The Weekly Daf

For the week ending 15 January 2011 / 9 Shevat 5771

Zevachim 65 - 71

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Fowl, Fingernail and Fire

In offering a fowl as a sacrifice the kohen slaughters it through the process of melikah - penetrating the back of the neck with a sharp thumbnail and slashing the trachea and esophagus.

How do we know that a knife is not required for slaughtering the fowl sacrifice as it is is for an animal sacrifice? After all, in regard to an animal there is no requirement that a kohen be the slaughterer, and still the Torah insists on a knife being used. In the case of fowl, where the Torah does insist on a kohen, it would seem to make sense that a knife must certainly be used.

Rabbi Akiva points out that the Torah states (Vayikra 1:15): "And the kohen shall bring it (the fowl) to the altar and remove its head through melikah." It does not make any sense, says Rabbi Akiva, that a non-kohen should be performing any sacred service at the altar, so it is not necessary to stress that a kohen does it. The message communicated, concludes the sage, is that this melikah must be done with the body of the kohen (his thumbnail), and not with a knife.

A similar situation arises in Mesechta Yoma (45a) where Rabbi Shimon deduces that the kindling wood for making the fire on the altar must be ignited on the altar itself from the fact that the Torah commands the kohanim to place the fire on the altar. Since there is no reason to assume that a non-kohen could approach that altar, this insistence on a kohen placing the fire on the altar must come to eliminate kindling the wood below the altar and carrying it up to the altar while it is burning.

Rabbi Yehuda, however, disagrees with this approach in Mesechta Yoma and the question arises as to whether he accepts Rabbi Akiva's approach in our own Gemara. Tosefos explain that Rabbi Yehuda will go along with Rabbi Akiva's approach and disagrees with Rabbi Shimon only in Yoma because he argues that had the Torah not specified that a kohen must place the fire on the altar we would have concluded that a non-kohen would be eligible to light the fire on the altar even without being on the altar itself - by standing on the floor below and using a bellows to get the fire on the altar started.

  • Zevachim 65a

Seven Sounds of Music

Reference is made to a mishnah in Mesechta Kinnim (3:6) in which Rabbi Yehoshua points out the fascinating paradox that when a lamb is alive it emits only one sound but after its death it is capable of producing seven sounds of music heard in the Beis Hamikdash.

The mishnah there provides the details:

the two horns serve as two shofaros
two thighbones serve as pipes
skin forms the surface of a drum
large intestine forms the strings for lyres
small intestine forms the strings for harps

In that same mishnah Rabbi Shimon ben Akashya draws a parallel between this lamb and the aging Torah scholar whose wisdom increases with his age-induced decrease in physical strength.

  • Zevachim 68a

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