This source sheet is a study of Mishnayos referencing one of the two special Korbanos brought on the Holiday of Shavuous, the Shtei HaLechem.
This source sheet remains a work in progress. Comments, questions and criticisms can be sent to [email protected] All mistakes are my own.
The Korban Shtei HaLechem
The Torah in Parshas Emor discusses two special sacrifices made of grain (Korbanei Mincha). The first, is the Korban Omer brought on the second day of Pesach.* It is made of the first, ripening barley and, as detailed in the Torah, it is prohibited for the masses to consume any new grains prior to the bringing of this Korban. Further, the bringing of the Korban Omer triggers a special obligation to count 49 days, a countdown of sorts, at the end of which, i.e., the fiftieth day, we are commanded to bring another special Korban, the Korban Shtei HaLechem, the two leavened loaves.
This Korban is detailed in Vayikra 23:15-21.**
(טו) וּסְפַרְתֶּ֤ם לָכֶם֙ מִמָּחֳרַ֣ת הַשַּׁבָּ֔ת מִיּוֹם֙ הֲבִ֣יאֲכֶ֔ם אֶת־עֹ֖מֶר הַתְּנוּפָ֑ה שֶׁ֥בַע שַׁבָּת֖וֹת תְּמִימֹ֥ת תִּהְיֶֽינָה׃ (טז) עַ֣ד מִֽמָּחֳרַ֤ת הַשַּׁבָּת֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔ת תִּסְפְּר֖וּ חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים י֑וֹם וְהִקְרַבְתֶּ֛ם מִנְחָ֥ה חֲדָשָׁ֖ה לַיי׃ (יז) מִמּוֹשְׁבֹ֨תֵיכֶ֜ם תָּבִ֣יאּוּ ׀ לֶ֣חֶם תְּנוּפָ֗ה שְׁ֚תַּיִם שְׁנֵ֣י עֶשְׂרֹנִ֔ים סֹ֣לֶת תִּהְיֶ֔ינָה חָמֵ֖ץ תֵּאָפֶ֑ינָה בִּכּוּרִ֖ים לַֽיי׃ (יח) וְהִקְרַבְתֶּ֣ם עַל־הַלֶּ֗חֶם שִׁבְעַ֨ת כְּבָשִׂ֤ים תְּמִימִם֙ בְּנֵ֣י שָׁנָ֔ה וּפַ֧ר בֶּן־בָּקָ֛ר אֶחָ֖ד וְאֵילִ֣ם שְׁנָ֑יִם יִהְי֤וּ עֹלָה֙ לַֽיי וּמִנְחָתָם֙ וְנִסְכֵּיהֶ֔ם אִשֵּׁ֥ה רֵֽיחַ־נִיחֹ֖חַ לַיי׃ (יט) וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֛ם שְׂעִיר־עִזִּ֥ים אֶחָ֖ד לְחַטָּ֑את וּשְׁנֵ֧י כְבָשִׂ֛ים בְּנֵ֥י שָׁנָ֖ה לְזֶ֥בַח שְׁלָמִֽים׃ (כ) וְהֵנִ֣יף הַכֹּהֵ֣ן ׀ אֹתָ֡ם עַל֩ לֶ֨חֶם הַבִּכּוּרִ֤ים תְּנוּפָה֙ לִפְנֵ֣י יי עַל־שְׁנֵ֖י כְּבָשִׂ֑ים קֹ֛דֶשׁ יִהְי֥וּ לַיי לַכֹּהֵֽן׃ (כא) וּקְרָאתֶ֞ם בְּעֶ֣צֶם ׀ הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֗ה מִֽקְרָא־קֹ֙דֶשׁ֙ יִהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֔ם כָּל־מְלֶ֥אכֶת עֲבֹדָ֖ה לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֑וּ חֻקַּ֥ת עוֹלָ֛ם בְּכָל־מוֹשְׁבֹ֥תֵיכֶ֖ם לְדֹרֹֽתֵיכֶֽם׃
The Korban Omer and Shtei HaLechem act as bookends to the grain harvest period. It starts with the earlier ripening barley and ends with the wheat harvest. In both instances, the Torah describes unique details and Halochos applicable to each.
Halochos of the Shtei HaLechem
- The Shtei HaLechem is brought from the new grain, specifically wheat (which ripens around Shavuous time).
- The Shtei HaLechem are made of leavened dough, Chametz. They are the only obligatory Korban permitted to have Chametz.
- The wheat must be from Eretz Yisroel and, in fact, this requirement is what differentiates the holiness of Eretz Yisroel over other lands.
- The Shtei HaLechem are supposed to be the first grain sacrifices brought in the Beis HaMikdash from the new grains.
- Along with the Shtei HaLechem, the Torah commands that two sheep be brought as special Korbanei Shelamim or Kisvei Atzeres. There are no other public Korbanei Shelamim.
- Because the Shtei HaLechem are made of Chametz, they cannot be placed onto the Mizbeach. Rather, the Torah mandates a special waving ceremony and they are then given to the Kohanim to eat.
Shtei HaLechem in the Mishnah
For a somewhat unique and one-off Korban, there are a surprising number of Mishnayos that speak directly or, at the very least, reference the Shtei HaLechem. More importantly, a study of these Mishnayos indicate that the Chachomim appreciated the Shtei HaLechem from a multi-faceted vantage point. It is possible to identify four categories of Mishnayos dealing with the Shtei HaLechem.
First, are those Mishnayos highlighting the connection between the Shtei HaLechem and the land of Eretz Yisroel and the special Divine protection it receives. Second, are those Mishnayos detailing the attributes applicable to the Shtei HaLechem because it is a Korban Tzibur, a Korban brought on behalf of the public. Third are those Mishnayos comparing and contrasting the Shtei HaLechem to other Korbonos and describing the unique aspects and characteristics of the Shtei HaLechem. Fourth, are those Mishnayos narrating the process, the technical details, of fashioning and bringing the Shtei Halechem.
