“Breirah” of a Korban Pesach

Pesachim (8:1) | Yoni Sapir | 16 years ago

The Mishnayot in the beginning of the eighth perek deal with various cases where the korban pesach has been slaughtered on behalf of another person. Since everyone is obligated in this mitzvah and the korban is slaughtered for groups of people – “a sheep per household” – it creates many situations where one performs the mitzvah on behalf of others when they are not present or unaware of the fact that it is being performed for them. As the Beraitah teaches:

“A sheep per household” (Shmot ) this teaches that a person brings and slaughters a korban for his minor son or daughter, or for his slaves, with or without their knowledge

The first Mishnah deals with a case where a person has two options regarding which korban to join. For example, a woman has relevance to both her husband’s and father’s sacrifices. What would be the law if both her husband and father included her in their korbanot without her knowledge? One must remember that one can only be included in one korban! The Mishnah explains that when the two options are equally weight (in the first example, if in the first year of marriage she was included in her father’s korban) and we have no way of knowing whose korban she assumed she would be part of, then “she may eat from which ever place she wishes.” It appears that the Mishnah refers to her preference now, after the korban has been slaughtered. Consequently the Gemara initially deduced that there is breirah (retroactive selection). (In other words, a matter that is not clear now, yet clarified later, it is as if it is clarified now.) Since a person does not fulfil his obligation unless he is elected as being part of a group prior to the slaughtering of that group’s korban we must say that now that the woman chooses which group she wishes to be part of, the matter is retroactively clarified that she was part of that korban at the time of its slaughtering.

Nevertheless, the Gemara is not satisfied with this explanation since “the halacha is that with respect to biblical laws, breirah does not apply.” It therefore explains the Mishnah’s statement that “she may eat from which ever place she wishes” to mean that she must clarify at the time of slaughtering into which korban she is having a share, otherwise she may not eat from either.

The concept of breirah also appears in the second Mishnah. The Mishnah discusses a case where a man tells his servant to slaughter the korban pesach yet the servant is unsure which animal he was directed to use – a lamb or kid.

Here, there are two possibilities. If his master did not specify which animal to use, and the slave slaughtered both a lamb and kid on the condition that which ever the master chooses shall be the korban pesach, this depends on the law of breirah. If we say that matter must be clarified retroactively, since the Halacha is that is such a case there is no breirah, he would not be able to eat from either sacrifice. (Note that when the Mishnah explains that in such a case the owner eats from the animal that was slaughtered first, the Gemara explains that this refers to a specific case including a king and queen, where the owners do not care which animal is slaughtered and rely on their slave to choose.)

The second possibility is when the owner explicitly mentioned which animal he desired and the slave forgot. In this case, the slave can slaughter both animals making the following condition “If he said a kid, then the kid is for my master and the lamb is for me. If he said a lamb, then the lamb is for my master and the kid is for me.” Despite the fact that breirah is not affective, this case does not require breirah since at the time of slaughtering that matter was already clarified, even though the slave was unclear. Later, when the master comes, there will be no retroactive selection taking place but rather simply revealing the details (“gilui milta be’alma”).

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