The Mystery of the Intertwined Meal Offerings

  • Rav Elchanan Samet

Parshat HaShavua
Yeshivat Har Etzion



The Mystery of the Intertwined Meal Offerings

By Rav Elchanan Samet




Among the laws of sacrifices listed in chapters 6-7 in our parasha, directly after the "teaching of the mincha (meal offering)" (6:6-11) and closely connected with it, we find a command concerning a special mincha offering, whose laws appear nowhere else in the Torah:

(6:12) "And God spoke to Moshe, saying:

(13) This is the offering of Aharon and his sons, which they shall offer to God on the day of his anointment: a tenth of an efa of fine flour for a permanent meal offering; half of it in the morning and half of it at night.

(14) It shall be made in a pan with oil, you shall bring it when it is well soaked; the baked pieces of the meal offering shall you offer as a sweet savor to God.

(15) And the kohen who is anointed in his place, from among his sons, shall also offer it; it is an eternal statute to God, it shall be entirely burnt."

Who is commanded to bring this obligatory mincha offering, when is it to be brought, and what is the reason for it? The answers to these questions depend, to a great extent, on the interpretation of verse 13. Even at first glance we note that contradictory answers may be derived. The first words, "This is the offering of Aharon and his sons," teach us that ALL kohanim are obligated to bring this sacrifice. But the verse then makes a transition from the plural to the singular: "which THEY shall offer to God on the day of HIS anointment." Such transitions are not rare in the Torah; we may interpret it as intending that each one of the kohanim should offer this sacrifice "on the day of his anointment" - i.e., on the day on which he is appointed for service. At this stage, then, it would seem that all our questions have been solved: it is a one-time inaugural offering, applying both to Aharon (the Kohen Gadol) and his sons (the other kohanim) on the day upon which their service begins.

However, the verse goes on to tell us that this mincha of a "tenth of an efa" is a "PERMANENT (tamid) mincha, half of it [is to be offered] in the morning, and half of it in the evening." This being so, the sacrifice is in fact a daily one, similar to the daily burnt offering (olat tamid) and the incense, both of which are offered twice daily, in the morning and in the evening. The nature of this sacrifice, then, is quite different from what it appeared to be at first. Moreover, further on - in verse 15 - we are told that this mincha applies only to the anointed Kohen who will succeed Aharon, i.e. the Kohen Gadol; hence, it does not apply to every kohen.

We are faced, then, with contradictions within the parasha, and the nature of the mincha described here is opaque.


The natural place for us to seek an explanation is in the Halakha: we would expect Halakha to provide a single instruction, according to which we could explain the parasha as a whole and attempt to solve the contradictions. But this is not the case. In the Rambam's Sefer Avoda, we find two different instructions (whose source is to be found in Chazal) in two different places. In Hilkhot Kelei ha-Mikdash 5:16, we are told:

"A kohen does not begin to serve - nor does a Kohen Gadol begin to serve - until he brings his own tenth of an efa and offers it of his own hand, as it is written (6:13), 'This is the offering of Aharon and his sons, which they shall offer to God on the day of his anointment.'"

In Hilkhot Temidin u-Musafin 3:18, the Rambam writes:

"The chavitin (pan-fried meal offerings) of the Kohen Gadol - it is a positive mitzva that they be offered daily, half in the morning with the tamid sacrifice of the morning, and half at twilight with the tamid sacrifice of twilight. And their kneading and baking supersede the Shabbat and any impurity, like any sacrifice whose time of offering is fixed."

(A description of the chavitin of the Kohen Gadol is to be found in Hilkhot Ma'aseh ha-Korbanot 13:2-4.)

Two different sacrifices arise from this brief parasha. Both are mincha offerings brought by an individual, and the Rambam lists both of them in a single halakha (Hilkhot Ma'aseh ha-Korbanot 12:4):

"And there are nine mincha offerings brought by individuals; all are offered upon the altar, and these are they…

(3) The mincha offered by every kohen when he first enters service; he offers it by his own hand, this is called the MINCHAT CHINUKH (inaugural meal-offering).

