ג׳ באב ה׳תשע״ג (July 10, 2013)

Pesaḥim 20a-b: Preparing Food to Become Ritually Impure

As on the previous daf, our Gemara discusses the case of a needle that is found in the flesh of a sacrifice in the Temple, which renders the meat of the korban to be tameh (ritually defiled). Although people or utensils (kelim) can become tameh at any time that they come into contact with something that gives off tumah, generally speaking, in order for food to become tameh, it must first be hukhshar – “prepared” by becoming wet (see Vayikra 11:38). The halakha is that any of seven liquids will give food that status: water, wine, honey, olive oil, milk, dew and blood. Our Gemara asks how the meat of the korban became “prepared” so that it was in a position to become defiled by the needle.

The first two possibilities raised – that either blood or water in the Mikdash prepared the meat of the sacrifice – are rejected by the Gemara:
The blood of the sacrifice itself cannot “prepare” food to become tameh.
Liquids in the slaughterhouse in the Temple neither become tameh themselves, nor do they “prepare” foods to become tameh.

The Gemara concludes that sacrifices have an inherent quality about them, referred to as hibat ha-kodesh (the esteem for sacred objects), that gives them the status of being “prepared” to become tameh.

The rule of hibat ha-kodesh is that, because of their holiness and elevated status, they become more susceptible to defilement. There is general agreement that the higher level of kedusha (holiness) that an object has, the more possibilities there are for ritual defilement (regular hullin will only become tameh if it is one step removed from the source of the tumah, so it can only become a sheni, a second level defilement. Teruma (tithes), which are on a higher level of holiness, can become tameh from a sheni and become a shelishi, a third level defilement. Kodashim, consecrated items, like sacrifices, can even become a revi’i, a fourth level defilement).

The perception of things connected to the Temple as having a higher-level holiness that increases the possibility of defilement is applied by also to non-food items that ordinarily would not be subject to the rules of tuma v’tahara at all, like the incense and coals that were used in the Temple service.

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