Thursday, 17 May 2018

Zevachim 34: Kashrut and Sacrifices

Some brief notes about today's daf:

  • animal sacrifices are specific:
    • an ordinary sin offering is brought only from a female sheep or goat
  • what if a different animal is brought as the offering?
  • what if a non-kosher animal is presented as the offering?
  • how severe is the penalty for bringing the wrong animal as an offering?
  • no substitutions are permitted and yet the punishment for bringing the wrong animal may not be karet
  • Reish Lakish says that one who brings a non-kosher animal to the Temple altar is liable to receive malkot, lashes
  • Rabbi Yochanan argues that there is no punishment for this action
  • Rabbi Yochanan uses the proof text (Vayikra 1:2) to support the idea that this could be a mitzvah aseh, a positive commandment, which is why there is no formal punishment (there is no formal punishment associated with neglecting to fulfill a positive commandment)
  • Reish Lakish says that this is a lav haba michlal ase, a negative commandment derived from a positive commandment
  • Reish Lakish considers this to be a negative commandment
  • Rabbi Ya'akov says that both Reish Lakish and Rabbi Yochanan agree that a negative commandment derived from a positive commandment is actually a positive commandment, and so there is no punishment for bring a non-kosher animal onto the Temple altar
  • Instead Rabbi Yaakov states the their argument is about someone who brought a chayyah, a kosher wild animal (ex. a deer, an antelope) onto the altar
    • Rabbi Yochanan says that the Torah limits sacrifices to bechemot, domesticated animals; a wild animal goes against the mitzvah to bring an animal offering
    • Reish Lakish says that thought the mitzvah teaches us to bring a bechema but a kosher wild animal is acceptable 
    • Steinsaltz teaches that Rashi notes that a non-kosher animal are not permitted based on a proof that teaches that sacrifices must be animals that are kosher

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Zevachim 33: By the Nicanor Gate

A very brief note about today's daf:

The rabbis detail what should be done when a person is ritually impure and s/he needs to bring an offering to the Temple or to approach the Temple.

There was one gate, the northern gate, which allowed people to get as close to the Temple courtyard as possible without actually stepping into the courtyard and defiling the sacred objects there.  The rabbis ask whether or not there might have been a small door next to the door of those gates.  A zav, for example, would have to approach the Temple with the blood of his offering evident on his right ear, thumb and big toe.  To approach the Temple at that point in time would lessen the sanctity of the courtyard.  Thus he might put parts of his body into the Temple courtyard, briefly, to fulfil the halacha regarding becoming ritually pure again.  

The Nicanor gate is mentioned many times in the Talmud.  Interestingly, the rabbis' conjecture about the role of this gate is imbued with their own ideas about how G-d's word must have been interpreted.  We will never know exactly how people deemed ritually impure behaved when near - or within - the Temple courtyard.  It is difficult to know whether we are learning history or anthropology.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Zevachim 32: When a Mistake is Made, Correct it

Our Mishna continues: 

  • in a case where blood is collected with the intent to offer it beyond its designated time or outside of its designated area, 
  • if there is blood of the soul that remains in the animal, the priest fit for Temple service should again collect the blood and sprinkle it on the altar  
  • If that priest collected the blood in a vessel and gave the vessel to an unfit priest, it should be returned to the fit priest 
  • If the priest collected the blood in a vessel in his right hand and moved it to his left hand, he should return it to his right hand 
  • If the priest collected the blood in a sacred vessel and placed it in a non-sacred vessel, he should return the blood to a sacred vessel 
  • If the blood spilled from the vessel onto the floor and he gathered it from the floor, it is valid 
  • If an unfit person placed the blood on the ramp or the wall of the altar that is not opposite the base of the altar 
  • or if he placed the blood above the red line,
  •  or if he placed the blood outside the sanctuary, 
  • or if the wrong blood is placed inside of the sanctuary, 
  • or if there is the blood of the soul that remains in the animal, 
  • the priest fit for Temple service should again collect the blood and sprinkle it on the altar.

The Gemara begins to discuss this Mishna.  The rabbis question why we would interpret that anyone, even a woman, for example, would be fit to slaughter an animal.  Should this be only after the fact?  The rabbis wonder whether 'anyone' must be ritually pure.  

The Gemara considers one who touches a consecrated item.  A ritually unfit person who puts one of his hands into the space of the Temple courtyard is punished severely.  He is compared with a woman who is ritually unfit because of her contact with menstrual blood.  Does she not impart ritual impurity onto the items she touches?  

The rabbis consider cases where people are not yet ritually pure but only because they have not yet finished the day.  These are cases of 'in-between' status, and the rabbis try to create halacha that applies to these difficult cases. However, we learn that these cases do not match the cases that we have been studying. 

Monday, 14 May 2018

Zevachim 31: Joined by Intention

Some notes on today's daf:

  • intentions can be joined: eating one half bulk of an olive now and another later, for example
  • ritual impurity follows similar rules: if two items are placed together and one part has first degree and the other has second degree ritual impurity, they both have first degree ritual impurity (if separated and joined again, their status returns to what it was and then becomes first-degree again)
  • if something is eaten or offered in two different ways, they are not joined, for ex. consuming one part and burning the other part
  • the rabbis debate whether or not it is permitted to have two people share consumption, for example - each eating one half of an olive-bulk of the offering
  • does it matter how long it takes for one to eat consecrated food?  Offerings?
  • Is it typical to consume in one way or another?  Does this affect whether or not two parts can be joined by intention?
Today's daf ends with a new mishna and the beginning of Perek III.  The mishna teaches that those who are unfit for Temple services who slaughtered offerings find their offerings valid.  This is based on the fact that offerings are valid after the fact even when performed by non-priests, by women, by Canaanite slaves and by people who have the status of 'ritually impure'.  This halacha holds regarding all offerings including the most sacred offerings.  However, we must know that those who are ritually impure will not touch the flesh of the slaughtered animal thus rendering it ritually impure, too.  This suggests that these unfit people can disqualify the offerings based on prohibited intent, for example if one intended to partake of the offering before or outside of its designated time.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Zevachim 30: Two Intentions

Sometimes a person has more than one intent over the course of the act of offering.  This could happen in many ways - one changes one's mind, for example.  Today's daf demonstrates the rabbis' understanding of and discomfort with this 'in between' place.

