In almost all of the sacrifices that are brought in the Temple, the kohanim receive some part of the meat for them to eat. While the Torah commands that the kohen who actually brings the sacrifice is the one who receives the portion from that korban (see Sefer Vayikra 7:7-8, 14), nevertheless it was accepted practice for the meat to be divided up among the kohanim from the family of priests that were working in the Temple at that time (see Sefer Devarim 18:6-8). Which of the kohanim are deserving of a share? Are kohanim who are unable to perform the Temple service – either because of a long-term condition, e.g. a permanent blemish, or a short-term condition, e.g. ritual defilement – also eligible to receive a portion?
The twelfth perek of Massekhet Zevaḥim began on yesterday’s daf, and its focus is the portion that the kohanim receive from sacrifices that are brought in the Temple. According to the Mishna, whoever is not able to perform the Temple service will not be able to share in the priestly portion, and will receive neither meat nor the skins from the sacrifices. One exception mentioned by the Mishna is a ba’al mum – someone who suffers a physical blemish that precludes him from participating in the service. As the Gemara explains, this is because the Torah clearly includes a ba’al mum as someone who receives and eats this portion (see Vayikra 6:22; 21:22).
On today’s daf Reish Lakish raises the following question: What is the status of a ba’al mum who is tameh – ritually defiled? Should we say that the Torah included a ba’al mum under all circumstances, even if he cannot actually eat from the sacrifice at this moment, or, perhaps, the fact that he is ritually defiled and cannot eat will preclude him from receiving a portion?
Rabba clarifies this issue by quoting a baraita that teaches that in the case of the High Priest who is allowed to perform the Temple service even when he is in acute mourning for a parent, nevertheless he cannot partake from the meat of that sacrifice.
We can derive from here that unless someone can actually eat from the sacrifice, he will not receive a portion of the meat.