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Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Issurei Mizbeiach - Chapter 7

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Issurei Mizbeiach - Chapter 7


Not every entity that is not unacceptable may be brought [as a sacrifice] as an initial preference.1

What is implied? If one is obligated to bring a burnt offering, one should not bring a weak and unattractive sheep and [justify oneself saying]: "It does not have a blemish." Concerning this, can be applied [the words of censure, Malachi 1:14]: "Cursed be the deceiver... [who sacrifices a blemished animal to God]." Instead, anyone who brings a sacrifice should bring from the highest quality.2


לא כָּל דָּבָר שֶׁאֵינוֹ פָּסוּל מֵבִיא אוֹתוֹ לְכַתְּחִלָּה. כֵּיצַד. הָיָה חַיָּב עוֹלָה לֹא יָבִיא שֶׂה כָּחוּשׁ וְכָעוּר וְיֹאמַר הֲרֵי אֵין בּוֹ מוּם. וְעַל זֶה נֶאֱמַר (מלאכי א-יד) "וְאָרוּר נוֹכֵל" וְגוֹ'. אֶלָּא כָּל שֶׁיָּבִיא לְקָרְבָּן יָבִיא מִן הַמֻּבְחָר:


This is the practice that was observed in the era of the Temple: They would bring rams from Moab, broad-backed sheep3 from Chebron, calves from Sharon, young doves from Har HaMelech, wine from Korchayin and Chalutin, flour from Michmash and Yochanah and oil from Tekoa.4


וְכָךְ הָיוּ עוֹשִׂין בִּזְמַן הַמִּקְדָּשׁ. מְבִיאִין אֵילִים מִמּוֹאָב. וּמְבִיאִין כְּבָשִׂים שֶׁגַּבֵּיהֶן רְחָבִים מֵחֶבְרוֹן. וּמְבִיאִין עֲגָלִים מִן הַשָּׁרוֹן. וְגוֹזָלוֹת מֵהַר הַמֶּלֶךְ. וּמְבִיאִין יַיִן מִקַּרְחִיִּין וְהַלּוֹטִיִּין. וְסלֶת מִמִּכְמָשׁ וְיוֹחָנָה. וּמְבִיאִין שֶׁמֶן מִתְּקוֹעַ:


All virgin wood5 is acceptable for the altar. They would not bring wood from olive trees or grape vines [in consideration of] the settlement of Eretz [Yisrael].6 They would frequently use boughs of fig trees that grow in forests of unsettled areas,7 those of nut trees, and those of fast-burning8 trees. The logs that Moses made [for the altar in the Sanctuary] were a cubit long and a cubit wide.9 Their thickness was like that of the leveling rod for an overflowing se'ah. In future generations,10 [logs] of the same measurements were used.


כָּל הָעֵצִים הַחֲדָשִׁים כְּשֵׁרִים לַמַּעֲרָכָה. וְלֹא הָיוּ מְבִיאִין מִשֶּׁל זַיִת וְלֹא מִשֶּׁל גֶּפֶן מִשּׁוּם יִשּׁוּב אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל. וּבְאֵלּוּ הָיוּ רְגִילִין בְּמֻרְבִּיּוֹת שֶׁל תְּאֵנָה שֶׁל חֲדָשִׁים שֶׁאֵינָן בַּיִּשּׁוּב. וּבְשֶׁל אֱגוֹז וּבְשֶׁל עֵץ שֶׁמֶן. וְהַגְּזָרִין שֶׁעָשָׂה משֶׁה אַמָּה אָרְכָּן וְאַמָּה רָחְבָּן וְעָבְיָן כְּמַחַק גָּדִישׁ שֶׁל סְאָה וּכְמוֹתָן עוֹשִׂין לְדוֹרוֹת:


What would they do when sowing wheat for meal offerings and accompanying offerings?11 They would leave half a field fallow in the first year12 and sow the other half.13 In the second year, he should leave the portion he sowed in the first year fallow and he should sow the second half seventy days before Pesach.14 If the field had not been tilled, he should plow it twice and then sow it. He should choose the kernels of wheat carefully15 and then he should strike them16 and tread on them17 until their shells are removed.