How do we respond when  a person changes his mind?  Do we honour his first stated intention?  The rabbis run through a number of different offerings and intentions.  Should both intentions be honoured and all commitments met (an animal is sold and the money received is used to buy two different offerings).

In a very Jewish note, we learn that Abaye asks if Raba bar bar Channah cited Rav Yochanan to say that Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yosi do not argue.  This is debated.  In fact, the argument is what was argued about but not about whether or not we follow the first thing intention that was stated. Toward the end of our daf the rabbis are curious about specific understandings.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Zevachim 29: Wrong Time, Wrong Place

Some notes from today's daf:

  • "piggul" is used to refer to a an offer that is made intending to eat outside of its designated area
  • the rabbis use different hermeneutic tools to determine that an offering eaten outside of the designated area is not permitted (may be consumed) but not punishable by karet
  • a zav/a (one who is ritually impure because of sexual/genital changes) counts seven clean days after their discharge ends and then immerses in a mikvah
  • a woman who experiences "uterine bleeding" outside of menstruation, she must wait one clean day and then immerse in the mikvak
  • if a woman immerses and then bleeds again before nightfall, the interim time is considered to have been ritually pure
  • one instance of "uterine bleeding" for one day alone does not render her a zava; three days with breakthrough breathing render her a zava
  • the rabbis compare tithes and other time-bound offerings with bringing a first-born animal offering late (after its first year of life)
  • if one slaughters, collects blood, brings blood, sprinkles blood with the proper intent - ex. burning an item that should be burned on the altar - and the intent was to do this action outside of the designated area (even just an olive-bulk away), the offer is disqualified but the owner is not liable to be karet
  • if the intent is to do this action after the designated time, the offering is piggul and the owner is liable to be karet
  • if one eats or burns less than an olive-bulk of the offering with the intent of being in an inappropriate place or time, is there any violation?
  • are the rites separated into two actions that are each liable, or are they combined into one rite?

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Zevachim 27: Blood

If one slaughters an animal and then severs its legs, the blood from the legs might be confused with the blood of the animal that is collected for sprinkling.  Would this possibility disqualify the offering?  We also learn about the rabbis' thinking regarding blemishes in similar cases: if one cuts the flesh of an animal but not the bone, would this count as a blemish?  Further questions regarding an animal and its legs are posed.

A new Mishna tells us about blood for sprinkling that has been put in inappropriate places.  In these situations, the offering is disqualified but the owner is not liable for karet.  

Our daf goes on to describe different ways that an animal offering might be disqualified; ways that blood might be placed in a manner that is offensive or unfit in some way.  The focus on blood is particularly interesting.  What is the philosophy that underlies this importance of blood?  

We know that some blood is considered to be tamei, ritually impure.  Some types of blood are so tainted that they are contagious.  If one has contact with that blood, that person becomes ritually impure as well.   Occasionally the rabbis mention that the blood holds the soul of an animal about to be sacrificed.  How does blood hold a soul?  How does blood simultaneously hold something with such negative power?  I am wondering what has been written about Jewish understandings of blood.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Zevachim 26: Blood on the Altar, Forbidden Blood/Piggul Items

The rabbis begin our daf with their discussion about the status of an animal that has been slaughtered and then had its legs removed.  The answer to this question has to do with the contact; the other factors that influence how the blood might be collected, etc.

We learn that the more significant offerings are slaughtered at the northernmost point of the Temple.  Less important offerings are offered anywhere in the Temple courtyard.  The rabbis consider whether or not an offering is affected by movement during the service.  For example, if one's head and upper body move into the northern part of the Temple courtyard.  Further, Shmuel and his father argue about whether or not an offering is permitted if it has two legs in the proper area and two legs in a different area.

A new Mishna teaches us about blood and its placement on the altar.  Each offering's blood must be distributed in a particular manner in a particular place.  If a priest places the blood in the wrong place, or in the wrong manner, the offering is disqualified.  The owner is not liable to be punished with karet, however. 

The Gemara begins a conversation about whether the entire altar offers atonement or whether atonement requires that dealing with blood follows the exact directions given.  What should we do if we err?  Should the blood be collected a second time?  Is there the opportunity to sprinkle blood more than once?  And what about intent?  Is the wrong intent enough to disqualify an offering?  The rabbis engage in long conversations about the specific places that blood might fall: beyond the curtain, under the curtain.  

The recreation of these Temple rites is considered with rigour and precision.  But the rabbis cannot know exactly how these rituals were enacted, and yet they describe the actions in vivid detail.  

Our daf ends with a new Mishna.  We learn that one who slaughters the offering with the intent to 
-sprinkle its blood outside the Temple 
-sprinkle its blood outside the Temple
-burn its sacrificial portions outside the Temple
-partake of its meat outside the Temple
-partake of an olive-bulk of its meat outside the Temple
or partake of an olive-bulk of the skin of the tail outside of the Temple, the offering is disqualified.  That person is not punished with karet.

However, if a person intended to 
-sprinkle its blood the next day, or part of its blood the next day, 
-burn its sacrificial portions the next day, or part of its sacrificial portions the next day, 
-eat its meat the next day or an olive-bulk of its meat or the skin of its tail the next day, 
the offering is piggul, forbidden because of the prohibition on eating detestable or unfit food.  That person is liable to receive karet for burning or eating it. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Zevachim 25: Gezera Shava, Impure Airspace, Blemishes

The rabbis assert that a gezera shava, an analogy based on shared words, explains a number of teachings.  Kemitza, the offering of three fingersful of barley flour, is based on "yad-yad", finger-finger.  Chalitza, the marriage of a widow to her brother-in-law, is based on "regel-regel", foot-foot.  When a slave chooses to stay with the master who then pierces his/her ear, "ozen-ozen", ear-ear, is the reference used.  

