Minchat Chavitin and the Heirs

Menachot (4:5) | Yisrael Bankier | a month ago

Towards the end of the fourth perek of Menachot (4:5) we learn about the Minchat Chavitin in more detail. The Minchat Chavitin was the mincha offering bought by the kohen gadol daily. A full issaron was brought and divided in two, with half offered in the morning and half in the afternoon. A debate is recorded regarding a case where the kohen gadol passed away and a replacement was not found prior to the time the next minchat chavitin was due to be offered. Everyone agrees that the minchat chavitin would need to be offered and a full issaron was offered in both the morning and afternoon. The question is who funds its purchase. R' Yehuda explains that the heirs of the deceased kohen gadol would need to fund it, whereas R' Shimon argues that it came from the temple treasury – specifically the terumat ha'lishcha.

The Bartenura explains that each side bases their position on a pasuk – in others word the law is biblical. Indeed, this is how the Gemara explains the debate. We shall inspect the position of the R' Yehuda.

The Yalkut Biurim (Metivta) cites the Tosfot Yom Tov (Shekalim 7:6) who maintains that only if the heirs inherited property from the estate would they be obligated to pay. He explains that when the Chachimim instituted that the heirs pay, it was built into the appointment of the kohen gadol that his estate would need to fund the minchat chavitin in this situation. Consequently, if there is no estate, then the heirs need not pay.

If you look carefully at the Tosfot Yom Tov however, he is commenting on the Bartenura that is explaining the Mishnah there. The Mishnah teaches that it was a "condition of Beit Din" that in the event that the kohen gadol dies the, the korban is funding by the tzibur (Temple treasury). The Bartenura comments that really both R' Shimon and R' Yehuda understand that the law is biblical and not a condition of Beit Din. The Gemara explains that the "condition of Beit Din" referred to here is based on the position of R' Shimon as it evolved. Initially, the tzibur funded it. However, in order to alleviate the burden on the Temple treasury, the Chachamim moved that responsibility to the heirs. When they noticed that this responsibility was being neglected, the Beit Din "instituted" to revert to the Torah law. It is important to note that the Tosfot Yom Tov was commenting on the ability of Beit Din to implement the first decree and not on the position of R' Yehuda. Consequently, since R' Yehuda understands that the law is biblical in nature, then perhaps the responsibility is placed on the heirs irrespective of whether they inherited any property from the kohen gadol.

Indeed this position may find support in the Minchat Chinnuch (136:5) who explains that since R' Yehuda uses the broad term "yorshim" (heirs), the responsibility rests on anyone that qualifies as an heir according to the Torah's definition (sons, daughter, brothers, etc). We find therefore that the responsibility rest on the heirs, not the estate.

The Chazon Ish (Menachot 34:3) however understands that the Torah provides a more narrow definition of the family members responsible. He notes that R' Yehuda's position is based on the pasuk, "The Kohen from among his sons who is anointed in his place shall perform it…" (Vaykira 6:15). The Minchat Chinnuch is not bothered by the reference to "sons", as he understanda that the Torah was referring to the more common occurrence and the term is to be understood as referring to any available heirs. Were that not the case, he would have expected the Gemara or Rambam to comment otherwise. The Chazon Ish however understands that the pasuk is being very specific. It is not referring just to male heirs, but only to male heirs that are fit to take the place of their father and be the kohen gadol. If however the son was a chalal or he had only daughters, then R' Yehuda would agree the obligation is shifted to the tzibur.

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