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Monday, 4 Sivan 5774 – June 2, 2014
In discussing the celebration of Shavuot, the Torah in Parashat Vayikra
(23:16-20) issues the command of the
korban shetei ha-lechem, a special sacrifice which includes two loaves of bread made
from wheat. The Mishna in Masekhet
Menachot (68b) establishes that no grain from the spring harvest may be brought
as an offering in the
Beit Ha-mikdash until the offering of the
shetei ha-lechem. In this sense, the
shetei ha-lechem sacrifice brought on Shavuot resembles the
korban ha-omer barley offering brought on the second day of Pesach. The grain of the spring harvest is
forbidden for consumption until the offering of the
korban ha-omer, but remains forbidden for use as an offering until
korban shetei ha-lechem is brought on Shavuot.
Rav Yaakov Betzalel Zholty, in his
Mishnat Yaabetz (1:25), notes that the
korban shetei ha-lechem actually has a dual purpose.
In Sefer Bamidbar (28-29), the Torah describes the
musaf sacrifices that were offered on Shabbat and special occasions. In introducing the
musaf sacrifice offered on Shavuot, the Torah describes
the festival as the time “when you offer a new offering to the Lord” (Bamidbar
28:26) – a clear reference to the shetei ha-lechem. The mention of the
shetei ha-lechem in this context strongly suggests that it is
integral to the Shavuot celebration.
One might have thought that this sacrifice serves only to render the new grain
permissible as an offering, and it happens to be offered on Shavuot. But the fact that the Torah defines
Shavuot by mentioning this sacrifice indicates that it is an integral part of
the festival’s observance. It is not
merely a sacrifice that is offered on Shavuot; it is defined as a festival
sacrifice, just like the
musaf offering. Rav Zholty contrasts the
shetei ha-lechem with the korban ha-omer, which, while it is offered
during Pesach, is not part of the system of Pesach sacrifices. The offering takes place on the 16th
of Nissan, but fundamentally, it is not a holiday sacrifice. The shetei ha-lechem, however,
has two aspects: it is a festival sacrifice, as well as a sacrifice required to
render the new grain permissible for use as an offering.
This duality is manifest in the Rambam’s ruling regarding the
distribution of the sacrifice among the kohanim. The Mishna in Masekhet Sukka (55b)
establishes that the meat of the festival sacrifices are to be distributed
equally among all kohanim, as opposed to other sacrifices, which are
distributed only among the kohanim serving in the Mikdash at the
time of the offering. The Rambam, in
Hilkhot Kelei Ha-mikdash (4:6), applies this ruling to the korban shetei
ha-lechem; the food of the sacrifice is distributed among all kohanim,
just like the other festival sacrifices.
This is in contrast to the korban ha-omer, which is distributed
only among the kohanim serving in the Temple on the week of the 16th
of Nissan (see Mishneh Le-melekh, Hilkhot Kelei Ha-mikdash 4:4). Rav Zholty explains that the
korban ha-omer is not considered a festival sacrifice, even though it is offered during Pesach,
and thus it is not distributed among all the
shetei ha-lechem, by contrast, is fundamentally a Yom Tov sacrifice, in addition to its role as
rendering the new grain permissible.
Therefore, it is distributed among all the
Another interesting application of this analysis relates to a comment of the Sha’arei Dei’a (2:41), citing the work Kol Eliyahu. The Sha’arei Dei’a writes that in the hypothetical case where no members of the Jewish nation count sefirat ha-omer one year, the korban shetei ha-lechem is not brought. Since the Torah commands offering this sacrifice after counting the 49 days of the omer, it is required only if this counting is performed. Rav Zholty, however, disagrees. He concedes that the shetei ha-lechem’s role as a “matir,” rendering the new grain permissible, may indeed be contingent upon sefirat ha-omer, as implied by the verses in Sefer Vayikra. However, as mentioned, the Torah also mentions this sacrifice in Sefer Bamidbar, in its discussion of the Shavuot musaf offering. Here the Torah establishes a second dimension of this sacrifice – as part of the sacrificial requirements of Shavuot – which is not dependent on sefirat ha-omer. And thus although the sacrifice cannot make it permissible to then offer new grain on the altar, it is still required as part of the obligations of Shavuot.
Rav David Silverberg
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