Masechet Zevachim 72a-78b

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Mizbeach HaNechoshet
20 Jan 2011

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 72a-b: Objects that stand alone

Ordinarily, when permitted and forbidden items become mixed together, depending on circumstances, the forbidden items can become batel (nullified) b’rov — when the majority of the items are permitted — or be-shishim — when the amount of permitted items is such that in a mixture the forbidden items could not be tasted, which is determined by the Sages to be when there is sixty times as much permitted material as there is forbidden material.

The Gemara on today’s daf discusses an exception to that rule, specifically that when certain objects are considered to have unique importance they cannot become nullified. We follow the opinion of Rabbi Akiva who enumerates seven such objects:

  1. Egozei Perekh – Nuts from Perekh
  2. Rimonei Badan – Pomegranates from Badan
  3. Haviyot setumot – Sealed casks
  4. Hilfei teradin – Beetroot tops
  5. Kilhei keruv – Cabbage stalks
  6. Dla’at Yevanit – Grecian gourds

Rabbi Akiva adds:

  1. Kikarot shel ba’al ha-bayit – Loves of a householder.

The egoz is a commonly grown nut in Israel, which grows even in the warmer parts of the country. It is not uncommon to find an egoz tree planted in the shade of a palm tree in the Jordan Valley, with the palm tree shading the egoz from the sun. There are three types of egozim that are divided based on the thickness of their shells, with egozei perekh having very thin shells. Such nuts were considered to be of the highest quality.

The sealed casks that are mentioned refer to casks of wine. These casks were usually made of earthenware with a stopper on top that was used to close the cask. When the cask was being moved or was going to be put into storage, the stopper was sealed with clay, which was removed when the cask was meant to be opened. Once the cask was opened, the wine would be exposed to the air and its quality would deteriorate.

It should be noted that the Rambam rules that these seven things are enumerated as examples, and that really it is those things that stand alone as important that will be granted this status based on the reality of every place and time.

Zevachim 73a-b: Objects that are counted

As we learned on yesterday’s daf, the rule that when permitted and forbidden items become mixed together, the forbidden items can become batel (nullified) does not always apply. When items retain their unique, independent status, it becomes much more difficult to view them as becoming batel.

Another situation that may cause items to be viewed as unique and preclude nullification in the ordinary manner, is when the items are a davar she-be-minyan – when they are things that are counted and sold by number rather than by weight. The example given by the Gemara are ketzi’ot – dried figs – that were terumah – tithes – that were pressed together in a mold with other such figs, and we cannot tell which ones are the ketzi’ot of terumah. According to Rabbi Yehuda‘s interpretation of Rabbi Yehoshua‘s ruling, such figs will not become nullified, since the ketzi’ot are sold as individual loaves. If, however, the figs of terumah were included in a mold together with other figs, then they will become batel, since they are part of the mixture.

The way figs — and, indeed, other fruits, as well — were preserved in the time of the Mishnah and Talmud, was by means of drying them out. Dried figs were known as ketzi’ot. As is explained in our Gemara, after removing the stems and drying the figs in the sun, it was common practice to press them together into loaves inside of barrels or other round receptacles, and the round loaves were called deveilim. The round loaves of igulei develah were usually large enough that it was difficult for an individual to lift one on his own.

According to most of the commentaries, the case in our Gemara is one where a single round loaf of terumah figs was placed in the top of a receptacle where it remained as a single unit and did not get mixed with the rest of the figs. Since these loaves are sold by number, Rabbi Yehoshua rules that they cannot become batel and we must treat all of the igulei develah as possibly being terumah.

Zevachim 74a-b: Dropping things in the seas

Two more cases of mixtures that include a forbidden item are discussed on today’s daf.

  1. Rav Nahman quoted Rabbah bar Avuha in the name of Rav as teaching that in a case of a signet ring of avodah zara that was mixed with others so that the entire collection was forbidden, if a single ring falls into the Yam ha-Gadol we will assume that it was the forbidden ring that fell, and all of the others are permitted.
  2. Resh Lakish teaches that if a barrel of terumah – tithes, permitted only to a kohen – were mixed with other barrels so that none could be eaten, except by a kohen, should one of them fall into Yam HaMelach, then we will assume that it was the barrel of terumah that fell, and all of the others are permitted.

