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 37a-b: What to do with left-over blood
Among the different sacrifices that have the blood of the animal sprinkled on the outer altar as part of the sacrificial service, some of them require four placements of blood on the altar, some need “two that are four” (i.e. pouring the blood on two corners of the altar so that the blood is poured on all four sides of the altar) and some require only a single placement of blood. All of these laws will be explained in detail in the fifth perek of Masechet Zevachim.
The Gemara on today’s daf brings a number of different halakhot relating to the laws of sprinkling blood. One example is the teaching brought in a baraita in the name of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, regarding what to do with the remainder of the blood after the sprinkling has been done. Basing himself on the passage that appears in the case of a sin-offering brought from fowl (chatat ha-of, see Vayikra 5:9), Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi teaches that the blood of other similar korbanot must also be poured into the drain at the base of the altar – the yesod ha-mizbe’ach.
This is the explanation of the Gemara as presented by Rashi and most of the other commentaries. In his commentary to Masechet Tamid, the Ra’avad offers an alternative explanation to the Gemara in the name of Rabbeinu Ephraim. According to their approach, no sacrifices – with the exception of sin-offerings where the Torah specifically requires that the remaining blood be poured into the drain in the base of the altar – require that the remaining blood be disposed of in this way. They believe that the Gemara uses this passage to teach that the sprinkling of the blood of these sacrifices must be done only in a place where the altar has a base to it, which excludes the south-east corner of the altar.
Zevachim 38a-b: Sprinkling blood in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur
One of the central parts of the special service performed by the kohen gadol – the High Priest – on Yom Kippur, involved his entering the kodesh kodashim – the Holy of Holies – and sprinkling the blood from his sacrifices towards the Holy Ark that stood there. According to the Gemara in Masechet Yoma, the passage that serves as the source for this (see Vayikra 16:14) is understood by the Sages to require the kohen gadol to sprinkle one time upwards and seven times downwards.
The Gemara on today’s daf refers to the Mishnah in Yoma where this halacha appears, together with the explanation that appears in the Mishnah, that the kohen gadol did not intend to actually sprinkle upwards or downwards, rather he did it ke-matzlif. Rav Yehuda indicated that this term means “like someone who is giving lashes.”
According to Rashi, Rav Yehuda’s explanation should be understood to mean that the sprinkling took place on two separate parts of the ark, on the top of the cover of the ark and on its side. Rabbeinu Chananel suggests that the intention of the Gemara is that someone who gives lashes raises and lowers his hand while doing so, but hits the same spot repeatedly. The Gemara in Yoma explains that the Mishnah refers to how the kohen gadol’s hand was positioned – was it facing upwards or downwards? The single “upwards” sprinkling required the kohen gadol to hold his hand with his palm facing downwards, so that the blood would be sprinkled upwards. The seven “downwards” sprinklings required him to turn his hand upwards so that the blood would be sprinkled downwards. Some explain the comparison to giving lashes based on the requirement that the person receiving the lashes be beaten on the front of his body as well as the back (see Masechet Makkot 22b). Since that person was in a bent over position when he received the lashes, the person giving the lashes had to turn his hand upwards in order to fulfill the requirement.
Zevachim 39a-b: Sin-offerings brought on different altars
On daf 36b, the first Mishnah in this perek taught a basic difference between the sin-offerings that were brought on the outer altar and those brought on the inner, golden altar. Regarding those that were brought on the outer altar, like the sin-offerings of a nasi – a king – or an ordinary person (see Vayikra 4:22-35), even if the actual requirement was to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice two times or four times, if one sprinkling was done, it would suffice. On the other hand, those sin-offerings that were brought on the inner altar, like the sin-offering of the High Priest or the sin-offering brought by the great Sanhedrin on behalf of the entire congregation (see Vayikra 4:3-21), all of the sprinklings needed to be done properly, or else the sacrifice was invalid.
