As we learned on yesterday’s daf (=page), the tenth perek (=chapter) of Masechet Zevahim focuses on issues of precedence regarding sacrifices. The first Mishnah in the perek taught that whatever sacrifice is brought on a more constant or consistent basis will be brought first. Thus, the korban tamid – the daily sacrifice – will be brought before a korban musaf – the additional sacrifice brought on Shabbat or holidays. The second Mishnah adds another rule – that whatever sacrifice is holier will be brought first. Thus, a korban hatat – a sin-offering – will be brought before a korban olah – a burnt offering, since the hatat offers atonement, and its blood is sprinkled in a more complete way on the altar.
The Gemara on today’s daf raises the question of what to do when these two sets of priorities come into conflict. Should the constant sacrifice be brought first or should the holier sacrifice be brought first?
The Gemara brings a number of proofs in an attempt to clarify this question. For example, on Shabbat the korban tamid is brought before the korban musaf even though the korban musaf is on a higher level of holiness (the korban musaf is unique to Shabbat). Ultimately, the Gemara rejects this proof, as well as all of the other similar proofs, by arguing that on Shabbat even the korban tamid has enhanced holiness due to the fact that it is brought on Shabbat.
Since the Gemara does not come to any conclusion with regard to this question, the Rambam rules that in a case where two sacrifices stand before the kohen, one of which is brought on a more consistent basis and the other which is holier, the kohen can choose to bring whichever he prefers first (see Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Temidin U’Musafin 9:2).