(4) The mincha offered by the Kohen Gadol each day; this is called CHAVITIN."

Aside from the two different names given to these two types of mincha, three differences are immediately apparent:

a. Who brings it? The minchat chinukh is brought by all kohanim, while the chavitin is brought only by the Kohen Gadol.

b. When is it brought? The minchat chinukh is brought once in the lifetime of each kohen; the chavitin is offered by the Kohen Gadol daily.

c. How is it brought? The minchat chinukh consists of a tenth of an efa, all of which is offered together, while the minchat chavitin is brought 'half in the morning and half in the evening.'

We now face some difficult questions. Is this an example of "God spoke one thing, I heard two" (Tehillim 62:12) - were the minchat chinukh and minchat chavitin uttered together? How can two different sacrifices be based on a single mitzva?

What is the halakhic relationship between these two mincha offerings, and what is the relationship between our original literal understanding of the verses and each one of them? Can both be derived from the literal text? If so - how, and what is the meaning of having these verses instructing, in a single command, to bring two such different offerings? And if the literal text teaches us about only one of the mincha offerings, what is the source and status of the other?

We shall review the approaches of various commentators to this parasha, and the answers to which each exegetical approach leads. We shall also clarify the difficulties with which each approach must deal, and finally we shall attempt to propose an approach that both resolves the literal text and the teachings of Chazal as expressed in the midrashei halakha and in the Rambam.


The two great "literal" commentators, Rashbam and Ibn Ezra, follow the same path in their explanation of the parasha:

Rashbam (13): "'This is the offering of Aharon and his sons' - according to the literal text, 'the sons of Aharon' are the Kohanim Gedolim who will succeed him. And the Sages DERIVED the law that every regular kohen, when performing his first sacrificial service, must be inducted with such a mincha."

Ibn Ezra (13): "'This is the sacrifice of Aharon' - or of one of his sons REPLACING HIM.

'On the day of his anointment' - when the anointing oil is poured over his head."

According to both commentators, the expression "Aharon and his sons" refers to Aharon and all the KOHANIM GEDOLIM who are destined to succeed him - for all are direct descendants of Aharon. Thus our parasha does not mention any sacrifice obligating regular kohanim.

But there would still seem to be a contradiction between the definition of the sacrifice that each Kohen Gadol is required to bring 'on the day of his anointment' - which sounds like a one-time sacrifice - and the definition of this same sacrifice further on in the verse as a 'daily mincha.' The Ibn Ezra goes on to explain:

"'On the day (be-yom) of his anointment' - … Many have proposed that the letter 'bet' here (ON the day) is instead of a 'mem' (mi-yom, FROM the day), and that the Torah means that 'FROM (starting with) the day of his anointment' he is obligated to bring his mincha offering daily."

The same explanation is offered by Rav Sa'adia Gaon, and the Chizkuni too adopts the Ibn Ezra's approach. Apparently, the Rashbam's intention was the same, for he expresses his view that the inaugural mincha of the regular kohen (athat of the Kohen Gadol) has its source in rabbinical derivation, rather than being instructed explicitly in the text.

According to this explanation, the literal text of our parasha contains no source for the minchat chinukh; the whole description deals exclusively with the minchat chavitin - a daily offering - that applies to Aharon and the Kohanim Gedolim who will succeed him.

This explanation gives rise to several questions and difficulties; we shall address only two of them.

a. This explanation in no way reconciles the laws derived by Chazal from our parasha with the literal text. Ibn Ezra fails altogether to address the question of the source of the minchat chinukh discussed by Chazal, while the Rashbam suffices with the conclusion that "Chazal derived" the existence of this mincha - meaning that he believes the minchat chinukh to be of rabbinic origin, and that Chazal based it upon the verses of our parasha through "derash" - exegesis or derivation.

But a glance at Chazal's treatment of the matter gives a different impression: the Sifra and the Gemara (Menachot 51b) teaching the law of the minchat chinukh of both the regular kohen and the Kohen Gadol seem to be learning these laws directly from the text.

b. The explanation offered by both of these commentators for the words "Aharon and his sons" is difficult to accept. A first argument against it is presented by Rabbi Naphtali Herz Wessely, author of the "Biur" on Sefer Vayikra, and subsequently by the Malbim. The latter writes:

"Wherever the Torah says, 'Aharon and his sons,' the reference is not to those who will be anointed in his place; rather, it refers to the Kohen Gadol who will replace him as well as the regular kohanim who will replace his sons."

