Time to Clean Up

Zevachim (11:7) | Yisrael Bankier | 11 years ago

In the eleventh perek we learnt how to deal with clothing that had been stained with blood from a korban and what must be done with the utensils that had been used for korbanot. The basis for these laws is learnt from the following p’sukim (Vayikra -21):

… If [a sin offering’s] blood splashes on any garment, it must be washed off in the sanctified area. Any clay pot in which it is cooked must be broken. However if it is cooked in a copper pot, the pot may be purged and rinsed with water.

We learn from the above pasuk that earthenware and metal utensils are to be treated differently.

The above p’sukim specifically refer to the blood or cooking of a korban chatat (sin-offering). Nevertheless we have learnt that the requirement to scrub metal utensils applies to utensils that were used to cook any korban (11:7). Rashi further maintains that the requirement to smash earthenware vessels also applies to all korbanot. The Kli Yakar asks, this being the case, why did the Torah choose to teach these laws specifically by the korban chatat.

The Kli Yakar provides two answers. On a pshat level (a simple, straightforward explanation) he explains that when the Torah teaches that earthenware utensils must be smashed, it is because the absorbed taste from the sacrifice can never be extracted from such utensils. One may think that this rationale would only apply to kodshei kalim, sacrifices that have a longer period of time in which they must be consumed (two days and a night). When dealing with kodshei kodshim that must be consumed within a day and night and therefore spend less time in the utensil, one may think that they are not absorbed within the vessel to the same extent and can simply be washed. The Torah therefore teaches this law specifically by a korban chatat that has a reduced time for consumption.

The Kli Yakar provides a second explanation on level of remez (a more profound level). He explains that there are similarities between the purification of utensils, and the purification of sinners. People are affected differently by their engagement in sin. There are those that become “absorbed” and it is very difficult for them to repent – they literally require a “shattering” of their hearts. Others however require less effort in their repentance.3

The following Gemara (Arachin 15b) is brought to illustrate:

What is the remedy for a speaker of lashon ha’rah? If he is a Talmid Chacham he should engage in Torah as it states: “A healed tongue is the tree of life…” (Mishlei 15:4). If he is an Am Ha’Aretz he should humble himself as it states: “…and the perverted in it – a broken spirit”.

The Kli Yakar therefore explains that the laws regarding these utensils is taught specifically by the sin offering to teach us that at a time when such sacrifices are not available to the sinner, one’s purification matches those of the utensils. The Am Ha’aretz is compared to an earthenware vessel4 that requires a shattering of his heart in order to extract the sin. The Talmid Chacham on the other hand, is compared to a metal utensil that requires shetifah u’merikah – a thorough scrubbing with water inside and out5. Therefore for the Talmid Chacham his remedy is through “water” – through Torah that is compared to water – cleaning him “inside and out” ensuring that his internal being, reflects his external appearance (tocho k’boro).


3: The Kli Yakar is not referring to repentance per se, which has strict halachic guidelines that are followed equally by everyone, but rather the negative impact that the sin has on the person and how to remedy it.

4: See the Kli Yakar for proofs and the full explanation.

5: According to Rashi’s explanation.

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