Talmud Tips

For the week ending 19 May 2018 / 5 Sivan 5778

Zevachim 23 - 29

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
Artscroll Library

It’s the Thought that Counts

“One who ritually slaughters an offering… to eat it tomorrow (“machar”)… it is pigul, and the person is obligated karet (extirpation).”

The outcome of offering a sacrifice with intent to eat it after the permitted time is referred to in the mishna as pigul. It is forbidden to be eaten even if all of the four parts of the service — slaughter, followed by receiving, carrying and sprinkling the blood — were otherwise done correctly. The “mere thought” of eating it past the permitted time is a serious deviation from correct sacrificial service procedure and renders the offering as pigul, with the punishment for consuming it — even during the permitted time — being karet.

The source in the Torah for this halacha is the verse (Vayikra 7:18): “If some of the meat of his peace offering will be eaten on the third day… it will be pigul, and the one who eats it will bear his sin.” Although a superficial reading seems to refer to a sacrifice that is actually eaten after the permitted time, the gemara explains why the correct interpretation is the one stated in the mishna: a thought during any one of the four parts of the service to eat from the sacrifice after the permitted time renders it pigul.

What does the word pigul mean? Rashi in Vayikra 19:7 defines it as “mitu’av,” meaning abominable or repulsive. Targum Onkelos translates it as “merachak,” alluding to something that should be kept at a “distance.” Rav Hirsch states that the Hebrew root of this word is not clear. He writes that this word (or a form of it) is found in these two places in Chumash, and in Yeshayahu 65:4 and Yechezkel 4:14, in each place referring to a sacrifice made invalid in the manner described in our mishna. Rav Hirsch avers that even finding another word with a similar pronunciation, and therefore likely a related meaning, is difficult. He reluctantly suggests that the word pigul is perhaps related to the word peleg, which means “separated” and would imply something that is greatly separate and foreign from what is acceptable.

(It should be of interest to note that the mishna states “machar,” which if translated as “tomorrow” would indicate that the mishna refers to thanks or sin offering, which may be eaten for only one day. However, this is not the peace offering that is actually mentioned in the verse, which may be eaten for two days. This is how Rashi interprets the word “machar” and the case in the mishna. The Tiferet Yisrael, in his commentary on the mishna, however, offers a different interpretation. He points out that the word “machar” can also mean “after some time.” In the case of our mishna this means “two days forward,” and refers to the case of a peace offering, which is the actual textual source for the halacha of pigul in the Chumash in Sefer Vayikra.)

  • Zevachim 27b

Acting Responsibly

Ben Azai says: It will be a transgression for you — for you, but not for your wife.

This teaching is based on a careful reading of the verse: “When you make a vow to the L-rd your G-d, you shall not delay in paying it, for the L-rd your G-d will demand it of you, and it will be counted as sin for you (Devarim 23:22). Ben Azai teaches here that when a husband is late in bringing an offering that he vowed to bring, he alone is held responsible, but not his wife.

Although this is seemingly an obvious idea, the gemara explains why this teaching is necessary. Rabbi Elazar (or Rabbi Yochanan) taught that a man’s wife does not die unless he does not have money that he owed others who are demanding payment. This teaching is based on a verse in Mishlei 22:27. The gemara states that without Ben Azai’s teaching regarding a husband who brings a vow-offering late, we would think that this would also lead to a harsh decree for his wife. Ben Azai teaches that this is not so (despite the extremely serious need to fulfill one’s vows and to do so in a timely fashion).

Nevertheless, Rabbi Elazar’s statement needs further clarification: Why should a debtor’s wife be liable for severe punishment from Heaven if her husband fails to pay a debt? And especially if he doesn’t have money to repay it with, as Rabbi Elazar indicates!

One explanation is that the Rabbi Elazar is speaking about a debtor who in fact has land with which he could repay his debt. However, he claims that the land is unavailable to use as payment, since it is a lien for the Ketuba document for his wife. In addition, his wife completely supports his claim to refuse payment of the loan with “her land.” The one seeking payment needs the money that is owed him now, in order to feed him and sustain him. Therefore, denying payment to him is tantamount to bringing about his demise. Since the debtor’s wife is an enabler of her husband in withholding the field from being used as repayment for the debt, she is complicit in the potential tragedy and is also held responsible in Heaven for this misdeed. She and her husband should be more sensitive to the needs of the other. The other’s need is dire and immediate, whereas it is altogether doubtful whether she will ever come to a situation where she will need to collect her Ketuba from this field. (See Shita Mekubetzet on the daf.)

  • Zevachim 29b

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