Modern cooks will tell you that the way to measure flour is to scoop flour with a scoop whose volume is known, and then to shave any excess off the top. (However, liquids are measured by pouring into a graded (that is, lined) receptacle until the desired line is reached.)

Is that how they measured flour in the bes hamikdash also?

The reason I ask is as follows:

M'nachos 57:2 cites a tana as holding that utensils for measuring flour ("dry measures") were anointed as k'le shares (sanctified) only within, and not on their outside surfaces, whereas "wet measures" were anointed within and without. Other tanaim (see Tosafos s.v. "Rabi") maintain that dry measures were not anointed at all, while wet ones were.

If flour was measured in the bes hamikdash by scooping, then it (I suppose) makes sense that the outsides of dry measures were not sanctified, as they'd want any flour that falls off after scooping, and back into the bin, not to be holy.

  • But wouldn't the same be true if they poured the flour into the measure and then leveled it off? In that case they'd also want the excess not to become sanctified.
    – Alex
    Jul 22, 2011 at 17:51
  • Maybe: flour needn't touch the outside of the measure then. But not if they measured flour like we measure oil.
    – msh210
    Jul 22, 2011 at 18:00
  • ...which they didn't: the measure was completely filled. Still, though, @Alex, flour needn't necessarily touch the outside of the measure if it was poured in and leveled off.
    – msh210
    Feb 2, 2012 at 20:45

5 Answers 5


My understanding (based on brachos 52a+b, thank you zaq for the source) is that the issue of wet vs dry is an issue of Tumah. (if a vessel is wet on the outside then something touching the outside sends tumah to that which is inside, but if the outside is not wet this doesn't happen.

So a dry measuring cup should not be annointed on the outside is it causes needless risk of the dry things getting tumah. A wet measuring device however, is allready likely to get wet on the outside, so no added risk is involved.

Based on that logic, they could have both been measured in the same way, but had designated wet vs dry containers.

Lastly, I was once told that the mincha offerings were measured via the hand for the actual offering.

  • This addresses a possible reason for anointing only the inside of a dry measure, and I thank you (and +1), but it does not address my main point, which wondered whether flour was measured by scooping or by pouring. As to your last point, the measurement by hand was for the small quantity burned on the altar, not for the whole mincha, which was measured in a receptacle of a given size.
    – msh210
    Feb 2, 2012 at 20:14
  • @msh210 Is there any evidence that they had ways of pouring into a graduated cylinder that would be actually different than scooping with said cylinder? I'm just not noticing what the difference is with temple era materials available.
    – avi
    Feb 2, 2012 at 20:26
  • avi, I don't understand what you mean by "actually different": obviously pouring into something and scooping with are different acts. (Note incidentally that the dry measures were not (necessarily) graduated, as they were filled to the top.)
    – msh210
    Feb 2, 2012 at 20:44
  • @msh210 I mean I'm not aware of any see through containers, so whether pouring or scooping you would "fill to the top"
    – avi
    Feb 2, 2012 at 20:46
  • Yes, they filled the dry measure to the top with flour: its interior volume was just an isaron. But my question was about how they did so.
    – msh210
    Feb 2, 2012 at 20:49

A kiddush cup, which is tammeh on the outside, doesn't transfer tummah to your hand because the outside of the cup is dry.

Since your hand won't become tammeh before hamotze through just holding a tammeh-kiddush cup, Yekkies have the custom to wash before kiddush. However, most don't keep that custom because we are concerned that the wine, which itself can become tammeh, may drip onto the tammeh-exterior of the cup and become tammeh, and then, the tammeh-wine on the outside of the cup may touch your hand, making your hand tammeh before you make hamotze.

{brachos 52a+b}


So, my guess:

With a dry measure, there is probably no concern that the dry-flower will become tammeh through contact with the dry-outside of the measure, and the overflow of flour also wouldn't transfer tummah to your hand. However, a wet measure would need to be anointed inside and out to prevent this kind of transfer of tummah through wet-contact with the tammeh-interior or exterior of the measure.

(Also, I don't know if the measures had handles, but a handle can't become tammeh, only the inside and outside surfaces.)

  • This addresses a possible reason for anointing only the inside of a dry measure, and I thank you (and +1), but it does not address my main point, which wondered whether flour was measured by scooping or by pouring.
    – msh210
    Feb 2, 2012 at 20:16

אח״כ מצאתי...‏

An Illustrated Guide to Korbonos and Menochos (by Rabbi Sinai Malowicki, 1st edition, Torah Umesorah Publications, 1991, ISBN 0-914131-99-0) says passim (i.e., about each type of mincha) "The flour is poured into a holy dish which measures exactly one עִשָּׂרוֹן". I don't know his source.

  • I was bold enough to ask him, but he wasn't "in the sugya" (as I should have anticipated).
    – msh210
    Feb 2, 2012 at 20:51

The kohen would scoop with his three middle fingers, and that was a measure. A quick google suggests Menachot 11 to be the source.

  • 1
    That's for the kometz (handful of flour to be taken from most menachos and burned on the altar). I believe the OP is asking about the measurement of the entire minchah.
    – Alex
    Jul 25, 2011 at 14:15

First of all there was little concern about tumah in that the kohanim doing the procedures had to be tameh so if the vessel was wet on the outside it didn't matter. The gemara in Menachos goes through the various sizes of measuring vessels used in the offering of wet and dry materials and the machlokes as to how many sizes of each there were.

  • The story of the cohanim children on the boards and the opposing view of the tzedukim show just how careful they were with tumah, even if they could have just gone to a mikveh later. Even if the situation was rare, it could happen, and so you have to be careful. (i.e. during the Parah Adumah ceremony)
    – avi
    Jul 26, 2011 at 5:31

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