Question: Is haktarah (burning of the kemitzah) effective if some of the flour went missing?
Answer: This issue came up on Wednesday’s daf (12a). Normally, the burning of the kemitzah portion serves to permit the remainder of the flour for the kohanim. However, it is necessary for all of the flour to be intact at the time of the kemitzah-burning. If after the kemitzah had been removed some of the other flour went missing, it would no longer be possible to make the flour permitted through the act of burning. Nonetheless, on 9a, R’ Yochanan rules that we still continue with the burning of the kemitzah.
On 12a, the Gemara wants to know whether burning the kemitzah here still has some impact on the rest of the flour. Specifically, the Gemara wonders whether the kemitzah-burning still removes the me’ilah prohibition (the particular sacrificial prohibited status that is typically lifted upon the burning) from the flour as it normally does. Also, the Gemara questions whether an intention to eat the flour beyond the allowed time would make the flour piggul (which entails a prohibition against eating the korban, punishable by kareis). The question is whether the burning still retains these capacities in spite of the prohibited status of the flour as a result of the fact that some of it went missing.
The Gemara notes that seemingly this question is the subject of a dispute between R’ Akiva and R’ Eliezer in Maseches Me’ilah regarding a case where meat of an animal sacrifice left the Beis HaMikdash premises. R’ Akiva rules that in spite of the fact that the meat will remain forbidden, the throwing of the blood still lifts the me’ilah prohibition, whereas according to R’ Eliezer the me’ilah prohibition is not removed. It would appear that R’ Akiva would likewise rule that the flour in our case is freed of its me’ilah prohibition and R’ Eliezer would say that the me’ilah status remains. However, the Gemara says that R’ Akiva and R’ Eliezer’s dispute does not apply to our case. Rav Huna says that even R’ Akiva agrees that here the me’ilah isn’t lifted, whereas Rabbah says that, on the contrary, even R’ Eliezer agrees that here the me’ilah status is lifted.
Let’s consider their arguments. Rav Huna argues that the fact that some of the flour went missing is more problematic than the issue of a korban being taken out of bounds, since the former is a physically manifested problem with the korban itself. Rabbah, however, argues that even though some of the flour is missing, the fact that the korban here remained in the Beis HaMikdash is a redeeming factor that allows the me’ilah prohibition to be removed.
Rav Huna’s position seems very difficult to understand. How can he argue that the problem of missing flour is more severe than the problem of a korban that has left the Beis HaMikdash, when the fact is that in the former case, the halachah dictates to continue with the rest of the service (we do burn the kemitzah), whereas in the latter case, we are not supposed to complete the korban (the question here is only what the status is post facto if the korban was illegally completed)! If by one of these problems the Torah says that it causes us to halt the whole korban, isn’t that a clear proof that it is the more severe of the two problems?
Perhaps this is the understanding of Rav Huna’s position: When judging these questions involving compromised korbanos, we have to be very specific about the exact question we’re asking. There’s one question here of whether a deviation in the korban’s procedure compels us to cease bringing the korban. As far as that question, the halachah indeed says that if one deviated to the point of bringing the korban outside of the Beis HaMikdash, the korban should be discontinued, whereas the issue of some missing flour does not warrant a cessation of the offering.
The question in our Gemara, though, is a different question. Does the problem that occurred with this flour/meat cause the meat to not be amenable whatsoever to becoming a complete sacrificial substance (in the sense that the me’ilah prohibition is lifted)? On that question, Rav Huna feels that we have to focus on the nature of the problem as it pertains to the portion itself under consideration. Thus, being that the flour itself is incomplete in contrast to the external nature of the problem when the korban has been taken outside, in the former case, the me’ilah status goes away, whereas, in the latter case it does not.
As always, your thoughts on this matter are invited.
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