TalmuDigest

For the week ending 14 May 2011 / 9 Iyyar 5771

Menachot 65 - 71

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll
  • Harvesting the grain for the Omer mincha offering
  • Two debates between the Sages and heretical sects
  • The proofs that Shavuot did not have to be on Sunday
  • The mitzvah of counting the days of the Omer
  • Processing the Omer grain
  • Tithing and challah-taking from Omer and other grains
  • The procedure of the Omer offering and its impact on the public
  • When new produce became permitted for use in time of Beit Hamikdash and in later times
  • If grain that came down from Heaven qualifies for the offering of the two loaves on Shavuot
  • Some laws concerning the taking of challah
  • Harvesting grain before offering of Omer

Two Challenges – Two Holidays

  • Menachot 65a

In the era of the Second Beit Hamikdash there were special days that were celebrated in special ways.

Megillat Ta’anit, the Talmudic record of those days, points out that on some of those days it was forbidden to declare a public fast but it was permitted to say eulogies for the deceased. On other days, which celebrated even more important events, it was forbidden even to mar their joy by having eulogies.

Examples of both are recorded in our gemara.

The Talmudic Sages encountered great difficulty in successfully refuting the innovations of two politically powerful sects who rejected the authority of the Oral Law. In the first case it took them from the first until the seventh day of Nissan to disprove the claim of one such sect that the animal used for the daily sacrifice offered in the Beit Hamikdash could be donated by an individual, rather than purchased from communal funds. Those seven days were therefore declared special days in which there could be no public fasting or eulogies.

In the second case, in another year, it took from the eighth day of Nissan until the end of Pesach to refute the argument that the holiday of Shavuot must always be on Sunday. Those days were also declared to be special days but only in regard to fasting.

Rashi explains that the joy arising from the first victory was greater because the challenge to the Sages was based on a Torah passage, although it failed to take into account the qualification provided by another passage. In the second case, however, the challenge was based on the flimsy and foolish argument that Moshe, out of love for his people, established the one-day holiday of Shavuot on Sunday so that Jews could enjoy a long weekend. Overcoming such a challenge was therefore an occasion for only a limited celebration.

What the Sages Say

"The mitzvah of counting the days of the Omer includes counting the days and the weeks (between Pesach and Shavuot)."

  • The Sage Abaye - Menachot 66a

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