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The Greater Reward
“The Ketores …Since It Is Infrequent It Is Most Dear”
(Menachos 50a)



Our daf relates that as opposed to other multitude sacrifices offered up on the altar, the Ketores (the incense offering) was offered up only twice daily. It was this relative rarity that endeared that offering to the kohanim. Our Gemara [based on the pasuk in Vezos Haberacha (Devarim 33:10 –11) “…yasimu ketora b’apecha, ve’kalil al mizbechecha. Barech Hashem Cheilo… – …they [the priests] shall place incense before Your presence and burnt offerings on Your Altar. Bless, O’Hashem their resources…”] notes that even greater than that it also enriches [the supplicant].

The Gemara Yoma (26a) delves into this in greater detail and based on the Mishna’s rule (supra 22a) that the kohanim offer the sacrifices based on lottery and the rule of the Mishna to our daf that only a kohen, who had never previously offered up the ketores, was included in that lottery. The Gemara explains the reason for this lottery restriction, that since it provides wealth, they would not allow each kohen more than one opportunity.

The Sandak

There are several midrashic sources (Bereishis Rabbah 47:17, Midrash Shir Hashirim 4:14) that liken the role of the sandak at the bris to a kohen offering the ketores. Based on this Rabbenu Peretz (cited by Rema, Yoreh Deah 265:11) states that one should not extend the honor of sandak to the same person twice. He explains, just as the ketores was not offered up twice by the same kohen, so too, one should not be sandak for two children in the same family.

The Rabbi

The Noda BiYehudah (Responsa 1st edition, Yoreh De’ah 86) notes that the minhag does not appear to follow the view of Rabbenu Peretz for in many communities it is customary to honor the Rav to serve as sandak at all brisim in the community.

A Kohen Gadol

The Chasam Sofer (Responsa, Orach Chayyim 158, see also 159) reconciles Rabbenu Peretz with that minhag – to honor the rabbi with all sandeka’os. He contends that the Rabbi of a city [community] is likened to a Kohen Gadol and the halacha is given the first choice in the offering up of all sacrifices. Thus just as the kohen gadol may offer the ketores numerous times, so too the rabbi in the community and even for the same family.


The Vilna Gaon (to Yoreh Deah 245:sk 46) comments that if the honor of sandeka’os is likened to the offering up of the ketores, then it should bring the sandak wealth, and he wonders why he has never seen a sandak become wealthy. He rather attributes the custom’s restriction to the Tzava’as Rabbi Yehuda He’Chasid.

An Insurance Policy

The Chasam Sofer (ad loc), in defense of Rabbenu Peretz, explains that the sandak’s potential wealth is sometimes confiscated as a punishment for his sins. Nevertheless, it is his good fortune to be a sandak because his participation in the mitzvah spares him other types of punishments. For rather that he lose some anticipated wealth than suffer the punishments of sickness, poverty or death.