כ״ח באדר ב׳ ה׳תשע״א (April 3, 2011)

Menahot 25a-b – The power of the High Priest’s head-plate to offer atonement

As we have learned, the part of the meal-offering that is sacrificed on the altar is the kometz – the fistful of flour taken by the kohen from the offering for that purpose. The Mishnah on today’s daf (=page) discusses a case where the kometzbecame tameh – ritually defiled – and rules that if it is sacrificed in its defiled state, the offering is, nonetheless, valid, because of the power of the tzitz – the head-plate worn by the – to offer atonement for ritual defilement in theTemple.

 

The Mishnah continues and teaches that this atonement is only available if the kometz becomes tameh. If, however, the problem was that it had been removed from the precincts of the Temple, then it is invalid, and the presence of the tzitzcannot atone for that difficulty.

 

The fact that the Mishnah presented the rule in the past tense – that a ritually defiled kometz that was sacrificed – rather than stating that the kometz could be brought even under these circumstances, would seem to indicate that in this case it really should not be brought; only after-the-fact, if it was sacrificed, would it be accepted as valid. Rashi in Masechet Gittin(54a) suggests that on a biblical level sacrificial blood that had become tameh could be sprinkled, and similarly, thekometz could be sacrificed, even le-hatekhila – ab initio – and it is only a rabbinic ordinance that limits this and permits it only after-the-fact. At the same time, from Rashi in Masechet Pesachim 34b it appears that the tzitz only offers atonement for ritual defilement in the Temple after-the-fact, but it cannot permit sacrifices to be brought le-hatekhila.

 

It should be noted, that although the Mishnah is clear that the tzitz only serves to offer atonement for ritual defilement and not for sacrifices that were taken out of the Temple, there are tanna’im who disagree. According to the Tosefta, Rabbi Akiva rules that the tzitz also has the power to offer atonement for offerings that were removed from the Temple precincts.