A second argument presented by both of these commentators against the interpretation of the Rashbam and Ibn Ezra appears already in the Sifra and in Menachot (51b):

"'His sons' - this refers to the regular kohanim. Can this refer to all the regular kohanim, or only to the Kohanim Gedolim? When the Torah says (verse 15), 'and the anointed kohen in his place, from among his sons,' the Kohen Gadol is already mentioned, so what do we learn from 'and his sons'? The regular kohanim."

For these reasons, we cannot accept that the Torah does not mention regular kohanim here, as Rashbam and Ibn Ezra claim.


Rav David Zvi Hoffmann addresses our parasha in two different places in his commentary on Sefer Vayikra: in the introduction (pp. 26-33) and in parashat Tzav (pp. 161-6). He basically arrives at the same conclusion as that of the Rashbam and Ibn Ezra: our parasha deals, according to the literal text, with the daily "minchat chavitin" offered by the Kohen Gadol, and has nothing to do with the "minchat chinukh." He accepts in full the Ibn Ezra's explanation of the expression "be-yom himashecho" as meaning "FROM the day of his anointment." But Rav Hoffmann tries to solve the difficulties raised by the Biur and the Malbim on the interpretation of these Rishonim for the words "the offering of Aharon and his sons," suggesting a different explanation:

"Why is this offering called 'the offering of Aharon and his sons' if it is offered only by the Kohen Gadol? … Because the Kohen Gadol offers this sacrifice daily not only on behalf of himself, but also on behalf of all the kohanim… the Kohen Gadol acts here as a sort of agent of all the kohanim." (p. 164)

Rav Hoffmann explains the significance of this "minchat tamid" brought daily by the Kohen Gadol on behalf of all his fellow kohanim:

"Careful scrutiny leads us to the conclusion that the verses in Vayikra 6:12-16 are closely related to the statute that precedes them ('torat ha-mincha,' 6:7-11)… Just prior to the beginning of this parasha (6:11), we are told that God gives all the mincha offerings to the kohanim as an 'eternal statute;' this expression can refer only to the statute of 'perpetual bread'… Thereafter the instruction is given that starting from the day of 'miluim' (inauguration) of Aharon and his sons - the time when God gives them this bread as an 'eternal statute' - they are also to separate a contribution to God every day, which represents (according to verse 15) an 'eternal statute to God.' This contribution is offered by the Kohen Gadol on behalf of all the kohanim, every day. Through this separating and offering as an 'eternal statute to God' for the 'eternal statute' that they have received from Him, the kohanim acknowledge that they receive from God only in order to reciprocate His kindness, and that they are ready to serve Him… in return for the many gifts that God has given them." (p. 32)

What is Rav Hoffmann's view concerning the status of the minchat chinukh?

"We have therefore discovered that according to the simple, literal text, the minchat chinukh is not actually mentioned here explicitly… and this being so, we are forced to assume that the mitzva obligating each kohen to bring a minchat chinukh is indeed a mitzva given to Moshe at Sinai, for although it does not appear here explicitly, it is hinted at." (p. 165)

His view here is not essentially different from that of Rashbam, and our criticism of it remains valid: the treatment of the Sifra and the Talmud (as well as the Rambam) concerning the minchat chinukh does not make it look like a rabbinic law, nor like a "halakha given to Moshe at Sinai" (they give no hint of such an idea). Rather, it looks like a halakha learned directly from the text, not via any "hint," but rather from the literal meaning.