Each of these is discussed and questioned.  One of the points mentioned is whether or not the left hand can be used for kemitza.

The rabbis consider why blood spilled on the floor - not collected in a vessel - is patul, unfit because of a defect.  This particularly unpleasant section discusses different types of blood, how that blood should be disposed of, and what should be done with the veins and arteries that hold the blood being collected.  

The rabbis then consider the airspace, which is patul, and how it might affect a consecrated item that passes from one sanctified place to another.  It might be blood being poured from a vessel to another vessel, for example.   The rabbis go on to discuss other imperfections and their in-between status.  Small blemishes might be the end of some offerings, but they might be salvageable with some creative thinking.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Zevachim 24: The Holy Ground, Left Hand vs. Right Hand

Some brief points about today's day:

  • the floor of the azarah, the outer courtyard, is holy
  • can one stands on a stone that came loose from the azarah?
  • the rabbis cannot solve this dilemma, but it is suggested that under the floor was sanctified as well
  • why is receiving the blood with one's left hand patul, unfit because of an imperfection?
  • the rabbis argue about whether or not the left hand can be used for different rites, ex. receiving the blood, by looking for connections between words used in different situations
  • A number of different rites are compared in order to understand why the right hand must be used in some situations but not in all situations

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Zevachim 23: Ritual Impurity, Priests & Owners

The rabbis compare those who become ritually impure due to contact with a creeping animal with those who become ritually impure due to contact with a corpse.  What if a priest were ritually impure because of contact with a corpse and the owner is ritually impure because of contact with a creeping animal?  Does the priest's frontplate offer acceptance?

And what about a priest or an owner who become ritually impure because of a seminal discharge; a ghonerea-like condition rendering him a zav?  If he becomes ritually pure through time and immersion and then develops ziva again,  he would have been impure retroactively.  

Zevachim 22: The Basin

The rabbis discuss the basin that holds and releases water for ritual washing.  Its water is considered to be pure - but is it pure enough to be shared with water for the mikvah? We know that water for the mikvah can be used for the basin.  The rabbis also consider how the basin is weighted down, with a wheel, and how that would make a sound.  We are told that a basin may have enough water to complete washing for four priests. 

A priest must be ritually pure which includes being circumsized in the flesh. Of course, a priest must be ritually pure in a number of ways.  If a priest has touched a corpse, is the manner of becoming ritually pure again any different?  We are reminded that the second Pesach exists, and in this case the second Pesach is used for priests who were impure during the first Pesach offering.  

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Zevachim 20: Location, Sanctification and Immersion

Some basic ideas from today's daf:

  • must the basin's water be changed every night so that it does not sit and become disqualified for sanctification?
  • the bull should stand with its head to the south and it's face turned to the west; the priest stands to the east of the bull and faces west when he puts his hands over the bull
  • What is north?  The rabbis say that north is from the northern wall of the altar to the northern wall of the Temple courtyard
  • The rabbis discuss whether a priest should sanctify his feet a second time in one day if he first sanctifies his feet for the ashes
  • Must a priest sanctify his feet a second time if he leaves the Temple after the first sanctification?
  • A priest who reenters the Temple after leaving to "cover his legs", which is a euphemism for having a bowel movement, must immerse and sanctify his hands and feet first
  • A priest who reenters the Temple after leaving to urinate must sanctify his hands and feet first
  • If a priest becomes ritually impure, he is sometimes permitted to immerse his feet without also sanctifying them before entering the Temple 
  • The rabbis look at ritual slaughter that occurs outside of the Temple to discuss when sanctification is required

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Zevachim 19: On Belts, Interpositions, Sanctification, and OCD

We stay on the topic of priestly clothing.  The beginning of our daf focuses on the belt.  Where should it sit?  What if the belt was too high or too low?  The rabbis consider the permission given for a priest to wear a reed around his finger if it has been cut before a Torah service.  The rabbis consider whether or not this or other items might be standing in the way; interposing.  

A conversation emerges regarding other potential interpositions: would a louse between a priest and his clothing count as an interposition?  If it is alive, it is moving, and thus might it be permitted?  What about a gust of wind that might lift the vest which has been described as being on the priest's body?  Of course, dirt interposes.  But what about the "dust of dirt", dust that cannot be seen?  Or the area under the armpit which is always left uncovered?  Or one's hair, which might slip out and interpose between the vestments and the body of the priest?  What if a priest touches his own chest?  The rabbis spend more significant time discussing tefillin: an interposition between the priest's clothing and his body?

The Gemara details a debate about hand and foot washing - sanctification - before the morning and evening services.  Would imprecise hand or foot washing invalidate a priest's service?  What type of washing is necessary?  At which times?  How many priests could be accommodated at the basin at one time for kosher sanctification?  How much water was held in the basin?  The rabbis determine that ministration of sanctification was done while standing, as stated in the proof text: Deuteronomy (18:5), "To stand to minister".

Toward the end of our daf, the rabbis further consider when a priest should sanctify his hands and feet.  Is once each day enough?  What if it is done only in the morning?  Or only in the evening?  What if certain types of work were done in the hours that followed sanctification?  

Again, I recognize commonalities between Talmudic debate and symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder.  The rabbis are searching; yearning for a definite answer.  But how is there ever a lasting ritual purity?  Once the moment of sanctification has passed, how long can we consider ourselves ready for prayer?  

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Zevachim 18: Garments that Invalidate Priestly Service

If a priest does not wear all four of his garments, he invalidates his service.  The rabbis look for a prooftext for this assertion.  One source suggests that we know that one who drinks wine while serving in the Temple should not be allowed to serve.  This stands as a law for all times.  