וְכֵיצַד הָיוּ עוֹשִׂין בִּזְרִיעַת חִטֵּי הַמְּנָחוֹת וְהַנְּסָכִים. נָר חֲצִי הַשָּׂדֶה בְּשָׁנָה רִאשׁוֹנָה וְזָרַע חֶצְיָהּ. וּבְשָׁנָה שְׁנִיָּה נָר הַחֵצִי שֶׁזָּרַע בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה וְזָרַע הַחֵצִי הָאַחֵר קֹדֶם לַפֶּסַח שִׁבְעִים יוֹם. וְאִם לֹא הָיְתָה הַשָּׂדֶה עֲבוּדָּה חוֹרֵשׁ וְשׁוֹנֶה וְאַחַר כָּךְ זוֹרֵעַ. וּבוֹרֵר הַחִטִּים יָפֶה יָפֶה וְאַחַר כָּךְ שָׁף אֶת הַחִטִּים וּבוֹעֵט בָּהֶן הַרְבֵּה עַד שֶׁיִּתְקַלְּפוּ:


All of the wheat used for the meal offerings must receive 300 blows and be tread on 500 times. He should give [the kernels] one blow and then tread on them twice; give them two blows and tread on them three times. Thus they will have received three blows and will have been tread on five times. He should then repeat the pattern until he completes all 300 blows and 500 treadings so that much of the shells will have been removed. As a stringency, extending and drawing back his arm is considered as one blow. After this process, he should grind and sift the flour very thoroughly.


כָּל הַחִטִּים שֶׁל מְנָחוֹת טְעוּנוֹת שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת שִׁיפָה וַחֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת בְּעִיטָה. שָׁף אַחַת וּבוֹעֵט שְׁתַּיִם. שָׁף שְׁתַּיִם וּבוֹעֵט שָׁלֹשׁ. נִמְצְאוּ שָׁלֹשׁ שִׁיפוֹת וַחֲמֵשׁ בְּעִיטוֹת. וְחוֹזֵר חֲלִילָה עַד שֶׁיִּגְמֹר שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת שִׁיפָה וַחֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת בְּעִיטָה כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּתְקַלְּפוּ הַרְבֵּה. וְחוֹשֵׁב הַהוֹבָאָה וְהַהוֹלָכָה בְּשִׁיפָה אַחַת לְהַחְמִיר וְאַחַר כָּךְ טוֹחֵן וּמְרַקֵּד יָפֶה יָפֶה:


Wine [should be made by] bringing grapes from vines growing at foot level from vineyards that were tilled twice a year.18 He should crush the grapes and collect [their juice] in small jugs. They should not be stored individually or in pairs, but instead in groups of three.19 The jug should not be filled to its rim in order that its fragrance will be perceived.20 He should not bring [libations] from the wine near the rim, because of the specks resembling flour21 that rise to the surface of the wine, nor from the bottom, because of the dregs. Instead, he should take from the middle third and from its middle portion.


הַיַּיִן. מֵבִיא עֲנָבִים מִן הָרַגְלִיּוֹת מִן הַכְּרָמִים הָעֲבוּדִּים פַּעֲמַיִם בְּשָׁנָה. וְדוֹרֵךְ וְכוֹנְסִין אוֹתוֹ בְּחָבִיּוֹת קְטַנּוֹת. וְאֵין מַנִּיחִין אוֹתָן אַחַת אַחַת וְלֹא שְׁתַּיִם שְׁתַּיִם אֶלָּא שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁלֹשׁ. וְאֵינוֹ מְמַלֵּא אֶת הֶחָבִית עַד פִּיהָ כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיֶה רֵיחוֹ נוֹדֵף. וְאֵינוֹ מֵבִיא לֹא מִפִּי הֶחָבִית מִפְּנֵי הַקְּמָחִין הָעוֹלֶה עַל פְּנֵי הַיַּיִן. וְלֹא מִשּׁוּלֶיהָ מִפְּנֵי הַשְּׁמָרִים. אֶלָּא מִשְּׁלִישָׁהּ וּמֵאֶמְצָעָהּ שֶׁל אֶמְצָעִית:


A treasurer would sit [and watch] as the wine flowed from a hole on the side of a jug [of wine]. If he sees dregs flow out, he stops [the flow of wine] and does not complete the purchase.

