כ״ה בסיון ה׳תשע״ח (June 8, 2018)

Zevahim 57a-b: The “Vineyard” in Yavne

According to the Mishna on today’s daf, the bekhor – a first-born animal – which is given to the kohanim is eaten by them anywhere within the city of Jerusalem, and it must be consumed within two days after its sacrifice.

The Gemara asks for a source for the law that allows the bekhor to be eaten for two days, and quotes a baraita that relates that this question was raised before in Kerem B’Yavne – in the “vineyard” in Yavne – and that Rabbi Tarfon responded that the source was in Sefer Bamidbar (18:18) where Aharon and his sons are instructed to treat the bekhor the same way that they treat the meat that they receive from a korban shelamim – a peace-offering. Just as the korban shelamim can be eaten for two days, similarly the bekhor can be eaten for two days.

The baraita continues that there was a new student in Yavne on that day – Rabbi Yosei HaGelili – who argued that instead of comparing the bekhor to shelamim – both being kodashim kalim, ordinary sacrifices, as Rabbi Tarfon argued – perhaps bekhor should be compared to a ḥatat and an asham – a sin-offering and a guilt-offering, since all of them are given to the kohanim (as opposed to the shelamim, which is eaten by the owner of the korban), and those sacrifices are only eaten for a single day. Rabbi Tarfon was unable to respond to Rabbi Yosei HaGelili’s question, and Rabbi Akiva offered other suggestions. Ultimately Rabbi Yishmael concluded that Rabbi Tarfon’s explanation was best.

Following the destruction of the Second Temple, the center of Jewish life moved from Jerusalem to Yavne under the direction of Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai. The Talmud refers to the there – the center of Torah study at that time – as Kerem B’Yavne. According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, this is not because there was a vineyard there, rather because the students sat in rows one after another like rows of grapevines. Given the precarious situation of the Jewish community at that moment in history, the discussions and laws that were established there were essential for the future of the Jewish People and were given special status. It is interesting to note that even after the destruction of the Temple the topics of discussion still focused on the Temple service.