These Mishnayos are found throughout the Shisha Sidrei Mishnah and are collected below. Each section will have a brief introduction summarizing its core idea. For many of the Mishnayos there will either be a brief introduction or a short insight into one aspect of the Mishnah. This is not meant as a fulsome commentary. The interested reader is ecouraged to review the panoply of commentators on the Mishnah. Finally, each section will be followed by questions to consider.
*A selection of Mishnayos describing the Korban Omer may be found here: https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/227367?editor=1.
**The blue highlights passages related to the Shtei HaLechem and the purple, passages related to the special Shalmei Tzibur.
Kedushas Eretz Yisroel
Eretz Yisroel, הארץ שעיני ה' בה, has, ever since the time of our forefather Avrohom, played a unique role in our nation's destiny. More than a national homeland, Eretz Yisroel encapsulates the essence of the Jewish people. It is the singular space where the full spectrum of our relationship with the Creator may be expressed. Most importantly, it creates a symbiotic and bilateral relationship between Hashem and his עם סגולה.
On the one hand, the land itself is suffused with Kedusha, a sublime Holiness. Walking its hills and plains is alone sufficient to awaken within a person a deeper spiritual awareness. On the other, it is only within this land that a person can fulfill the full corpus of Mitzvos, thereby imbuing his every action with purposeful meaning and drawing him spiritually closer to his Maker.
The Omer and Shtei HaLechem symbolize this duality and our unique connection to the land. As Korbanei Tzibur, these two Korbonos, made of new grain, express Am Yisroel's gratitude for and connection to the land. Hashem, in turns, returns this favorable expression, raining down his munificence upon the land (TB Rosh HaShana 16a). Eretz Yisroel stands alone and unparalleled in this fashion and the Mishnah reflects this phenomenon.
In light of the special nature of Eretz Yisroel, much ink has been spilled in identifying the precise contours, regions and borders of Eretz Yisroel and the varied nature of its Holiness. In fact, there are more than seventy Mishnayos in which these broader notions are mentioned along with its effects on the particular Halacha under discussion. At times, the "borders" were extended by expanding application of certain restrictions or Mitzvos to a neighboring land. Depending on the situation Eretz Yisroel may come to encompass Yeduah, Gallil, Transjordan, Amon and Moav, Suriya, Mitzrayim and Bavel. At other times, the land or the law under consideration was narrowly construed and constricted; limiting application to a narrow strip of land. A certain fluidity to these discussions exist, and harmonizing these many instances is beyond the scope of this summary.
For our immediate purpose, however, when it comes to the Korban Omer and the Shtei Halechem, the rule was clear, unlike all other Korbonos, these two offerings must only be brought from grains grown in Eretz Yisroel. See Mishna Menachos 8:1 and Parah 2:1. More poignant, however, is the assertion by the Mishnah in Keilim 1:6, that the unique holiness of Eretz Yisroel is evidenced, perhaps even emanates, from the the fact it is only from Eretz Yisroel that these Korbonos may be sourced.
Finally, the Mishnah in Avos 5:5 highlights the special providential protection these two Korbonos received.
Introduction to Keilim 1:6
Our Mishnah is the first, in a series of four Mishnayos, outlining ten levels of Holiness, beginning with Eretz Yisroel, until reaching the apex of the Kodesh Kedoshim.
Many ask why our Mishnah, in addition to the Omer, Shtei HaLechem and Bikkurim, does not list the many other Mitzvos HaTiluyos B'Aretz, such as Teruma, Challah and Ma'asros. Answering this question requires dissembling each of these Mitzvos into their component parts, identifying commonalities and then grouping them into specific categories and sub-categories. A survey of many of the Meforshim, however, suggest that guiding the discussion in our Mishnah are three intertwined points.
First, is whether Bikkurim is to be included in the same cohort as Omer and Shtei HaLEchem. This, in turn, is dependent on how you define Eretz Yisroel for these purposes, which will then inform the nature of the Kedusha under discussion in our Mishnah.* As an example, in referring to Eretz Yisroel, does the Mishnah mean to include "Eivar HaYarden" (Transjordan) or is it limited to the biblically defined borders. A definitive view of this question requires aligning the disparate views on whether the Omer, Shtei HaLechem and Bikkurim may be brought from Transjordan.** The determination on the inclusion of Transjordan will then help define the nature of the Kedusha referenced in our Mishnah.
The GR"A, perhaps based on the reading in the Sifrei Zuta, emends our Mishna, deleting the reference to Bikkurim, supporting his reading by differentiating between those Mitzvos inherent in the Kedusha of Eretz Yisroel and those that are merely obligations of the land (קדושת הארץ וחובת הארץ).*** As explained by R' Moshe Shternbuch (Moadim V'Zmanim Vol. 1 Siman 17), there are two distinct sources of Kedushas Eretz Yisroel. The first is a direct result from the promise HaShem made to Avrohom creating the sacred and inviolable bond between nation and land. That bond creates an everlasting Kedusha which is limited to the defined borders of Eretz Yisroel. Through proper conquest, however, the borders may be expanded beyond the initial grant, and alongside the physical expansion comes along a secondary level of Kedusha. This Kedusha obligates those lands in all of the Mitzvos HaTeluyos B'Aretz. Our Mishnah is teaching that the Omer an Shtei HaLechem may only come from the initial grant.****
*Rav Yosef Dov Solovechik has a novel understanding of our Mishnah, refocusing our attention from the land to the Beis HaMikdash. He suggests that the ten levels of holiness are not merely steps on a ladder of Holiness; rather, they are concentric circles of holiness, all emanating from a central source, the Beis HaMikdash. The "Temple Holiness" that Eretz Yisroel has is that certain Korbonos (and Bikkurim) are brought to the Beis HaMikdash. Hence, because it is not about the holiness of the land per se, all other Mitzvos HaTeluyos are irrelevant from this perspective and are not listed. (See Nefesh HaRav, pp. 76 and Shiurei HaRav on Mesches Challah, Hilchos Terumah, Perek 1 Halacha 5, pp. 131). See also, R' Menachem Zemba, (Kuntros Otzar HaSifri, Ois Aleph) differentiating between קדושת הארץ וקדושת המקדש.