At what point [in the aging process of wine] should it be brought? From 40 days after the grapes were tread upon22 until after two years and even slightly longer than that. If one brings wine that is even older, it is acceptable, provided its flavor has not spoiled.23


הָיָה הַגִּזְבָּר יוֹשֵׁב וְהַיַּיִן יוֹצֵא מִן הַנֶּקֶב שֶׁבְּצַד הֶחָבִית כֵּיוָן שֶׁיִּרְאֶה שִׁנּוּי הַשְּׁמָרִים מַתְחִיל לָצֵאת פּוֹסֵק וְאֵינוֹ לוֹקֵחַ. וּמֵאֵימָתַי מֵבִיא. מֵאַחַר אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם לִדְרִיכָתוֹ עַד שְׁתֵּי שָׁנִים אוֹ יֶתֶר מְעַט. וְאִם הֵבִיא יַיִן יָשָׁן מִכַּמָּה שָׁנִים הֲרֵי זֶה כָּשֵׁר וְהוּא שֶׁלֹּא יִפָּסֵד טַעֲמוֹ:


There are nine categories of oil, depending on the process in which they were prepared. What is implied? When one picks olives at the top of an olive tree, selects them one by one,24 crushes them and puts them into a basket, the oil that flows from them is considered in the first category. If, afterwards, he loads a beam upon them [to press them],25 the oil which flows from them is of the second category. If he loads [a beam upon them] a second time,26 the oil which flows from them is of the third category.

When he picked olives in a mixture,27 brought them to the roof, selected them one by one, crushed them, and placed them into a basket, the oil which flows from them is of the fourth category. If, afterwards, he loads a beam upon them [to press them], the oil which flows from them is of the fifth category. If he loads [a beam upon them] a second time, the oil which flows from them is of the sixth category.

When he picks olives28 and loads them in the vat until they begin to decompose, he then takes them up [to the roof], dries them, crushes them, and places them in a basket.29 The oil which flows from them is of the seventh category. If, afterwards, he loads a beam upon them [to press them], the oil which flows from them is of the eighth category. If he loads [a beam upon them] a second time, the oil which flows from them is of the ninth category.


תִּשְׁעָה מִינִין בְּשֶׁמֶן מִפְּנֵי שִׁנּוּי מַעֲשָׂיו. כֵּיצַד. זַיִת שֶׁגִּרְגְּרוֹ בְּרֹאשׁ הַזַּיִת וּבֵרְרוֹ אַחַת אַחַת וּכְתָשׁוֹ וּנְתָנוֹ לְסַל הַשֶּׁמֶן שֶׁיֵּצֵא מִמֶּנּוּ הוּא הָרִאשׁוֹן. חָזַר אַחַר כָּךְ וּטְעָנוֹ בְּקוֹרָה הַשֶּׁמֶן שֶׁיֵּצֵא מִמֶּנּוּ הוּא הַשֵּׁנִי. וְאִם חָזַר אַחַר שֶׁטְּעָנוֹ וּטְחָנוֹ וּטְעָנוֹ שְׁנִיָּה הַשֶּׁמֶן שֶׁיֵּצֵא מִמֶּנּוּ הוּא הַשְּׁלִישִׁי. זֵיתִים שֶׁמְּסָקָן כֻּלָּן בְּעִרְבּוּבְיָא וְהֶעֱלָן לַגַּג וְחָזַר וּבֵרֵר גַּרְגֵּר גַּרְגֵּר וּכְתָשָׁן וּנְתָנָן לְסַל הַשֶּׁמֶן שֶׁיֵּצֵא מִמֶּנּוּ הוּא הָרְבִיעִי. וְאִם טְעָנוֹ בְּקוֹרָה אַחַר כָּךְ הַשֶּׁמֶן שֶׁיֵּצֵא הוּא הַחֲמִישִׁי. וְחָזַר וְטָחַן וְטָעַן פַּעַם שְׁנִיָּה הַשֶּׁמֶן שֶׁיֵּצֵא הוּא הַשִּׁשִּׁי. זֵיתִים שֶׁמְּסָקָן וּטְעָנָן בְּתוֹךְ הַבַּיִת עַד שֶׁיִּלְקוּ וְהֶעֱלָן וּנִגְּבָן וְאַחַר כָּךְ כָּתַשׁ וְנָתַן לְסַל הַשֶּׁמֶן שֶׁיֵּצֵא הוּא הַשְּׁבִיעִי. חָזַר וְטָעַן בַּקּוֹרָה הַשֶּׁמֶן שֶׁיֵּצֵא הוּא הַשְּׁמִינִי. חָזַר וְטָחַן וְטָעַן פַּעַם שְׁנִיָּה הַשֶּׁמֶן שֶׁיֵּצֵא הוּא הַתְּשִׁיעִי:


