1) GRAIN COLLECTED FROM DUNG
OPINIONS: Rami bar Chama asks whether grain that was mixed in animal dung may be collected and used for a Korban Minchah. The Gemara says that such grain certainly may not be used, because the verse says, "When you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not bad? And when you present a lame or sick animal for sacrifice, is it not bad? Present it, if you please, to your governor; would he be pleased with you or show you favor?" (Malachi 1:8). This verse teaches that items used for Mitzvos must be respectable. The Gemara explains that Rami bar Chama meant to ask a different question. His question was whether one may collect grain from dung, replant it, and then use the grain for a Minchah. The answer depends on the nature of the problem of using grain collected from dung. Is grain collected from dung unacceptable for a Minchah because it is disgusting and disrespectful, in which case once the grain is replanted it loses that status and may be used, or is gain collected from dung unacceptable because such grain became weak when it was digested in the stomach of the animal, and thus it remains unfit even after it has been replanted? The Gemara leaves this question unanswered ("Teiku").
What exactly is Rami bar Chama's question? Is he suggesting that one may use the original grain that was collected from the animal dung after it has been replanted, or is he discussing the use of the new grain that grows from the grain extracted from the dung?
(a) RASHI (DH v'Zarinhu) explains that the Rami bar Chama is discussing the new grain that grows from the grain extracted from the animal dung. Accordingly, the question is whether the new grain is still unfit because it is weak, since it grew from weak grain. Rashi (DH v'Hashta) explains that once the grain was digested in the stomach of the animal, the new grain that grows from it might also be weak grain. The Gemara does not address the possibility that this new grain is disgusting.
What, though, is the problem with offering "weak" grain as a Minchah? Apparently, weak grain is Pasul because of the verse in Malachi. Rashi earlier (64a, DH Afilu Nimtzeis) explains that this is the reason why a "weak" animal may not be offered as a Korban (see EIZEHU MEKOMAN). However, the KEREN ORAH suggests that the fact that the grain is weak is only a reason to disqualify it from use l'Chatchilah, but b'Di'eved it is acceptable for use as a Minchah (as opposed to grain that is disgusting, which is unacceptable even b'Di'eved).
(b) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Isurei Mizbe'ach 6:13) writes that Rami bar Chama's doubt is whether the disgusting nature of the grain is removed by being planted in the ground. He says that "there is a doubt whether the disgusting nature of wheat picked from animal dung has been removed [once it has been planted in the ground]. Therefore, one should not bring a Minchah from such grain, but if he does it is valid."
The LECHEM MISHNEH has difficulty with the Rambam's words. The Gemara here makes no mention of the grain being disgusting. Why, then, does the Rambam introduce this new problem?
1. The Lechem Mishneh suggests that the Rambam may have had a different text which expresses a concern that perhaps the grain is Pasul because it is disgusting.
2. Alternatively, the Lechem Mishneh suggests that the Rambam simply replaces the word "weak" with the underlying problem presented by offering weak grain -- the problem of "Mi'us" ("disgusting"). The problem with offering weak grain is that it is of a lower quality, which is the same problem as offering disgusting grain. A low-quality item offered as a Korban is aptly described by the word "Mi'us" -- "disgusting," since it is not respectful to offer such an item to Hash-m. The Gemara contrasts "disgusting" and "weak" because it wants to give two different explanations for why this grain might be Pasul. However, it is possible that the Rambam calls the weak grain "disgusting" because of the underlying reason for why weak grain is Pasul.
