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Zevahim 43a-b: Exceptions to the Heavenly Death Sentence

We have learned that inappropriate thoughts – specifically thoughts relating to eating the korban in the wrong place or at the wrong time – can potentially ruin the sacrifice and make it invalid. Furthermore, thoughts related to the wrong time will cause the korban to become piggul – abhorrent – and someone who eats of that sacrifice will be liable to receive the punishment of karet – a Heavenly death sentence (see above, daf 27). The new Mishna on today’s daf lists a number of things connected with sacrifices that cannot become piggul even if the person bringing the korban planned to eat them after the appropriate time.

The Gemara explains that we learn that these things do not become piggul from the source for the law of piggul – the korban shelamim or peace-offering (see Vayikra 7:18). In the case of the korban shelamim, where the sacrifice is divided between the altar, the kohanim and the owner, the things that potentially can become piggul are those that were dependent on something to permit them. The innards that were burned on the altar could not be sacrificed until the blood from the sacrifice was sprinkled; the meat of the sacrifice could not be eaten by the owner until the innards were burned on the altar. Only things that are similar to those – that some other action will permit them to be brought on the altar or eaten by a person – can become piggul. Parts of the korban that play a role in permitting other things to be sacrificed or eaten, or things whose preparation permits the thing itself, are not similar to the case of the korban shelamim and cannot become piggul.

Thus, the kometz – the fistful of flour, oil and incense – that permits the korban minḥa to be eaten (see 2:1-2) – or the minḥa of the kohanim that is burned entirely on the altar and has no kometz which permits it, rather it serves to permit itself on the altar (see 6:16), cannot become piggul, and if someone ate them they would not be liable to receive the punishment of karet.


This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

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