ד׳ באדר ב׳ ה׳תשע״א (March 10, 2011)

Zevahim 120a-b – Contrasts between private altars and the great public altar

During the time periods when a bamat yahid – a private altar – was permitted (see above dafor page 112) even as the Tabernacle was operating, how were sacrifices brought? Were the rules and regulations associated with sacrifice the same in private settings as they were in the bamah gedolah – the great altar – in Gilgal, Nov or Givon? This is the question on which today’s daf – the closing page in Masechet Zevahim – chooses to focus.

 

Some laws are clear. For example, the Gemara quotes a baraita that teaches that the time limitations regarding sacrifices that must be eaten on the day of sacrifice or, at most, on the day following sacrifice, apply to a bamat yahid just as they apply to the bamah gedolah. This law is derived from the passage in Sefer Vayikra (7:11) that equates the laws of all sacrifices to each other.

 

There are also clear differences between a bamat yahid and the bamah gedolah. A different baraita offers a list that points out physical differences between these altars. The bamah gedolah requires horns on the corners, a ramp leading up to it, a base or foundation and that the altar be square – all of which were required based on passages in the Torah that specifically required these things in the Tabernacle or lifnei HaShem – “before God.” These elements were not required in private altars.

 

The main difference of opinion lies in the sacrificial service itself. The Gemara relates that Rabbi Yohanan required that a korban olah – a burnt offering – have its skin removed – to be given to the owner of the sacrifice, much as the skin of an olah is given to the kohanim when such a sacrifice is brought on the bamah gedolah – and the innards removed to be burned on the altar. Rav disagrees, ruling that there is no need to skin the olah and remove its innards; the entire animal was to be burnt on the altar.

 

The Gemara explains that this difference of opinion is based on a disagreement about how to understand the teaching of Rabbi Yossi HaGalili who taught that originally in the desert a korban olah was burned in its entirety, a situation that changed only when the Tabernacle was established. Rav understood that this law applied only on the altar associated with the Tabernacle; Rabbi Yohanan understood that from the time of the Tabernacle forward the law has changed.