SALT - Wednesday, 14 Iyar 5777 - May 10, 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg

            The Torah in Parashat Emor (21:16-24) introduces the prohibition forbidding kohanim with certain physical defects (mumin) from performing the service in the Beit Ha-mikdash.  After issuing this prohibition, the Torah establishes that although these kohanim are forbidden from performing the service, they nevertheless receive portions of the sacrificial food along with the other kohanim.

            Interestingly, the Torah here (21:22) specifies that a ba’al mum (kohen with a physical defect) is permitted to eat the priestly portions of both types of sacrificial food: kodashei kodashim and kodashim kalim.  The category of kodashei kodashim includes sacrifices that are eaten only in the Beit Ha-mikdash, and only through the night after the offering of the sacrifice.  By contrast, the meat of kodashei kalim, generally speaking, may be eaten throughout the city of Jerusalem, and throughout the day after the sacrifice is offered.  Additionally, kodashei kodashim may be eaten only by kohanim, whereas the meat of kodashim kalim may be eaten by anybody, except for specific portions which are allocated for the kohanim.  In the context of laws relevant to a ba’al mum, the Torah found it necessary to specify that a ba’al mum may partake of both kodashei kodashim and kodashei kalim.  The question naturally arises as to why both categories of sacrifices needed to be named.

            This question was raised by a berayta cited by the Gemara in Masekhet Zevachim (101b), which appears as well in Torat Kohanim (here in Parashat Emor).  The berayta notes that since kodashei kodashim have a greater level of sanctity than kodashei kalim, as reflected in the stricter guidelines that apply to them, it is understandable that permitting a ba’al mum to eat kodashei kalim would not logically dictate the same for kodashei kodashim.  Since kodashei kodashim are governed by stricter requirements and limitations, the Torah needed to specify that a ba’al mum is permitted to eat even these types of sacrifices.  At the same time, however, it would not have sufficed for the Torah to specify only kodashei kodashim, and leave it to us to deduce that this provision applies a fortiori also to kodashei kalim.  The berayta explains that the priestly portions of kodashei kodashim are, in exceptional circumstances, ironically treated with greater leniency than those of kodashei kalim.  Specifically, there are situations in which the portions of kodashei kodashim normally allotted for the kohanim are permitted for consumption even by non-kohanim.  The priestly portions of kodashim kalim, by contrast, are never permitted for consumption by anyone other than kohanim.  Therefore, if the Torah had stated only that a ba’al mum is allowed to eat kodashei kodashim, it would not have necessarily followed that he may also eat kodashim kalim, which are, under certain circumstances, treated more stringently than kodashei kodashim.

            As the Gemara notes, the berayta does not state when kodashei kodashim are allowed to be eaten by non-kohanim.  To explain the berayta’s comment, the Gemara initially proposes that the berayta refers to the miluim sacrifice, the special offering brought during the seven days of the Mishkan’s inauguration.  This sacrifice had the status of kodashei kodashim (as it had to be eaten specifically in the courtyard of the Mishkan), and yet, Moshe – who was not a kohen – received a portion of the sacrifice (Shemot 29:26, Vayikra 8:29).  Perhaps, the Gemara suggests, this is the lenient quality of kodashei kodashim to which the berayta refers – that there was once a sacrifice of kodashei kodashim that was permitted for a non-kohen.  However, the Gemara dismisses this reading, in order to reconcile this berayta with the position among the Amoraim that Moshe had the formal halakhic status of a kohen during the period of the miluim.  Since he was considered a kohen, his portion of the sacrifice does not signify a measure of leniency.  The Gemara therefore explains differently, claiming that the berayta refers to the situation of bamot – private altars that people construct and use for sacrifices to God.  Although sacrificing on bamot is generally forbidden, there were periods before the Beit Ha-mikdash was built when it was permissible to offer voluntary sacrifices on bamot.  The Gemara notes the view of Rabbi Meir that the dispensation of bamot during these periods applied even to mincha offerings (offerings of grain), and not only to voluntary animal sacrifices.  In such a case, Rabbi Meir maintained, the person offering the mincha was allowed to partake of the portion of the offering which would normally be given to the kohanim.  This special provision applies only to the mincha, a sacrifice which falls under the category of kodashei kodashim.  The only other voluntary sacrifice which is eaten is the shelamim – which is classified as kodashim kalim – and the Gemara establishes elsewhere (Zevachim 117b) that the portions of a shelamim normally given to the kohanim were not eaten when a shelamim was offered on a bama.  Hence, the situation of bamot is one where we find a lenient measure that applies, ironically, only to kodashei kodashim, and not to kodashei kalim. Due to this special leniency that applies particularly to kodashei kodashim, the Torah felt compelled to specify that a ba’al mum may partake of kodashei kalim, as this law would not have necessarily followed from the permission he has to eat kodashei kodashim.

            Interestingly, Rashi, in his commentary to this verse, follows the Gemara’s initial proposition, that the lenient quality of kodashei kodashim was the fact that Moshe partook of the miluim offerings.  Although the Gemara dismissed this theory, Rashi accepted it in his comments to this verse.  Malbim suggests that what led Rashi to accept the Gemara’s initial suggestion was the fact that, as noted earlier, the berayta’s discussion cited by the Gemara also appears in Torat Kohanim.  The Gemara (Sanhedrin 86a) establishes that passages that appear in Torat Kohanim may be presumed to have been said by Rabbi Yehuda, unless they are attributed to a different Tanna.  Rabbi Yehuda, Malbim notes, is cited later in Masekhet Zevachim (113a) as maintaining that when sacrificing on bamot was allowed, mincha offerings were not permitted.  In his view, bamot could be used only for animal sacrifices, but not for grain offerings.  Therefore, when Torat Kohanim speaks of a situation in which kodashei kodashim may be eaten by a non-kohen, it cannot refer to sacrifices offered on bamot, because according to Rabbi Yehuda – the presumed author of this passage – there was no situation when kodashei kodashim offered on a bama could be eaten by a non-kohen.  Necessarily, then, the passage in Torat Kohanim must be understood according to the Gemara’s initial suggestion, that the exceptional leniency which applied to kodashei kodashim was Moshe’s partaking of the meat of the miluim offering.