Similarly, a priest who is wearing incomplete garments is unable to serve, and this is also forbidden for all time.  We learn that 'incomplete garments' include one who wears extra garments: two belts, two pairs of pants, etc.  Both a robe that is too high and one that is frayed from walking while wearing it are not allowed.  Other rabbis argue that it is sprinkling, etc., that would seriously affect a effectiveness of a priest's service.  

The rabbis spend much of their energies on describing different garments and how that clothing might be damaged.  We learn about linen and fine linen, which is made of flax that has been processed and twisted in a particular manner.  

Bottom line: a priest must wear the four parts of his garments and he must not drink alcohol to ensure that his service will be valid.  And because prayer takes the place of sacrifice, we must wear special garments for prayer - or at least we should dress in a special way when we pray.  

Some related notes: a Torah scroll must be wrapped in a beautiful garment.  Also, we should not rip our garments too much when we are mourning because we will be praying soon and our clothing should not be terribly torn when we pray. t

Monday, 30 April 2018

Zevachim 17: Does a Mitzvah Done While Ritually Impure Count as a Mitzvah?

Some thoughts from today's daf:

  • A person who is tamei, in a state of ritual impurity, cannot participate in a number of rituals
  • If a person who is ritually impure does participate in Temple rituals, their service is invalidated 
  • A similar question: must a man go to the mikvah, the ritual bath, every morning before reciting his prayers?  
  • What if a man had a seminal emission during the night?  
  • Will his prayers be nullified if he does not pour at least 9 day of water on himself? 
  • The Jerusalem Talmud says that it is permitted to bathe and to engage in marital relations
  • how could it be that someone who is ritually impure would bring a sacrifice/engage in prayers?  
  • The rabbis argue that the Jerusalem rabbis were lenient
  • More people should have been strict about going to the mikvah before prayers/service in the Temple
  • Before every prayer people should go to the mikvah
The notion that prayer is a direct substitution for Temple rituals is challenging.  Bringing a sacrificial offering is so visceral, such a limited action within time and space. It is externally focused and measurable. Prayer, on the other hand, is long-lasting, internally focused, and extremely difficult to measure.  How can we expect people to adhere to the halachot of prayers when we had difficulty with the 'simpler' rites of offerings in the Temple?

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Zevachim 16: Impure or Blemished; Performing Ritual Rites

The rabbis discuss the implications of a priest who is impure continuing to perform the sacrificial rites.  They consider a number of factors including whether priests are similar to common people when and how the can practice sacrifice.  What counts as 'desecration' in public altars and in Temple sacrifices.  The acute mourner, whether a priest or someone else, is prohibited from performing sacrificial rites.

In amud (b), the rabbis confirm that there are differences by tribe and by state of acute mourning.  The Gemara identifies the one limitation on the actions of a blemished priest.  That is the priest's ability to impart ritual impurity upon others through touch.  An ordinary priest who is blemished is permitted to perform a communal offering.

Zevachim 15: Who is Unfit?

The rabbis continue to discuss their thought about when an offering or the blood from the slaughtered and is brought with an intention that disqualifies the offering from sacrifice.  Part of today's daf brings us to our next Mishna, which teaches:

  • if a non-priest collected the sacrifice's blood
  • of if  priest who was an occur corner (one who's loved one is not yet buried)
  • one who is ritually impure - has immersed but is waiting for night
  • one who has not yet brought an atonement offering, a zav or leper after seven days of purification,
  • a priest without his special clothing
  • one who did not wash hands and feet in water in the basin before performing the Temple service, 
  • an uncircumcised priest
  • a ritually impure priest
  • or if the one who collected blood is sitting or standing on vessels of the temple - or on animals or on another person's feet
In all of these cases, the offering is deemed to be unfit.

The Gemara tells us that a priest who is no qualified to collect or give the sacrifice is 'kosher' by calling on the story earlier in the Torah narrative when we read, "Speak to Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the sacred items of the children of Israel” (Leviticus 22:2). The rabbi suggest who is meant to be excluded through this verse.  Who is included when we speak of some people removing themselves?  Impure priests? Women and children? Gentiles? Those with blemishes?

Today was just Shabbat Itanu, a shabbat that celebrates inclusion.  Very telling that today's daf focused on how we decide who should be excluded.  

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Zevachim 13: Focus During the Four Rites of Slaughter

We begin with a new Mishna which speaks to the paschal offering and the sin offering.  It teaches that the following offerings are unfit: 
  • when they are slaughtered not for their own sake 
  • where their blood was collected in a vessel, brought to the altar
  • where they sprinkled this blood on the altar not for their sake
  • where they performed the sacrificial rites for their sake or not
If one slaughters the paschal offering for the sake of a peace offering as well as a peace offering.  A slaughtered offering is disqualified due to forbidden intent in four ways:
  • performing the sacrificial rites of slaughter
  • collecting the blood
  • carrying the blood
  • sprinkling the blood
Rabbi Shimon argues that the offering is fit if the forbidden intent was during the rite of carrying the blood, or without sprinkling the blood.  How is it possible to sacrifice an offering without collecting the blood or without bringing the blood to the altar?  The answer is that if the animal is slaughtered beside the altar, the blood can be sprinkled without being carried.  

Rabbi Eliezer argues that one who brings the blood in a situation where it has to be carried, prohibited intent while carrying it disqualifies the offering.  If one carries the blood when it is not required to carry it, prohibited intent while carrying the blood will not disqualify it.

The Gemara chronicles the rabbis' conversations about how similar considerations might be applied to other parts of the sacrificial rites.  An example is used regarding one who walks to a synagogue far from home, one is rewarded.  At the very least, we are rewarded once we reach that destination.  

This notion of 'intent' suggests that we are meant to be in control of our thoughts, not just our actions, when going through the process of bringing an offering.  It is a tall order to insist that people think about one thing only when they are apologizing, but perhaps that is what is suggested.  If sacrifice is a form of atonement, and it was replaced by prayer, should we believe that we are intended to focus our minds upon our prayer, particularly when we are asking for atonement?  Would G-d not hear our prayer - disqualify our offering - if we are not thinking about a prescribed ritual of asking for atonement?