In the first case, Rashi explains that the signet ring was decorated with an idol, and the mixture is forbidden because avodah zara cannot become nullified. Tosafot suggest that it is the unique importance of the ring that creates the situation that keeps it from becoming nullified. The Yam HaGadol referred to in this case is the Mediterranean Sea, as it is called in Sefer Yehoshua (1:4). This name separates the Mediterranean from other bodies of water in Israel, like the Kinneret and the Dead Sea.

Yam HaMelach mentioned in the second case is, in fact the Dead Sea, which is also referred to in Talmudic texts as The Sea of Sodom. It is common for the Gemara to suggest that a forbidden object be thrown into Yam HaMelach since there are no fish and therefore no fisherman who might chance across the object and take it for personal use. It is also possible that the high salt and mineral content of the Dead Sea were seen by the Sages as elements that would ruin anything thrown into it.

After bringing these two cases, the Gemara explains why both of these cases are needed since we would not be able to derive one situation from another.

Zevachim 75a-b: Does adding restrictions solve the problem?

At the beginning of the eighth perek of Masechet Zevachim we learned that when consecrated animals become mixed together we try to sacrifice both on behalf of their owners, if at all possible (see daf 71). What if the animals that were mixed together had been consecrated for different sacrifices? According to that Mishnah, since the animals cannot be brought for their specific sacrifices, we allow them to graze until they develop a blemish that makes them unacceptable for sacrifice, at which time they can be redeemed, and the proceeds from their sale must be used to purchase equivalent sacrifices.

The Mishnah on today’s daf deals with animals that were consecrated for different sacrifices – an asham (a guilt-offering) and a shelamim (a peace-offering). In this case, however, the sacrificial service of these sacrifices, while not identical, parallels one another. For example, the placement of the blood on the altar – which is the central part of the atonement process – is exactly the same, “two sprinklings that are four,” that is, the blood is poured on the corners of the sides of the altar. There are differences, however, in:

  1. The place of the slaughter – the asham is limited to the northern part of the Temple courtyard while the shelamim can be slaughtered anywhere in the courtyard
  2. Where the sacrifice can be eaten – the asham is eaten only in the Temple courtyard while the shelamim can be eaten anywhere in Jerusalem
  3. Who can eat from the sacrifice – only male kohanim can eat of the asham, while the shelamim can be eaten by anyone
  4. The length of time that the sacrifice can be eaten – the asham can be eaten only the day that it is brought and the following night, while the shelamim can be eaten for an additional day.

In the interest in having the sacrifices brought, Rabbi Shimon rules that the sacrifices should be brought keeping the restrictions of the asham sacrifice for both animals. The Sages object, saying ein mevi’in kodashim le-beit ha-pesul – consecrated animals should not be brought to a situation where they will become invalid. Their argument is that Rabbi Shimon’s stringent ruling will limit the way the korban shelamim can be eaten, making it more likely that it will be left uneaten and burned.

There is one case where the Sages will agree with Rabbi Shimon’s ruling. In a case where the animals had already been slaughtered and there is no possibility of redeeming and exchanging them, all agree that the sacrifices should be brought according to the more restricting rules of the asham.

Zevachim 76a-b: Is all produce obligated in Biblical tithes?

As we learned on yesterday’s daf, Rabbi Shimon rules that if two consecrated animals – an asham (a guilt-offering) and a shelamim (a peace-offering) – became mixed together, the sacrifices should both be brought, keeping the more limiting restrictions of the asham sacrifice for both animals.

Does Rabbi Shimon permit this only be-di’avad ex-post facto – or would he permit creating such mixtures in general, since all of the requirements can be fulfilled by keeping all of the restrictions of the asham? This is the question that is discussed on today’s daf.

The first source that is brought in an attempt to resolve this question is a Mishnah later on in Masechet Zevachim (90 b) that discusses the sacrifices that the kohanim eat in the Temple. The Mishnah teaches that the kohanim are permitted to prepare the meat from the sacrifices in any way they please – they can roast it, boil it or cook it. With regard to spices, Rabbi Yishma’el rules that they can flavor it with any spices, whether the spices are taken from tithes or are ordinary spices. Rabbi Me’ir forbids the use of tithe spices, since when the sacrificial meat can no longer be eaten, the spices will be destroyed, and he does not permit the use of tithes in a situation where they will be liable to be destroyed.

While our Gemara quotes the first opinion in the name of Rabbi Yishmael, the Mishnah on daf 90 has this opinion as that of Rabbi Shimon, as do many of the manuscripts of the Gemara. This proof is rejected because the tithes on spices are only Rabbinic in origin.