The Gemara on today’s daf searches for a source for the requirement that sin-offerings brought on the inner altar must have all the blood sprinklings done correctly, and points to the passage (Vayikra 4:20) where the Torah concludes the commandments regarding the sacrificial service of the sin-offering of the great Sanhedrin with the statement that in all ways this sacrifice should be brought in the same fashion as the previously taught sin-offering – that of the kohen gadol. This appears to be a superfluous statement, since all of the requisite laws of the second sacrifice are restated as they were in the passage that taught about the first sacrifice. Therefore the Sages understood the pasuk to mean that that all of the laws that were taught need to be carried out precisely in order for the sin-offering to be accepted.
On a practical level, the Mishnah points out one of the ramifications of this law. In the case of a sin-offering brought on the outer altar, since the sprinkling of the blood is sufficient after a single sprinkling, if the owner had an inappropriate thought after that point it does not affect the validity of the korban. Regarding the sin-offerings that are brought on the inner altar, however, inappropriate thoughts would affect the validity of the sacrifice until such time as the entire sacrificial service was completed.
Zevachim 40a-b: A breach in the roof of the Temple
On yesterday’s daf we learned about some of the differences between sin-offerings brought on the inner altar (mizbe’ach haPenimi) as opposed to the outer altar (mizbe’ach haChitzon). The inner altar stood in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) or Mikdash (Temple), while the outer altar stood in the courtyard outside.
The Gemara on today’s daf brings a disagreement between Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Yehuda regarding the significance of the words be-ohel mo’ed – “within the Tent of Appointment” (see Vayikra 4:18). Rabbi Yehuda understands that it serves to teach the requirement to place the blood of the sacrifice on all four of the corners of the altar in the Tabernacle. Rabbi Shimon learns that law from another source and suggests that the words be-ohel mo’ed come to teach that if the Tabernacle or the Temple have a breach in the roof that the altar is no longer considered to be “within” the tent and that the blood cannot be sprinkled.
The Chazon Ish points out that, in fact, the blood does not necessarily have to be sprinkled within the Tabernacle, since an earlier Gemara (on daf 26b) taught that if blood from a sacrifice that was supposed to be brought on the inner altar was mistakenly sprinkled on the outer altar, ex-post facto it is sufficient and the sacrifice is valid. This is the case even though the outer altar stood in the courtyard where there is no ceiling at all. The Chazon Ish explains that the sacrificial service does not require that the blood be sprinkled indoors, rather that it be performed on the altar. A breach in the roof of the Mishkan or the Mikdash impacts on the legitimacy of the inner altar itself, so that it is effectively no longer considered to be a mizbe’ach. As such, the blood cannot be sprinkled on it to complete the sacrificial service.
Zevachim 41a-b: The sin-offerings of the High Priest and the Sanhedrin
In Masechet Horayot we learned about the different sin-offerings brought by the leadership of the Jewish people – the High Priest, referred to as the kohen ha-moshiach, the great Sanhedrin representing the entire congregation, referred to as kol adat Yisrael, and the king, referred to as the nasi (see Vayikra, Chapter 4). The Gemara on today’s daf discusses differences between the pesukim that teach about two sin-offerings that are brought on the inner altar, that of the High Priest and the great Sanhedrin.
In the study hall of Rabbi Yishmael, the following parables were presented:
Regarding the sin-offering of the High Priest the Torah includes details about sacrificing the kidneys and the liver, which does not appear in the commandment about the offering of the Sanhedrin (compare Vayikra 4:8-9 vs. 4:19). This is compared to a king who becomes angry at one of his beloved subjects, but because of his love for him chooses to minimize the embarrassment.
Rashi explains that in this parable, the beloved servant is the Jewish people who are represented by the great Sanhedrin. The Torah shortens the description of the Sanhedrin’s sin-offering in order to minimize embarrassment. The Maharsha offers an alternative explanation and suggests that the beloved subject is the High Priest, and that the Torah clearly delineates the details of his sin-offering since by means of the sacrifice his sin is forgiven.
