For the week ending 17 August 2013 / 10 Elul 5773

Pesachim 58 - 64

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • What time of the day are the daily sacrifices and the Pesach sacrifice offered?
  • The daily sacrifice as the first and last offering to be burned on the altar
  • The exceptions to this rule
  • The eating of sacrificial flesh as an indispensable factor of atonement
  • Slaughtering the Pesach sacrifice with improper intentions
  • Slaughtering an animal designated as Pesach sacrifice during the rest of the year
  • Slaughtering the Pesach sacrifice before the daily sacrifice or in the morning
  • In whose behalf can the Pesach sacrifice be slaughtered and its blood offered?
  • The role of the uncircumcised or spiritually impure as members of company for Pesach sacrifice
  • The curious Sage and the scholarly woman
  • Slaughtering the Pesach or daily sacrifice while in possession of chametz
  • Procedure of offering the Pesach sacrifice
  • The three groups of offerers and how the gates closed
  • How the king conducted a census through the Pesach sacrifice
  • Who did the slaughtering and how was blood applied to the altar?

Who Was the King Who Made the Census?

When King Agripas wished to conduct a census of the Jews in Eretz Yisrael he asked the Kohen Gadol to confiscate a kidney from every animal offered as a Pesach sacrifice. Since this kidney had to be burned on the altar, the person bringing the sacrifice would be compelled to redeem it by giving some other object. When all of these objects were counted it was calculated that 1,200,000 sacrifices had been offered. Since there were at least ten Jews subscribing to each sacrifice, and there were people who could not offer a sacrifice, either because they were spiritually impure or far away from the Beit Hamikdash on that day, this means that there were well over 12 million Jews!

Who was this king who made this discovery?

Rashi, in his commentary on Mesechta Sotah (41a), writes that he was the son of a Jewish mother and a descendant of Hurdus (Herod), the slave who murdered his Hasmonean masters and usurped the throne. It was during his reign that the Second Beit Hamikdash was destroyed by the Romans.

Tosefot, however, takes issue with this position of Rashi regarding the genealogy of Agripas. The gemara (Bava Batra 3b) related that Hurdus wished to marry the one surviving member of the royal family he had slaughtered. She, however, declared from a rooftop that anyone who in the future would declare that he is a descendant of the Hasmoneans will be known to have the status of a slave, for no one remained from that family except herself, and she then leaped to her death. Had the descendants of Hurdus married Jewish women, their offspring would be full-fledged Jews without the limitations of slave status, since the halacha establishes matrilineal descent. It must therefore be concluded that they did not marry Jewish women, only those of slave status like themselves, so that their children inherited that status.

This, Tosefot concludes, explains why Agripas wept when he publicly read the passage in the Torah disqualifying one who is not “from among your brothers” as a king, and why it was considered a serious sin of flattery for the Jews who heard him to encourage him with the cry of “you are our brother!”.

What the Sages Say

“Once a mitzvah presents itself to you it must not be bypassed (even for the sake of another mitzvah).”

  • Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish
    Pesachim 64b

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