3. The SEFAS EMES explains that the Rambam understands, from his text of the Gemara, that the Gemara's question refers to the original grain that was extracted from the dung, and not to the new grain that grows from that grain. According to his text, Rami bar Chama is asking whether the old grain is no longer disgusting once it is planted and grows new grain, or whether it is still considered disgusting, just as it was before it was planted. The Sefas Emes points out that according to Rashi, it is obvious that the old grain is still Pasul, as Rami bar Chama asks his question only with regard to the new grain that grows. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) WHEAT THAT FALLS FROM THE CLOUDS
OPINIONS: Rebbi Zeira asks what the Halachah is with regard to wheat that falls from the clouds. The Gemara is unsure what he is asking. If he is asking whether the wheat may be brought as a Minchah offering, what reason could there be to prohibit using such wheat for such a purpose? The Gemara concludes that he must be asking about using such wheat for the Shtei ha'Lechem. Does wheat that falls from the clouds fulfill the requirement of "mi'Moshvoseichem" -- "from your dwelling places" (Vayikra 23:17)? Perhaps that verse excludes only wheat from Chutz la'Aretz. On the other hand, perhaps the verse means that the wheat must be from "your dwelling places" on the ground and not from clouds. The Gemara leaves this question unanswered.
The Gemara then asks, "And is there such a thing?" The Gemara answers that there indeed exists such a thing as wheat that falls from the clouds, as such a thing occurred in the case of Adi the merchant who had a Kizba's depth of wheat fall over an area of three Parsa'os.
The Gemara's answer merely says that such a thing indeed happens; it does not explain how it happens that wheat falls from the sky. How are we to understand this phenomenon of wheat falling from the sky?
(a) TOSFOS (DH Chitin) says that the Gemara refers to a case in which a miracle happened, causing wheat to fall from the clouds.
The RADVAZ (Hilchos Temidin u'Musafin 8:3) says that this explanation is difficult to understand. Hash-m does not send clouds of wheat to rain down on people unless there is an extremely pressing need. The Radvaz answers that Tosfos must be referring to such a case, such as when there was a severe famine and Hash-m sent a cloud of wheat to feed the people. (It is interesting to note that according to the Girsa of the ARUCH (Erech "Namas"), the Gemara in Megilah (12b) tells of a person named Adi who was well-known in his times for his scrupulous adherence to the Mitzvos. -M. KORNFELD)
The MITZPEH EISAN in the name of the MINCHAS KOHEN questions Tosfos' explanation. The Gemara in Ta'anis (24a-b, see Rashi DH Ela) says that one should not benefit from things produced through miracles. All Korbanos must be "mi'Mashkeh Yisrael" -- "from Yisrael's fatted animals" (Yechezkel 45:16). The Gemara earlier (6a) derives from these words that a Korban must be "Min ha'Mutar l'Yisrael" -- "from that which is permitted for a Yisrael." If one may not benefit from acts of miracles, then the requirement of "mi'Mashkeh Yisrael" is not fulfilled! How, then, can Tosfos say that Rebbi Zeira's question is whether wheat that came through a miracle is eligible to be a Korban Minchah?
1. The Mitzpeh Eisan answers that when the Gemara in Ta'anis says that one may not derive benefit from acts of miracles, it does not mean that one is forbidden from deriving benefit, but rather that it is preferable not to do so. This is also evident from Rashi in Ta'anis (24b, DH Amar l'Hu). Grain that results from miracles, therefore, is still considered "mi'Mashkeh Yisrael."
2. The EINEI SHMUEL answers that the law is that "Mitzvos Lav Leihanos Nitnu," Mitzvos were not given for the benefit derived from them, and any benefit is not considered Hana'ah. Since this wheat is brought to fulfill a Mitzvah, it is not considered as though one is benefiting from it, and thus one is not benefiting from an act of a miracle. (See PARDES YOSEF to Shemos 35:27, who comments on the opinion of RABEINU CHANANEL in Chagigah 16a, and the KLI CHEMDAH #5 who discusses the oil of Chanukah that came about through a miracle.)
(b) RASHI (DH she'Yardu b'Avim) explains that the wheat fell with rain. "When the clouds drank from the ocean, they also swallowed a boat full of wheat."
TOSFOS (DH Chitin) quotes RABEINU TAM who has difficulty with Rashi's explanation. According to Rashi, what is the Gemara's question? If the wheat that was soaked up was from Chutz la'Aretz, then why should it become valid for use for the Shtei ha'Lechem merely because it was carried by clouds? It still is not considered "mi'Moshvoseichem"! If, on the other hand, the wheat was from Eretz Yisrael, then why should it become invalid as a result of being carried by the clouds? If Rashi understands that Rebbi Zeira is asking about wheat of unknown origins, then why does Rebbi Zeira ask specifically about wheat that fell from the clouds? He should ask about any wheat of unknown origins!
