What is done with surplus korbanos at the end of the year?
Rabbi Shmuel Wise, Maggid Shiur at RealClearDaf.com
We learned about this in a lengthy discussion that began on 10b. Ulla and Rabbah there quote R’ Yochanan who teaches a novel ruling regarding leftover korban tamid lambs (by “leftover” we mean that these lambs had been consecrated to be offered as tamid offerings during the previous fiscal year which ends on the last day of Adar). The halachah is that we may only purchase communal offerings from the communal fund of the current fiscal year, which means that a lamb from last year is definitely not fit to be offered as is.
Now normally when a consecrated animal can no longer be brought as a sacrifice, the animal still retains its special sacrificial sanctity which would proscribe the option of selling the animal on the market. Rather we have to wait until the animal gets some permanent disqualifying blemish which would lower its sanctity from sacrificial sanctity to monetary sanctity at which point it can be sold. Yet R’ Yochanan teaches that we may take these surplus unblemished tamid lambs and simply redeem them! Rav Chisda expresses astonishment at R’ Yochanan’s ruling:
“Where did [the lambs’] sanctity go?”
On 11a, Rabbah answers this question with the theory of, “the court made a stipulation,” meaning that the Sages specifically enacted that the sanctity that we confer on an animal by designating it for a communal offering is conditional: if we end up offering it, then great; but if for some reason it can’t be offered (e.g. it ended up being extra), then it loses its sacrificial sanctity and can immediately be redeemed. It is noteworthy that Rabbah does not suggest that the Sages enacted that in the event we don’t need this animal, the animal is simply considered an ordinary non-holy animal. Evidently, the Sages had no desire to completely remove the sacred status this animal gained by being designated as a sacrifice.
Abaye pushes back at Rabbah’s theory based on something Rabbah himself said: If someone consecrated an animal (that is fit to be brought as a sacrifice) and adds, “I only want this animal to have monetary sanctity (that is, the animal should be sold, and its proceeds should be used to purchase a sacrifice),” this proviso has no effect – the animal gains full sacrificial sanctity and is offered. If so, Abaya points out, even if we utilize a legal fiction that it is as if the animal was sanctified with monetary sanctity, the animal should still end up with full sacrificial sanctity, bringing us back full circle to where we started!
The Gemara answers this with a fundamental distinction: if a person attempts to donate an animal to the Beis Hamikdash (that is perfectly fit itself to be offered) for the purpose of selling it and using the money to purchase a sacrifice – that doesn’t work; instead the animal itself becomes fully sanctified as a korban. However, if a person donates the animal and earmarks its proceeds for something that the animal itself cannot be used for (e.g. wine libations) then the designation is indeed meaningful, and the animal will only be conferred with monetary sanctity. This is exactly what is happening in our case: The court decree says that if ultimately this animal isn’t needed as a sacrifice, then it’s as if the animal was originally donated to the fund where all other excess funds from last year go – which is used to pay for the gold sheets that plate to kodesh kodashim (obviously not something that an animal can be used for; hence the animal will remain with monetary sanctity only).
The Gemara later on 12a establishes that the tanna R’ Shimon does not accept the position that there was a rabbinical stipulation made to address the problem of unneeded communal sacrifices. Instead, R’ Shimon rules that we take these tamid lambs leftover from last year and bring them as “dessert” on the mizbeach, i.e. after all other required sacrifices have been brought, we bring these lambs as communal voluntary olos. Apparently, voluntary offerings are not subject to the requirement that they be funded from this year’s communal fund. But the question remains: how can we use these lambs for a sacrifice other than the one they were consecrated for?
Rashi answers by explaining that this ruling is an outgrowth of R’ Shimon’s opinion in the mishnah regarding the mussaf goats of different holidays (e.g. Rosh Chodesh, Sukkos, etc.). R’ Shimon ruled that if we ended up with a surplus goat of one holiday, we can use it for a different holiday. The Rabban objected to this, pointing out that goats of the different festivals do not atone for the same sins; how then can a goat designated for one holiday be used for another? R’ Shimon though does not share this objection because he argues that since the different goats all atone for the same basic category of sin (i.e. tumah violations), it’s perfectly fine to repurpose a goat for a different holiday. The same view, Rashi explains, applies in our discussion: although these lambs were originally designated to be brought as tamid olos, we can now repurpose them to be brought as voluntary olos. Since they are both of the same basic category of olos, it’s not a problem to use them as this kind of olah instead of that kind of olah.
It turns out then that all opinions allow some kind of flexibility when dealing with the problem of unneeded communal offerings, but the specific type of flexibility is a matter of halachic dispute.
Rabbi Wise is maggid shiur of Real Clear Daf (realcleardaf.com). Real Clear Daf is a website and mobile app (for iOS and Android) that offers free audio shiurim and other resources to assist your journey through Shas. You may reach Rabbi Wise via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 855-ASK-RCD-1 (275-7231).