Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Zevachim 53: The Halacha of Communal Offerings and Burnt Offerings

There are two Mishnayot in today's daf.  The first teaches us the following:

  • The communal sin offerings are goats in Rosh Chodesh and the Festivals
  • They are slaughtered in the north of the Temple courtyard
  • Their blood is collected in a service vessel in the north
  • Their blood requires four placements on the four corners of the altar
  • This was done by the priest who went up the ramp of the altar, turned right to the edge and continued east until the southeast corner and sprinkled the blood there
  • He proceeded to sprinkle on the northeast corner, the northwest corner, and the southwest corner, and then he descended from the altar.
  • The remaining blood would be poured on the south base of the altar
  • The meat offerings were eaten within the curtains in the Temple courtyard by the male priests
  • They were prepared in any way on the day of the sacrifice but before midnight 
The Gemara examines the possible ways that these actions might have been performed by a priest.  The different fingers that were used, for example.  It also discusses how this material might be remembered by using a mnemonic.

The second Mishna teaches us that:
  • The burnt offering is the most sacred offering
  • It is slaughtered in the north of the Temple courtyard
  • Its blood is collected in a service vessel in the north
  • Its blood requires two placements that are four
  • It requires that the carcass is flayed and the animal must be cut into pieces
  • It must be consumed completely by the fire of the altar except for its hide
The Gemara first examines possible sources for the rabbis' assertions regarding the burnt offering as "of the most sacred order".  Biblical and other proofs are suggested.  Following this conversation, the Gemara considers the possible meanings of "two placements that are four".  The rabbis wonder how the priest moved so that two actions completed four tasks - the sprinklings.

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