Sunday, 19 August 2018

Menachot 9: Mixing the Meal Offering: in the Temple? By a Priest?

Based on our last Mishna, Masechet Menachot considered the handling of the lechem ha'panim, translated as the shewbread.  Daf 8 described what what flexibility there might be regarding the ingredients of the meal offering (fine wheat flour, oil, frankincense).  

Today's daf considers where the holiest items should be consumed, in the Sanctuary on in the Temple courtyard.  At the end of today's daf, the conversation turns to the rabbinical thoughts on removing the meal offering with one's right hand only.

In one case, Rabbi Yochanan declares that a meal-offering prepared with less than perfect precision is invalid and Reish Lakish disagrees.  He notes that in Vayikra (2:2) the oil and frankincense are added to the flour before the priest takes the handful to be sacrificed on the altar.  Thus the preparation does not require a priest and it need not take place by the Temple.  Rabbi Yochanan counters that we know that the meal-offering must be mixed by a kohen in the Temple because it was placed in a vessel only used in the Temple.

Tosafot argue: based on the later Gemara conversation (daf 18a), if the meal offering are placed in the keli sharet, the Temple vessel without having been mixed, the offering is still valid.  So how could Rabbi Yochanan argue that improper mixing is more problematic than no mixing?

Reish Lakis says that there is an argument against the statement that because a priest needs not prepare the offering, then it need not be done in the Temple. Shechita, general slaughtering, can be done by anyone but it must be done within the Temple courtyard.  In the writing the Chazon Ish, we learn the basic difference between shechita and mixing the meal-offering.  Mixing the meal-offering is less important than shechita.  It is only considered to be significant if it were part of the priestly service.  This proves that mixing need not be done by a priest nor need it be done in the Temple. 

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Menachot 6: Limitations on the Kometz, the Handful of Meal-Offering

The rabbis consider whether an animal that becomes a treifa after being sanctified might be disqualified after the fact.  They wonder about different cases and how those might compare with the case in question:
  • treifa animals in other situations
  • fat and blood improperly prepared
  • pinching done improperly
  • an animal born by cesarian section
  • a blemished animal
A new Mishna teaches us that the meal-offering is unfit if the kometz is taken under the following circumstances:
  • a sinner,
  • a non-priest
  • or a priest who was an acute mourner
  • a priest who was ritually impure and immersed but was waiting for night
  • or a priest without the proper vestments
  • a priest who did not yet atone
  • a priest who did not wash his hands/feet in the basin before leading the Temple service
  • a priest who removed the handful while sitting
  • a priest who removed the handful while standing on anything other than the Temple floor, including vessels, an animal, or another's feet
  • an uncircumcised priest
The rabbis say that the offering is unfit if the priest removed the flour from with his left hand.  Ben Beteira says that the handful is returned to the vessel containing the meal offering and then the kometz is taken again but with his right hand.  

We also learn that if the priest removed the kometz and a stone and a grain of salt or a pinch of frankincense, the offering is unfit.  This is because those items would force the kometz to be the wrong size, which is not permitted.  A handful cannot be overflowing, it must be contained well by the priest's fingers, and it cannot be taken by only the tips of the priest's fingers.

Steinsaltz shares information about the origins of frankincense.  It is the hardened resin that comes from a particular African tree.  We learn about different origins and processing processes.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Menachot 5: Disagreements with Rav, the Minchat Ha'Omer is Valid

Rav commented on the minchat ha'omer, the special meal-offering brought the day after Pesach to begin the use of the new harvest's grain.  Rav said that if this offering was made sh'lo lishma, with improper intentions, that the offering is totally invalid.  This is because  the purpose of the offering was to permit the new harvest grain and it was not permitted.  Today's daf considers the reaction to Rav's ruling.

Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish (Reish Lakish) rules against Rav; the the offering is valid.  The flour can be offered on the altar, but the remainder of the flour is off-limits to the priests until a second offering is brought, successfully allowing consumption of the new harvest.

Rav Pappa suggests that Reish Lakish believes that the new grain will be automatically allowed in the morning of the 16th of Nissan (Vayikra 23:14).  Bringing the special minchat ha'omer offering is required.

