י״ז בסיון ה׳תשע״ח (May 31, 2018)

Zevahim 48a-b: That Which is Dear to the Sages

As we learned on yesterday’s daf, the fifth perek of Massekhet Zevaḥim 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 Mishna 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 1:11). The Gemara answers that the Mishna specifically chose to begin with korbanot that were derived by means of rabbinic inference rather than those that are clearly written in the Toraheidai de’ati mi- ḥaviva lei – since 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 Mishna 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.

Tosafot explain that based on this argument one may have suggested that the olah sacrifice should appear last in the Mishna, 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 Mishna; the olah is written immediately after the ḥatat – 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.