**Whether Bikkurim may be brought from Transjordan is a dispute among the Tanaim (Bikkurim 1:10). While most Rishonim limit the Omer and Shtei HaLechem to Eretz Yisroel proper, Rashi (TB Menachos 83b) seemingly allows them to be brought from Transjordan.
***Reb Ya'akov Kaminetzky (Emes L'Yaakov, Keilim 1:6) suggests a proof for the GR"A's position based on the fact that the work "Bikkurim" in the Mishnah interrupts the natural grouping of Omer and Shtei HaLechem, suggesting that it was a later or errant insertion.
****R' Shternbuch is clearly of the position that the Omer and Shtei Halechem cannot come from Transjordan. See, R' Yakov Zev Yaskowitz, Amvuha D'Sifrei on Sifrei Zuta, Ois 10, explaining the Sifrei and its deletion of Bikkurim, similarly. See also, R' Yehoshua Weitzman, Kedushas Ha'Aretz--Omer, Bikkurim and Shtei Halechem, in Bikurei Ha'Aretz, Machon HaTorah V'Haretz, Iyaar 5763, pp.161.
For more on the nature of Transjordan, its unique relationship with Eretz Yisroel and Mitzvos HaTeluyos B'Aretz, see, R' Menachem Zemba, (Kuntros Otzar HaSifri, Ois Aleph), R' Yakov Zev Yaskowitz, Amvuha D'Sifrei on Sifrei Zuta, Ois 10, Chazon Ish, Zerayim, Shevi'is 3:25 and Likuttim Siman 10 and R' Ovadiah Yosef, Chazon Ovadiah, Terumos U'Ma'asros, pp 3 Ois Katan 7.
For a fulsome description of the geography of Transjordan and its Jewish settlements, see Yehuda Landy, Shalosh Artz'os L'Shevi'is, Jerusalem 5774, Chapter 46.
Introduction to Menachos 8:1 and Parah 2:1
In addition to the general rule that the Omer and Shtei HaLechem must be brought from Eretz Yisroel, the Mishnah teaches that the grain itself must be of the highest quality. In fact, the Mishnah identifies the regions that have the best grain. We find a similar notion of requiring superior provisions to be used in the Beis HaMikdash in Menachos 8:3 regarding the oil and in Bikkurim 1:10 where the Mishnah enjoins bringing inferior produce as Bikkurim.
Our Mishnah mentions the city of Zanuach. In Sefer Yehoshua there are two cities mentioned with this name. See Ben-Zion Segal, Hagiagraphiya B'Mishna, identifying the Zanuch in our Mishnah. In 1950, a Jewish Moshav was reestablished in its vicinity by Yemenite Jews. In the 1990's this area was sold and became part of Ramat Beit Shemesh.
Introduction to Avos 5:5
In describing various miracles that consistently took place in the Beis HaMikdash, the Mishnah includes the Omer, Shtei HaLEchem and the Lechem HaPanim. The exact nature of the miracle is a matter of dispute among the Rishonim, but in all events, the point was that nothing interfered with the making and the bringing of these Korbonos. The question is why was it so important for these Korbonos to never cease.
According to some, it was because once their appointed time passed, it would be impossible to make them up (Mitzvah Overes). For instance, the Omer may only be cut on the night of the 16th of Nissan and the Lechem HaPanim was to be placed on the Shulchan on Shabbos. Others suggest, that because the Omer and Shtei HaLechem were not just Korbonos but they also acted as a catalyst for allowing the new grains and, in their absence, these grains would continue to be prohibited. I would suggest, as noted above, that these Korbonos symbolized and actualized the close relationship between Hashem and his nation. Therefore, the miracle was not just about our being able to bring these Korbonos, but it was another way for Hashem to show his love and special relationship with his people and bestow them with His blessings.
Questions to Consider:
- During the recent pandemic, many of us have been exiled from our usual Batei Kenisiyos and Batei Midrashos, our traditional sacred spaces, and have been forced to recreate these spaces within our own homes. How do we go about defining and creating these spaces and their borders? When things return to normal will we allow them to simply disappear?
- Oftentimes, we are faced with situations of Mitzvos passing us by, even if for good reason. This is especially so with the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah, Torah study. How careful are we to ensure we do not let these opportunities slip through our hand?
Shtei HaLechem as Korban Tzibur
Public sacrifices were at the core of the day to day operations in the Beis HaMikdash. The day began and ended with the Korban Tamid. Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and the Yomim Tovim were defined by their special, additional Korbonos. These Korbonos set the tempo and the rhythm of Temple life. Personal Korbonos were, of course, essential as well, providing a more intimate connection between a person and his G-d. Nevertheless, it was the public service that captured the minds and hearts of the masses.
The exact relationship between the public and the Beis HaMikdash was the source of much controversy during the middle to late stages of the Second Temple. Specifically, we find tensions by and among the Chahomim (Peirushim), the Tziddukim (Saduccees) and the Kohanim themselves.* One hotly debated area, as is often the case, was about money and the public funding of the Beis HaMikdash.
The opening B'rayso of Megillas Taanis** describes a dispute between the Peirushim and the Tziddukim whether the Tamid, a public Korban may be donated by an individual. The Tziddukim were of the opinion that individuals were not only able to donate an individual Korban Tzibbur, but that it may be the preferable system, much like the donations of the wood to the Beis HaMikdash. The Chachomim disagreed. To them, the Beis HaMikdash was the democratic expression of the Jewish people and its funding was, therefore, required to be raised from the public. This dispute raged until the Chachomim prevailed. On the day they prevailed--Rosh Chodesh Nissan--they established an eight day holiday during which eulogies were prohibited.
At that time, the B'rayso continues, the Chachomim established a treasury*** into which each individual donated a half-Shekel to provide for the public fisc. Mesechtas Shekalim, in large part, describes the collection and use of these funds. The Mishnah in Shekalim 4:1, clearly states that these funds were used to procure the Shtei HaLechem.
