Introduction to Masechet Chagigah

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29 Mar 2007

The Coming Week’s Daf Yomi by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim (original ideas) of Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.

This month’s Steinsaltz Daf Yomi is sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. Alan Harris, the Lewy Family Foundation, and Marilyn and Edward Kaplan


Masechet Chagigah deals with the laws that are connected with the Biblical commandment to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem on the three holidays of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot.  Two main topics are dealt with – the mitzvah to bring sacrifices when visiting the mikdash, and the rules and regulations of ritual purity, and specifically their application to the holidays.

The Torah’s commandment to every Jewish man to joyously visit the Temple three times a year has both a general focus and a specific one. To the general focus of the pilgrimage itself (see Shemot 23:17) the Torah adds a specific one – to be sure and not come empty-handed (see ibid 15). This is clearly interpreted by the Torah (see Devarim chapter 12) to require the pilgrim to bring sacrifices over-and-above the communal korbanot required on the holiday.

Although the Torah does not specifically list the types of sacrifices that need to be brought, the Sages have a tradition that three types of korbanot are required:

There are a series of questions that arise from the obligation to bring holiday sacrifices. For example:

The second issue that is dealt with in this Masechet is tumah v’taharah – ritual purity. Generally speaking, a person need not be concerned with these laws unless he is visiting the Temple or eating (or coming into contact with) terumah or kodashim. Nevertheless, during Temple times, there were groups of people who made sure that they only ate al taharat ha-kodesh – in a state of holiness similar to that required in the mikdash. There also were people who were not careful about these laws at all, and the Sages ruled that such people should always be treated as though they were tameh – in a state of impurity. Keeping a separation between these groups, however, was not possible on the holidays in the Temple when all Jews would be oleh la-regel together.

Two solutions for this problem were found. On the one hand, the Sages instituted a series of restrictive regulations limiting the possibility of any type of Biblical tumah from entering the precincts of the Temple. On the other hand, the amei ha-aretz themselves, who were not concerned with these laws on a daily basis, had a tremendous sense of awe and respect for the mikdash and were doubly careful regarding the laws as they applied there. Thus, the Sages ruled that during the holiday period all Jews were considered trustworthy with regard to these laws.

In addition to his monumental translation and commentary on the Talmud, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored dozens of books and hundreds of articles on a variety of topics, both Jewish and secular. For more information about Rabbi Steinsaltz’s groundbreaking work in Jewish education, visit or contact the Aleph Society at 212-840-1166.


The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.