Regarding the sin-offering of the High Priest the Torah teaches that the blood is sprinkled towards parochet ha-kodesh – the curtain of the Holy place. In the sin-offering of the Sanhedrin, the Torah does not mention the holiness of the curtain, it simply says that the sprinkling of the blood is done towards the parochet (compare Vayikra 4:6 vs. 4:17). This is compared to a king whose people have risen up against him in revolt. If the rebellion is limited to a minority of the people, his rule continues, but if the majority of the people have risen up against him, his rule has ended. Thus, in the case of the Sanhedrin bringing a sin-offering on behalf of the Jewish people when the majority of the people have sinned, it is as though the holiness of the Temple is gone and the word ha-kodesh is left out.
Zevachim 42a-b: Sprinkling blood in the inner sanctuary
As we learned above (see daf 39), there is a basic difference between the sin-offerings that were brought on the outer altar and those brought on the inner, golden altar. Regarding those that were brought on the outer altar, like the sin-offerings of a nasi – a king – or an ordinary person (see Vayikra 4:22-35), even if the actual requirement was to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice two times or four times, if one sprinkling was done, it would suffice. On the other hand, those offerings that were brought on the inner altar, like the sacrificial service of Yom Kippur, the sin-offering of the High Priest or the sin-offering brought by the great Sanhedrin on behalf of the entire congregation (see Vayikra 4:3-21), needed all of the sprinklings to be done properly, or else the sacrifice was invalid.
How many sprinklings were done on the inner altar? The Gemara on today’s daf brings a baraita that teaches that on Yom Kippur there were 43 placements of blood that were performed in the course of the sacrificial service, while the sin-offering of the High Priest and the Sanhedrin on behalf of the entire congregation each had 11 placements. Since all of these were essential requirements of the service, if the kohen had inappropriate thoughts at any time during the service, the sacrifice would be invalid.
Rashi explains the 43 placements of blood on Yom Kippur as follows:
- 8 times (1+7) towards the cover of the ark in the Holy of Holies (see above daf 38) from the blood of the bull (see Vayikra 16:14)
- 8 times (1+7) towards the cover of the ark in the Holy of Holies from the blood of the goat (see Vayikra 16:15)
- 16 times, repeating the above sprinklings, towards the curtain separating the Holy of Holies (see Vayikra 16:16)
- 4 times with a mixture of the blood of the bull and the blood of the goat that were placed on the four corners of the altar (see Vayikra 16:18)
- 7 times sprinkling the altar to purify it (see Vayikra 16:19).
With regard to the 11 placements of the High Priest and the Sanhedrin, there were seven sprinklings towards the curtain and four placements on the corners of the altar (see Vayikra 4:6-7, 4:17-18).
Zevachim 43a-b: Limits to inappropriate thoughts in the sacrificial service
We have learned that inappropriate thoughts – specifically thoughts relating to eating the korban in the wrong place or at the wrong time – can potentially ruin the sacrifice and make it invalid. Furthermore, thoughts related to the wrong time will cause the korban to become pigul – abhorrent – and someone who eats of that sacrifice will be liable to receive the punishment of karet – a Heavenly death sentence (see above, daf 27). The new Mishnah on today’s daf lists a number of things connected with sacrifices that cannot become pigul even if the person bringing the korban planned to eat them after the appropriate time.
The Gemara explains that we learn that these things do not become pigul from the source for the law of pigul – the korban shelamim or peace-offering (see Vayikra 7:18). In the case of the korban shelamim, where the sacrifice is divided between the altar, the kohanim and the owner, the things that potentially can become pigul are those that were dependent on something to permit them. The innards that were burned on the altar could not be sacrificed until the blood from the sacrifice was sprinkled; the meat of the sacrifice could not be eaten by the owner until the innards were burned on the altar. Only things that are similar to those – that some other action will permit them to be brought on the altar or eaten by a person – can become pigul. Parts of the korban that play a role in permitting other things to be sacrificed or eaten, or things whose preparation permits the thing itself, are not similar to the case of the korban shelamim and cannot become pigul.
Thus, the kometz – the fistful of flour, oil and incense – that permits the korban mincha to be eaten (see Vayikra 2:1-2) – or the mincha of the kohanim that is burned entirely on the altar and has no kometz which permits it, rather it serves to permit itself on the altar (see Vayikra 6:16), cannot become pigul, and if someone ate them they would not be liable to receive the punishment of karet.
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.