*Examples include, control over the calendar (Rosh Hashana 1:7), installation of the Ma'amodos (Taanis 4:2-5), entry into the inner sanctums (Sukkah 4:5), proper Temple procedure (See Yoma 1:5) and the proper day to bring the Korban Omer (Menachos 10:3-4). For an expansive analysis of the relationship between the Peirushim and Tziddukim, see generally, Eyal Regev, הצדוקים והלכתם: על דת וחברה בימי בית שני, יד יצחק בן צבי, ירושלים תשס"ה . The relationship between the Koahnim and the Tzidukkim is beyond the subject matter at hand.
**Megillas Ta'anis is a late Second Temple publication listing holidays celebrated during this period. For a detailed description and analysis of the Megillah, see Vered Noam, Megillat Ta’anit: Versions, Interpretation, History Yad Ben-Zvi Press, 2003 (Hebrew).
***Despite the fact that many view the obligation to contribute the annual half-Shekel as a biblical imperative, this B'erayso is unclear whether this was a new invention or the reestablishment of an existing but discarded rule. A deeper analysis awaits.
Introduction to Shekalim 1:4
Our Mishnah describes a particularly clever attempt by the Kohanim to exempt themselves from having to contribute the half-Shekel to the Beis HaMikdash. It is premised on the fact that a Korban Mincha, when brought by a Kohein, may not be consumed. Typically, a only a small portion of the Mincha is placed on the Mizbeach, the rest is eaten by the Kohanim. When a Kohein brings a Mincha, however, it is wholly burnt on the Mizbeach.
Argued the Kohanim, if we were to contribute the half-shekel, that necessarily would mean that public Korbanei Mincha, like the Omer and Shtei HaLechem, would be deemed to be owned, in part, by the Kohanim as well. Yet, they argued, if even partially owned by us, how could we then eat these Korbonos, they should have to be wholly burnt. Therefore, they concluded, it must be the case that we have no obligation to contribute the half-Shekel.* Their position was rejected by Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai.**
*As an interesting aside, R' Akiva Eiger (Mahadurah Kama Siman 9) discusses the interaction between a person being exempt from the Half-Shekel and his obligation to Daven Mussaf, which stands in lieu of the Korbanei Mussaf which are public sacrifices.
**Similar to his push back, here, against the Kohanim, we find Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai asserting the Chachomim's view in a dispute with the Tziddukim. See Yadayim 4:6.
Introduction to Pesachim 7:4
Our Mishnah describes one difference between a personal and public Korbon. The Torah enjoins a person who is Tamei from bringing a Korban. So long as he is Tamei he may not bring the Korban. However, this rule does not apply to public offerings.
Originating with the Korban Pesach, the Chachomim ruled that those Korbanei Tzibbur having a set time for being offered may be brought despite the fact that a majority of the nation was Tamei. Since most public offerings are either Korbanei Olah or are otherwise wholly burnt and not consumed, the dispensation to bring them while Tamei will allow the Korban to be properly sacrificed in accordance with its procedures. Our Mishnah goes beyond this and teaches that even the subset of public Korbonos that have an element requiring it to be eaten may be brought in a state of public Tumah. This is so despite the fact that you cannot eat these Korbonos. The exception to this is the Pesach which not only may be brought but may be eaten as well in a state of public Tumah.
Questions to Consider:
- The Mishnah in Avos (5:13) describes four categories of those who give charity. The highest order being those who, not only themselves donate, but also encourage others to step beyond themselves and contribute as well. How do we think about our obligations to the general needs of the public? How punctilious are when when handling Tzedakah funds? How careful are we when utilizing public funds?
Shtei HaLechem: Unique Among Korbonos
The Shtei HaLechem stands unique among the panoply of Korbonos. It is made of Chametz without additives. While requiring the Kohein to both raise and wave the Korban, it is neither brought near or burnt on the Alter. Rather, it is given to the Kohanim for their consumption. No other Korban shares all of these attributes, nevertheless, each of them, on a stand alone basis, can be found in other Korbonos. The following seven Mishnayos highlight the uniqueness and the connection the Shtei HaLechem has with other Korbonos.
Introduction to Menachos 5:1
The Torah specifically enjoins all Mincha Korbonos from using any leavening agent and honey.
כָּל־הַמִּנְחָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר תַּקְרִ֙יבוּ֙ לַיי לֹ֥א תֵעָשֶׂ֖ה חָמֵ֑ץ כִּ֤י כָל־שְׂאֹר֙ וְכָל־דְּבַ֔שׁ לֹֽא־תַקְטִ֧ירוּ מִמֶּ֛נּוּ אִשֶּׁ֖ה לַֽיי׃
Nevertheless, there are two exceptions. The first is the Korban Todah, which, in addition to the Korban itself, a person was also obligated to bring forty loaves of bread, ten of which were to be made of Chametz. The second was the Shtei HaLechem.* Notably, the Shtei HaLechem was the only public Chametz-inclusive sacrifice. In addition to teaching the basic exceptions, our Mishnah, also notes a dispute in how to go about leavening the breads. Whether they were self-leavened or whether it was permissible and/or beneficial to use an extraneous leavening agent.**
* The connection between these two "exceptions" is much discussed. R' Yosef Zvi Rimon, in describing the Chametz portion of the Todah, suggests that a person most often brings a Korban because he sinned. Even when that is not the case, he approaches the opportunity as a humble servant. He cannot bring himself to bring Chometz, a sign or pride and fulfillment. The Todah, on the other hand, is brought in recognition of those moments when a person realizes that Hashem allowed him to go beyond his natural boundaries, bringing him closer to his Creator. The Chometz brought with the Todah is representative of the fulsome nature of a person's recognition and thankfulness to Hashem. I would similarly suggest, as noted earlier, that the Shtei HaLechem is a Korban meant to evoke the same feelings between Nation and King, hence, it was appropriate for these Korbonos to be made of Chametz as well.
