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’ilah. The third perek (=chapter) of Massekhet Me’ilah 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’ilah will not apply to them. The five sin-offerings are:
- Velad hatat – the offspring of a sin-offering that has given birth
- Temurat hatat – when the owner attempts to switch the sanctity of a sin-offering onto another animal
- Hatat 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 was replaced by another animal, and was found to be blemished after the replacement animal was sacrificed.
The law that requires that each of these animals die rather be brought as a sacrifice is a halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai – an oral tradition given to Moses on Mount Sinai. According to the Gemara in Massekhet Temurah (daf, or page, 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 the Sages of that time. The Gemara there also relates a disagreement between Resh 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’ilah do not apply to them.