By Rabbi Shmuel Wise

Question: Does the Tzitz help for an edible portion that became tamei?

Answer: We discussed this question on the daf of this past Shabbos, 15a. The Mishnah at the bottom of 14b discusses the following case. One of the two loaves that accompany the two-lamb sacrifice of Shavuos became tamei. The rabbanan say that this event does not in any way impact the status of the other loaf; it remains tahor and should be eaten. However, R’ Shimon asserts that both loaves must be burned because “the communal offerings cannot be divided.”

The first thing the Gemara does is establish that R’ Shimon only invalidates the other loaf when the instance of tumah occurred before the sacrifice was completed through zerikah, the application of the blood to the mizbeiach. All opinions agree that if after zerikah one of the loaves became tamei, this would not impact the other loaf whatsoever. Why does R’ Shimon invalidate the remaining loaf where one of them became tamei before zerikah?

R’ Pappa offers a theory. R’ Pappa suggests that there is an underlying dispute here about the extent of the Tzitz’s power to make tamei sacrifices considered acceptable. It is well known that the Tzitz, the golden head-plate worn by the kohen gadol, has the capacity to make a korban brought in a state of impurity be considered an acceptable offering (even though in the case of an individual’s impure offering it is illegal to offer it, if it was offered, the Tzitz causes it to be accepted).

Now everyone agrees that where the specific tumah problem is either that the part of the sacrifice that is burned on the mizbeiach or the person bringing the korban was tamei, the Tzitz renders the korban acceptable. However, R’ Pappa explains, if the portion that is normally eaten became tamei, in R’ Yehuda’s opinion the Tzitz does not help. Consequently, the efficacy of the korban is compromised to the degree that the zerikah does not cause even the tahor loaf to be permitted. The rabbanan, on the other hand, hold that the Tzitz is equally effective where the edible part of the korban became tamei, and thus the tahor loaf is permitted for consumption.

Based on several proofs, the Gemara ultimately rejects R’ Pappa’s theory, concluding instead that R’ Yehuda simply had a tradition stating that if a part of the communal offering’s edible portion became tamei, the rest of the edible portion cannot be used either. However, this does not change our obligation to do our best to understand what this Amora meant. So let’s endeavor to answer some questions that arise with R’ Pappa’s theory:

(1) How could it be suggested that the zerikah of this Shavuos sacrifice wasn’t valid in light of the established rule that the obligation to bring communal sacrifices at the appointed time overrides a problem of tumah?

(2) What is the rationale to distinguish between the burned and edible portions of the korban with respect to the Tzitz’s powers?

(3) As asked by the Shitah Mekubetzes, if it’s true that this zerikah wasn’t valid, R’ Yehuda should have stated that the meat of the lambs cannot be eaten either.

We’ll attempt to answer the questions in order. In answer to No. 1, it is certainly true that the fact that we’re dealing with a time-dependent communal sacrifice means that we had permission to bring this korban. Notwithstanding that permission, if the Tzitz’s power is not operative, then the status of this korban is a korban that was afflicted with a tumah problem that the Torah permitted us to bring. As a result of the tumah problem, which was not solved by the Tzitz, the zerikah’s effect was downgraded, leaving both loaves invalid.

In answer to No. 2, my reflections led me to this understanding: The way the Torah itself describes the power of the Tzitz is that it bears a sin having to do with the way the korban was offered. Chazal identify the particular sin as the sin of bringing a korban in a state of tumah. If the mechanism of the Tzitz is one of bearing a sin, it’s reasonable that it only works in a situation that can be conceived as sinful. Thus, if either the person or the thing being put on the mizbeiach is tamei, being that these are actions that (under normal circumstances) are clearly problematic, the Tzitz bears the sin and the zerikah is fully effective. But if the issue is that the other piece of korban over there (the one that usually becomes permitted to eat) is tamei, how can we describe the act of bringing this korban as sinful? Thus this situation is outside of the Tzitz’s province, and the zerikah is not effective in permitting the loaves.

Maybe the above can help us answer No. 3 as well: Although it’s true that the Tzitz only deals with sins and the fact that the loaf over there is tamei doesn’t really define this as a sin, still, the loaf’s tumah ultimately impacts the zerikah that is being done, indirectly making it “sinful.” So in a kind of compromise, the Tzitz says, “in terms of the korban itself (namely, the parts actually being offered on the mizbeiach) I’ll cover for you, but not for any part of the korban that isn’t part of the offering itself.” Consequently, while the zerikah worked fully for the lambs, it got downgraded for the loaves. 

Rabbi Wise is maggid shiur of Real Clear Daf, a website and mobile app that offers free audio shiurim and other resources to assist your journey through Shas. He is also the director of Tehillim Together, a mobile app (for iOS and Android) that offers a translated sefer Tehillim and facilitates Tehillim groups. To be a sponsor or to reach Rabbi Wise, please write to rabbiwise@realcleardaf.com or call 855-ASK-RCD-1 (275-7231).

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here