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.
Zevachim 23a-b: Sitting down during the sacrificial service
As we learned in the Mishnah (daf 15), the second perek of Masechet Zevachim deals with situations where there is some problem with the person who brings the sacrifice. One of the examples that appear in the Mishnah is the case of yoshev – when the kohen is sitting at the time that the sacrifice is brought.
What is wrong with sitting while performing sacrificial service?
Rava quotes Rav Nahman as saying that this is based on the passage (Devarim 18:5) that teaches that the kohanim were chosen by God to “stand and serve” in His name. We can conclude that only when they are standing are they chosen to serve as priests.
The Gemara quotes a baraita that suggests that this pasuk would only serve as a positive commandment; the requirement to do so that teaches that the sacrifice will be invalid if the kohen was not standing stems from the continuation of that discussion where the need to stand is repeated (see Devarim 18:7).
The Gemara records that Rava asked Rav Nahman why someone who performs the sacrificial service sitting would not be liable to receive a death penalty, given that based on the pasuk such a person was not chosen to serve in the Temple, and should be considered to be a zar – a non-kohen – whose punishment for such an act would be death. Rav Nahman’s response is that in cases where the Torah condemns people to death for such infractions (e.g. a kohen who serves without the proper priestly clothing) it states the punishment clearly, and we cannot derive a similar punishment for this case.
While Rashi appears to understand this discussion according to its simple meaning – that there is an assumption that someone who is sitting should literally be considered to be a non-kohen, and liable to a death penalty – other rishonim reject that possibility. They suggest that it is clear that such activity would only affect the sacrificial service, but not the kohen himself, and that Rava’s question was whether we could derive the appropriateness of a death penalty from similar cases, like that of a kohen who serves without the proper priestly clothing (see above, daf 17).
Zevachim 24a-b: Who sanctified the Temple courtyard?
As we learned on yesterday’s daf it is essential that the kohen stand in the courtyard of the Temple while he performs that sacrificial service. On today’s daf, Rabbi Ami tries to clarify what the requirements are for standing in the courtyard. Were one of the paving stones in the courtyard to become loosened, would standing on that stone still meet the requirements? Would it make a difference if it were to be removed or replaced? What if the stone was removed entirely and the kohen stood on the ground where the stone rested?
In an attempt to clarify the question, the Gemara first asks whether at issue is the depth of King David’s sanctification of the Temple courtyard. Could it be that he sanctified just the top level of stone? Or, perhaps, did he sanctify the entire area down to the depths of the earth? The Gemara concludes that it is clear that King David sanctified the area down to the depths of the earth, and the question was whether a kohen who was standing below the surface of the paving stones was still fulfilling Temple service in a normal way. The Gemara concludes with the word “teiku” indicating that no final decision was reached on this matter.
It is interesting to note that the Gemara discusses sanctification of the Temple as performed by King David, rather than by his son, King Solomon, who actually built the Temple. While Solomon built the Temple, the Sages had a tradition that it was King David who began the Temple, including sanctification of the courtyard area (see, for example, Divrei HaYamim I, or Chronicles I chapter 22, and the Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 1:3). According to this approach, when King Solomon’s completion of the Temple courtyard is described in Sefer Melakhim I, or Kings I (8:64), it is understood to refer to the sanctification of the altar that stood there.
Zevachim 25a-b: Different types of sacrificial blood
Among the most important parts of the sacrificial service is kabbalat ha-dam – collecting the animal’s blood – and zerikat ha-dam – sprinkling the blood on the altar. The Mishnah on today’s daf teaches that if the blood spilled on the floor it cannot be gathered up and used for zerikah. The ruling in our Mishnah only applies if the blood from the animal spilled immediately after the animal was slaughtered, for if it was first collected properly and only then did it spill on the floor, it can be collected and used (see the Mishnah at the beginning of the third perek, or chapter, daf 32a).