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Zevachim 12: Half of a Consecrated Animal?

The rabbis continue to sort out the conundrum they have encountered regarding the timing of the paschal offering.  So much has been learned about this particular offering that the rabbis find statements/instructions that contradict each other.  

We are told that an animal that is owned by one person can only be consecrated in whole; if one half of the animal is consecrated, the other half is automatically consecrated as well.  An animal owned by two partners is a different case.  One is only permitted to consecrate his/her part of an animal owned by two partners. 

In such a case, both partners must consecrate the animal in order for it to be fully fit as an offering.  If this doesn't happen, the rabbis agree that an animal disqualified is permanently disqualified, and that an animal half consecrated becomes fully consecrated but not fit for sacrifice if one owner buys the second half of the animal after the first consecration.  Timing is almost everything, it seems.  

The rabbis compare different transgressions and their offerings.  Which pairs have something in common?  At the end of a long discussion, we learn that the dispute that initiated this conversation might have been reviewed as an exercise for students.

Zevachim 11: Timing; OCD

We begin by discussing whether or not the pascal lamb is permitted if it was not brought at the right time.  It might be valid because it is like another offering that was kosher even though it was brought at the wrong time.  Another argument is that the pascal lamb must be offered at a very specific time to be permitted.  We continue to think about what is permitted and what is not permitted before the official start of Pesach.  

Is the daily afternoon offering in the afternoon allowed to be offered any time during the day as well?  This is successfully challenged, again by considering other practices that might be dependent on a particular period of time - an example is the menorah, where the lighting actually lasts for the day.  

The Jewish tendency toward obsessive compulsive behaviour has a long history.  The details that are discussed and debated are considered to be of great significance.  Is it possible that the most desirable Jews were those who could obsess and remember these details?  Did we breed OCD into ourselves?  

Monday, 23 April 2018

Zevachim 10: Rabbi Yochanan, Reish Lakish and Pigul/Sprinkling Blood as Proofs

If a person thinks about throwing the blood on the altar while he is slaughtering, is the sacrifice valid?  Rabbi Yochanan says that it is invalid because if one thinks about a different process while doing one process, we learn from pigul that it is invalid.  Pigul states that if in any of the four processes (slaughter, collecting blood, carrying blood, sprinkling blood).  

Reish Lakish says that even in this case, the sacrifice is kosher.  He suggests that the case of pigul refers to when the offering can be eaten.  Thus we cannot use pigul as a proof text.  Further, he argues that if while slaughtering an animal one thinks about idolatry, then of course the offering is invalid. 

One argument is that we should be permitted to use arguments regarding sprinkling the blood as proof texts for imperfect slaughter.  But we learn that pigul happens inside the sanctuary while these processes happen outside.  And how could the slaughter be valid? This person we refer to must be an idolater.  The rabbis teach that if a person is evil on one occasion, that is not enough to invalidate his slaughter.  Also, an act of evil is one done consciously and out of spite.  If a person thinks of idolatry spitefully while slaughtering an offering, his/her offering is agreed to be invalid.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Zevachim 9: Can We Be Lenient About Offerings? Halacha as Metaphor

We begin today's daf with a conversation that sheds light on the larger picture behind these endless details.  The rabbis wonder why we would not count an offering as the offering it was intended to be. The rabbis are aware of the leniencies that would overcome so much of Jewish thought: can we assume that halacha should be used as metaphor?

As soon as we explore what was done in the Temple, we can assume that there were cases that fell in between the broad laws that existed at the time.  To solve those problems, the rabbis looked to similar cases, to similar words used at other times, to any hint that they could find.  And in the end, many of those cases are called "unresolved" in the Talmud.  We are encouraged to study not just the halacha, but the arguments that precede - or replace - halacha.  

And so how do we know what to do when the halacha does not apply to a given situation?  And, to be clear, almost all cases have little to do with halacha.  This entire masechet, for example is dedicated to a particular type of offering in the Temple.  Even when the rabbis had these conversations, the Temple had been destroyed.  Beyond rebuilding the Temple and reasserting these halachot, these practices do not apply to us.  Yet we must learn them.   Why?  Are they teaching us how to question and how to think?  Or are they teaching us how to behave according to metaphor?

For example, there are different 'types' of people, and each should bring different offerings for different purposes.  As metaphor, this suggests that we should be thinking about how we are different and how our offerings of apology or thanksgiving should hold meaning for each of us differently.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Zevachim 8: Offering Fit for Sacrifice

The Gemara discusses the sin offerings and whether or not it must be done for its own sake.  The rabbis then find proof texts to justify why a sin offering offered not for its own sake is not valid.  Offerings brought for one who is a nazirite, or for one who is ending their seclusion for having za'arat, a specific skin condition - are considered.  Many rabbis believe that we cannot compare these different categories of offerings.

We are are introduced to a baraita regarding a different offering brought for its own sake - or no.  It states that a korban Pesach, a paschal offering, that is slaughtered at the proper time - erev Pesach - is fully kosher as long as it was slaughtered for its own sake.  If not, it is not fit for sacrifice.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Zevachim 6: What Atones for What?

Some very brief points from today's daf:
  • The rabbis discuss whether and how one or more heirs might inherit the paschal offering
  • The rabbis discuss whether or not an offering atones for its owner if the offering is given for a reason other than for its own sake
  • The rabbis consider what a pascal offering atones for and what is not included in its atonement 

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Zevachim 5: An Offering After the Death of an Owner

We are told that Reish Lakish argues from the floor while lying on his stomach.  The rabbis believe that Reish Lakish was using his "stomach as [his] pillow", as he explained to his daughter in Masechet Gittin.  This practice would be following the guidelines suggested in Masechet Avot: Eat bread dipped in salt, drink water in measure, sleep on the floor, have a life of travail, and toil in Torah.  

