Since the leper brings three sheep he therefore brings three times the amount of flour, oil and water that is brought for one sheep (see the chart). In addition he brings one extra log (a small measure=1/12 of a hin) of oil which was placed on his right earlobe, right thumb and right big toe (Leviticus 14:15-18). Each seal would signify that he has paid for that amount of libation flour, oil and wine.
Section two: Ben Azzai has two disagreements with the previous opinion. First of all, he holds that the inscriptions were in Aramaic and not in Hebrew, since Aramaic was the language with which most people were more familiar. Secondly, he says that there were two types of inscriptions for the leper, one for the poor sinner who only brings one sheep and its libations (Lev. 14:21-31), and the one extra log of oil described above. The other for the rich sinner who brings three sheep, as described above. The opinion in section one according to which there was only one inscription for the leper holds that the poor leper, who brings one sheep, buys the libations of a sheep and brings the extra log of oil from his home.
Section three: The mishnah now explains what each seal is for. Calf is for all cattle, meaning cows and bulls, whether they are male which are used as whole burnt offerings or females used as offerings of wellbeing.
Section four: The seal of the kid was used to buy libations for all flock offerings (sheep and goats) as long as they were a year or less old. From thirteen months and older the sheep is considered to be a ram.
Section five: The seal of the ram was used to buy libations for the ram only.
Section six: The seal upon which was inscribed the word sinner was used to buy the libations for the three animals that a leper brings, plus the additional log as we described in section one.