כ״ג בתמוז ה׳תשע״ח (July 6, 2018)

Zevahim 85a-b: Blemished Sacrifices

We learned in the Mishna on yesterday’s daf that among the problematic sacrifices that will be rejected even if they were placed on the altar are animals that have mumim – physical blemishes. The Mishna continues by bringing a contrary opinion in the name of Rabbi Akiva, that ba’alei mumim – animals with physical blemishes – can be brought as sacrifices if they were placed on the altar. This is followed by a statement made by Rabbi Ḥanina Sgan Kohanim (deputy ) who testified that his father would reject animals with blemishes even if they had been placed on the altar.

The Gemara on today’s daf asks why the Mishna included the story related by Rabbi Ḥanina Sgan Kohanim. Two suggestions are made by the Gemara:

  • the expression that Rabbi Ḥanina Sgan Kohanim used to indicate that the korban was rejected by his father was doḥeh – to push aside. This is understood by the Gemara as teaching that he was careful to do it in a circumspect manner and not publicly, so that the sacrifice would not be degraded.
  • ma’aseh ka mashma lan – the story itself was important to teach. When the Mishna wants to emphasize that the halakha follows a particular opinion, one of the most powerful ways that it can show this is by telling a story that illustrates that the ruling actually followed that position in practice. In fact, in this case, in his Commentary on the Mishna, the Rambam rules according to Rabbi Ḥanina Sgan Kohanim’s story.

In truth, even Rabbi Akiva was not as lenient regarding this question as he appears to be in the Mishna. Rabbi Yoḥanan explains that Rabbi Akiva’s lenient position was limited to blemishes that were similar to dukin she-ba’ayin – a cataract in the animal’s eye. Since this blemish did not apply to sacrifices that were brought from fowl – from turtledoves and pigeons – it was less problematic than other types of blemishes. (See the discussion of Rabbi Akiva’s position above on daf 77.)