Rava agrees with neither Rav nor Reish Lakish.  He asserts that the minchat ha'omer is unique because it is taken from barley and not wheat, like the other offerings.  Thus different rules are in place regarding its sacrifice.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Menachot 4: The Omer as an Involuntary Meal Offering

The Gemara continues to discuss the kometz that was brought to the altar.  If this offering was completed sh'lo lishma, for its own sake, it is valid.  It is not credited to the owner, though, and a replacement offering is required.

Today Rav tells us that this is totally invalid because the purpose of the offering was to permit the new harvest; the new harvest was not permitted through the process.  Rav did not provide any biblical proofs for his ideas and so they were easy to dispute. 
Rav discussed the omer, a unit used to measure barley offered in the Temple on the 16th of Nissan (the day after Pesach ends).*  He believed that the omer were the same as other meal offerings.  The rabbis disagreed because unlike other meal-offerings, the omer cannot be voluntary offerings. The grain was roasted and crushed into a flour.  A handful was offered on the altar (burned) and the priests consumed the rest of the flour. Once the omer was brought, the community could eat the grain from the new harvest.  Because the omer offering was required to allow the people to eat from the new harvest, it cannot be voluntary like the other meal offerings.  It must become invalid if not used for its stated purpose.
* The omer was harvested beginning on the night after the first day of Pesach (even if it was Shabbat).  

Monday, 13 August 2018

Menachot 3: When the Kometz is Taken Without Proper Intentions

We have begun to examine what it means when a kometz, a fistful of flour is taken from the meal offering sh'lo lishma, without proper intentions.  In these cases the meal-offering continues to be valid but it is not credited to the owner and a replacement offering is necessary.  

Rabbi Shimon claims that a meal-offering offered sh'lo lishma would in fact be credited to the owner.  It is unlike an animal sacrifice, where all offerings share the slaughter ritual, the collection of blood, etc.  A meal-offering's preparation may or may not use oil, may or may not be pan fried or cooked in a pot.  

In another baraita, Rabbi Shimon contradicts himself.  The Gemara focuses on possible reasons for these seemingly disparate opinions.  Rava believes that we must consider the kohen who takes the kometz with the stated intention that it be brought as a different type of offering.  Rabbi Shimon states that in such a case it is valid and credited to the owner, unless of course the offering was for an animal sacrifice.  The Rashba sees this as a case where a kohen has announced that he is taking the kometz from the meal-offering with the intention to offer atonement to someone who is:

  • obligated to bring a korban chatat, a sin offering
  • obliged to bring a burnt offering 
  • obliged to bring a peace offering 

Rabbi Shimon agrees that this would not be credited to the owner because no meal-offering actually serves these purposes.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Menachot 2: Meal Offerings For Their Own Sake

Masechet Menachot focuses on sacrifices that are not animal-based.  Plant-based and other sacrifices come in many, many different versions.  We begin with a new Mishna.  It teaches that a priest must remove a handful of meal and put it into a service vessel, bring it to the altar, and burn it.  After that, the priest may eat the remainder; the owner has met his requirements.  The handful was not removed for their sake.  They were removed for the sake of others who will offer.  In these cases, the owner must bring an additional offering.  

Regarding a sinner's offering and the meal offering made because of jealousy (sota, when a husband suspects his wife of adultery).  In these cases, the priest must remove the handful for its own sake or disqualify the offering.  Further, every action must be done for its own sake (putting the handful into the vessel, bringing it to the altar, burning the offering, etc.) or the offering is disqualified.

The Mishna questions how rites can be performed for their sake but also not for their sake, which was one of the restrictions listed for the sinner's offering and the meal offering due to jealousy.  It explains that a priest could remove the handful with two intentions: for the sake of a sinner's meal offering and for the sake of a voluntary meal offering.

The Gemara considers a number of these points:
  • the inclusion of seemingly superfluous words
  • the limitations of vows that were spoken aloud
  • whether the meal offering was taken from a shallow pan or a deep pan (where it was mixed with oil)
  • the differences between guilt offerings and voluntary offerings
  • the differences between a bird burnt offering and a bird sin offering
A chart would be a helpful tool toward understanding the differences between these menachot.  

