א׳ בכסלו ה׳תשע״ט (November 9, 2018)

Menahot 91a-b: Somewhere Between a Lamb and a Ram

As we learned on yesterday’s daf the Mishna teaches that with only a few exceptions, all sacrifices – both communal sacrifices and individual sacrifices – are accompanied by wine libations. The source for this is the passages in Sefer Bamidbar (15:1-16) that describes the various sacrifices and how each one comes together with a meal offering and a wine libation. The Gemara then quotes a baraita that examines these pesukim closely and derives a series of halakhot from them regarding the laws of the sacrifices.

One example is the way the Gemara examines the words o la-ayil – “or for a ram” (see pesukim 6-7). The word ayil – ram – is understood as including even the unique sacrifice brought by the on Yom Kippur, in the laws of libations. The word o – “or” – that introduces the ram, is understood as including a palges.

The source for the word palges is found in Greek, where it refers to someone who is no longer a child, but has not yet gained the status of an adult. In our case it refers to an animal that is an “in-between” stage of development. One the one hand, it is more than a year old, so it is no longer a keves – a lamb. On the other hand it is not yet an ayil – a ram – a status that it does not obtain until it is older than 13 months. Rashi seems to extend this status to the animal throughout its thirteenth month; the Rambam appears to give it this status only on the last day of the animal’s thirteenth month; according to other rishonim, during the entire second year of the animal’s life it is considered a palges.

The Gemara points out that we need this derivation according to Rabbi Yoḥanan who believes that a palges is a beriah bifnei atzmah – it has a unique status and situation, as it is neither a keves nor an ayil. According to those who believe that a palges is simply a safek – that its status is an unresolved question – the Torah would not teach a law for a safek situation.