Seir HaMishtaleach

Yoma (6) | Yisrael Bankier | 11 years ago

Part of the avoda on Yom Kippur involved casting lots to decided the fates of two goats. One of these was used a chatat with its blood sprinkled in the same special manner as the bull offering learnt previously. The second, the seir ha’mishtaleach was sent to the desert and ultimately pushed off a cliff. The details of both these goats have been learnt over the past week. While the first goat’s use appears to be much like a regular korban, the seir ha’mishtaleach however is quite unique. This leads to the question regarding how to define it. Is it a korban? It is paired with the other goat but has none of the regular avoda performed with it. The Minchat Asher (Acharei Mot, 29) presents three approaches in understanding the seir ha’mishtaleach.

The Gevurat Ari (Yoma 41b) asks how the crimson thread could have been tied on the horns of the seir ha’mishtaleach? Initially, its purpose was so that the goats would not be mixed. Yet after the goat was sent away, the thread on its horns served no purpose and should be considered a violation of performing unnecessary work with a korban. He answers that while prior to the lottery it shared some laws with korbanot (e.g. it was prohibited to slaughter it outside the Beit Hamikdash) this was only because it was suitable to be offered inside the Beit HaMikdash. Once however the lottery and vidui (confession) was performed, and it is no longer fit to be inside, it is no longer considered a korban. It does not have the sanctity of a korban (kedushat haguf) and would only be considered like the property of the Beit HaMikdash (bedek habayit).

The Grach however has a slightly different approach. He maintains that the seir ha’mishtaleach indeed does have the status of korban yet it is different from other korbanot in its avoda. Its avoda is performed in the vidui of the kohen gadol. All that remains after that is a mitzvah of sending out.

The Minchat Asher directs us to the Rashba (Shevu’ot 13a) who deliberates whether the sending of the seir hamishtaleach is considered a korban. The Rashba concludes, much like the achronim above*that is not considered a korban*.

The Minchat Asher explains that this understanding fits nicely with the Gemara (Yoma 66b) that teaches that the sending of the seir hamishtaleach overrides Shabbat. The Gemara there learns this law from the word “iti” used in the pasuk when describing mitzvah. The fact that a separate pasuk is required is noteworthy because we have a general rule that all public sacrifices override Shabbat and the seir hamishtaleach should have been encompassed in that rule. Yet if it is not considered a korban after vidui then we understand why a separate pasuk is needed. (Nevertheless, he admits that one could say the seir hamishtaleach is considered korban but requires a pasuk because its avoda would be outside the Beit HaMikdash and therefore its overriding Shabbat could not be learnt from other korbanot).

The Shita Mekubetzet (Temura 6b hashmatot) however writes that if one pushed the seir hamishtaleach that had a mum (blemish) over the cliff they would have violated the prohibition of offer a korban with a mum. It follows therefore, that according to the Shita Mekubetzet that the seir hamishtaleach is considered a korban until its end.


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