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Zevachim 118: Private Altars; the Shechina

The rabbis continue to discuss the public altars that were used until the Temple was built.  Our last Mishna described Rav Dimi's reference to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi's understanding about the Shechina. The Shechina is commonly understood as the more 'feminine' aspect of G-d.  It was described as resting on the Jewish people, in Shiloh, where the public altar stood, in Nov and Given, and in the permanent Temple in Jerusalem.

But perhaps those four places are not accurate.  Instead, Rashi says that Nov and Given are actually just one period when private altars were allowed.  The other two periods, Shiloh and the Temple, forbade private altars.  We learn from Steinsaltz about the Maharsha's suggestion that the Tabernacle stood in other places as well - in the desert for 39 years, and in Gilgal for 14 years while the land was being taken and distributed.  In fact, the Shechina might rest only in the land of Israel.  It was only when the aron kodesh, the Holy Ark, was placed within the Tabernacle that the Shechina could rest upon the people.

It is noted that Shiloh was 22 miles north of Jerusalem and 10 miles south of Shechem.  Today, evidence of the Tabernacle have been found in Shiloh.  A synagogue has been built to commemorate this ancient city.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Zevachim 117: Different Camps for those who are Ostracized, Different Offerings

We begin today's daf with a conversation about zavim.  These people were categorized as ritually impure and they left the primary community to live in a separate camp.  Different groups of people and their placement in different camps is outlined.  

The rabbis discuss the establishment of the Tabernacle in Shiloh and how that may have changed the community.  Private altars were permitted when the mishkan was in Gilgal.  The sacrifices had to be only certain offerings.  Rabbi Meir asserted that any voluntary sacrifice could be brought on a private altar.  A nazarite could make his/her offering on a private altar, for example.

We are reminded about the korban pesach, that very unique offering that was brought on the altar in Gilgal immediately after the Jewish people crossed over the Jordan River (Yehoshua: 5).  As we have learned, every person is responsible for bringing this particular offering.  It is brought by individuals at the same time, however, and it is consumed in groups.

Understanding the distinctions between different offerings, different altars, different circumstances, and different guidelines is a confusing and challenging matter.  This could be interpreted as akin to our different prayers, our different prayer rituals, our different obligations regarding prayer, and our different need for prayers depending on the circumstances. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Zevachim 116: Tereifa on the Ark?, King David's Payments for the Site of the Altar

Some very brief notes on today's daf:

  • what disqualified an animal from being on Noah's ark?
  • the rabbis question disabilities from birth and disabilities that are acquired 
  • could Noah himself be a tereifa?
  • the rabbis find proof texts attesting to Noah's likely 'perfection'
  • the conversation about ritual impurity, disqualification from sacrifice, and what could be a tereifa suggests that the rabbi
  • because King David counted the Jewish people, there was a plague
  • King David built an altar on a hilltop that became the site of the Temple years later
  • The hilltop belonged to Aravnah the Jebusite who offered his cattle as sacrifices
  • There is a debate about how many silver/gold shekalim were collected and shared with the twelve tribes

Monday, 6 August 2018

Zevachim 115: The Firstborn and the Priests in the Evolving Sacrificial Rites

The bechorim, firstborn, performed the sacrifices on private altars.  Once the Tabernacle was built, sacrifices were brought there the rites were performed by the priests who descended from Aaron.  Our last Mishna (112) taught that sanctification of the firstborn was given at the exodus (Shmot 13:2).  Firstborns redeemed themselves from the Temple service later (Bamidbar 3:12).  The Jerusalem Talmud suggests that the tribe of Levi did not participate in the incident of the Golden Calf, which is why they were given the honour of sacrificing.

A baraita is taught by Rabbi Asi: the firstborn sacrificed for one day.  Like at Sinai, the sacrifices were brought in one, two years and three months after the exodus.  Once the Tabernacle was built (two years and one month after the exodus), Nadav and Avihu were the priests.  They died tragically, and it was only after that time that Aaron's other descendants took over the sacrificial services in the Temple.

