How were the animals in the Temple purchased?
According to Rashi, the general practice in the Temple was to set aside six animals that had been checked and found to be appropriate for sacrifice that would serve the needs of the upcoming communal sacrifices. This way, there was always a reserve of animals available for the Temple’s needs.
Tosafot ha-Rosh quotes an opinion which says that it all depended on availability. The kohanim in the Temple tried to always have a reserve of animals, and if a particularly good buying opportunity came up, they would buy a large number of animals.
According to both of these approaches, we can understand the question of the Gemara – what was to be done with leftover korbanot (sacrifices)? With the new year for sacrifices beginning on the first day of Nisan, when the end of Adar arrived there would often be a pool of animals that had been set aside for sacrifices, but could no longer be used, since the new year’s sacrifices had to come from the new year’s donations.
Our Gemara quotes a difference of opinion as to what happened to these animals. Shmuel rules that we redeem them – we exchange them for money. Then, the animals would no longer have any holiness attached to them, and the money could be used for the various needs of the Temple, as we will explain. Rabbi Yohanan says that we cannot remove the holiness of the sacrificial animals so easily; we can only redeem them after they have become blemished in some way so that they can no longer be brought as korbanot.
Rashi explains Shmuel’s position as limiting the possible use of the animals even after they are redeemed. He explains that, immediately after being redeemed, they are repurchased for use in the Temple. The source for this ruling is, apparently, that this is the position of the Gemara with regard to leftover ketoret – incense used in the Temple service. It was redeemed, but immediately repurchased for use in the Temple.
The Torat Hayyim – Rabbi Avraham Hayyim Shor – points out that the Rambam (Hilkhot Shekalim 4:11 ) accepts the position that these animals can be redeemed, and makes no mention of the need for repurchase. He argues that unlike the ketoret, which could not be left in the hands of someone unconnected with the Temple service, since its use outside of the Temple was forbidden, these animals could be used by anyone once they had been redeemed and were no longer holy.