We may add two problems arising from Rav Hoffmann's explanation:

a. Had the Torah taught, "This is the offering of Aharon and his sons… on the day of his anointment," we could have accepted his innovative explanation. But instead of the three dots here, what the verse actually says is "that THEY shall offer to God." From this use of the plural, the Sifra and the beraita (Menachot 51b) learn that we must understand this differently than the way proposed by Rav Hoffmann:

"This is the offering of Aharon and his sons' - Is it possible that Aharon and his sons all offered the same single sacrifice? [Obviously not, for] the verse teaches: 'which they shall offer to God' - Aharon on his own, and his sons on their own."

b. Interpreting the words, "on the day of his anointment," as though the text had said, "FROM the day of his anointment" is itself forced, although examples of this phenomenon do exist in the Torah. But despite the linguistic difficulty, the question that arises here is why the Torah should give any emphasis to the fact that the obligation of the minchat chavitin applies from the day of the Kohen Gadol's appointment. The very definition of this mincha as a "minchat TAMID" brought by the Kohen Gadol means, clearly, that it applies daily from the time that he begins to serve.

The phrase "which they shall offer to God on the day of his anointment" therefore does not sit well with Rav Hoffmann's explanation. These words refer to a mincha that obligates ALL the kohanim - the "sons of Aharon" - on the day that each of them begins his service. This mincha is, obviously, the minchat chinukh.


We opened our discussion in section A. with a presentation of two contradictions in the literal text.

(a) Is the Torah discussing a one-time "minchat milu'im" - a mincha brought at the time of every kohen's inauguration, or a daily "minchat tamid"?

(b) Does the mincha discussed here apply to "Aharon and his sons" - all the kohanim - or only the anointed Kohen Gadol who will succeed Aharon?

In section B., after bringing the laws of the two mincha offerings that Chazal learn from our parasha and summarizing the significant differences between them, we asked how two such different offerings could be learned from one brief section.

Clearly, these two difficulties solve each other. It is the contradictions in the literal text that serve as the source for the two mincha offerings learned by Chazal, and each of these mincha offerings - the minchat chinukh and the minchat chavitin - matches one aspect of the ve. this fails to explain the contradiction in the verses: they seem to be speaking about a single mincha, while in fact they command two. How, then, are the verses to be read in such a way as to reflect this? Our second questions likewise remains unanswered: why does the Torah include two different mincha offerings in a single mitzva?

Rav Yaakov Zvi Mecklenburg writes, in his commentary Ha-Ketav ve-ha-Kabbala on the beginning of our parasha:

"(13) 'This is the offering of Aharon and his sons' - this offering of Aharon and his sons, offered for the first time on the day of their inauguration (for every kohen, whether a Kohen Gadol or a regular kohen, when anointed and inaugurated into his service, must first offer a mincha), THEN BECOMES A DAILY MINCHA.

Then the Torah explains who it is who is obligated to bring the daily mincha, saying (15), 'the kohen who is anointed…' - for the Kohen Gadol alone offers it daily. But a regular kohen has no such obligation; it is only when he performs his first service that he must be inaugurated with such a mincha. And by the words 'on the day of his anointment' the Torah means 'on the day that he is inaugurated into his service'…

Accordingly, the introduction, 'This, the offering of Aharon and his sons, which they shall offer to God on the day of his anointment' is the subject, and the object is 'a daily mincha.' [In other words, the verse is to be interpreted: 'This, [namely,] the offering of Aharon and his sons ... on the day of his anointment... [is to be] a daily offering.'] 'This, the offering' may be explained as in (Yehoshua 9:12), 'This, our bread, which we took still hot as provisions,' or (Tehillim 48:15), 'For this, our God, is our God forever.' Thus, the literal text is clarified in accordance with the understanding of our Sages - that the Torah refers here to both the mincha of each kohen as he performs his first service, and to the daily mincha of the Kohen Gadol.

And those who explain 'This IS the offering…' without making it refer to something, and 'which they shall offer' as the object, have difficulty reconciling 'on the day of his anointment' with 'a daily mincha,' for it is contradictory. Therefore, they have to exchange the 'bet' of 'be-yom' to a 'mem' - 'mi-yom,' like the Ibn Ezra, or to add the letter 'vav' in the word 'mincha tamid,' like R. Naphtali Wessely."