Rashi reads this differently: the "young men" described in Shmot (24:5) did not bring the sacrifices themselves.  Instead they represented the people as witnesses to the service. Rashi suggests that the firstborn never did have a role in bringing sacrifices.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Zevachim 114: Voluntary/Obligatory Sacrifices Outside of the Temple Courtyard

The Gemara looks back to our last Mishna and examines on of its points: what was the status of the sacrifices brought to the Temple when the Israelites first entered the land?  

We learned that people were not liable if they brought sacrifices at the wrong time - turtledoves that were too young; pigeons that were already too grown.  But Rabbi Shimon argues that a sacrifice brought at the wrong time should receive malkot, lashes.

Rabbi Shimon boosts his argument by explaining that the Torah forbids bringing sacrifices in the same way  that they were brought in the desert once the people reach Israel.  The people could only bring volunarty and not communal offerings once entering the land.   Voluntary sacrifices could be brought in the Tabernacle erected in Gilgal.  Once the people arrived at Shiloh and Jerusalem, the the obligatory sacrifices could be brought again as they were in the desert.

Thus it was argued that we learn mechusar zeman, the principle that a sacrifice whose time had not yet arrived cannot be brought outside of the Tabernacle.  It was also forbidden to bring sacrifices outside of the Temple if they could be brought to the Altar at a later date. The Gemara suggests that we have to put our best effort into our offerings.

Zevachim 113: The Para Aduma's Preparation Outside of the Temple, Liability

Very brief thoughts on today (and yesterday's) daf:
  • Yesterday's daf introduced perek XIV
  • we learned about when an animal is sacrificed unusually and thus it must be prepared to be used in the Temple but not as a sacrifice
  • we learned earlier about the para aduma, red heifer, which was killed and burned near the special pit near the Mount of Olives without implicating the person doing this for performing this service in an inappropriate place
  • The service leader isn't liable because it only applies to animals as sacrifices in the Temple
  • The Gemara focuses on the place where the red heifer was prepared
  • Why was this used if it was not mentioned in the Torah? Was it pure of any defilement?  But all of the land was pure of defilement
  • The Gemara points to how the different Sages understood the great flood
  • Rabbi Yochanan says that HaAretz was not affected by the flood and so there is no reason to assume that bones might be buried randomly beneath them
  • Reish Lakish says that the water of the flood did affect Israel and so the land had to be checked carefully to ensure that it was ritually pure

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Zevachim 111: Where and When Did We Change Nesachim (Wine Libations)?

The Gemara continues its discussion of where a sacrificial service is permitted to take place.  Some of the ideas shared, discussed, etc:

  • in the desert sacrifices were brought to the mishkan, the tabernacle
  • when in Israel but without an altar at the Temple, there were private altars
  • when the tabernacle stood in Shiloh, it served as an altar and other altars were prohibited
  • on entering Israel, nesachim, wine libations were introduced (Bamidbar 15:2)
  • a baraita suggests that only when the people were comfortably settled on the land did nesachim begin
  • Rabbi Akiva says that as soon as the people entered the land, all sacrifices required nesachim
  • Rabbi Yishmael said that no nesachim were brought to the mishkan and so this was a new requirement once the people entered the land
  • Rabbi Akiva believed that wine libations were in fact brought in the mishkan, and thus the pasuk that required them to happen in Israel must refer to sacrifices brought on private altars which were prohibited in the desert

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Zevachim 110: Water Libation Origins

We learn a new Mishna again regarding prohibitions on services performed outside of the Temple courtyard.  Rabbi Elazar states that one who pours a water libation on the holiday of Sukkot outside of the Temple courtyard is liable for performing a Temple service incorrectly.

Steinsaltz teaches us more about the water libation services mentioned in Massechet Sukka (48). Water was taken from the Shiloach spring to the Temple accompanied by celebration.  The kohen would take the water up the ramp to the altar.  He would turn left and raise his hand while he poured the water into one of two bowls.  The second bowl was designated for the wine libation which happened with sacrifices other than those for Sukkot.  We are told that the priest raises his hand to prove that he poured the water properly and not on his feet, as one priest was pelted with etrogim for doing. 