The rabbis discuss differences between vow offerings, gift offerings and guilt offerings.  They also consider burnt offerings.  Their comparisons include whether or not offerings are brought after the owner's death. This is one of the factors that distinguishes one type of offering from another.

At the end of today's daf, the rabbis consider whether one person might atone for another after the death of the owner.  They look at a woman who brings an offering after childbirth and then dies; a woman who has committed a number of sexual transgressions who has atoned.  They also consider an owner's children after the owner had died.   

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Zevachim 4: Responsible for Our Own Offerings/Apologies

Some very basic notes from today's daf:
  • the guidelines for zevachim, sacrifices are compared with those for shechita, non-ritual slaughter
  • a korban, paschal sacrifice, is offered for the sake of those who will eat it
  • slaughter can be performed by any Jew, but the collection of blood cannot be performed by a non-priest or by a woman
  • sprinkling of blood and collection of blood is done for the sake of the shelamim, peace offering
  • sprinkling the blood by a non-priest or woman is punishable by death at the hand of heaven
  • a toda shelemav, thanksgiving peace offering, is eaten on the day it was offered for the sake of the owner
  • zevachim should not be separated from other sacrificial rites
  • an intent to deviate one's intent from the owner to anyone else makes one liable
  • the rabbis state clearly that one is responsible for their own sacrifices
  • "shall offer" is a generalization followed by "a sacrifice" is a detail; hermeneutics teach that a generalization followed by a detail includes only the detail in the generalization and thus a zevach is performed for the sake of its owner but no other rite is performed for the sake of its owner in order that the sacrifice is fit
  • shelamim = peace offering; all peace offerings
  • shelamav = his peace offering
  • nedava = gift offering
  • neder = vow offering
One of the major themes in today's daf is the obligation for one to know that a sacrifice is made for one's own sake. We are each of us responsible for our own transgressions and for making things right. As we no longer have the Temple to guide our acts of asking forgiveness, we must find other ways to "offer" our apologies. It is up to me, and no one else, to carry my own offerings and to ask for forgiveness when I make mistakes.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Zevachim 3: Offering With Improper Intent

Some of the main points from today's daf include:
  • the rabbis' conversations regarding the specificity within a get, both regarding the names on the get and whether the get explicitly indicates that a wife is free to marry another man
  • the rabbis' conversations about improper intent regarding a sin offering, where it seems to be understood that an offering about something completely unrelated is considered to be with no intent at all. The act of offering without improper intent is compared to the transmission (or not) of ritual impurity when a ceramic vessel holds susceptible items and also a second vessel within.
  • the rabbis' conversations about intent for a different offering or for a different owner, where proofs are offered for the idea that intent for something unrelated is considered to be not improper intent, but intent for something related is considered to be improper intent

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Zevachim 2: Offerings that are Permitted, Levels of Holiness

Our first Mishna teaches a number of points:

  • any animal offering that was slaughtered as if it were a different offering or with the intent to throw its blood on the altar is kosher but the owner is not excused from his obligation
  • the pascal offering and the sin offering are exceptions
  • Rabbi Eliezer says that asham, reparation offerings, are excepted as well/ they are (patul, not unfit)
  • Yosi ben Choni says that an animal offering that was slaughtered to be a pesach offering for a sin offering is permitted
  • Shimon Ach Azaryah says that any animal offering that was slaughtered to G-d  and was of higher holiness is kosher; one who slaughtered to G-d an animal offering of a lower degree of holiness is patul, not unfit
  • An example is provided: kodashim kalim, offerings of lower sanctity, are known because they are designated to be eaten by anyone, even Yisraelim - in Jerusalem usually for two days and a night, as opposed to those that may be eaten only by a male priest within one day
  • if a first-born offering is slaughtered, it is kosher
  • if a gift offering is slaughtered in the name of the first-born, it is patul, not unfit
The Gemara, of course, takes issue with each point of this new Mishna.  
  • Why does the Mishna mention that the owner was not excused from his obligation?
  • Among their answers, the rabbis note that we can learn the answer from either reasoning or from a verse
  • Stam, something written or decided according to halacha, and lishma, something performed for its own sake, are compared
  • There are six intentions when one offers an animal offering:
    • which korban it is (Olah, etc.)
    • for whom it atones
    • that it is offered to G-d
    • the animal fats (and the limbs if the offering is an blah) will be burned (and consumed, not roasted) on the altar
    • it should be a pleasant aroma (the meat will be roasted only when it is put on the altar and not before)
    • it should be pleasing to G-d
  • The rabbis ask how Rava knows that a get written with an editor is not unfit
  • If one overheard a scribe reciting the text of the get while writing it, he cannot divorce his wife with that document
  • The scribe had not intended that that document be used for the purposes of divorce, and thus it should not be permitted

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Horayot 14: Is it Better to be "Sinai" and Know the Foundation or to "Move Mountains" Through Critique?

In our last daf of Masechet Horayot, we continue to learn about rabbinic leaders and their responsibilities.  In yesterday's daf, we were told the story of Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel who was Nasi of the Sanhedrin when Rabbi Meir was the great Chacham, Wise One, and Rabbi Natan was the father of the beit din, the Av Beit Din.  Instead of continuing the practice of all students rising for all three leaders, Rabbi Shimon enacted a baraita that called for those in the row of the Chacham to stand and for those within four amot of the Av Beit Din to rise and then sit as he passed.  This was done when Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Natan were away.  

Rabbis Meir and Natan conspired to demonstrate their superior knowledge by asking Rabbi Shimon to teach a lesser known mishna.  Rabbi Shimon heard a student recite that teaching and memorized it; he then banished the other two leaders.  Because they were still called upon to answer difficult questions, they were returned to the beit din.  However, Rabbi Meir's teachings were recorded as "Some say" and Rabbi Natan's teachings were named, "Others say".  

We are introduced to a conversation between Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel and his father, also called "Rebbi".  Do we have to punish wise leaders for their attempt to uproot the Nasi in the past?  We learn expressions including "what was, was" and "the enemy died, but his swords persist for all time".  Rabbi Shimon notes that Rabbis Meir and Natan did not succeed in their attempts.  

