Does the Tzitz Help for an Edible Portion That Became Tamei?

Provided courtesy of Real Clear Daf

We discussed this question on the Daf of this past Shabbos, 15a. The Mishnah at the bottom of 14b discusses the following case: One of the two loaves that accompany the two-lamb sacrifice of Shavuos   became tamei. The Rabbanan say that this event does not in any way impact the status of the other loaf: it remains tahor and should be eaten. However R’ Shimon asserts that both loaves must be burned because, “the communal offerings cannot be divided.”

The first thing the Gemara does is establish that R’ Shimon only invalidates the other loaf when the instance of tuma occured before the sacrifice was completed through zerika, the application of the blood to the mizbeach. All opinions agree that if after zerika one of the loaves became tamei, this would not impact the other loaf whatsoever. Why does R’ Shimon invalidate the remaining loaf where one of them became tamei before zerika? R’ Pappa offers a theory.

R’ Pappa suggests that there is an underlying dispute here about the extent of the Tzitz’s power to make tamei sacrifices considered acceptable. It is well known that the Tzitz, the golden head-plate worn by the Kohen Gadol has the capacity to make a korban brought in a state of impurity be considered an acceptable offering (even though in the case of an individual’s impure offering it is illegal to offer it--if it was offered the Tzitz causes it to be accepted).

Now everyone agrees that where the specific tuma problem is either that the part of the sacrifice that is burned on the mizbeach or the person bringing the korban was tamei, that the Tzitz renders the korban acceptable. However, R’ Pappa explains, if the portion that is normally eaten became tamei, in R’ Yehuda’s opinion the Tzitz does not help. Consequently the efficacy of the korban is compromised to the degree that the zerika does not cause even the tahor loaf to be permitted. The Rabbanan, on the other hand, hold that the Tzitz is equally effective where the edible part of the korban became tamei, and thus the tahor loaf is permitted for consumption.

Based on several proofs, the Gemara ultimately rejects R’ Pappa’s theory, concluding instead that R’ Yehuda simply had a tradition stating that if a part of the communal offering’s edible portion became tamei, the rest of the edible portion cannot be used either. However this does not change our obligation to do our best to understand what this amora meant. So let’s endeavour to answer some questions that arise with R’ Pappa’s theory:

1) How could it be suggested that the zerika of this Shavuos sacrifice wasn’t valid in light of the established rule that the obligation to bring communal sacrifices at the appointed time overrides a problem of tuma?

2) What is the rationale to distinguish between the burned and edible portions of the korban with respect to the Tzitz’s powers?

3) As asked by the Shitah Mekubetzes, if it’s true that this zerika wasn’t valid, R’ Yehuda should have stated that the meat of the lambs cannot be eaten either?

We’ll attempt to answer the questions in order. In answer to #1, it is certainly true that the fact the we’re dealing with a time-dependant communal sacrifice means that we had permission to bring this korban. Notwithstanding that permission, if the Tzitz’s power is not operative, then the status of this korban is a korban that was afflicted with a tuma problem that the Torah permitted us to bring. As a result of the tuma problem which was not solved by the Tzitz, the zerika’s effect was downgraded, leaving both loaves invalid.

In answer to #2, my reflections led me to this understanding: The way the Torah itself describes the power of the Tzitz is that it bears a sin having to do with the way the korban was offered. Chazal identify the particular sin as the sin of bringing a korban in a state of tuma. If the mechanism of the Tzitz is one of bearing a sin, it’s reasonable that that it only works in a situation that can be conceived of as sinful. Thus if either the person or the thing being put on the mizbeach is tamei, being that these are actions that (under normal circumstances) are clearly problematic, the Tzitz bears the sin and the zerika is fully effective. But if the issue is that the other piece of korban over there (the one that usually becomes permitted to eat) is tamei, how can we describe the act of bringing this korban as sinful? Thus this situation is outside of the Tzitz’s province, and the zerika is not effective in permitting the loaves.

Maybe the above can help us answer #3 as well: Although it’s true that the Tzitz only deals with sins and the fact that the loaf over there is tamei doesn’t really define this is as a sin, still the loaf’s tuma ultimately impacts the zerika that is being done, indirectly making it “sinful.” So in a kind of compromise the Tzitz says, “in terms of the korban itself (namely, the parts actually being offered on the mizbeach) I’ll cover for you, but not for any part of the korban this isn’t part of the offering itself.” Consequently, while the zerika worked fully for the lambs, it got downgraded for the loaves.