Rosh Hashanah 5

Belated gifts.

We pick up amid a discussion of how long you can delay a sacrifice or sanctified gift. That is, how long can you wait between the time you designate an animal as a sacrifice and the time you actually offer it? Yesterday’s daf taught that certain sacrificial gifts have a time limit of a year, measured by a full cycle of three pilgrimage holidays. But what about sacrifices that are linked to a specific holiday? If you miss the opportunity to sacrifice them on that holiday, can you make these up? 

An important concept at play today is tashlumim — a doubling that compensates for something that was missed. Here’s a helpful analogy: If you miss your morning pill, you might take two at lunch. Same goes for certain sacrifices. If you miss Shacharit (the morning sacrifice or, for us, the morning prayer) you may make it up at Mincha (the afternoon service) by bringing two sacrifices or, these days, reciting the Amidah twice. 

But how far does this dispensation for belated sacrifices or prayers stretch? The consensus is that you can carry over one missed prayer to the next time period but no more. Beyond that it becomes cumbersome and silly, sort of like skipping a friend’s birthday cards for two years and then sending three birthday cards all at once. Would this really make your friend feel loved, or just be a reminder of the missed birthdays?

The rabbis discuss how this works not just for daily sacrifices, but for those linked to festivals as well. Passover and Sukkot are seven and eight days long respectively (for rabbis in the land of Israel, anyway) and the Gemara assumes that the week of the holiday provides a kind of buffer. If you miss a sacrifice on day one, you have all week to make it up because a sacrifice made on any other day of the holiday is still a holiday sacrifice. (The paschal offering is an exception, as we will see below.)

Now Passover and Sukkot offer several days for make-up sacrifices, but what about Shavuot? Shavuot is only celebrated for one day in the land of Israel — so what happens if you fail to bring your Shavuot sacrifice before the end of the holiday? 

Rava said: Would you say we count only days until Shavuot?!  We count the weeks, too. And didn’t the master say: It is a mitzvah to count fifty days, and it is also a mitzvah to count seven weeks! And further, it is written in the verse: “The festival of weeks (shavuot)”!

Rava points out that the name of the holiday — Shavuot — literally means “weeks.” For this reason, the whole week following the holiday takes on a halo of holiness — enough that a belated Shavuot sacrifice can be brought. In this way, the rabbis build some leniency into the sacrificial system for all three pilgrimage festivals.

The exception to this is the paschal offering:

But is the paschal lamb fit to be sacrificed on the other festivals? The paschal lamb has a fixed time to be brought, on the 14th of Nisan; if one sacrificed it then, he has sacrificed it, but if he did not sacrifice it then, it is pushed aside. 

The Passover sacrifice is not a generic holiday sacrifice. In fact, it is not even sacrificed on Passover at all! It is sacrificed on the eve of Passover so that it can be eaten by Jewish families in Jerusalem on the first night of Passover, what has become the seder night. Because of its idiosyncratic elements, it is a one shot deal. (Mostly, anyway. There is a possible make-up in some situations called Pesach Sheni, a full month after Passover, which we encountered back in Tractate Pesachim.)

To sum up: Most sacrifices have a window of opportunity past the point when they are really supposed to be offered. The size of that window depends a lot on the type of sacrifice and the occasion. The rabbis seemed interested in balancing an urgency that would impel people to offer their sacrifices on time and a leniency that would encourage them to bring them even if they missed the deadline.

Read all of Rosh Hashanah 5 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on October 14th, 2021. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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