Daf Yomi

For the week ending 27 December 2003 / 2 Tevet 5764

Menachot 83-89

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Food for Thought

In its instructions regarding the mitzvah to bring an omer mincha offering on Pesach, the Torah does not explicitly state from which grain the flour of this mincha should be processed. When the omer is first mentioned, however, as a "mincha of the first crop," a hint is given in the use of the word "aviv" to describe the growth stage of the intended crop at that time of the year (Vayikra 2:14). This same word "aviv" is found in the Torahs account of the Egyptian crop destroyed in the seventh plague of deadly hail and there it appears in connection with barley (Shmot 9:31).

This solves the mystery of which grain was used but raises another mystery. Why was it that the Torah designated barley for the mincha offered on Pesach and wheat for the offering of the two loaves on Shavuot?

In his commentary in Mesechta Rosh Hashanah (16a) Maharsha explains this in the connection between the nature of these offerings and the historical events commemorated by the Festivals in which they were offered. He cites Talmudic references to the effect that wheat is the basic food of humans while barley is commonly identified as animal feed. Pesach is the Season of Our Freedom celebrating our liberation from Egyptian bondage, while Shavuot is the Season of the Giving of Our Torah. Even though Jews gained freedom at Pesach time they were still without the Divine guidance of mitzvot, and their level of freedom was not above the physical, animalistic level represented by barley. This freedom finds expression in the barley offering of the omer on Pesach. Only when they received the Torah did they reach the true level of human intelligence associated with wheat. For this reason it is wheat which is used to prepare the two loaves offering of Shavuot.

Menachot 84a

Olive Oil and Royal Diplomacy

Tekoa was the town in Eretz Yisrael that was the source for the best quality olive to be used in the Beit Hamikdash for lighting the menorah and preparing the mincha flour offerings.

As a scriptural source for Tekoas fame for oil the gemara cites a passage relating the brilliant diplomatic ploy of King Davids chief of military staff: "And Yoav sent to Tekoa and took from there a wise woman." (Shmuel II 14:2) Why did he send to Tekoa? asks Rabbi Yochanan, and answers that because the people there are so accustomed to consuming olive oil, wisdom can be found there (because olive oil makes one wiser Rashi).

The background for the passage cited is the effort of Yoav to effect reconciliation between David and his son Avshalom who fled to a foreign land after murdering his half-brother Amnon as revenge for violating his sister Tamar. Although David long mourned for his slain son, after three years had passed and he had become reconciled to his passing the stage was set for Yoav to initiate reconciliation between the king and his sons slayer.Hh

When a wise woman was brought to him from Tekoa he instructed her to dress and take on the appearance of a mourner and to practice making the lamentations of someone who has been grieving for many days. In this disguise she was to come before the king and deliver the script Yoav had so cleverly prepared for her.

This wise woman played her role to perfection and tearfully told the king that she was a widow with two sons and that one of them had slain the other in a quarrel. The murderer had fled and the widows relatives were pressuring her to reveal his whereabouts so that they could put him to death. This would mean wiping out whatever she had left and she appealed to the king to intercede on her behalf. Only after the king promised to save her remaining son did she draw the parallel to his own situation with Avshalom. Her clever performance achieved its purpose and Avshalom returned to his father.

There is no doubt that this was a very clever woman, but where do we see that Tekoa was a place of wisdom and that she was not an exceptional person in an ordinary town whom Yoav had chosen for this mission? Maharsha explains that if it was the particular woman and not the place the passage would have reported that Yoav sent for this woman in Tekoa. By relating that he sent to Tekoa for a woman it teaches us that Tekoa, because of the olive oil consumption there, was a place of wisdom where such a woman could be found.

Menachot 85b

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