The Gemara discusses where this tradition came from. Some believe that it was an interpretation of Bamidbar (29:31).  The Gemara suggests that the water libation practices were received at Mount Sinai, instructed through Moshe.  The rabbis argue about whether one method of learning the mitzvot is more valid than another.  Some believe that Torah law takes precedence, while others believe that even later rabbinic halacha is a form of G-d's word.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Zevachim 109: How Much of an Offering can be Offered Incorrectly?

Today's daf introduces two Mishnayot about offerings made inside or outside of the Temple courtyard.  the first teaches that if a ka'zayit, an olive-bulk of the sacrifice was bought outside of the Temple, it would be considered a sacrifice outside and one would face the consequences.    

The second Mishna discusses and then concludes that other types of Temple services cannot be performed outside of the Beit haMikdash.  If a ka-zayit from one of the meal-offerings was sacrificed outside of the Temple courtyard, those performing the service would be liable.  However, Rabbi Eliezer rules that a ka-zayit would not be enough to disqualify the entire meal offering.  It would take the entire meal offering to be offered outside for that service to be significant.

Rashi explains this by suggesting that Rabbi Eliezer believes that an olive-bulk would be enough to hold people liable in the case of an animal sacrifice done outside of the Temple courtyard.  This is because a typical animal sacrifice is valid even if some of the meat is missing - thus performing that service outside of the Temple is forbidden.  

Meal-offerings, however, must be brought as a whole to be valid.  Bringing  a partial meal-offering beyond the Temple courtyard is not meaningful.  On the other hand, a meal offering brought in the Temple with a ka-zayit left over and brought outside the Temple would be punishable.  In this case, the meal-offering was brought in a forbidden manner. 

It strikes me that we have been learning the different ways that one could invalidate an offering/be held liable in different  categories: time, place, person, order, and more.  And today we have learned about amounts of different offerings in different places.  There seem to be a huge number of ways that one could violate the rules of offerings.  Perhaps that is part of the reasoning behind our extremely ritualized prayer services.  Our prayer services stand in for our inability to offer sacrifices.

Zevachim 108: Slaughtering/Offering on an Altar or Not

We learn a new Mishna:
  • slaughtering outside the Temple courtyard is worse than offering up outside
  • this is because one who slaughters an offering outside of the Temple courtyard even for an ordinary purpose (not for G-d's sake) is liable but offering outside of the Temple courtyard is exempt
  • offering outside is treated with stringency because two people who hold a knife and slaughter together outside are exempt, while those who grasp a limb from an offering and offer it together outside the courtyard, they are liable
  • if one offers up part of an offering outside the courtyard in error and then offered other parts of the offering, s/he must bring a sin offering for each act of offering up 
  • This is debated by Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Yosei
  • They also discuss the consequences when there may have been an altar - even a rock or a stone - built outside of the Temple courtyard
Rabbi Yosei adds: And one is liable  for offering up an offering outside  the courtyard only once he offers it up at the top of an altar that was erected there. Rabbi Shimon says: Even if he offered it up on a rock or on a stone,  not an altar, he is liable.  The notion of an altar; something 'higher', is significant as a marker of spiritual importance.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Zevachim 107: Holiness of the Land and Sanctifying Sacrifices

The basic themes of today's daf continue from yesterday's Mishna.  This represented a shift from Perek VI to Perek VII, now focusing on errors that might happen regarding the sacrifice regarding place. 

Through the rabbis' arguments, after being reminded about the importance of intent, we learn that sacrifices were meant to take place in the Temple.  If they did not happen there, some rabbis believed that the owner should be punishable by karet, either exile from the community and/or early death.  There is a debate as to whether the sacrifice could be valid at all if it was not sacrificed in the Temple.  

Sacrifices were made in 'high places' when the Israelites were wandering in the desert, the rabbis suggest.  Perhaps this was done after the destruction of the first Temple, as well.  Would these be considered valid offerings? 

