כ״ט בניסן ה׳תשע״ג (April 9, 2013)

Eiruvin 32a-b: Trusting a Messenger in Religious Matters

In the course of discussing whether a messenger can be trusted to deliver and properly establish the eiruv, the Gemara records a difference of opinion on the matter. Rav Naḥman believes that, when dealing with biblical commandments, we cannot automatically assume that a messenger does his job properly. Rav Sheshet disagrees and says that we do rely on the messenger, even regarding a biblical law.

One of Rav Sheshet’s proofs is that a woman who needs to bring a sacrifice in the Temple after having given birth can put her money for the sacrifice into the “shofar” in the Temple, purify herself in a mikve (ritual bath) and by evening be certain that the Temple priests had done their job properly, bringing her sacrifice and allowing her to eat kodashim. Rav Naḥman responds with the argument that it is a unique property of the Temple priests that they are considered reliable in this way.

A woman who had given birth was considered mehusar kippurim – missing atonement – and not allowed to eat from kodashim – sacrifices in the Temple – until she had brought a special sacrifice. While there were a number of offerings that could satisfy this requirement, the popular sacrifice that was brought was a ken – a nest – consisting of a pair of pigeons or doves, one as a burnt offering (ola) and one as a sin-offering (hatat).

Due to crowding, confusion and the possibility of errors, people coming to the Temple to bring sacrifices did not generally bring their own animals with them. Rather, they brought payment that was given to the treasurer of the Temple, and received a receipt with which they could go to another office and get the animal appropriate for the sacrifice that they were supposed to bring. For certain sacrifices, like those of women who had given birth, the money was deposited in the Temple collection box (there were thirteen of them) appropriate for that particular offering. Each of these collection boxes was called a “shofar” because they were shaped something like a ram’s horn, with a small opening for depositing the money and a larger body that held the money. This shape discouraged thieves from trying to extract money deposited there.

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