TalmuDigest

For the week ending 26 March 2011 / 19 Adar II 5771

Menachot 16 - 22

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll
  • Relationship between kometz and levonah, and between Shavuot sheep and bread in regard to pigul
  • What constitutes pigul in a mincha offering
  • Non-essential details of the mincha service
  • Which parts of this service must be done by a kohen
  • To which part of the altar must the mincha be brought
  • The "covenant" of salt in regard to sacrifices
  • What does not require salting
  • Where did the salt come from and where was it stored
  • When one person's kometz got mixed up with that of another person's

The Mysterious Kohen

  • Menachot 21b

Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai was one of the outstanding Talmudic Sages and the leader of his people in the period preceding and following the destruction of the Second Beit Hamikdash.

But was he also a kohen?

Our gemara seems to indicate that he was not a kohen. In opposition to the Sage Ben Buchri who ruled that a kohen is exempt from the obligation to contribute a half-shekel for the purpose of purchasing the materials needed for the sacrificial service, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai stated that the kohanim are indeed obligated like the rest of the people, but that they sinfully fail to contribute based on a misunderstanding of the source.

Tosefot points out that his critical reference to kohanim indicates that he himself was not a kohen. A gemara in Mesechta Shabbat (34a), however, seems to indicate otherwise. We there find this Sage handling terumah, which Rashi explains was for the purpose of guarding their purity, a duty he assumed because he was a kohen.

The basis for Rashi's explanation is a Sifri that quotes Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai telling his disciples that he forgot exactly what he did in regard to the Red Heifer preparation which was restricted to kohanim. Tosefot, however, rejects this proof because it is possible that what he meant was not that he participated in those preparations as a kohen but rather as a rabbinical guide.

What the Sages Say

"How fortunate are you, Torah Sages, that the words of Torah are so beloved by you."

  • Rabbi Elazar ben Shamoa - Menachot 18a

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