כ״ז באלול ה׳תשע״ט (September 27, 2019)

Me’ila 10a-b: Sin Offerings That Are Left to Die

While it is prohibited to derive forbidden benefit from consecrated objects, nevertheless there are some situations where sacrifices do not fall into the category of me’ila. The third perek of Massekhet Me’ila opens with a description of five types of sin offerings that cannot be sacrificed and are left to die. Since they will never be sacrificed, even though one is not supposed to derive benefit from them, the rules of me’ila will not apply to them. The five sin offerings are:

  • Velad ḥatat – the offspring of a sin offering
  • Temurat ḥatat – when the owner attempts to switch the sanctity of a sin offering onto another animal
  • Ḥatat she-metu be’aleha – a sin offering whose owner passes away
  • She’avra shenatah – a sin offering whose first birthday has passed (a sheep or goat can only be brought as a sin offering during its first year)
  • She’avdah ve-nimtzet ba’alat mum – a sin offering that was lost and when it was found it was blemished

The law that requires that each of these animals die rather be brought as a sacrifice is a halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai – an oral tradition given to Moses on Mount Sinai. According to the Gemara in Massekhet Temura (daf 16) this was one of 3,000 orally related laws that were forgotten at the time of the death of Moses and were reestablished by of that time. The Gemara there also relates a disagreement between Reish Lakish who believed that only four of these sacrifices had to be left to die, while the fifth could be left to graze until it developed a blemish that would allow it to be redeemed, and Rabbi Natan who felt that only one of them had to be left to die, while the other four could be left to graze and be redeemed after becoming blemished.

In any case, since the oral tradition could not be firmly reestablished, the Sages decreed that all five had to be left to die. Since none of these sacrifices can be brought on the altar, the laws of me’ila do not apply to them.