The Gemara's final conversation is shared by Rabbi Yochanan.  Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel and the Chachamim, wise Sages, argued about whether it is preferable to be Sinai, one who knows the mishnayot and beraitot as if they were heard on Sinai, or one who can uproot mountains - argue and win against traditionally held views through fine reasoning skills.  Rav Yosef is described as Sinai and Rabbah is said to have uprooted mountains.

The Sages believe that Sinai is more important.  Like wheat forms many foods, mishnayot and beraitot create all halacha.  But Rav Yosef waited for Rabbah to die before he became Nasi.  Clearly he believed that it was more important to critique and create new halacha.

An aside - Rav Yosef is said to have needed no doctor in those 22 years - a bloodletter never entered his home.  This was thought to be a reward for his humility.

After the death of Rav Yosef, the role of Nasi could have gone to Abaye, Rava, or Rabbi Zeira.  Rabbah bar Masnah made the decision about the next Nasi.  He decided that the rabbi who shared an irrefutable teaching would be Nasi.  Abaye's teaching was not refuted, and so he became Nasi.

The Gemara asks who took precedence, Rabbi Zeira or Rabbah bar Masna.  The question is left unanswered: Rabbi Zeira is said to have asked sharp questions.  Rabbah bar Masna would deliberate and make conclusions based on the halacha.  Thus Rabbi Zeira was Sinai and Rabbah bar Masnah moved mountains.

The fact that this unanswered question ends our mishna leads me to believe that the rabbis agree that both are important.  We must be rooted in the foundational texts and teachings.  Concurrently we are encouraged to question and critique in order to become the people that G-d envisioned us to be.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Horayot 12: Anointing Oil Practices, Kohen Gadol Vs. Kohen

Some points from today's daf:

  • The anointing oil, specially prepared to be saved until the end of days, is said to be lost along with the aron kodesh, the holy ark
  • King Yoshiahu is said to have hidden sacred items, believing that the Jews would be exiled in his time (end of the first Temple)
  • The rabbis discuss how high priests and kings were anointed with oil: first the head and then between the eyebrows? is it alright to have droplets on the beard? etc.
  • The rabbis understand that kings were permitted to be anointed along with high priests because "no other man" may be anointed - kings are not just men
  • the rabbis discuss where one should be anointed
  • the rabbis discuss a number of issues that affect only a high priest and not an ordinary priest:
    • a par for a chata sin
    • hair stays short, cloths are torn at the bottom
    • cannot become impure to bury a relative
    • must marry a virgin and cannot marry a widow
    • on his death, a unintentional murderer is released from a city of refuge
    • he can serve in the Temple on the day a relative died but cannot eat sanctified food during the day
    • when not an open he has first rights to the sacrifice and his share of sanctified foods
    • he wears eight garments when he is serving
    • he can do the Yom Kipur prayers
    • if he enters the mikdash or eats teruma while tamei, he is exempt from liability
    • these rules also apply to a merubah begadim, unanointed high priest, except for the par as an offering
  • The rabbis discuss which practice take precedence if one commits a sin transgressing a halacha that is of high frequency and also of great holiness

Horayot 11: Lot's Daughters, Leaders

A very brief note on today's daf:

  • Lot's older daughter is rewarded for her eagerness to sleep with her father first: her descendants arrive in HaAretz four generations before those of her sister
  • Lot's older daughter named her son Mo'av, from father; we are to afflict but not wage war on the Moabites
  • Lot's younger daughter named her son Ben Ami, son of the nation; we do not even afflict Amon
  • The rabbis continue to argue about the different sacrifices brought by common people in comparison to a leader: a nasi, a high priest, or a moshuach, an anointed high priest
  • Much attention is given to the timing of one's becoming a nasi or high priest; if one transgressed - whether in eating or another transgression - in the middle of the process, what might be the proper offering to bring?
  • Again the rabbis test the outer edge; the limits of a halacha
  • The rabbis argue about intentionality and transgressions in eating naming the tzeduki and the mumar
A new Mishna clarifies some terms:
  • Nasi: head of the Sanhedrin, leader, prince
    • one for each tribe
    • not submissive to each other
  • Kohen Gadol/Ha Kohen haMoshiach: anointed priest, sometimes transgresses
    • sacrifices on behalf of others who have transgressed
  • Merubeh Bagadim: a high priest who has not been anointed
    • wears the garments of the priest
  • Reish Galuta: the administrative leader (in Bavel or Yerushalayim, et.c)
  • Kohen Sheavar: the stand-in for a High Priest who is sick or ritually impure on Yom Kipur
  • Shemen haMishcha: anointing oil used for Temple items and for the High Priest
    • recipe of boiled roots

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Horayot 10: Leadership, Responsibility, Intent/Benefiting from a Sin/Mitzva

Today's daf moves us directly into lessons about leadership.  Until this point, Masechet Hodayot has prepared us for understanding what it means to be in a position of power.  The King and the Kohen Gadol offer more significant sacrifices than any other.   Power is not about riches alone, but about greater responsibility.

We learn that one who sins with pure intent merits more than one who does a mitzvah with impure intent.  The rabbis go to great lengths to insist that we should strive to do all mitzvot; we should not be discouraged by worrying about our intent.

Rabbis have been assigned to lead when they do not have other sources of income.  But all rabbis who are in positions of great leadership are held to a higher standard.   Leadership roles were characterized as positions of servitude and not honours for rabbis who could not earn a living.  

We are told the story of rabbis who travelled by boat together.  Rabbi Yehoshua packed flour and bread.  Rabban Gamliel brought only bread.  The trip was delayed, and Rabbi Yehoshua shared the extra bread that he made with the flour he had brought.  He explained that he knew that the trip might be delayed due to the star that would appear and mislead the sailors - it appeared every seventy years.  Why did you come on this trip, he was asked.  Knowing that something might happen should not stop us from living.  We should just prepare more carefully.