Even though they are all acceptable [to be brought] with the meal offerings,30 there is nothing that surpasses the first category.31 Afterwards, the second and the fourth are of equal quality.32 After them, the third, fifth, and seventh are of equal quality.33 After them, the sixth and the eighth are of equal quality.34 There is nothing inferior to the ninth.35


אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁכֻּלָּן כְּשֵׁרִין לִמְנָחוֹת. הָרִאשׁוֹן אֵין לְמַעְלָה מִמֶּנּוּ. וְאַחֲרָיו הַשֵּׁנִי וְהָרְבִיעִי וּשְׁנֵיהֶן שָׁוִין. וְאַחֲרֵיהֶם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי וְהַחֲמִישִׁי וְהַשְּׁבִיעִי וּשְׁלָשְׁתָּן שָׁוִין. וְאַחֲרֵיהֶם הַשִּׁשִּׁי וְהַשְּׁמִינִי וּשְׁנֵיהֶם שָׁוִין. וְהַתְּשִׁיעִי אֵין לְמַטָּה מִמֶּנּוּ:


Only the first, fourth, and seventh categories are acceptable for the Menorah, for [Exodus 27:20] states: "crushed for the light," i.e., for the Menorah,36 only that which flows after [the olives] are crushed alone37 are acceptable. They are all acceptable for meal offerings.38


אֵין כָּשֵׁר לַמְּנוֹרָה אֶלָּא רִאשׁוֹן וּרְבִיעִי וּשְׁבִיעִי בִּלְבַד שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כז-כ) (ויקרא כז-כ) "כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר", אֵין כָּשֵׁר לַמְּנוֹרָה אֶלָּא הַיּוֹצֵא מִן הַכָּתוּשׁ בִּלְבַד. אֲבָל לַמְּנָחוֹת כֻּלָּן כְּשֵׁרִין:


Since all of these categories of oil are acceptable, why were they listed as separate categories? So that one would know the superior category that nothing surpasses, those which are equal, and those which are inferior. In this way, one who desires to gain merit for himself, subjugate his evil inclination, and amplify his generosity should bring his sacrifice from the most desirable and superior type of the item he is bringing.39 For it is written in the Torah [Genesis 4:4]: "And Evel brought from his chosen flocks and from the superior ones and God turned to Evel and his offering."

The same applies to everything given for the sake of the Almighty who is good. It should be of the most attractive and highest quality. If one builds a house of prayer, it should be more attractive than his own dwelling. If he feeds a hungry person, he should feed him from the best and most tasty foods of his table. If he clothes one who is naked, he should clothe him with his attractive garments. If he consecrates something, he should consecrate the best of his possession. And so [Leviticus 3:16] states: "All of the superior quality should be given to God."40


וּמֵאַחַר שֶׁכֻּלָּן כְּשֵׁרִין לַמְּנָחוֹת לָמָּה נִמְנוּ. כְּדֵי לֵידַע יָפֶה שֶׁאֵין לְמַעְלָה מִמֶּנּוּ וְהַשָּׁוֶה וְהַפָּחוֹת שֶׁהָרוֹצֶה לִזְכּוֹת עַצְמוֹ יָכֹף יִצְרוֹ הָרַע וְיַרְחִיב יָדוֹ וְיָבִיא קָרְבָּנוֹ מִן הַיָּפֶה הַמְּשֻׁבָּח בְּיוֹתֵר שֶׁבְּאוֹתוֹ הַמִּין שֶׁיָּבִיא מִמֶּנּוּ. הֲרֵי נֶאֱמַר בַּתּוֹרָה (בראשית ד-ד) "וְהֶבֶל הֵבִיא גַם הוּא מִבְּכֹרוֹת צֹאנוֹ וּמֵחֶלְבֵהֶן וַיִּשַׁע ה' אֶל הֶבֶל וְאֶל מִנְחָתוֹ". וְהוּא הַדִּין בְּכָל דָּבָר שֶׁהוּא לְשֵׁם הָאֵל הַטּוֹב שֶׁיִּהְיֶה מִן הַנָּאֶה וְהַטּוֹב. אִם בָּנָה בֵּית תְּפִלָּה יִהְיֶה נָאֶה מִבֵּית יְשִׁיבָתוֹ. הֶאֱכִיל רָעֵב יַאֲכִיל מִן הַטּוֹב וְהַמָּתוֹק שֶׁבְּשֻׁלְחָנוֹ. כִּסָּה עָרֹם יְכַסֶּה מִן הַיָּפֶה שֶׁבִּכְסוּתוֹ. הִקְדִּישׁ דָּבָר יַקְדִּישׁ מִן הַיָּפֶה שֶׁבִּנְכָסָיו וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר (ויקרא ג-טז) "כָּל חֵלֶב לַה'" וְגוֹ':

Test Yourself on This Chapter


This chapter focuses on one fundamental concept: that ideally the entities used for the sacrifices should be of the highest quality.


