Weekly Daf: Are there times when we can use a double-hekish in the laws of sacrifices?


Are there times when we can use a double-hekish in the laws of sacrifices?

Rabbi Shmuel Wise

We explored this question on 57a-57b in the daf this week. The gemara there is discussing the time frame for eating the meat of a korban bechor. R’ Akiva there explains that this halachah is derived from the fact that the Torah compares bechor to “the breast and thigh portions.” Which breast/thigh portions? That of korban shelamim (which are waved and given to the kohein), and thus the Torah indicates that just as a shelamim has an eating time frame of two days, so too a korban bechor.

However, the fiery scholar, R’ Yose HaGalili (see the above for how he really got off to a great start on his first official day of joining the High Court), points out that we could just as easily understand the above comparison to be referring to the breast/thigh of korban todah. Since todah has a time frame of only one day, this would teach us that a bechor too only gets one day (and it’s more reasonable to understand it this way given the rule of “Don’t grab too much,” which states that when faced with a choice in scriptural interpretation, we go with the reading that yields the smaller number). R’ Akiva responds by making an additional drashah from the verse that indicates that the longer time frame is intended.

R’ Yishmael objects that R’ Akiva didn’t need this last drashah since the suggested alternative – that the Torah wants us to compare bechor to todah – violates the drashah rule that was established on 49b that we may not use a double-hekish (scriptural comparison) to derive sacrificial laws. For the very law that the breast/thigh of todah is given to the kohein is itself only known based on a hekish to shelamim. So, going from shelamim to todah (hekish #1), and then from todah to bechor (hekish #2) would be an illegal double-hekish!

The gemara then explains that R’ Akiva would respond by pointing out that we are not dealing with a classic double-hekish since each individual hekish isn’t dealing with the same halachah. For hekish #1 is dealing with the basic obligation to give the breast/thigh to the kohein. Hekish #2, on the other hand, is dealing with the one-day time frame for eating the sacrifice. That the breast/thigh of todah has a one-day time frame is known not based on any hekish but simply based on the fact that the Torah assigns this time-frame to todah itself. Being that a critical part of the teaching is being derived from only a single hekish, R’ Akiva argues that this does not fall under the scope of the double-hekish rule.

The gemara attempts to refute the opinion of R’ Yishmael from an apparent double-hekish that is made regarding the inner bull and goat of Yom Kippur. The Torah tells us that when inside the Holy of Holies with the blood of the bull, the Kohein Gadol performs an unspecified number of upward sprinklings and seven downward sprinklings. When teaching the sprinklings of the goat, the Torah indicates that one upward sprinkling is performed but does not specify the number of downward sprinklings. The matter is clarified once the verse compares these two sacrifices (hekish #1). We are thereby taught that by each animal one upward sprinkling and seven downward sprinklings are performed. The Torah then compares the sprinklings performed outside the Holy of Holies to the ones performed inside (hekish #2) which tells us that the same number of sprinklings for each animal is performed outside, too. But wait, I thought we’re not allowed to use a double-hekish for sacrificial law! Now R’ Akiva can answer that there’s no problem here since the teaching in question only partially relies on a double-hekish (for the basic sprinkling procedure is described explicitly by each animal; we only needed the first hekish to nail down the exact number of sprinklings). But according to R’ Yishmael this double-hekish should not be allowed!

In its second approach the gemara suggests the following distinction in defense of R’ Yishmael. By these Yom Kippur sacrifices the second hekish is clearly intended by the Torah irrespective of whether we make the first hekish or not. That is because the Torah does explicitly require upward and downward sprinklings by these animals, and thus the comparison between the outside procedure with the inside procedure does at least teach us to perform those procedures outside of the Holy of Holies, too. Once it is clear that the Torah wants us to make this second hekish, it’s reasonable to assume that all known information regarding these sprinkling procedures – even information that we only know through an additional hekish – is to be applied outside, as well.

By contrast, regarding the double-hekish from bechor to todah to shelamim, without hekish #1 (that established that there is even such a thing as a kohanic breast/thigh portion by todah) there is zero basis for hekish #2. So since this is a clear cut chain that begins from one hekish and then continues to another, it is proscribed by the rule on 49b. Thus, the gemara concludes that no refutation of R’ Yishmael can be drawn from the drashah concerning the Yom Kippur sacrifices.