**Fascinatingly, the Mishnah in Shavuous (7:2) describes the process of expanding the borders of Yerushalyim and/or the Azarah. Part of the ceremony requires bringing two Korbanei Todah and walking around the expansion while carrying only the Chometz loaves. The Gemara explains that this was the case for expanding Yerushalayim. When expanding the Azarah, however, you would use a regular Korban Mincha. The Gemara (TB Shavuos 15ab) has a long discussion why you couldn't use the Shtei HaLechem when expanding the Azarah.
Introduction to Menachos 6:2, Zevachim 9:5 and 14:3
The Mishnah in Menachos 6:2 compares and contrasts two types of Menachos. Those that are consumed without any portion being placed on the Mizbeach and those that wholly burnt on the Mizbeach and not consumed at all.
The first group is the Shtei HaLechem and the Lechem HaPanim. The former, could not be brought on the Mizbeach since, despite the dispensation for the Shtei HaLechem to be made of Chometz, nevertheless, the fact that they are Chometz prohibited them from being placed on the Mizbeach. The Lechem HaPanim was similarly divided among the Kohanim serving in the Beis HaMikdash.* Rather, they were eaten by the Kohanim. The second group, as discussed above, was a Kohein's personal Korban Mincha. These were placed fully on the Mizbeach, no part was consumed by the Kohein.
Prohibited from being placed on the Mizbeach, meant that even if placed there accidentally, they would have to be removed. As described in Zevachim 9:5, the Shtei HaLechem are among a number of other Korbonos and/or portions of Korbonos which must be likewise removed.
Similarly, subject to certain exceptions (see Zevachim 14:4-8) there is a prohibition on sacrificing a Korban outside of the Beis HaMikdash. However, this rule only applies if the Korban being "sacrificed" would otherwise be an appropriate Korban to be bringing. Meaning, if, for instance, the animal was too young (under eight days) or if the person was still Tamei, the Korbonos are not valid Korbonos and, therefore, he would not violate the prohibition against Sh'Chutei Chutz. The Mishnah Zevachim 14:3 teaches that the same exception to the prohibition applies to a person who places any of the items that are not normally placed on the Mizbeach, such as the Shtei HaLechem, on a Mizbeach constructed outside the Beis HaMikdash.
*While none of the bread itself made its way onto the Mizbeach, the Levona, frankincense that accompanied the Lechem HaPanim, was placed on the Mizbeach and burnt.
Introduction to Menachos 5:3
In addition to the flour (and water) there were two additional ingredients that accompanied a Korban Mincha. First was a measure of oil. The second was Levona, frankincense. The oil was mixed into the Mincha and the Levona was placed on top and then collected and burnt on the Mizbeach.
Our Mishnah teaches that while the standard Mincha contained all these items, there were some that only had oil without the Levona, the Levona without the oil (Lechem HaPanim) and then three Minachos that contained neither.* One being the Shtei HaLechem. The other two were Menachos brought on account of sin and, therefore, lacked any enhancements.
*The format of our Mishnah, breaking the rule down into four quadrants, is a common form and would allow for easy memorization when transmitted orally. See, e.g., Bikkurim 2:8.
Introduction to Menachos 5:6
In connection with many Korbonos, there are two ceremonial aspects that are included in the process. The first, is to lift up the Korban (Tenufah) and wave it around.* The second, was to bring it close to the Mizbeach (HaGasha). Our Mishnah, includes the Shtei HaLechem among those Korbonos (e.g., Bikkurim) that are lifted but not brought close to the Mizbeach. The Mishnah then goes on to describe how exactly the lifting of the Shtei HaLechem was performed. This was especially difficult since along with the Shtei HaLechem the Kohein would simultaneously lift and wave the Kisvei Atzeres as well.
Interestingly, the three Menachos grouped together in the prior Mishnah (Shtei HaLechem, Minchas Kinos and Minchas Choteh) each have a different rule when it comes to waving and bringing closer.
*The Mishnah mentions waving the Shtei HaLechem up and down and to and fro. The Talmud already notes that, in fact, it was waved in all four directions and up and down. A number of reasons are given for this ceremony. It is either to tame the natural elements; alternatively, is is meant to recognize Hashem's sovereignty. Today, we find a similar practice when waving the Lulav. See generally, J. Tabory, Moadei Yisroel B'Tekufas HaMishna v'Hatalmud (Hebrew) pp. 141 and n.45.
Questions to Consider:
- In this section we saw that despite its shared commonalities with many different types of Korbonos, it was the unique combination that made it the singular Korban we have been learning about. Similarly, every person is unique, they have different strengths and weakness, good qualities and bad habits. How do we think about our unique set of strengths and weakness within the larger community? Can we draw inspiration from those that are different, incorporating their values to make yourself into a better whole?
Shtei HaLechem: Form and Process
A brief perusal of Shisha Sidre Mishna highlights the intense focus and interest the Tannaim had with the Beis HaMikdash. Few, but for the earliest Tannaim, lived during the existence of the Second Temple and the immediate aftermath of its destruction. Yet, its memory loomed large and its rituals captures their imagination. The Mishna recounts in detail the rules, laws, rituals and procedures of the Temple's daily life and sacrificial rites. It expounds on the beauty and measurements of its physical structure and boundaries. The precise movements of the Priests and other functionaries are listed with utmost care. Most importantly, the people's (Hamon Am) relationship, physical and spiritual, to this sacred space are noted and debated.*
When describing the Korban Omer, the Mishna details the fanfare associated with the harvesting ceremony. People would gather on the night after the first day of Pesach in the fields outside Yerushalyim and watch as the barley was harvested. There was significant audience participation in this event and the mood was particularly joyous.
It is quite the opposite when it comes to the Shtei HaLechem. There are many Mishnayos outlining the exacting process by which this unique Mincha was formed and the process by which it was sacrificed. However, unlike the the Korban Omer, there was no similar fanfare (at least described in the Mishnah) when the wheat was harvested for the Shtei HaLechem.** In fact, the Torah does not specifically command the harvest; only the bringing of the new wheat. Most likely, the wheat was harvested days, if not weeks, prior to Shavuos.
The following Mishnayos will take us through the process from harvesting the wheat through its final consumption by the Kohanim. I note, that this review is a cursory review and will not delve into the intricacies of the processes.
