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Flour, Oil, and Frankincense?

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

The prophet Isiah bemoans the fact that the Jewish people served God in the temple in a ritualistic way, but failed to connect to the deeper meaning and true motivation of the service. The temple service consisted largely of offerings placed upon the temple alter. The problem is that the true meaning behind the various offerings is not explicitly stated.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that the true meaning behind these offerings are revealed by the detailed requirements of the offerings. Let us analyze the Mincha offering and its meaning. This offering consisted of finely ground wheat flour, olive oil, and frankincense. Why is it called a Mincha offering and what is the significance of its ingredients?

Wheat flour, as the basic ingredient for bread (the staple food), represents our livelihood and all that goes into making a living. Oil upon bread represents a livelihood of comfort – not merely eking out a living for the basics, but living comfortably. Frankincense, a fragrant odor, represents the idea of satisfaction. One can have the richest food and every life comfort, but still feel lacking and dissatisfied. Livelihood, comfort, and satisfaction are, of course, the ultimate, wonderful combination that we all strive for.

Rabbi Hirsch explains that the term ‘Mincha’ is more than simply a gift, which is called ‘Matana’ in the Hebrew language. The term ‘Mincha’ refers to an act of giving, which expresses the idea that the gift being given truly belongs to the receiver, and that only through the receiver’s benevolence does the giver benefit from the gifts. The true meaning of the Mincha offering is then clear: we humbly declare that our basic livelihood, comfort, and satisfaction are gifts from God – our allotted portion.

Isiah, therefore, bemoans the fact that the Jewish people brought the Mincha offering with arrogance in their hearts, ignoring the great message of thanks and humility represented by the offering. May God bless us all with livelihood, comfort, and real satisfaction with the blessings He has bestowed upon us.