Thus, our Mishnah is focused on the initial kabbalat ha-dam, and the Gemara quotes a baraita that teaches that the blood that is collected and used for sprinkling can only be dam ha-nefesh – the life-blood – and not blood of the skin or the draining blood. This is derived from the repeated use of the term mi-dam ha-par – the blood of the bull – (see, for example, Vayikra 4:5) which is understood to mean that the requirement is the blood that comes directly from the bull at the moment of slaughter.
When an animal is slaughtered, the very first blood is dam ha-or – blood of the skin – meaning the blood that is part of the small blood vessels that carry nutrients to the skin. Once the slaughterer’s knife reaches the main arteries, the dam ha-nefesh – the life blood that flows as long as the pumping action of the heart continues – will be spilled. This blood is called dam ha-nefesh because it is the blood that keeps the animal alive and with its loss will bring about cessation of the activity of the heart and ultimately, death. Even after the animal has lost this blood, there is dam ha-tamtzit – draining blood – that was in the arteries and will continue to flow out of the animal due to capillary action after the animal is already dead.
The only blood that is appropriate for use in the sacrificial service is the dam ha-nefesh, not dam ha-or or dam ha-tamtzit.
Zevachim 26a-b: Where should sacrificial blood be placed?
Not all sacrifices have their blood sprinkled or placed on the same area of the altar. The major difference is between the sin-offering (the hattat) and the burnt-offering (the olah). While the blood of the sin-offering is placed on the upper part of the altar by the kohen who dips his finger into the blood and places it near the corner of the altar, the blood of the burnt-offering is poured by a kohen on the lower part of the altar (beneath the hut ha-sikra – the red line that divided the altar between top and bottom) by means of a vessel. The kohen poured it on a corner so that it splashed on two sides of the altar.
Our Mishnah discusses cases where the blood was poured incorrectly, which renders the sacrifice invalid. Among the possible cases are
- If the blood was placed on the kevesh – the ramp leading up to the altar, which is not part of the altar and is not a place for sprinkling blood for any sacrifice.
- If the blood that should have been placed on the upper part of the altar was placed on the lower part or vice versa.
- If the blood should have been placed on the inner altar and was placed on the outer altar or vice versa.
Although the Mishnah stated simply that in these cases the sacrifice was invalid, Shmuel argues that, in fact, it is only the meat that cannot be eaten, nevertheless, the sacrifice serves its purpose and the person who brought the korban receives atonement. This is based on the passage in Sefer Vayikra (17:11) that teaches that the blood offers atonement when it reaches the altar, which is understood to mean that as long as the blood reaches the altar the owner receives atonement, even if the service was not performed according to specification.
In his Zivhei Kodesh, Rav Moshe Shterbuch explains that there are two elements to the requirement of zerikat ha-dam – sprinkling the blood. The zerikah is needed both to affect atonement and to permit the meat of the sacrifice to be eaten. Regarding atonement, the Torah teaches that as long as the blood reaches the altar it is sufficient. Regarding permitting the meat to be eaten, however, all of the requirements of zerikah must be done properly.
Zevachim 27a-b: Bringing sacrifices at the right time and the right place
Sacrifices are limited by both time and by place. Thus a korban must be brought and eaten during a specific time period, usually the same day that they are slaughtered, or, in the case of a shelamim, or peace-offering, one day beyond the day that they are slaughtered. They are also limited by where they can be brought and eaten, usually within the precincts of the Temple, or, in the case of kodashim kalim – sacrifices of lesser holiness – within the walls of the city of Jerusalem.
The Mishnah on today’s daf teaches that someone whose intent is to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice at the wrong time, or to burn the sacrifice on the altar at the wrong time or to eat the meat of the korban or the skin of the alyah at the wrong time, will make the korban invalid. Furthermore, the sacrifice becomes pigul – abhorrent (see Vayikra 7:16-18) – and eating of the meat of such a korban will make the person liable to receive karet, a severe punishment at the hands of Heaven. Someone whose intent was to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice in the wrong place, or to burn the sacrifice on the altar in the wrong place or to eat the meat of the korban or the skin of the alyah in the wrong place, will make the korban invalid, but the person who ate of this meat would not receive karet.