*In addition to Mesechtos Tamid and Middos, examples of such Mishnayos are scattered across Mishnayos. These include, the third chapter of Bikkurim, the fifth chapters of both Pesachim and Shekalim, large portions of Mesechtas Yoma, various Mishnayos in Sukkah, Rosh HaShana, Chagigah and Sotah among others. Most often, these Mishnayos can be identified by their being anonymous and without dispute.
**The fanfare surrounding the Omer, not surprisingly, arises from the fact that upon bringing the Omer, the Nation was permitted in the new grains and could replenish their winter-depleted stocks. Also, the harvest for the Omer took place while the Jews were gathered in Yerushalyim having arrived earlier for Pesach. The Shtei HaLechem was brought on Shavuous, and preparation would have taken place while the people were journeying to Yerushalayim.
From Harvest to Bread
Introduction to Menachos 10:2
Our Mishnah adjures that the barley for the Omer be harvested locally, close to Yerushalayim, so as not to pass by the opportunity to perform a Mitzvah. While the Mishnah does not specifically speak to the wheat for the Shtei HaLechem, one could infer that it too should be harvested close by as well. However, as noted above, there is no specific Mitvzah of harvesting the wheat and, in fact, we learned earlier, that the best location for wheat was Zanuach.
The Mishna brings a story of a particular time when neither barley or wheat could be loacted in the environs of Yerushalyim. They had to source the wheat from Ein Sokhar, located near Shechem. The Gemara relates that this story took place during the internecine battles between the two brothers, John Hyrcanus and Aristobulous.
Introduction to Menachos 6:6 and 6:7
The following two Mishnayos describe the both the amount of flour required for the Shtei HaLechem but also the process by which is was sifted into fine flour.
In Mishnaic measurements, an "Isaron" or one tenth, meant one-tenth of an "Eipha" The Eipha was triple the size of a "Se'ah" or, three Se'ah made up an Eipha. The Eipha was the volume equivalent of 432 eggs. So a tenth of an Eipha would be the equivalent of 43.2 eggs.
The coarser the grain, the more you needed process to ensure you ended up with the required amount of flour. Barley being the coarsest, required a full Eipha to extract an Isaron and the most amount of sifting. The wheat for the Shtei HaLechem was still new and fresh so it required a full Eipha to extract two Isaron and less sifting. Finally, the Lechem HaPanim needed one Se'ah for each of its twenty four loaves and required less sifting*
* The Mishna in Menachos 10:4 describes what they did with the excess flour of the Omer. Presumably the same happened with the excess flour of the Shtei HaLechem. Because only a small portion of the extracted flour was needed for the Korban, the residual could be purchased and redeemed by anyone. Once redeemed, any dough made from the flour was subject to the obligation of Challah [the requirement to give a potion of every dough to the Kohein]. The end of Mishna 4 describes a dispute over whether the redeemed flour is obligated in Terumos and Maasros. The Chachomim say it is not obligated since at the time the obligation comes into being (i.e., the obligation to give Terumos and Ma'asros arises once the winnowed pile of grain is smoothed over) the grain was owned by Hekdesh. Whereas, according the Rabi Akiva, from the onset, Hekdesh only wanted to purchase the limited amount of flour needed for the Korban, therefore, the residual flour was never purchased by Hekdesh--hence the flour was subject to Ma’asros from the very beginning.
Introduction to Menachos 11:1
The following Mishnah describes the kneading and baking process for the Shtei HaLechem. Each of the loaves were fashioned separately from a tenth of an Eipha. Once formed, they were baked separately in the oven.
The Rambam in describing the various processes involved in fashioning the Shtei HaLechem, asserts that there is no specific source for the rules, rather, they are a long-standing tradition from the times of Moshe.
Introduction to Menachos 11:2
When preparing a Korban for sacrifice, you were typically required to do so within the precincts of the Beis HaMikdash. Similarly, was the need to utilize sacred vessels when preparing the Korban or collecting its blood. In fact, the vessel itself works to consecrate the Korban. Our Mishnah describes a dispute whether the Shtei HaLechem (and the Lechem HaPanim) should be prepared and baked inside or outside the sacred precincts. and whether they required K'li Shareis. This, in turn, would determine whether they required K'li Shareis.
According to the Tana Kama, preparation could take place outside but the baking must take place inside. More importantly, he rules that the baking of the Shtei HaLechem does not push aside Shabbos,* meaning you would have to bake it on the day prior, Friday. The Gemara is bothered by the combination of these two Halochos. On the one hand, by requiring the Shtei HaLechem to be baked inside the Azarah, it necessarily means that a K'li Shareis was used. If so, the moment it is placed inside the vessel the dough is consecrated. A corollary of this rule is that once consecrated, a Korban may not be left overnight without being sacrificed. It becomes "Pasul B'Linah."
According to the Tana Kama, the dough must be baked on Friday, ahead of Shabbos. If that is the case, it must mean that the Shtei HaLEchem must wait overnight before being brought as a Korban. According to convention, therefore, why aren't they "Nifsal B'Linah?"
Because the Gemara does not answer this question, Tosfos suggests that it must be that the opening statement in our Mishnah is an amalgam of two different sources. In fact, he says, the person who says that you bake the Shtei HaLechem inside must hold that you can bake them on Yom Tov and Shabbos. And the concluding statement of the first part of the Mishnah was said by someone else.
For an insightful attempt at a resolution, see R' Moshe Shternbuch, Moadim U'Zmanim, Vol. 4 Siman 326. Briefly, he argues that the oven used to bake the bread while consecrating the Shtei HaLechem, it is a limited level of Kedusha, Kedushas HaGuf. But because the bread will not immediately be sacrificed, it lacks what he terms, the power of infusing the Shtei HaLechem with Kedushas HaKorban. It is only the later Kedusha, he argues, that triggers the potential for the Pesul Linah. In the case of the Shtei HaLechem, he concludes that the higher level of Kedusha only starts at the the of the waving ceremony. But See Moadim u'Zmanim Vol. Siman 328 where posits three stages to the Kedusha of the Shtei HaLechem, starting with the baking, then the Tenufah and the final stage following the Shechting of the Kisvei Atzeres.
