Daf Yomi

For the week ending 6 September 2003 / 9 Elul 5763

Zevachim 90-96

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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The Jumping Coal

The Torah insisted that a steady fire should burn on the altar in the Beit Hamikdash, and twice issued a prohibition of "You shall not extinguish it" (Vayikra 6:5-6). Not only does this prohibition apply to the flame which is upon the altar but extends even to removing a burning coal from the altar and extinguishing it.

This rule, which is cited in our gemara in the name of Rabbi Nachman quoting the Sage Rabbah bar Avuho seems to be in conflict with something we learned in an earlier mishna (Zevachim 86a). There it is stated that a coal which bounds from the altar to the floor need not be returned above and may be allowed to burn itself out below. The reason given for this is that once it has reached the stage of coal we consider that material used as fuel as having fulfilled its role as a mitzvah object. If so, why is a coal removed from the altar considered as still performing a mitzvah service and not to be extinguished?

Tosefot deals with this problem and suggests a distinction between a coal which bounds from the altar to one which is removed by a person. Although no explanation is made of this distinction it seems that it is based on what we view as the final fulfillment of a coals role as a mitzvah object. Since it is a natural occurrence for a coal to bound from a burning fire we consider that it has fulfilled its role when this happens. Human intervention, on the other hand, takes place before the intended role is fulfilled and the ensuing extinguishing of the removed coal is considered a violation of the Torah prohibition.

Zevachim 91b

Limited Laundering

Any food which comes into contact with the flesh of a chatat sacrifice and absorbs some of its content assumes the status of that sacrifice and may only be consumed within the time frame that the sacrifice may be eaten (Vayikra 6:20). In the same passage we are told that if blood of that sacrifice spills from the vessel which received it for applying to the altar and lands on a garment, that garment must be laundered within the sacred confines of the Beit Hamikdash.

An interesting question arises in our gemara in regard to the extent of this laundering: Must the entire garment be laundered or only that portion which has been stained by the blood?

The answer to this question is supplied by an analysis of the text of the passage involved. "If its blood be spilled on a garment," says the Torah, "that which has been spilled upon shall be laundered in a sacred place".

Had the Torah required laundering of the entire garment it would have simply stated that the garment be laundered, since such a phrase is always used in regard to a comprehensive cleaning of the garment involved, not just the affected area. The repetition of the phrase "that which has been spilled upon" indicates that the laundering is limited to the specific area upon which the blood has settled.

Zevachim 94a

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