There are four activities that are considered essential to the sacrifice and must be done by a kohen. Following the slaughter of the animal (which can be done by someone who is not a kohen), the kohen must perform:
- kabalah – collecting the blood from the animal
- holakhah – carrying the container with the blood to the altar
- zerikah – sprinkling the blood on the mizbe’ah
- haktarah – burning the fats and innards of the sacrifice on the mizbe’ah
Of these four activities, the second one – holakhah – is qualitatively different from the others. As Rashi points out, the other three activities are clearly enumerated in the Torah, which commands that they be performed by a kohen, whereas holakhah is only hinted at in the text as an essential part of the service. In fact, as noted by the rishonim, if the sacrifice was slaughtered right next to the altar, the blood could be collected and sprinkled on the mizbe’ah without holakhah taking place at all, as long as the other three essential elements were performed correctly. Thus, there exists the possibility that not all of the rules that apply to the rest of the activities connected to the korban apply to holakhah.
With this in mind, we can understand the question that is presented to Rav Sheshet – whether a korban is disqualified if holakhah was done by a kohen who carried the blood in his left hand (generally speaking, all of the avodah [service] in the Temple was done with the right hand).
Rav Sheshet answers by pointing to the rule taught in our Mishna (47a), which dictates that the mahtah (shovel) was given to the kohen gadol to hold in his right hand, while the kaf (spoon) was held in his left hand. This is understood by Rav Sheshet to clearly indicate that holakhah can be done with the left hand, as well.
Rav Sheshet points to the Mishna by using the expression tanituha, which means “you have already learned it in the Mishna.” This expression, commonly used by Rav Sheshet, indicates that the question can be answered by examining Mishnayot that are commonly known.