* Although the Mishnah speaks only to Shabbos, later Mishnayos and Rambam rule that these Korbonos likewise do not push aside Yom Tov.
Introduction to Menachos 11:4
The Mishnah begins with the basic premise, mentioned above, that all processes performed inside the sacred precincts of the Beis HaMikdash require the use of a K'le Shareis. The processes performed outside, on the other hand, do not.
The second part of the Mishnah, starting with "Keitzad"* describes the shape of the Shtei HaLechem. Its length and width and the rise of their corners.
* Albeck notes that some manuscripts, including the Gemara's transciption, omit this word as the second half of the Mishnah is not connected to the first part.
Potential Ritual Pitfalls
Introduction to Menachos 3:6, Menachos 4:3, Me'illah 2:6, Menachos 2:2 and Menachos 2:5
Sacrificial ritual requires focused attention and precise action. Even slight deviations from the proscribed processes will invalidate the Korban in question. A wrongful intent or skipping of a step works irrevocable harm to the process. In most cases, it will require a full repeat of the process in question. At times it may result in being unable to fulfill the Mitzvah, for others it may cause the transgressor to receive Kareis. These laws are numerous and complex, with exceptions and exceptions to exceptions, therefore, this overview will simply provide some basic background, sufficient to understand this cohort of Mishnayos. I encourage the interested learner to explore these topics in more depth.
The Korbonos of Shavuous: In addition to the Shtei HaLechem, the Torah commands us to bring alongside them numerous, additional Korbonos--a bull, two rams, seven sheep and a goat, to be specific. In addition, the Torah mandates a unique Korban, two sheep, as public Korbanei Shelamim. These Shelamim are intricately tied to the Shtei HaLechem in that the Kohein, when performing the waving ritual, holds both the sheep and the bread together. Further, unlike the Shtei HaLechem, the Shelamim are sacrificed, with their blood and certain fats being placed on the Mizbeach. This act, of placing the blood on the Mizbeach, is what permits the Shtei HaLechem to be eaten by the Kohanim. They act as a "Matir."
In Menachos 3:6, the Mishnah looks internally within the pair of sheep and the two loaves and rules that if one is missing or invalid, the other, remaining, part of the pair is also invalid. A fault in one impedes the use of the second.
The Mishna in Menachos 4:3, on the other hand, focuses on the relationship between the Shtei HaLechem and the Kisvei Atzeres. If something happen to the former, can the Shelamim be sacrificed? What about if the Shelamim are invalidated, can you still use the Shtei HaLechem (they are waved and burnt)? Rabi Akiva rules that invalid bread will automatically invalidate the Shelamim. Whereas, a Pesul in the Shelamim will not impede the use of Shtei HaLechem.*
Shimon ben Nanas and Rabi Shimon, each for different, yet fascinating, reasons, rule in the opposite. If the Shtei HaLechem is invalid, the Shelamim may still be sacrificed. If, however, the Shelamim are Pasul, then the bread can no longer be used. According to Shimon Ben Nanas, we find the exact scenario--Shelamim without Shtei HaLechem--throughout the Jews' sojourn in the desert, when only the Shelamim was able to be brought (there were no Shtei HaLechem since the obligation to bring them did not arise until they had entered Eretz Yisroel). According to Rabi Shimon the Kisvei Atzeres are the "Matir" for the Shtei HaLEchem. Without their blood on the Mizbeach, there is no possible way one can use the Shtei HaLechem.**
*The Gemara notes that each of the Tanaim in our Mishnah rely on a G'Zeirah Shava for their ruling. In addition, the Gemara also concludes that once the Tenufah, waving, was performed, all agree that the invalidation of either the Shtei HaLechem or the Kisvei Atzeres will invalidate the other. תנופה עושה זיקה.
**R' Moshe Shternbuch (Moadim V'Zmanim Vol. 7 Siman 229) notes that we Pasken that the invalidation of the Shelamim does not prevent the Shtei HaLechem from being brought (they are waved and burnt). If so, he wonders, why can we not bring the Shtei HaLechem today, even without a Beis HaMikdash. We know that the Shtei HaLechem may be brought when Klal Yisroel is Tamei and there is no need for a Mizbeach, as the loaves never go on the Mizbeach. We just need to wave and burn them. So why not preserve at least one vestige of the Korbonos-? R' Shternbuch finds a technical answer why this would not work out, nevertheless, the question alone, and the yearning for greater spiritual access it reveals, is thought provoking in its own right.
Me'ilah: One may not usurp or misappropriate items that have been designated or dedicated to the Beis HaMikdash for personal use. A person who accidentaly does so is obligated to bring a Korban Asham and repay the amount so used with an additional penalty. The second chapter of Mesechtas Me'ilah broadly outlines for each of the Korbonos when the prohibition attaches to the item and when it is no longer in effect.
The general rule is that when the Kedusha attaches to the item, a person can violate Me'ilah. For most Korbonos this begins when a person designates (with his mouth) an animal as a Korban. Me'ilah falls away once the service is complete and only for those items that are now permitted to be used (e.g., the meat of a Chattas is permitted to a Kohein.). To be clear, at that point, a person may still not use the item for his personal benefit, it remains prohibited. However the strict rules of Me'ilah, the Korban and repayment, no longer apply.
In Me'ilah, 2:6, the Mishnah teaches that Me'ilah attaches to the Shtei HaLechem, when the bread starts to crust in the oven. At that point, they may be used in the ceremony along with the Kisvei Atzeres and they are susceptible to becoming Tamei from a Tevul Yom and Mechusar Kapparah (both persons with low levels of Tumah). Once the blood of the sheep is on the Mizbeach, strict Me'ilah falls away. In addition to Me'ilah falling away, the Mishnah teaches that it is at that time, when the blood is placed on the Mizbeach, that the prohibition against Pigul takes effect.
