The fifth division of the Mishnah is called Qodashim (sacred or hallowed things, found in Danby’s Mishnah, pp. 467-602). It is divided into eleven treatises, having to do mainly with different types of offerings. The first treatise is Zebahim (sacrifices). Since this is the word most commonly used for animal sacrifices, that is what this section deals with. The questions that arise in this section come from the possibility of an offering being mis-identified, or offered under the guise of some other offering. In general, the view was that if an offering was offered under the name of a higher offering, it remains valid, but if offered under the name of a lower offering, it becomes invalid. The higher offerings were: whole offerings (Leviticus 1), sin offerings (Leviticus 5), guilt offerings, (Leviticus 4), and the congregational peace offerings for Pentecost. All other offerings were considered lower or lesser offerings. As to additional considerations affecting the validity of the offerings, an offering could be made invalid by errors in one of the four following aspects: in the manner of slaughter, in the manner of receiving the blood, in the manner of conveying the blood, and in the manner of tossing the blood. An examination of the sacrificial texts in Leviticus 1-7 will reveal that these four considerations all come into play. The animal is first slaughtered, apparently by the offerer (see Leviticus 1:4-5). The blood is collected, again apparently by the offerer and is received by the priest. The priest then carries the blood to the altar, and splashes the blood on the altar. The location where the blood is to be placed or splashed on the altar varies from one sacrifice to another, so it is easy to imagine that a priest might make a mistake if he is carrying out a number of different offerings in sequence. These rules, as discussed by the rabbis, probably reflect practices that arose among the priests out of concern that they violate neither the law nor the spirit of the sacrifice. Obviously, these considerations became entirely theoretical with the destruction of the temple and the demise of the sacrificial system.
The second treatise is called Menahoth (meal offerings). The term minhah (the singular of menahoth) is the most widely used sacrifial term, and can be use to refer to any sacrifice or offering, or even a gift. It is used in the latter sense in Genesis 32:13-14 in speaking of the gift that Jacob prepared for Esau. However, in the context of the sacrificial system, minhah refers specifically to the grain offerings. With all of these offerings, a portion (specified as a “handful,” Leviticus 2:2) was burnt on the altar, while the rest went to the priests for their provision. Again, the issue of the validity of the offering appears. With regard to grain offerings, all were considered valid, even if given under another name, except the sinner’s meal offering (Leviticus 5:11-13), and the meal offering of the woman suspected of adultery (Numbers 5:15). The reader will note that most of the grain offerings included oil and a portion of frankincense. If the amount of oil or of frankincense was too little, it made the offering invalid. The concern here seems clearly to be that God not be cheated of his honor in the bringing of the sacrifice.
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