ג׳ בסיון ה׳תשע״ח (May 17, 2018)

Zevahim 34a-b: Inappropriate Animals on the Altar

Every korban that is sacrificed must be brought from a specific animal. For example, an ordinary korban ḥatat – sin-offering – can be brought only from a female sheep or goat (see Vayikra 4:2832). What if a different animal is brought as a sacrifice? What if a non-kosher animal was brought? While it is clear that a different animal cannot be substituted for the one that is required, how severe is the penalty for bringing an inappropriate animal as a sacrifice?

On today’s daf Reish Lakish is quoted as saying that someone who brings a non-kosher animal on the altar in the Temple is liable to receive malkot – lashes. Rabbi Yoḥanan agrees that it is forbidden to do, but argues that there is no punishment for doing so. The source of their argument is how to extrapolate from the passage that requires sacrifices to be brought from kosher animals (see 1:2). Rabbi Yoḥanan views this as a mitzvat aseh – a positive commandment – and there is no formal punishment meted out for neglecting to fulfill a positive commandment. According to Reish Lakish this would be considered a lav ha-ba mikhlal aseh – a negative commandment derived from a positive one – which he considers equivalent to a negative commandment.

Rabbi Ya’akov offers an alternative version of this disagreement. His understanding is that both Sages agree that a lav ha-ba mikhlal aseh is considered only a positive commandment and not a negative one, so there would be no punishment for bringing a non-kosher animal on the altar in the Temple. He believes that their argument revolves around someone who brought a ḥayyah – a kosher wild animal like a deer or an antelope – on the altar. Rabbi Yoḥanan believes the Torah limits sacrifices to behemot – domesticated animals – and bringing a wild animal is an abrogation of the positive commandment to do so; according to Reish Lakish, although the mitzva is to bring a behema, that is the ideal, but there is nothing wrong if someone replaced it with another kosher animal. Rashi adds that it is clear that a non-kosher animal cannot be brought, based on the passage in Sefer Yeḥezkel (45:15) that limits sacrifices to God only to things that are permitted to be eaten by the Jewish people.