In our discussions of food preparation on Yom Tov, we have learned that even though several of the 39 activities forbidden on Shabbat are basic to food preparation, they are permitted on Yom Tov based on the passage in Sh’mot 12:16. How about sacrifices brought in the Temple? Obviously, korbanot that are part of the commandments of the day must be brought, but what about other sacrifices?
During Temple times, a person who fulfilled the mitzva of aliya la-regel – pilgrimage to the Temple on the holidays of Pesah, Shavu’ot and Sukkot – would bring with him the korbanot that he was obligated to sacrifice. This included sacrifices unique to the particular holiday, as well as those that he had promised to bring over the course of the previous months. The hagiga (festival offering) was a korban shelamim that was brought by every individual at some point during the holiday (not necessarily on the day of Yom Tov itself). As with any korban shelamim, part of it was sacrificed on the altar, while much of it was eaten by the kohanim and the owner of the korban. Another sacrifice that was brought was the olat re’iyah, which a person was obligated to bring every time he came to the mikdash. This korban also could be brought throughout the holiday, but like any korban olah, it was burned on the mizbe’ah in its entirety, with no part of it eaten by anyone.
In the Mishna on our daf, Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagree about whether various sacrifices can be brought on Yom Tov. According to Beit Shammai, a korban olah, which is totally burned up, cannot be brought. A korban shelmaim, however, can be brought, since parts of it will be eaten by the kohanim and by the owner, making it not only a sacrifice, but also food preparation, which is permitted on Yom Tov. Nevertheless, they forbid performing semikha on the animal. Beit Hillel permit both olot and shelamim to be brought since they are connected to the holiday, even through there is no obligation to bring them on the actual Yom Tov. They also permit semikha on both.
The mitzva of semikha appears in connection with many korbanot (see, for example Vayikra 1:4). It involves having the owner of the sacrifice place both of his hands on the animal’s head between the horns and lean against it with all of his strength. For sacrifices where confession (viduy) was said, semikha was the time to do it. Since semikha was done with force, it was considered by Beit Shammai to be making use of the animal – similar to riding an animal – which is forbidden by the Sages on Shabbat and Yom Tov.
Rashi’s explanation of Beit Shammai’s opinion is that they do not reject the mitzva of semikha on Yom Tov; rather, they require the semikha to be done before Yom Tov begins and are not concerned with the time lapse between the semikha and the Sheḥiṭa.