The Bloody Floor
The blood of the Korban Pesach is the subject of two discussions in this weeks seven daf. Both of them serve as the background for a striking detail of the pre-Pesach sacrificial service performed on such a massive scale in the Beit Hamikdash.
The mishna (Mesechta Pesachim 64a) relates that on this day the kohanim plugged up the drain duct which normally allowed animal blood spilled in the altar area of the Beit Hamikdash courtyard to flow outside. There are two different approaches as to why this was done.
Rabbi Yehudas approach is based on what our gemara (37a) deduces from the passage which instructs Jews to bring their sacrifices to the place chosen by G-d and to "pour the blood of your sacrifices on the altar of Hashem, your L-rd" (Devarim 12:27). This is interpreted as a reference to the need to apply the blood of the Korban Pesach to the altar, a requirement not specifically mentioned in the Torah command regarding that sacrifice. The speed with which the kohanim worked on that day to handle the volume of sacrifices brought by all Jews created a danger of spilling the blood of a sacrifice which they had received in a sacred vessel. By retaining all the blood spilled that day it was possible to eventually scoop up a container of blood and apply it to the altar on the safe assumption that it contained at least a particle of the spilled blood which had not yet reached its destination.
The Sages who disagreed with both the need and the effectiveness of such a scooping and application were challenged by Rabbi Yehuda to explain their need for plugging the exit of the blood. Their response was that it was an honor for the kohanim to wade up to their knees in the blood of the sacrifices.
This approach runs into the problem of exactly when they walked in the blood. If they did so while wearing their sacred priestly garments they would have stained those garments and rendered them unfit for the sacrificial service as we earlier learned (18b). If they lifted their robes till over their knees this service would be disqualified since the Torah insisted that the kohens garment must be "to his measurement" (Vayikra 6:3), not longer nor shorter.
These Sages solve the problem by limiting the wading of the kohanim in blood with raised robes to their carrying of wood to fuel the altar, a function which is not considered a sacred service requiring the precise wearing of priestly garments. When they were involved, however, in functions that did not require such wearing of garments they walked along a ledge raised above the level of the blood-filled floor.
Who is the "Beloved Servant"?
Which is a greater demonstration of affection towards a beloved one who sins and seeks atonement to elaborate on the details of that atonement or to be less expressive about them?
The focus of this question is a mashal parable which the Academy of Rabbi Yishmael offered to explain the mysterious difference between two atonement sacrifices described in the Torah. In regard to the sacrifice brought by the Kohen Gadol, the Torah explicitly commands that the animals kidneys and the fat upon them be burned on the altar together with the other prescribed fats (Vayikra 4:9). This same requirement applies to the sacrifice brought by the community when a majority of its members have sinned because of a mistaken ruling by the Sanhedrin. In regard to this communal sacrifice, however, this requirement is not explicitly mentioned, and is revealed only through an equation that the Torah makes between the two sacrifices.
This may be compared, say these Sages, to a king who becomes upset with a beloved servant and because of his affection for him minimizes his guilt.
Who is the "beloved servant" the Kohen Gadol or the community?
Rashis position is that the beloved servant is the community, and G-ds affection for His people is expressed in being less explicit about all the requirements for atonement and thus minimizing the shame involved. Maharsha, however, finds this approach somewhat inconsistent with the mashal which the same Sages present right afterwards, which seems to make the guilt of the community greater than that of the Kohen Gadol. His reading of the above-mentioned mashal is that the beloved one is the Kohen Gadol, who is referred to (Bamidbar 16:5) as "the holy one whom He will bring close to Him". G-ds affection for the Kohen Gadol seeking atonement is expressed by showing how beloved his sacrifice is that so much of the animal is accepted upon the altar.