כ׳ בכסלו ה׳תשע״ח (December 8, 2017)

Shevuot 11a-b: To Be Consecrated Or Not To Be

As we learned on yesterday’s daf Rabba repeated the teaching of Rabbi Yoḥanan teaching that animals that were set aside to be used as temidim – daily offerings – that were not sacrificed, can be redeemed even though they remain unblemished (ordinarily an animal that had been set aside to be used as a sacrifice could only be redeemed in the event that it developed a blemish that would keep it from being brought on the altar). Rav Ḥisda objected to this saying, “who will listen to you and to Rabbi Yoḥanan, your teacher!? Where did the animal’s holiness disappear to?”

On today’s daf Rabba replies to Rav Ḥisda, explaining that when these animals are purchased lev matneh aleihem – “beit din has in its heart” – that they are bought on the condition that if they are needed they will be used as sacrifices on the altar, but if they are not needed then they will be treated like any standard donation to the Temple, and their value will be consecrated but their bodies will not.

A similar law is brought by the Gemara, where we find that the ketoret – the incense offering – will only become fully consecrated after it was readied for sacrifice in a keli sharet – a utensil sanctified for use in the Temple, but otherwise the laws limiting its use do not apply. Here, too, the Gemara asks “where did the holiness disappear to?” In response the Gemara responds that the ketoret was unique because it lasts for an entire year.

Rabbeinu Ḥananel explains this answer by pointing out that a large amount of the incense for the ketoret was prepared at the beginning of the year. At that time the holiness remains only in the value of the ingredients; the ketoret does not get its essential holiness until it is actually placed in the keli sharet and readied for actual use.

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