At the beginning of the eighth perek (=chapter) of Masechet Zevahim we learned that when consecrated animals become mixed together we try to sacrifice both on behalf of their owners, if at all possible (see daf, or page 71). What if the animals that were mixed together had been consecrated for different sacrifices? According to that Mishnah, since the animals cannot be brought for their specific sacrifices, we allow them to graze until they develop a blemish that makes them unacceptable for sacrifice, at which time they can be redeemed, and the proceeds from their sale must be used to purchase equivalent sacrifices.
The Mishnah on today’s daf deals with animals that were consecrated for different sacrifices – an asham (a guilt-offering) and a shelamim (a peace-offering). In this case, however, the sacrificial service of these sacrifices, while not identical, parallels one another. For example, the placement of the blood on the altar – which is the central part of the atonement process – is exactly the same, “two sprinklings that are four,” that is, the blood is poured on the corners of the sides of the altar. There are differences, however, in –
1. the place of the slaughter – the asham is limited to the northern part of the Temple courtyard while the shelamim can be slaughtered anywhere in the courtyard
2. where the sacrifice can be eaten – the asham is eaten only in the Temple courtyard while the shelamim can be eaten anywhere in Jerusalem
3. who can eat from the sacrifice – only male kohanim can eat of the asham, while the shelamim can be eaten by anyone
4. the length of time that the sacrifice can be eaten – the asham can be eaten only the day that it is brought and the following night, while the shelamim can be eaten for an additional day.
In the interest in having the sacrifices brought, Rabbi Shimon rules that the sacrifices should be brought keeping the restrictions of the asham sacrifice for both animals. The Sages object, saying ein mevi’in kodashim le-beit ha-pesul – consecrated animals should not be brought to a situation where they will become invalid. Their argument is that Rabbi Shimon’s stringent ruling will limit the way the korban shelamim can be eaten, making it more likely that it will be left uneaten and burned.
There is one case where the Sages will agree with Rabbi Shimon’s ruling. In a case where the animals had already been slaughtered and there is no possibility of redeeming and exchanging them, all agree that the sacrifices should be brought according to the more restricting rules of the asham.