At the end of our daf, the rabbis discuss those who sin and profit from that action.  One of their case examples is Ya'el.  The rabbis converse about how many times she had intercourse with Sisera in order to eventually save the Jewish people.  The rabbis are hesitant to allow her any benefit - she enjoyed the sin, they say.  Or, perhaps, tzadikim do not enjoy their sins.  Regardless, these sins ultimately benefited the Jewish people.  And we are encouraged to do what we have to do, even if that is sin, for the sake of saving one life.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Horayot 9: Transgressions & Sacrifices of Different People; Patterns

Some notes from today's daf:

  • a person who is poor and cannot afford a sheep brings a bird offering
  • a person who cannot afford a bird offering brings a meal offering
  • a king and a kohen gadol are exempt from this because they must be rich
  • a kohen gadol exceeds his brothers in every way (beauty, wealth, etc.)
  • perhaps a kohen gadol exceeds because of his brothers, ie. they give him his wealth
A new Mishna lays out transgressions and their assigned sacrifices:*


One who is punishable by karet when transgressing intentionally

Anointed Kohen
Female lamb/goat 
Male goat


Anointed H.P.
Female lamb 
Female lamb
Female Lamb
Bull (olah), Goat (chatas)

The rabbis discuss:
  • those who falsely deny their knowledge of testimony
  • those who are impure in the mikdash
  • those who eat sacrifices
  • those who violate an oath
  • the rabbis look for patterns between those who commit certain offences/ bring specific sacrifices and who is obligated/exempt from those sacrifices
  • the rabbis identify differences between the sacrifices of a king and the sacrifices of a nation

*Chart is adapted from

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Horayot 8: On the Ten Mitzvot, Belief in G-d, Details of Sacrifice

Who is responsible for mistakes?  As I continue to learn Masechet Hodayot, I become more and more aware of the rabbis' concerns regarding justice.  One should not be punished for a mistake, an accident, in the same way that one is punished for an intentional error.  One person or community should not have to experience a punishment if another person or group erred.  But each specific case is different.  And so Masechet Hodayot is short, but it is filled with these complex examples.

Today we discuss a number of issues related to the priests, mistaken rulings, and how those violations might be punished.  Adultery and idolatry are of particular concern.  The beginning of our daf teaching some important insights of the rabbis regarding the ten mitzvot, commandments, and their reading of people who do not believe in G-d's mitzvot. 

  • making a mistake and ignoring Moshe's mitzvot is punishable by a sin offering
  • what mitzvah is equivalent to all mitzvot? 
  • the rabbis prove this is idolatry in a number of ways
  • or perhaps the first of the ten mitzvot is not a commandment at all; the first is that we cannot worship idols
  • perhaps the first thing written, "I am your G-d" is simply underlies all ten mitzvot
  • Thus it may not be necessary to believe in G-d to observe all of G-d's mitzvot
  • However the rabbis assume that if one does not believe in G-d or if one worships idols, certainly that person would not care about the other mitzvot 
  • the priest atones by sprinkeling the blood of a sin offering
  • the rabbis have to understand why instructions are repetitive: "and the priest shall make atonement for him concerning the sin which he has sinned"
  • if the blood is sprinkled for the sake of atonement and not for the sake of the sinner, the sinner is liable
  • "his sin offering" is interpreted differently than "sin offering" 
  • "his burnt offering" is interpreted differently than "burnt offering"
  • the rabbis argue about possible meanings of "his meal offering" and "his libation"
  • a nazirite's sin offering is different from others
  • a leper's sin offering is different from others
  • eating forbidden fat is punishable by karet
  • eating forbidden fat is an easy mistake to make
  • nazirites and lepers have different access to recourse should they face this transgression
  • different places might have different numbers of idol worshippers
  • we would have to know whether idolaters or non-idolaters are the majority in any place to make any assumptions at all
  • the rabbis go into great detail regarding which sacrifices should be made for which transgressions by which individuals or which groups
The larger ideas are far more intriguing to me than the tiny details that are presented for much of today's daf.  

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Horayot 7: The Kohen Gadol and the Public; Intentionality, Transgressions and Offerings

After considering communal sins, the rabbis turn to the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest.  A Kohen Gadol who has been anointed is different from another Kohen Gadol who simply wears the clothing of a Kohen Gadol.  The former has great power; he must bring a bull as his sin offering.  For an individual's transgression, regardless of intentionality, one brings a sin offering.

The Gemara considers three categories of transgressors.  The first is the Kohen Gadol.  The next is the public, or the community.  The third is the individual.   The Gemara discusses the different transgressions that might be committed in each of these parties.  There are similarities and differences among all three possible transgressors.  The rabbis consider intentionality, type of offering, etc.  It is noted that the public is liable if the beit din ruled inadvertently and then the public sinned accidentally.  Similarly, the Kohen Gadol is liable if he himself ruled inadvertently and then sinned accidentally. The rabbis suggest a number of arguments that support the similarity between cases involving the public and cases involving the Kohen Gadol.

The rabbis consider a ruling that is not actually wrong.  A discussion ensues regarding transgressions that might not be as serious as other transgressions based on numerous factors.  It is understood that punishments should differ based on the seriousness of the transgression.  We can now see that the rabbis place significant consideration on context.  Judaism tends to put greater importance on what we do rather than on what we think.  When the rabbis spend this much time deliberating over which punishments are reasonable for accidental, unintentional, or mistaken transgressions, we know that they also valued the importance of our thoughts and feelings - from individuals and communities to High Priests.

Horayot 5: Which Offerings are Made for Their Own Sake?

Our daf reflects on a long conversation about offerings that are given for their own sake.  Which offerings are being discussed?  Might we be able to determine which offerings were referred to in our previous dapim?

The rabbis use the above explanations to explore which offering might have ben mentioned in yesterday's daf.   The chart is based on Steinsalt's explanations of the different offerings.