Weekly Daf: Can “shelo lishma” go from one avodah to another?


Can “shelo lishma” go from one avodah to another?

Rabbi Shmuel Wise, Maggid shiur at RealClearDaf.com

We discussed this topic at the bottom of 9b and on 10a this week in the daf. We learned that this question is a dispute between R’ Yochanan and Reish Lakish. First, let us clarify the case: someone slaughters his sacrifice with the intention that he will perform the zerika, application of the blood onto the altar, for the sake of a different offering. R’ Yochanan says this invalidates the sacrifice and Reish Lakish says it does not.

What are they arguing about? Their dispute comes down to the question of whether there is legal significance to a shelo lishma (for the sake of a different offering) intention during one step in the service (e.g. shechita, the slaughtering) that was directed toward a different step in the service (e.g. the zerika).

Logic would appear to be on the side of Reish Lakish: Why should an incorrect intention about avodah B have any legal significance where that intention was expressed during avodah A? However, the gemara on 10a presents a kal v’chomer (a fortiori argument) in favor of R’ Yochanan’s opinion from the invalidating intention of intending to complete the sacrifice in the wrong place. The gemara points out that the intention to bring the offering in the wrong place only invalidates the sacrifice where the person had the incorrect intention regarding a subsequent step in the service (e.g. he thought during the slaughtering that he intends to perform the zerika outside of the Temple courtyard). The following kal v’chomer argument therefore presents itself: supposing that the person is now performing the slaughtering, the “wrong place” intention will not invalidate if directed at the slaughtering, but it does if directed at the zerika. All the more so, then, should a shelo lishma intention – which even invalidates when directed at the slaughtering now being performed – invalidate if directed at the subsequent zerika, as R’ Yochanan rules.

While the above argument conforms to the technical structure of a kal v’chomer, it appears to assume a strange premise regarding the halacha of shelo lishma. For the gemara’s argument would seem to be analogous to the following: We find that a “wrong place” intention invalidates during the slaughtering when directed at the zerika, but not when directed at the slaughtering. So the halachah that disqualifies a proper slaughtering knife – which “even” invalidates the slaughtering – should certainly invalidate the zerika. Clearly, this would be a ludicrous argument for it is self-understood that the requirement of a proper shechita knife is specific to the shechita! Here as well: logic dictates that intending the shechita for the wrong sacrifice should only be a problem by the shechita!

The gemara is telling us to think about the halachah of shelo lishma in a different way. Rather than being just another detail of how to properly perform the shechita and other steps of the service, shelo lishma operates in a separate realm of sacrificial laws, the realm of “thoughts that disqualify.” That is, the Torah decrees that by attaching certain incorrect intentions to a sacrifice, the sacrifice becomes invalid. Understood in this light, we should find it perfectly reasonable for the incorrect intention to invalidate at any stage of the service, about any other stage of the service. However, the halachah does limit the type of invalidating intention. For instance, we know that an intention of shelo lishma does not invalidate by non-essential steps of the service like the burning of the sacrifice on the altar. Also, if, for example, someone intended his chattas sacrifice for a different type of chattas, it does not invalidate. In other words, the shelo lishma intention has to be meaningful in order to invalidate. However, R’ Yochanan’s kal v’chomer tells us not to limit shelo lishma to the avodah at hand: You can inject an invalidating intention of shelo lishma from one avodah to another!

This was a fascinating discussion about going from avodah to avodah; may we all go from avodah to avodah, and from strength to strength in our journey through Seder Kodshim.