As evident from Hilchot Ma'aseh HaKorbanot 16:4, here, the Rambam is focusing on the optimum manner of fulfilling the mitzvah, not on the letter of the law.


Because of their fat (Rav Yosef Corchus).


All of the names mentioned here are regions or cities in Eretz Yisrael. Each respective was renown for the quality of the particular item associated with it.


I.e., wood that has not been used for any other purpose first.


Oil and wine are considered basic necessities and hence, the trees and vines from which they derive should not be cut down for use as fuel for the altar. The Radbaz explains that olive trees and grape vines also frequently have knots and produce smoke that is undesirable.


Which do not produce edible fruit [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Tamid)]. This atoned for the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge which was a fig tree [Rashi (Yoma 58a)].


Our translation is based on Rashi's Commentary to Tamid 29b. Literally, the words would be translated as "oily trees."


For this was the size of the pyre.


Even though the size of the altar as a whole was increased.


I.e., the practice to be described delineates the optimum manner of preparing flour for the meal offerings. Flour which was prepared in another manner may also be acceptable.


Leaving the field fallow improved the quality of the grain it produces.


Plowing it each time [see the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Menachot 8:2)].


Although this falls on 5 Shvat which is in the midst of winter. "the sun already has the power to shine upon it" (Rashi, Menachot 85a) and improve its growth.


To remove any other seeds and to select the highest quality wheat (Radbaz).


In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Menachot 6:5) the Rambam interprets this as striking the wheat powerfully with one's hand so that the dust will be removed from them.


Crushing them with his feet to crack the shells (ibid.).


This is also the optimum manner to prepare wine. Wine prepared in other means is also acceptable.


The Radbaz explains that the more barrels are stored together, the less each one is exposed to air. Hence, there is less deterioration in the flavor of the wine.


If the jug is filled to the brim, the vapors from the wine will have no chance to rise. See the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Menachot 8:6).


In that source, the Rambam explains that in the wines that he is familiar with, this phenomenon takes place only in the superior wines. He supposes that in Eretz Yisrael, this phenomenon would occur only with the inferior wines.


Until then, the fermentation process will not be complete. The Radbaz writes that although the Rambam's wording does not imply this, from the beginning of the fortieth day onward, the wine is acceptable.


Once its flavor has begun to spoil, however, it is unacceptable. See Chapter 6, Halachah 10.


Apparently, the Rambam is speaking about a situation when the majority of the crop are not ready to be picked and the ones he selects are those of the highest quality.


I.e., one of the techniques of pressing olives was to put them under pressure from a heavy beam. This would squeeze out more oil from them,.


Readjusting the beam will apply greater pressure and squeeze out more oil.


Without separated the good from the bad. This is speaking about the stage when most of the olives are ready for picking. Thus the ones he picks are not necessarily the most choice.


These are olives which grew late and never ripened sufficiently.


Although they were crushed and thus dregs will be produced, they were not, however, pressed with a beam, which would produce more dregs.


Menachot 86b states that the Torah allowed the inferior types of oil to be used, so that the price of superior oil would not rise and thus be prohibitively expensive for the people at large.


For the olives are superior and they are not pressed, so that few dregs will be included.


The second category uses superior olives, but they are pressed, so that they will have dregs. The fourth uses inferior olives, but they are not pressed, so there will be no dregs.


Even though the olives of the third category will have been pressed twice, because they are of a superior quality, they are equal to those of a lower quality that were pressed less. Similarly, those of the seventh category, though pressed only once are of inferior quality to those of the fifth category.


Even though those of the sixth category have been pressed twice, they are of a higher quality than those of the eighth.


For they are both of a lower category and have been pressed twice.


"The light."


I.e., excluding oil produced by pressing.


Even though the Rambam mentioned this point in the previous halachah, he mentions it again here to emphasize that this concept is also derived from the exegesis of the verse. It is necessary that the oil flow from crushing only "for the light," and not for the meal offerings.


See Hilchot Ma'aseh HaKorbanot 16:3-4.


See also Hilchot Terumah 5:1 which states that the finest grain should be separated as terumah.

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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