The advantage of Ha-Ketav ve-ha-Kabbala's explanation lies not only in a "smooth" reading of verse 13, without any need to add a "vav" or to change the "bet" into a "mem." Its principal advantage is that according to it, OUR PARASHA DESCRIBES NOT TWO DIFFERENT MINCHA OFFERINGS BUT RATHER ONE SINGLE ONE. The text itself declares: this offering, representing an inaugural offering (minchat chinukh) for Aharon and his sons, will itself also become a daily offering (minchat tamid). This syntactical understanding of verse 13 therefore has far-reaching ramifications for our understanding of the parasha as a whole. The parasha in fact discusses one mincha, which is brought in two ways: as a one-time minchat chinukh brought by Aharon and his sons on the day of his anointment, and as a minchat tamid brought by Aharon's successors - the Kohanim Gedolim.

Rav Hoffmann's criticism of this approach arises from his perception (shared by other commentators) that our parasha discusses two DIFFERENT mincha offerings. This being the case, argues Rav Hoffmann, Aharon's successors cannot be commanded to CONTINUE to offer the minchat chavitin so long as it has not yet been stipulated that this mitzva applies to Aharon himself. But according to the explanation of Ha-Ketav ve-ha-Kabbala, Aharon's connection with the minchat tamid arises from his explicit obligation to bring this mincha in the form of a minchat chinukh. It is true that at the transitional stage of the verse, in which the minchat chinukh becomes a minchat tamid, we may make the mistake of attributing this minchat tamid also to the other kohanim - for they, too, are obligated to bring it in its original form, as a minchat chinukh, like Aharon himself. In order to avoid this confusion, verse 15 comes to limit the scope of those obligated to bring it: only the Kohen anointed in place of Aharon is to bring it. The meaning of the verse is therefore, "The offering that Aharon and his sons shall offer as a minchat chinukh shall also be a minchat tamid, to be sacrificed half in the morning and the other half in the evening by the Kohen anointed to serve as Aharon's successor."


What is the significance of the innovation introduced here by Ha-Ketav ve-ha-Kabbala, that the two mincha offerings discussed in this parasha are actually one and the same? Are the laws of these two offerings and the circumstances in which they are brought not very different from each other? The answer to this question must be given in terms of the REASON FOR THIS MINCHA.

The commentators tend to view specifically the minchat tamid as the principal and more important mincha addressed in the parasha (to the extent that some omit the existence of the minchat chinukh entirely from the parasha). This is understandable: the minchat tamid is indeed important, for it is one of the daily sacrifices offered in the Mikdash (related to the olat tamid, which is likewise offered in the morning and the evening), and it is brought by the Kohen Gadol. Most of the laws in the parasha likewise address the minchat tamid. But the reason for this mincha is not generally clarified by the commentaries.

According to the explanation of Ha-Ketav ve-ha-Kabbala, the reason for the minchat tamid is explained by the Torah by its essential identification with the minchat chinukh. The minchat chinukh serves in our parasha only as an assumption (almost known in advance), rather than as a command, and the whole aim of the parasha is to direct this well-known minchat chinukh to a new horizon - to turn it into a minchat tamid which the Kohen Gadol is obligated to bring each and every day. This teaches us that the obligation of the Kohen Gadol to bring this mincha daily is in fact an obligation to renew daily his service in the Mikdash! "Each day they should be as new in your eyes" - this is the instruction that our parasha gives to the Kohen Gadol.

The laws pertaining to the Kohen Gadol are different from those pertaining to regular kohanim in many spheres, but the theme of all of them is the same: to elevate the service of the Kohen Gadol and sanctify it, to preserve its freshness and vitality at all times and in all circumstances. Our parasha therefore reveals another sphere in which the Kohen Gadol is distinguished from the regular kohanim. Both the Kohen Gadol and the regular kohen are obligated to bring a minchat chinukh on the day they start their service. But for the regular kohen it is sufficient that he bring this offering once, and that is the inauguration of his service for the rest of his life. But the Kohen Gadol must see himself every day, morning and evening, as someone for whom the Divine service is something new, as though today is the first day of his service. Therefore the Torah commands him to bring a minchat chinukh - tamid.

(Translated by Kaeren Fish.

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