The rabbis seem to agree that the sanctity of place would be required if a sacrifice were to be valid in the times since the second Temple was destroyed over 2000 years ago.  If Israel is still sanctified, might the offering be acceptable?  What if only Jerusalem is sanctified still?  Wouldn't the Temple Mount be the only place to bring offerings?  If we agree that this sanctity no longer exists, why wouldn't we be permitted to bring sacrifices in any place, as long as it is on 'high ground'?  And must we wait for Moshiach to truly thank G-d through sacrifices?

Zevachim 106: Consequences for Avoda Zara, Idol Worship

Many forms of idol worship are punishable:
  • sacrificing
  • burning incense
  • offering a libation
  • bowing down
  • saying "you are my G-d"
Other behaviours are forbidden but are not considered truly idol worship:
  • hugging or kissing the idol
  • washing or cleaning the idol, etc.
  • urinating in front of the the idol Peor
  • throwing a stone to the idol Markulis
These last two actions are acts of avoda zara specific to those particular idols.  Of note is Steinsaltz's commentary about Markulis, the Hebrew name for Mercury

Friday, 27 July 2018

Zevachim 104: Burning, Disposing of Ashes

Very briefly:

  • we learn about what to do with the ashes of sacrifices that are burned instead of sacrificed and eaten because they were unfit
  • ashes were left in three places surrounding the Temple:
    • a large beit deshen, a place for burning, in the Temple courtyard where the holiest sacrifices and the innards of lesser sacrifices which were unfit were burned
    • a second beit deshen on the Temple Mount where animals were burned when they were supposed to be burned but became disqualified after the sprinkling of blood
    • another beit deshen for sacrifices done properly that had to be burned properly - it was outside of the the inner camp of the Tabernacle, the middle camp of the tribe of Levi and the outer camp of the Israelites, in the desert - in the times of the Temple, this was outside of the walls of Jerusalem
  • The entire Temple may have been known as "Bira", though beit ha-bira was a specific spot on the Temple Mount used for burning

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Zevachim 103: What to do with the Hide?

We begin with a new Mishna:

Sacrifices where the meat was not put on the altar will not have their hides given to the Kohanim.  This is called olah ish, a sacrifice that is valid for a person.  The hides of sacrifices offered without proper intent were still given to the priests.  The hide is given to the kohanim whether it was brought by a man or a woman.  The owners keep the hides of the less holy sacrifices and the priest keep those of the most holy sacrifices.  In the case of a burnt offering, which is burned completely, the priests acquire its hide - the rabbis ask why they shouldn't receive the hides in all cases.  The altar does not change anything for only the meat is burned on the altar.  

It is notable that both women and men brought offerings.  We know that women brought offerings after giving birth, which is specific to women.  But other offerings brought by women were also valid.  Prayer is understood as the modern stand-in for sacrifice.  Bringing an offering in the proper manner with proper intent would be the same as actively leading prayer for oneself and/or a group of others.  Wouldn't that suggest that women should be permitted to lead prayer?  

Our daf ends with a second Mishna:

The hides of extremely sacred sacrifices are not given to priests if they were disqualified before they were flayed.  They are burned together with the flesh.  If they were disqualified after being flayed, their hides go to the priests.  Rabbi Chanina was the deputy High Priest; he actually witnessed the Temple sacrifices, and he claims that he never saw a hid going out to the place of burning.  Rabbi Akiva noted that Rabbi Chanina teaches that when one flays the firstborn offering and the animal later is found to be a treifa, the priests are permitted to sheye'otu, derive benefit, from its hide.  The rabbis say that this is not proof; if after flaying the animal is found to have previously been unfit, the hide is burned.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Zevachim 102: Moshe, Aaron and the Role of High Priest

Briefly on today's daf:

