Hagigah 20a-b

April 27, 2007

This month's Steinsaltz Daf Yomi is sponsored by:
Dr. and Mrs. Alan Harris
The Lewy Family Foundation
Marilyn and Edward Kaplan

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The third perek (chapter) of Masechet Hagigah, Homer ba-Kodesh, begins on today's daf (page). Its basic theme deals with a concept that, while unfamiliar to Jews in the contemporary world, is repeated several times in the Torah: the need to take great care when dealing with terumah (tithes) and kodashim (sacrifices), to ensure that they remain ritually pure. Furthermore, the Torah commands that protective enactments be created to assist in this endeavor (see, for example, Vayikra 22:9). Also connected with this concept are the severe punishments meted out by the Torah to someone who eats terumah or kodashim while in a state of ritual defilement.


The first Mishnah in the perek compares and contrasts the care that must be taken to ensure ritual purity in the cases of terumah and kodashim, pointing out that the demands made regarding kodashim are greater than those having to do with terumah. For example, if two vessels are both tameh - ritually impure and must be immersed in a mikveh - for the purposes of terumah they can be immersed even when one is inside the other. For use with kodashim, however, they would have to be immersed separately.


At first glance it would appear that the higher level of care that is required in working with kodashim stems from an intrinsic holiness that is represented in kodashim, which requires greater care, even on a Biblical level. The Talmud Yerushalmi, however, suggests another reason for the differences taught in the Mishnah.  While terumah belongs exclusively to kohanim, who are the only ones allowed to eat it, kodashim are eaten by anyone who brings a sacrifice to the Temple. Kohanim are familiar with the rules and regulations of terumah and can be trusted to take the appropriate amount of care that is necessary to guarantee that the terumah will remain pure. Other people, who encounter kodashim only on an occasional basis, need stricter rules to ensure that the items do not become defiled.

This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.  To learn more about the Steinsaltz Daf Yomi initiative, click here.

Next: Hagigah 21a-b