Pigul: When sacrificing an animal, it is imperative that the person doing the sacrificing have the proper intent. Not only about which type of Korban he is bringing and for whom (see Zevachim 1:1 and 1:3) but that the Korban will be consumed both in the right place* and during the right time.** If he intends the wrong place, the Korban is pasul and cannot be eaten. If he intends the wrong time, that is called Pigul and eating such a Korban results in a punishment of Kareis.
The Mishnah in Menachos 2:2 discusses a situation where you Shechted both of the Kisvei Atzeres and had in mind to eat one of the loaves of the Shtei HaLechem outside the right time. All agree that the one loaf you were thinking about is Pigul. There is a dispute, however, whether the second loaf is simply Pasul or also Pigul. Rabi Yose says Pasul while the Chachomim rule both are Pigul.*** They see the pair as one set and if one is Pigul the other is as well.
The Mishna in Menachos 2:5 focuses on the Shalmei Tzibur, the two sheep and whether they each act as a single unit to create Pigul or must they be considered a pair for these purposes. Specifically, the Mishnah is teaching that the prohibition of Pigul does not attach until the person has the prohibited intention while sacrificing the entire "Matir," (in our case, the two sheep). The question our Mishnah raises is whether the two sheep are single unit for this purpose or are they each separate "Matirim" for the Shtei HaLechem. Rabi Meir views them as separate, therefore, a Pigul intent for one sheep is sufficient to taint the Shtei HaLechem. Whereas, the Chachomim require that he have the Pigul intent for both sheep. As between the two sheep, all agree that a Pigul intent for one will not disturb the other.
* Some Korbonos, like the Shelamim, may be eaten in Yerushalyim, while others, like the Chattas, may only be consumed within the confines of the Beis HaMikdash.
**Each Korban that may be eaten is given a specific period of time within which it may be consumed. For instance, the Pesach, may only be eaten on the night after it is brought; the Todah and Chattas, both the day it is brought and the following night; and the Shelamim may be eaten on the day it was brought, the following night and the next day).
***There is a second dispute in the Mishnah as to what happens if one of the loaves become Tamei, must you burn both or may you retain the Tahor one for consumption. The Chachomim rule that only the Tamei one is Pasul. This is interesting since when it comes to Pigul they view the pair of loaves as a single unit.
Consuming the Shtei HaLechem
Introduction to Menachos 11:4, Arachin 2:2 and Sukkah 5:7
Once safely past the bringing of the Kisvei Atzeres, the Kohanim turn their attention to eating the Shtei HaLechem.
As noted above, the baking of the Shtei HaLechem and Lechem HaPanim do not push aside either Shabbos or Yom Tov.* Although cooking and baking are generally permitted on Yom Tov, the Gemara learns that when the Torah permits cooking, it is only for the individual and not for the Beis HaMikdash, "לכם ולא לגבוה".
Based on these restrictions, the following Mishnah describes the minimum and maximum number of days that may pass from the time the Shtei HaLechem were baked until they were consumed.** For the Shtei HaLechem it was either the second day (i.e., in a normal year they were baked on the eve of Yom Tov) or, if Shavuous fell on Sunday, they would be eaten on the "third" day; since they had to be baked before Shabbos (i.e., on Friday).*** The Mishnah in Arachin, simply repeats the rules from our Mishnah. It is part of a grouping of Mishnayos that describe a series of maximums and minimums in Halacha.
Finally, I note that there is a Mishnah in Sukkah 5:7 which, while not directly mentioning the Shtei HaLechem, mentions its consumption by the Kohanim. When Shabbos and Shavuous coincide, the Kohanim would be entitled to a small piece of both the Lechem HaPanim and the Shtei HaLechem. The Mishnah relates that the Kohein doling out the breads would say to each recipient, "here is your Matzoh, here is your Chametz." The later being a reference to the Shtei HaLechem.****
* This is unlike the Korban Omer which does push aside Shabbos. Menachos 10:9. There is another Tana that does rule that these Korbonos push aside Shabbos and Yom Tov.
**In Halacha, especially as it relates to Korbonos, the day on which the Korban was brought, or the Shtei HaLechem was baked, is considered the first day. The following day, even if twenty four hours have not yet passed, is the "second" day.
*** See Chagigah 2:4 where the Mishnah discusses another Shavuous ceremony that is effected by the day on which the holiday falls.
****The Gemara in Sukkah discusses the order of the distribution in the context of the famous dictum, " תדיר ושאינו תדיר תדיר קודם ". See R' Moshe Shternbuch, Moadim U'Zmanim, Vol. 4 Siman 331 for a discussion of this principal in the context of the Shtei HaLechem.
The Shtei HaLechem and the New Grain
Introduction to Mishna 10:6
Our final Mishnah will discuss the practical effects the bringing of the Shtei HaLechem had on the Nation.
Both the Korban Omer and the Shtei HaLechem had dual purposes. On the one hand, they are Korbonos and bringing them fulfills a biblical command. On the other, the act of bringing these Korbonos acted as a catalyst, directly impacting both the nation and the Temple.
Specifically, the bringing of the Korban Omer triggers the permissibility to both harvest and consume the new grain. Importantly, this was limited to the general population. For purposes of the Beis HaMikdash (i.e., for Korbonos), the new grain was only permitted to be used only after the "Shtei HaLechem," the two leavened loafs, were brought at the end of the counting of the Sefirah (i.e., Shavuous). Nevertheless, if the grain was used between the Omer and the Shtei HaLechem, the Korban was valid. If, however, the new grain was used prior to the Omer, than the Korban is invalid.
The bringing of the Shtei HaLechem also triggered the start of the Bikkurim season. See Bikkurim 1:3 and 1:10.
Questions to Consider:
- This section laid out a myriad of technical details relating to the harvesting, processing, sacrificing and eating of the Korban Omer. Strict processes are important and so is attention to detail. We inject religious meaning into each of these steps and feel distraught when they are not followed. Some of us excel at focusing on the minutia and finding comfort in the prescribed actions; others find the details overwhelming and look for a broader, less organized approach. Which do you prefer? Why?