As we learned on yesterday’s daf (=page), the Mishnah teaches that ritual slaughter is valid even if there is no blood that flows from the animal at the time of slaughter. The Mishnah continued with another law regarding ritual defilement:
If a man slaughtered cattle or a wild beast or a bird and no blood came forth, the slaughtering is valid and it may be eaten by him whose hands have not been washed, for it has not been rendered susceptible to uncleanness by blood. Rabbi Simon says, it has been rendered susceptible to uncleanness by the slaughtering.
The issue at hand is the law that limits ritual defilement of food only to that which has become wet by means of one of seven liquids – wine, blood, oil, milk, dew, honey or water (see Vayikra 11:38) – which “prepares” the item for possible defilement. Ordinarily, the blood from the slaughter will play this role, and if someone with unwashed hands touches the meat it will become defiled. In the case of the Mishnah, where there is no blood, the meat would remain undefiled. Rabbi Shimon’s position is that the act of slaughter itself raises the status of the animal which “prepares” the animal for possible defilement.
The Gemara on today’s daf grapples with the fact that there is no significance to ritual defilement when discussing ordinary meat that is touched by unwashed hands, yet the Mishnah cannot be discussing kodashim – sanctified meat – since it specifically enumerates birds and wild animals, which cannot be sacrificed. One suggestion raised is that the case of the Mishnah is hullin she-na’asu al taharat hakodesh – ordinary meat that is treated as sanctified meat. In that case, even defilement from unwashed hands is significant.
During Temple times, many people were careful to keep the laws of ritual defilement even when eating ordinary food, so that they would not make mistakes when eating sanctified food. Rashi teaches that this was especially common among people who frequently ate consecrated food, like kohanim or Jerusalem residents; the Me’iri adds those people who were in constant contact with such food, like merchants who supplied the Temple with wine, flour and oil. Even after the destruction of the Temple, there were those who continued this practice, in the hope that the Temple would soon be rebuilt and its laws reinstated.