1. The MAHARI KURKUS (Hilchos Temidin u'Musafin 8:3) answers for Rashi that even if the wheat definitely was from Eretz Yisrael, one might think that the wheat must be harvested from the ground by people in order to fulfill the verse of "mi'Moshvoseichem Tavi'u" -- "from your dwelling places you shall bring* it."
2. Alternatively, the Mahari Kurkus answers that the wheat is of unknown origin, and yet the question applies only to wheat that fell from a cloud. If wheat of unknown origin was found in Eretz Yisrael, then it is considered to have the status of wheat from Eretz Yisrael (in accordance with the dictum of "Kan Nimtza, Kan Hayah" -- we assume that the place in which something was found was the place of its origin). If wheat of uncertain origin was found in Chutz la'Aretz, then it is considered wheat grown in Chutz la'Aretz. Only wheat that fell from a cloud remains in a state of uncertainty.
3. In a similar vein, the Mahari Kurkus suggests that Rebbi Zeira is asking about a case in which the wheat's origins are unknown, and he indeed could have asked about any case of wheat with uncertain origins. However, because the origins of a pile of wheat usually can be determined, Rebbi Zeira gives a case in which the origins of the wheat cannot be determined. (See also RADVAZ to Hilchos Temidin u'Musafin 8:3, and EINEI SHMUEL here.) (Y. MONTROSE)
4. Perhaps Rashi's intention is not to explain that Rebbi Zeira is asking about wheat of uncertain origin. Rather, Rebbi Zeira is asking about wheat that was "planted" in the clouds (similar to the modern method of hydroponics). While the wheat is in the clouds it is considered to be in a state in which it can thrive, similar to when it is planted in the ground, and therefore it becomes Batel to the clouds. Therefore, its point of origin no longer makes a difference; the wheat is now coming from the clouds, and not from Eretz Yisrael or from Chutz la'Aretz.
The Gemara earlier raises several questions regarding whether wheat that was replanted in the ground becomes Batel to the ground. However, it seems that wheat that is in the clouds certainly becomes Batel to the clouds, unlike wheat that is in the ground. The reason for this is that wheat in the ground can be removed easily and be prevented from growing, unlike wheat in the clouds, which is not accessible to man. Rebbi Zeira is asking what the Halachah is in the case of wheat that became "planted" in the clouds, after being transported there by the wind. Since such wheat becomes Batel to the clouds, it loses its status as wheat grown in Eretz Yisrael or in Chutz la'Aretz, and instead it is simply wheat "from the clouds." May such wheat be used for the Shtei ha'Lechem? (M. KORNFELD)
There is, however, another difficulty with Rashi's explanation. How are we to understand Rashi's description of how wheat falls from the sky? Rashi does not follow the approach of Tosfos who says that it happens through a miracle. Rashi gives a scientific explanation for how wheat falls from the sky. Is it possible, as Rashi explains, that the clouds can swallow a boat full of wheat, such that the wheat should then rain down on the land?
RABBI NOSSON SLIFKIN writes that there indeed is scientific evidence to support such a claim. He quotes sources which discuss accounts of fish that fell with the rain, ranging from a second century account by a Greek author to a twentieth century report by a weather observer in South Carolina about a heavy rainstorm that included catfish, perch, and trout. One ichthyologist from the American Museum of Natural History provides several possible explanations that would account for the reports without postulating that these creatures actually fell from the sky: first, the reports may have concerned only fish that occasionally move over land; second, that overflow from ponds may have left fish stranded on land; and third, that fish lying dormant underneath the soil may have burrowed upwards during rainfall. However, he also presents a fourth possibility: that fish in oceans and lakes were lifted into the sky by waterspouts and tornadoes and subsequently fell with the rain.
Such a phenomenon certainly is possible. Photographs show waterspouts lifting large quantities of water from the surface of oceans. Waterspouts have lifted boats from the water as well. Thus, Rashi's explanation is certainly plausible from the perspective of science and nature.