As we learned on yesterday’s daf (=page), the fifth perek (=chapter) of Masechet Zevahim offers an overview of all of the different sacrifices that were brought in the Temple. The first sacrifices mentioned are the kodashei kodashim – the holiest of holies – that were brought in the northern part of the Temple courtyard, beginning with the Yom Kippur sacrifices.
The Gemara on today’s daf asks why the Mishnah begins with the Yom Kippur sacrifices, rather than the olah – the burnt-offering – which is where the law regarding the placement of the korban in the northern part of the Temple courtyard actually appears (see Vayikra 1:11). The Gemara answers that the Mishnah specifically chose to begin with korbanot that were derived by means of rabbinic inference rather than those that are clearly written in the Torah – keivan de’ati mi-derasha haviva lei – since the Sages are particularly fond of those halakhot that are established based on such logical means.
The idea that the Sages enjoyed their homiletical derivations and therefore place them first in the Mishnah appears a number of times in the Talmud. Ordinarily it refers to true Rabbinic derivations. In this case, however, the law that these other sacrifices are to be brought in the northern part of the Temple courtyard is a straightforward understanding of the passage in Sefer Vayikra (4:29) that says that they should be brought in the same place that the olah was to be brought. Nevertheless, the Sages still viewed the need for some level of search and examination of the biblical passages as more intriguing than a simple, straight-forward pasuk (=verse).
Tosafot explain that based on this argument one may have suggested that the olah sacrifice should appear last in the Mishnah, since it is the only korban where the northern placement is clearly stated. They explain that there are other considerations that come into play when establishing the order of the Mishnah; the olah is written immediately after thehatat – the sin-offering – since both have communal sacrifices in addition to personal sacrifices, as opposed to the asham– a guilt-offering – which is only brought as a personal sacrifice.