A Biblical proof for a Rabbinic tradition

Menachot (10:3) | Rabbi Ben-Zion Hain | 12 years ago

The tenth perek of Masechet Menachot deals with the laws of the Omer ritual which is commanded in Sefer Vayikra (). The purpose of the Omer offering was to allow the use of the new crop of grain and its time is specified in the Torah as being “the day after the Shabbat” (Vayikra 23:11). However, based only on the biblical verses, there are many aspects of the Omer offering that remain unclear, including the precise date of the offering.

The Rabbis explain that the “Shabbat” mentioned in the above verse refers not to the seventh day of the week, but rather to a day of rest and the day of rest in question is the first day of Pesach. Thus, the Rabbis maintain that the Omer is brought on the 16^th^ day of Nissan regardless of the day of the week.

The third Mishnah in the tenth perek goes into great detail as to how exactly the entire ceremony took place. It is a ceremony that involves a lot of repetition. In fact, as the Mishnah states, everything was repeated “three times for each item, and [each time] they said to him, ‘Yes, yes, yes’.” According to the Mishnah, the reason for all this repetition is “Because of the Boethusians who declared that the reaping of the Omer is not performed at the conclusion of the Festival.”

As we know from previous study, the Boethusians were a group that only believed in the Written Text and as such rejected the rabbinic tradition defining in this verse “the Sabbath” as the first day of Pesach. They believed that the “Sabbath” in the verse should be taken literally and hence the Omer must be offered on a Sunday.

There are a number of biblical proofs for this rabbinic tradition. The Gemara in Menachot (65a-66a) offers one proof based on the following two verses from Vayikra:

And you shall count for yourselves, from day after Shabbat, from the day you bring the Omer as a wave offering seven weeks; they shall be complete. You shall count until the day after the seventh week, [namely,] the fiftieth day, [on which] you shall bring a new meal offering to the L-rd.

(Vayikra 23:15-16)

If, according to the Boethusians, Shabbat refers to the day of the week and not the first day of Pesach and seven complete weeks must be counted from the day after that Shabbat, then the ‘meal offering’ which was brought on Shavuot will not always be the fiftieth day since Pesach. Sometimes it will be the 51^st^ or even the 56^th^. Therefore, the Shabbat must be referring to the first day of Pesach.

This is not the only time in Tanach that the Omer is mentioned. The Book of Yehoshua states:

And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and they made the Passover sacrifice on the fourteenth day of the month at evening in the plains of Jericho. And they ate of the grain of the land on the day after Passover, unleavened cakes and parched grain on this very day. (Yehoshua 5:10-11)

Although the Torah states that the time of the Omer is “the day after the Shabbat”, in the book of Yehoshua the date that they ate the grain was the day after Pesach. The Rambam in Hilchot Temidim U’Musafim () offers these p’sukim from Yehoshua as another proof for the rabbinic tradition.

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