  • The rabbis believe that Aaron spoke instead of Moshe because of Moshe's repeated refusals to return to Egypt as leader of the Jews
  • Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai interprets this to mean that Moshe was intended to be the priest and Aaron would be a regular levi
  • Did Moshe serve as a priest during the seven days when the Temple was consecrated
  • a baraita teaches that Moshe remained a kohen all of his life, but his children did not
  • Aaron's children were called kohanim forever
  • the rabbis share proofs of Moshe's children as Levites and Moshe and Aaron as kohanim
  • Rav teaches that Moshe served as the high priest because he received the portion of the High Priest during that week of consecration
  • Rabbi Yitzchak of Karlin (Keren Orah) argues that Moshe would not give up his status, but he allowed Aaron to take over the role of High Priest once anointed
  • Moshe was busy with other leadership tasks and communication with G-d

Monday, 23 July 2018

Zevachim 101: Pinchas's Priesthood

Briefly on today's daf:

  • to explain the role of priests regarding ritual impurity and offerings, the rabbis tell stories about Moshe, Aaron and Miriam, particularly regarding their descendant  Pinchas
  • priesthood was conferred upon Pinchas after he killed Zimri ben Salu (one head of Shimon's tribe) and the Midianite woman who sinned with him (both idolatry and licentiousness)
  • Pinchas was Aaron's grandson, but Rav Ashi says that he did not become a priest unit much later because he was not at the initial ceremony conferring priesthood on Aaron and his sons
  • Pinchas is said to have "brought peace to the warring Israel tribes when they first came to the land"
  • the rabbis argue about whether Pinchas's calling to priesthood was in fact a blessing and what that blessing might have been
  • Pinchas's role continues to be debated and interpreted by modern Jewish thinkers
  • Pinches is used to defend violence in the name of adhering to Torah law
  • Pinches can also be understood as one who ended the inter-tribal conflict in the name of keeping Torah law

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Zevachim 100: Gathering Bones Marks a Day of Mourning

Some brief notes on today's daf:

  • the laws of an onen, a priest who is in acute mourning
  • a baraita teaches that the day one learns about the death of a close relative is treated as if it is the day of burial
  • the week following burial is shiva, and the month following burial is shloshim
  • regarding the laws of korban Pesach, the Paschal offering, it is considered to be like the day that one's ancestor's bones are collected, which allow him to consume terumah in the evening
  • The Gemara discusses a melaket atzamot, one who collects his/her relatives' bones for final burial
  • During and after the Second Temple period, people were burring in temporary plots and then their bones were moved to an ossuary, a stone box, which would be placed in the family's burial cave
  • the day of gathering the bones was named as a day of mourning
  • The Gemara notes that the case at hand would regard someone else doing the gathering of the bones, for anyone who touched bones would be tameh, ritually impure, and thus could not partake of the Pesach offering

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Zevachim 99: Ritual Impurity in a Priest and His Access to Truman

In yesterday's daf, we were introduced to a new Mishna.  It explained that there is a principal based on a priest who was ritually impure but immersed and was waiting for night to complete the purification process, a priest who has not brought an atonement offering yet (ex. a zav and leper) and cannot access his food, a priest in acute mourning, blemished priests.  The principal is that any priest unit for service does not receive a share of the sacrificial meat that day.  Anyone who has no share of the meat has no share in its hide, either.  If the priest was ritually impure when the blood was sprinkled but ritually pure when the fat was burned, he still does not receive a share of the meat (Leviticus 7:33).  Sprinkling blood is required to have a share of the sacrifice.

Today's daf holds the Gemara about yesterday's Mishna.  The rabbis argue about each factor - ritual impurity or purity, timing, sprinkling, the food eaten or foregone, etc.  Then they present a number of cases to attempt to prove or disprove different arguments.  While the ritual status and diet of a Temple-era priest may not be significant today, it could be useful to learn the rabbis' understandings of ritual status and how/whether that might affect one's functioning.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Zevachim 97: Positive/Negative Mitzvot, Absorption of Taste and of Rules

Brief notes on today's daf:

