A recurring theme throughout the first perek (=chapter) of Masechet Zevahim has been that some sacrifices will become invalid if there are improper thoughts at the time that they are brought, while other sacrifices will remain valid korbanot, although they will not count towards their purpose and if their owner was obligated to bring that sacrifice, he will have to bring another.
During which activities will improper thoughts affect the sacrifice?
The Mishnah on today’s daf (=page) mentions four parts of the avodah – of the sacrificial service – where proper intent is essential –
- Shehitah – slaughtering the animal (even though this need not be done by a kohen)
- Kabalat ha-dam – collecting the blood at the time of slaughter
- Holakhah – carrying the blood to the altar
- Zerikat ha-dam – sprinkling the blood on the altar.
Rabbi Shimon argues that holakhah – carrying the blood – should not be included in this list, since it is not an essentialavodah. While the sacrifice cannot be brought without slaughtering the animal, collecting its blood or sprinkling its blood, if the sacrifice is slaughtered next to the altar, near the ulam, the hall leading to the Temple, then carrying the blood may not be necessary.
Following this discussion, we find in the Gemara that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi testified that “in this aliyah – in this attic – I heard that a kohen who places his finger in the blood of a korban hattat – a sin-offering – will disqualify it [if he has an inappropriate thought at that moment].” This teaching is somewhat surprising, since the blood sprinkling of most sacrifices is directly from the basin holding the blood onto the altar, and the kohen never touches it. Sin offerings differ, since thekohen sprinkles it with his finger on the upper part of the altar (see, for example, Vayikra 4:6). Some suggest that we must view dipping fingers into the blood in the case of the sin-offering as the beginning of zerikat ha-dam, which is why proper intent is essential already at that point.