According to most opinions in the rishonim, the only produce that is obligated in tithes on a biblical level are grain, grape juice and olive oil (see Bamidbar 18:12), but not other fruits. Some even suggest that other grape and olive products are not obligated in tithes on a biblical level. The Rambam rejects this ruling and rules that all produce that is stored and used for human consumption is obligated on a Torah level, basing himself on the Mishnah at the beginning of Masechet Ma’asrot.

Zevachim 77a-b: The effects of cataracts on a sacrifice

There are a number of mumim – blemishes – in a sacrifice – that would preclude the animal from being brought as a sacrifice (see Sefer Vayikra 22:24).

The Gemara quotes a baraita that teaches the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer that if parts of a valid sacrifice become mixed with parts of a sacrifice from a blemished animal, they can, nonetheless, be burned on the altar, and the parts of the blemished animal will be viewed as wood, i.e. as fuel for the fire, rather than an actual sacrifice. Ultimately, the source brought for Rabbi Eliezer’s opinion is the continuation of the passage in Vayikra (22:25) where the Torah emphasizes that when the blemish is in the meat it cannot be brought, but in a situation where there is a mixture and the mum is not in all of the sacrificial meat, then it would be permitted on the altar.

In the course of discussion, Rav Huna suggests that this may follow the opinion of Rabbi Akiva who permits certain types of mumim to be brought on the altar, or at least that the sacrifice is not removed from the altar if it had already been brought to it. The case discussed is when the blemish was dukin she-ba-ayin. Dukin she-ba-ayin is some kind of an eye condition; Rashi explains that it is a cataract on the eye. According to the continuation of the Gemara, Rabbi Akiva’s position is explained by Rabbi Yochanan as being limited to this case, for although dukin she-ba-ayin is an actual blemish, since in some types of sacrifices – notable sacrifices brought from birds – it is not considered a blemish, it would not be removed from the altar.

It is interesting to note that in the famous Kamtza-Bar Kamtza story that the Gemara presents as the direct cause of the destruction of the Second Temple (see Masechet Gittin daf 55) Bar Kamtza convinces the Caesar that the Jews were rebelling because they refused to sacrifice the animal that he sent to the Temple. Bar Kamtza succeeded in doing so by making a blemish in the dukin she-ba-ayin of the animal, which, the Gemara explains, was considered a blemish by the Jews but not by the Romans. In that Gemara, Rabbi Yochanan is the Sage who objects to the Rabbinic refusal to consider sacrificing the animal in order to keep peace with the government; Rabbi Akiva objects to Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai‘s refusal to appeal to Vespasian to save Jerusalem and the Temple.

Zevachim 78a-b: Can matzah be made out of rice?

Can matzah be made out of rice?

While there is an opinion in the Gemara that rules that rice can become chametz and similarly, can be baked into matzah, this position is rejected by the Mishnah (see Masechet Pesachim, daf 35). On today’s daf a different, but related question is raised – can matzah be made out of wheat flour that is mixed with rice flour? The Gemara quotes a Mishnah in Masechet Challah (3:7) that clearly rules that if dough that is made from a mixture of wheat and rice, as long as the mixture tastes like wheat, the matzah can be used to fulfill the mitzvah on Passover.

Rabbeinu Tam understands this to be similar to the rule that when the taste from a forbidden food can be sensed in a mixture we consider the entire mixture to be forbidden. The Ra’avad argues that even though the wheat flour in this mixture is significant inasmuch as its taste is present, still there will have to be a sufficient amount of wheat flour – a kezayit (olive’s worth) – in what the person ate if he is to fulfill his mitzvah of eating matzah on Pesach. In contrast, the Ramban accepts the approach of the Talmud Yerushalmi (Challah 1:1) that explains that the issue at hand is not the taste of the mixture. What happens in this case is that the wheat flour causes the rice flour to ferment and become chametz, something that is not true when wheat flour is mixed with other things. Such a mixture can be baked into matzah, as well.

The rice discussed by the Gemara is Oryza sativa, an annual cereal grain that grows in marshy areas or flooded fields. Rice originated in the Far East, but was already brought to Israel in the Mishnaic period. It is usually used as a cereal, and it is difficult to make bread out of it because it lacks bonding agents that would hold the bread together. Nevertheless, it was often mixed with other grains to be used in bread production. The Sages differed with regard to the halakhic status of rice – its proper blessing, whether it can become chametz and matzah, and so forth.

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.