What is “the skin of the alyah“?
The alyah was the long, thick, fatty tail of the type of sheep that was common in Israel and the surrounding areas during Temple times. This tail covered the entire back of the sheep to the extent that it was difficult to determine the gender of the sheep because of the heavy covering. The Torah commands that when a sheep is brought as a shelamim sacrifice, the alyah must be burned on the altar together with the other parts that were burned. This rule applied only to sheep, since other animals that were sacrificed, like goats, did not have an alyah.
Zevachim 28a-b: Is the skin of the animal considered part of the sacrifice?
As we learned on yesterday’s daf when a sheep was sacrificed as a korban shelamim – a peace-offering that was divided between the altar, the kohanim and the owner – the alyah, the long, fatty tail of the animal – had to be burned on the altar together with the other parts of the sacrifice that were burned. The Mishnah on yesterday’s daf discussed situations where the person who brought the sacrifice had the wrong intentions about where and when he would eat the meat of the korban or the skin of the alyah. The Gemara on today’s daf discusses at some length what the status of the skin of the alyah might be, and whether it should be considered part of the alyah, which cannot be eaten, or part of the meat of the animal, which can be eaten.
Generally speaking, halakhah does not view an animal’s skin as being part of the meat of the animal. This is true regarding the question of whether to define it as food or whether it carries with it ritual defilement that is limited to the meat of an animal. As such, ordinarily an animal’s skin would not be sacrificed on the altar, nor would it be eaten by the owner (in the case of a korban shelamim where the owner eats the meat of the animal) or by the kohanim (in the case of an asham – a guilt offering – where the kohanim partake of the animal’s meat). The skin of the alyah is different because it is especially soft – and therefore edible – which affects its status with regard to ritual defilement, for example.
But should the skin of the alyah be given the status of meat? It is possible that its unique qualities would make it considered part of the tail. If so, it cannot be consumed by the owner who brings a korban shelamim and anticipates eating the meat of the sacrifice, rather it would have to be burned on the altar together with the alyah itself and the other parts of the korban that are burned on the mizbe’ah.
Zevachim 29a-b: The difference between doing the wrong thing and planning to do the wrong thing
As we have learned (see daf, or page 27), sacrifices are limited by both time and by place. Thus, someone whose intent was to perform the sacrificial service at the wrong time, will make the korban invalid, and, in fact, the sacrifice becomes pigul – abhorrent (see Vayikra 7:16-18) – and eating of the meat of such a korban will make the person liable to receive karet, a severe punishment at the hands of Heaven. Someone whose intent was to perform the sacrificial service in the wrong place will make the korban invalid, although the person who ate of this meat would not receive karet.
It should be noted that the simple reading of the abovementioned source for this law sounds as if the sacrifice will become invalid if the korban is actually eaten at the wrong time; it is the Sages who determined that this law is dependent on the person’s intent rather than on what was actually done. The Gemara on today’s daf searches for a source for this interpretation.
In the baraita that is quoted by the Gemara, Rabbi Eliezer argues that eating the meat of the sacrifice on the third day, i.e. after the time that it is permitted to be eaten, could not possibly invalidate the korban. Since the korban had already been accepted, how could it become invalid retroactively? The opinion of Aherim in the same baraita is that we can understand from the pesukim that it is thought and intent that will invalidate the sacrifice, since the Torah says lo yehashev lo – it will not be considered to his credit (see Vayikra 7:18) – which they understand to refer to his own consideration regarding the sacrifice.
The Gemara suggests that Rabbi Eliezer rejects this interpretation of the words lo yehashev lo because he uses them as the source for a different halakhah, taught by Rabbi Yannai. Rabbi Yannai understood that this passage teaches that if someone had two inappropriate thoughts – e.g. that he planned to eat the sacrifice at the wrong time and the wrong place – that the sacrifice becomes invalid but the person will not be punished with karet, since his intention to perform the sacrificial service in the wrong place already disqualifies the korban without the punishment, making his thought to perform the sacrificial service at the wrong time meaningless.
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 www.steinsaltz.org 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.