ז׳ באייר ה׳תשע״א (May 11, 2011)

Menahot 63a-b – The barley meal-offering on Passover

The sixth perek (=chapter) of Masechet Menahot begins on today’s daf (=page), and it is devoted, in its entirety, to the laws of minhat ha-omer – the meal-offering brought on the second day of Passover – and the laws of hadash – the new grain – associated with it (see Sefer Vayikra 23:9-16).

 

The minhat ha-omer differs from other meal-offerings in a number of ways, all of which are discussed in this perek. Aside from the ordinary commandment to sacrifice the meal-offering, the minhat ha-omer also must be harvested in a special way. It is also brought from barley, rather than from wheat, and involves a unique process of preparation before it is brought. Much of the discussion in this perek focuses on harvesting and bringing the omer, since the Torah offers little information about how it was done. From the passages in the Torah we do not know how much had to be brought, how it was to be harvested, whether it can be done on Shabbat, and so forth.

 

In fact, many of the laws related to harvesting the omer were established by in response to the position taken by the Baitusim sect who believed that the minhat ha-omer could only be brought on a Sunday – based on their interpretation of 23:11, which says that it must be brought on the day following Shabbat – which is understood by the Sages of Mishnah as referring to the first day of the Passover holiday.

 

The Mishnah describes how the harvesting took place – with three scythes (each called a magal) and three baskets (each called a kupah) that were used for short stalks of grain that could not be tied properly into sheaves.

Rabbi Hanina Sgan ha-Kohanim rules that although this was true if the 16th day of Nissan occurred during the week, if it fell on Shabbat there was only a single harvester who had just one magal and one kupah.