SALT - Motzaei Shabbat, January 9, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            The Torah in Parashat Bo presents the laws relevant to the annual korban pesach.  Moshe is told to instruct Benei Yisrael to prepare one sheep per household for the sacrifice, adding that if there were not enough family members to partake of an entire sheep, they should get together with their neighbors and share a korban pesach

            Targum Yonatan ben Uziel on this verse offers an intriguing translation of this verse (12:4), interpreting the phrase, “And if the household is too small for a sheep” as, “If the household is fewer than ten, the quota for eating a sheep.”  Rav Menachem Kasher, in Torah Sheleima (*97), notes that Targum Yonatan appears to take the position that a minimum of ten people are required for each korban pesach.  In his view, one cannot (le-khatechila) offer the paschal sacrifice independently, or even together with several other people.  Each korban pesach requires the participation of at least ten people.

            Rav Kasher proceeds to propose that Targum Yonatan’s comments follow the view of Rabbi Yehuda, cited in the Mishna in Masekhet Pesachim (91a), that “ein shochatin et ha-pesach al ha-yachid” – the paschal sacrifice is not offered on behalf of one individual.  While at first glance this appears to mean that the sacrifice must include at least two people, Rav Kasher suggests that Targum Yonatan read Rabbi Yehuda’s statement to mean that a halakhic quorum – ten people – is required for each korban pesach.  This is in contrast to the view of Rabbi Yossi, who ruled that a korban pesach may be offered even for a single individual.

A compelling basis for this reading of Rabbi Yehuda’s view, as Rav Kasher notes, is Rabbi Yossi’s formulation in disagreeing with Rabbi Yehuda.  Rabbi Yossi maintains that Halakha does not require a minimum number of people for each korban pesach, but rather that the person or persons signed onto the korban pesach is or are capable of eating the entire sheep.  In a berayta cited by the Gemara, Rabbi Yossi says that if one person is capable of eating all the sacrificial meat, then he can offer the sacrifice alone, and if ten people are incapable of eating all the sacrificial meat, then they cannot offer the sacrifice by themselves.  It is perhaps significant that Rabbi Yossi gives specifically the example of a group of ten people.  Targum Yonatan may have understood that Rabbi Yossi mentioned this scenario because this is the minimum group size which Rabbi Yehuda allows, irrespective of the group’s ability to eat the entire sacrifice.  Rabbi Yossi thus responds by asserting that even a group of ten people may not bring a korban pesach if they cannot eat the entire sacrifice.

Rav Kasher also draws our attention to the Tosefta, cited by the Gemara (Pesachim 64b), which tells that in the times of the Beit Ha-mikdash, every paschal sacrifice included over ten people.  This might also indicate that a minimum of ten people are required for a korban pesach.

Furthermore, Rav Kasher notes how this reading of Rabbi Yehuda’s view sheds light on an ambiguous comment made by Rav Yehuda a bit later in the Gemara (91b).  Rabbi Yehuda maintained that a woman who did not offer the korban pesach on the 14th of Nissan is not required to offer a sacrifice a month later, the 14th of Iyar – Pesach Sheni – even though a man in this situation would be obligated to bring a sacrifice on Pesach Sheni.  Nevertheless, Rabbi Yehuda adds, a woman in this situation can be “tefeila la-acheirim” – meaning, she can join other people’s sacrifice.  Rav Kasher explains this to mean that if nine others wish to bring a korban pesach on Pesach Sheni, this woman can join them so they can meet the quota of ten people.  Although she is not required to offer the korban pesach, her participation can be considered for the purpose of meeting the requirement of ten people’s participation.  This Gemara, then, would serve as yet another piece of evidence that Rabbi Yehuda requires a minimum of ten people participating in each korban pesach.