Menachot 2 – Topics in the Mishna


  1. There four avodot (sacrificial acts) in the offering of a mincha (grain offering) – (1) kemitzah (taking the handbreadth); (2) putting it in the kli sharet (sanctified vessel); (3) bringing the kemitza to the altar; and (4) burning the kemitza and the frankincense on the altar.
  2. These four avodot parallel the four of avodot of an animal sacrifice – (1) slaughtering; (2) catching the blood in a kli sharet; (3) bringing the blood to the altar; and (4) throwing or applying the blood to the altar.
  3. If the Kohen thinks a thought of shelo lishmo – of the wrong sacrifice (or shelo lishem ba’alim – for the wrong owner of the mincha) during any of these avodot, then the mincha does not discharge the owner of any obligation he or she might have had (through a vow or otherwise) to bring this sacrifice.
  4. If the mincha was for a sin, or to determine whether a sin was committed -the mincha of a sotah (women suspected of adultery) – then it functions like a chatat, an animal sin offering, and it is invalid as a sacrifice – it must be burned and cannot be eaten.  If the mincha is a free-will offering, then while the owners are not freed of any possible obligation, the kometz can still be put on the altar and the remnant can be eaten by the Kohanim.


  1. Menachot is almost as long as Zevachim, although in the Torah the amount of verses dedicated to the mincha sacrifices are miniscule compared to those dedicated to the animal sacrifices.  I would like to think that this is to underscore the famous midrash, quoted in Rashi on Vayikra 2:1  – ונפש כי תקריב – לא נאמר נפש בכל קרבנות נדבה אלא במנחה. מי דרכו להתנדב מנחה? עני.  אמר הקב”ה מעלה אני עליו כאילו הקריב נפשו.  “And a soul [which offers a grain sacrifice]” – It does not say “soul” by any of the free-will sacrifices [of animals or birds], with the exception of the mincha.  Who normally brings a mincha?  A poor person.  God says [in such a case]: “I consider it in his sake as if he has offered up his very soul [or life].”  Or, as the Gemara puts it elsewhere in a related context, אחד המרבה ואחד הממעיט ובלבד שיכוין את לבו לשמים – whether one does a lot or a little, what matters is whether one’s intentions are directed to Heaven.     Thus, even Menachot is almost as big as Zevachim.
  2. Although we are constantly referring to what the Kohen is thinking, Rashi (2b, s.v. Aval machshava diminkera and Zevachim 41b, s.v. KiGon) states that we are referring to articulated thought, i.e., speaking.   Tosafot states the same position elsewhere (Zevachim 2a, s.v. Kol, Baba Metzia 43b, s.v., HaChoshev).  This is very important because it answers the question, “How do we know what the Kohen was thinking?”.  It remains important, however, to distinguish between cases where thought is the primary issue, but we require speech as a form of articulated thought, and between cases where speech is necessary as a speech act per se.  This issue will come up later in the Gemara.
  3. It is worth noting that while slaughtering can be done by a zar, a non-Kohen, the kemitza can only be done by a Kohen (mishna, 6a).  Why is this?
    • The difference might be that the kemitza, which is done with the hand, requires the hand to function as a kli sharet, and it is only the Kohen’s hand which can be seen as a holy vessel.  This would also explain why melika, the slaughtering of sacrificial birds with the Kohen’s fingernail, can only be done by a Kohen (mishna Zevachim 68a, and Gemara there).   This explanation, however, only works if one assumes that shekhita also requires a kli sharet, but that it has it – the shekhita knife.  However, while the Gemara (Zevachim 97b) states that a kli is required for shekhita, it is not clear that it must be a kli sharet (see Tosafot, ad. loc., s.v., viHatam and Rambam, Ma’aseh HaKorbanot 4:7).
    • Another explanation is that shekhita is the exception, because shekhita is not an avoda (6b).  Saying this really begs the question, but Tosafot (Zevachim 14b, s.v., Shekhita) explains in the name of R. Yaakov of Orleans that since shekhita is what needs to be done to all animals – whether they are being slaughtered as sacrifices or for their meat – then it is not a uniquely sacrificial act.  This is not the case in regards to kemitza or melika.
  4. The Mishna’s only case of shelo lishmo is thinking about a minchat nedavah, a free-will mincha when bringing an obligatory mincha.  The Gemara (2b) brings the opinion of R. Shimon regarding thoughts of different types of a free-will mincha, such as thinking about a deep-pan mincha when one has a frying-pan mincha.  It is worth considering that there is good reason to consider this second case to not  be a case of shelo lishmo.  There really are only 2 types of mincha – a standard one, a minchat nidavah, which is given as a totally free-will sacrifice.  This appears in the Torah in parashat Vayikra right after the mammal and bird ‘olah, and it is a form of an ‘olah, something given only because the person wants to offer something to God.  The other type is a minchat choteh, a mincha brought due to sin, for those sin-offerings that are sliding-scale chataot.  This mincha is a type of a chatat.  Thus, the only real shelo lishmo – thinking of the wrong type of sacrifice is thinking that a minchat nedavah is a minchat choteh or the reverse.   However, within the category of minchat nedavah to think when doing a deep-pan mincha that one is doing a frying pan mincha, is like thinking when doing a cow olah that one is doing a sheep olah.  Not only is the opposite self-evident (R. Shimon’s position), but also this is not a real shelo li’shmo, since one was still thinking of an olah.
  5. While Rashi, based on the Gemara, explain that the hybrid-thought referred to in the Mishna is a case of thinking two thoughts sequentially during one avoda, the simple sense of the mishna is that one thought was had during one avoda and the other thought during the next avoda.

About Rabbi Dov Linzer

Rabbi Dov Linzer is the Rosh HaYeshiva and Dean of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, a groundbreaking Orthodox smicha program. Rabbi Linzer spearheaded the development of YCT to create an innovative four year smicha program which provides its students with rigorous talmud Torah and halakhic study and sophisticated professional training in the context of a religious atmosphere which cultivates openness and inclusiveness. Rabbi Linzer has published Halakha and machshava articles in Torah journals and lectures widely at synagogues and conferences on topics relating to Halakha, Orthodoxy, and modernity. He is most recently the awardee of the prestigious Avi Chai Fellowship.
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