  • when one item absorbs the taste of another item, it then takes on the laws of that sacrifice (Vayikra 6:20)
  • if a sanctified item comes into contact with a sacrifice, it becomes limited by the same things as the sacrificed
  • thus if the sacrifice becomes disqualified, the item is also disqualified
  • thus if the sacrifice is valid, the item can only be eaten when/where the sacrifice can be eaten
  • the Gemara asks what to do if the prohibition to eat the item is a mitzvah lo ta'aseh, a negative commandment, but eating the item is a mitzvah aseh, a positive commandment
  • should we apply the principal aseh docheh lo ta'aseh, performing a positive mitzvah pushes aside a negative mitzvah
  • Rava says that this does not apply in the times of the Temple
  • there are punishments for transgressions but no punishments for neglecting to perform a mitzvah
  • Rabbi Nassim Ga'on says that this rule automatically applies in prohibitions but not when a positive mitzvah is blocking it
  • Ramban says that performing positive mitzvot is based on the love of G-d while negative mitzvot are based on the fear of G-d, and love is greater than fear
  • no one explained  why this rule would not apply in the Temple; it is assumed that the Temple service was restrictive and limits more lenient rules

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Zevachim 96: Cleaning Blood From Vessels - an Example of Rav Sheshet and Rami bar Chama

Brief notes about today's daf:

  • Rabbi Yitzchak bar Yehuda was a regular student of Rami bar Chama
  • He then studied under Rav Sheshet
  • Rami bar Chama asked Rabbi Yitzchak bar Yehuda if he assumed that the fragrance on the hand of the chief of taxes came to his hand
  • This implied that Rav Sheshet's greatness might rub off on Rabbi Yitzchak bar Yehuda
  • Rabbi Yitzchak bar Yehuda explained why he switched teachers: he was confused by logical explanations that were contradicted by Mishnaot; Rav Sheshet would quote another Mishnaic ruling and so the full disagreement was understood
  • Rami bar Chama asks to be challenged with a question
  • Rabbi Yitzchak asks about the halacha of the Mishna requiring cleaning the blood from the vessels in the Temple
  • Rami bar Chama gave a logical explanation of the ruling which was contradicted by a baraita
  • Rami bar Chama was a student of Rav Chisda known for his logic and his knowledge of the oral traditions of the baraitot; he was known as Sinai, the centre of Torah knowledge

Zevachim 95: From Laundering to Kashering, Placing Limits on Cleansing

The rabbis continue to discuss the laundering of consecrated items.
  • Why must the earthenware vessel be punctured to render it ritually pure and then broken back at the Temple courtyard?
  • Taken from Leviticus (6:21),  we learn that puncturing only creates ritual impurity but the vessel will still be permitted, for example, to hold fruit
  • Why should the copper vessel be scoured and rinsed?It is not a vessel after the hold has been made, but it will be refashioned into a vessel and at that point it must be scoured and rinsed
  • What about the robe of the High Priest?  And other particularly thick or soft garments?   They are subject to different standards regarding ritual impurity unless they are not ‘useful’, i.e., less than 3x3 finger widths
  • Blood from a sin offering and/or leprous marks are laundered using seven abrasive substances: tasteless saliva (coming from one who has not eaten since waking); liquid from Cilician beans; urine; natron; lye; cimolian earth; potash.
  •  Urine is not appropriate for the Temple courtyard, though it is used to prepare incense and to launder
  • The urine is absorbed with the other laundering agents and they are applied all together – but wouldn’t this invalidate the laundering (Nidda 62)?
  • The Gemara discusses the process o the vessels in greater detail
  • In particular, Rami bar Chama asks if one suspended the meat of a sin offering in the airspace of an earthenware oven to roast it, must the vessel be broken?  Is cooking/absorption of flavor the issue, or is it required to break the vessel even for cooking within its airspace?
  • This is argued back and forth
  • The rabbis discuss the effects of absorption of cooking on ovens as well: an oven smeared with animal grease was once forbidden to bake bread, ever, in case that bread was eaten accidentally with kuta, a dairy-based item
  • Dough may not be kneaded with milk to keep people from sinning accidentally by eating that bread with meat and to keep people from becoming used to something that could be a sin
  • The rabbis eventually rule that the oven will never fully be cleansed of the meat fat
  • Must pots used for leavened bread be broken or kindled before Pesach?
  • The rabbis debate and then declare that an oven that kindles from the inside can be koshered to eliminate absorbed flavour
  • Similarly, pots heated from the outside will never lose their absorbed flavours and cannot be kashered