Not all sacrifices have their blood sprinkled or placed on the same area of the altar. The major difference is between the sin-offering (the ḥattat) and the burnt-offering (the olah). While the blood of the sin-offering is placed on the upper part of the altar by the kohen who dips his finger into the blood and places it near the corner of the altar, the blood of the burnt-offering is poured by a kohen on the lower part of the altar (beneath the ḥut ha-sikra – the red line that divided the altar between top and bottom) by means of a vessel. The kohen poured it on a corner so that it splashed on two sides of the altar.
Our Mishna discusses cases where the blood was poured incorrectly, which renders the sacrifice invalid. Among the possible cases are
- If the blood was placed on the kevesh – the ramp leading up to the altar, which is not part of the altar and is not a place for sprinkling blood for any sacrifice.
- If the blood that should have been placed on the upper part of the altar was placed on the lower part or vice versa.
- If the blood should have been placed on the inner altar and was placed on the outer altar or vice versa.
Although the Mishna stated simply that in these cases the sacrifice was invalid, Shmuel argues that, in fact, it is only the meat that cannot be eaten, nevertheless, the sacrifice serves its purpose and the person who brought the korban receives atonement. This is based on the passage in Sefer Vayikra (17:11) that teaches that the blood offers atonement when it reaches the altar, which is understood to mean that as long as the blood reaches the altar the owner receives atonement, even if the service was not performed according to specification.
In his Zivḥei Kodesh, Rav Moshe Shterbuch explains that there are two elements to the requirement of zerikat ha-dam – sprinkling the blood. The zerika is needed both to affect atonement and to permit the meat of the sacrifice to be eaten. Regarding atonement, the Torah teaches that as long as the blood reaches the altar it is sufficient. Regarding permitting the meat to be eaten, however, all of the requirements of zerika must be done properly.