Pesachim 67-68 טומאה הותרה בצבור , bringing sacrifices in our day, and visiting Har habayit

One of the main (though not the only) halachik impediments to visiting the Temple Mount as well as offering up the קרבן פסח  in our day is the fact that in the absence of a פרה אדומה (red heifer), whose ashes are biblically  required for purifying a טמא מת , we generally assume that we have this status and are thus not permitted to enter or offer or eat  the קרבן פסח  and risk the severe penalty of כרת  for doing so.

It should be noted that it is clear from the discussion on daf 68 that a טמא מת is not prohibited from entering the entire הר הבית, which has the halachik status of the מחנה לויה  (Levite camp), but only from entering the area of the עזרה  (Temple courtyard) itself, which has the halachik status of the holier מחנה כהונה (Priests camp.)

This contrasts with a זב  who is forbidden to enter the מחנה לויה  and a מצורע (leper) who is forbidden to the enter the entire camp of Israel.

Although the status of זב is not applied in our time, the related albeit less severe type of impurity known as טומאת קרי (impurity due to a seminal emission) also disqualifies one from entering the מחנה לויה  and thus the entire הר הבית  but can be removed by going to Mikva according to halacha before entering.

This is the practise of those who permit visits to the parts of הר הבית  known to have been outside the עזרה  itself, while the plurality of poskim who forbid or at least caution against doing so base their view mainly on the lack of certainty as to the precise place of the עזרה  and בית המקדש itself, a topic I hope to address in the future.

I would like to focus on a different but related question, that being whether it is permitted to offer up a קרבן פסח in our times, something which might theoretically require neither a rebuilt     בית המקדש  (see Zevachim 107b) nor a פרה אדומה, as we shall see.

It goes without saying that this would be provided all other halachik issues have been resolved , such as the status of today’s kohanim, the possible requirement for a kohain gadol, the need for the special garments to be worn, etc. (for a detailed discussion on the topic, see the article by  מורי וידידי haGaon haRav Gavriel Saraf   שליט”א on https://www.kby.org/hebrew/torat-yavneh/view.asp?id=7234

It also assumes that this is physically and legally possible, without endangering lives, as however seriously this קרבן  is taken in halacha, it does not override the laws of פקוח נפש  (the question of שעת הגזירה and whether this applies to our situation is beyond the scope of our discussion.)

Having shown that the תמיד  (daily communal burnt offering) and קרבן פסח  (Passover offering) are both performed on shabbos, overriding the prohibition of melacha, the Gemara turns to another powerful property of these sacrifices, namely their ability to override the rule of טומאה  (impurity) provided that  the majority of the community is impure.

Usually speaking, a person who is טמא מת (impure due to contact with a corpse) is not permitted to bring the קרבן פסח, just like other קרבנות, and rather brings his קרבן  one month later  on פסח שני  when his טומאה  has passed.

However, the Mishna (Pesachim 76b) tells us that the קרבן פסח  may both be brought and eaten in impurity if the majority of the community is impure, and of course entering the עזרה  while impure in order to perform the offering must thus also be permitted for the kohanim.

As such, the fact that we are all assumed to be טמא מת  and unable to leave that status due to the lack of a פרה אדומה should theoretically not stand in the way of bringing a קרבן פסח  in our time!

On daf 66b,the Gemara derives via the same גזירה שוה that Hillel used regarding shabbos, that the תמיד  may also be brought under those conditions, though being an עולה, it obviously is not eaten (see Tosfos 66a ד”ה “מה” who discusses other possible sources for this.)

On daf 67a, The Gemara concludes that the source that theקרבן פסח   itself may be offered while impure if the majority of the community are impure comes from the law of פסח שני  itself.

Regarding פסח שני, the פסוק  ( Bamidbar 9/10) states “איש איש כי יהיה טמא לנפש ”  – (any man who will be impure from a life .)

From the phrase “איש איש”  , we derive that only an individual who is impure needs to put off his קרבן  till פסח שני  but if the community in whole or majority is impure, the קרבן פסח  is offered as usual on Pesach itself!

From the word לנפש, it derives that this concession applies only to טומאת מת  and not to other forms of impurity.

Although there are other forms of impurity that affect many or most of us today, the most common being טומאת קרי (impurity due to a seminal emission), these impurities can be resolved through mikva without the red heifer’s ashes and need not stand in the way of קרבן פסח.

As such, should all the other issues be resolved, neither the lack of a Beis haMikdash, nor the issue of impurity seem to stand in the way of bringing a קרבן פסח  today, and given the severe penalty for not doing so, it seems at first glance that we should obligated to do whatever we can do make this possible.

Many of us feel extremely uncomfortable with the idea of returning to what might seem like a primitive and barbaric form of worship, and there might even Torah sources that seem to back up such discomfort, a topic for another occasion.

Yet, as Moreinu haGaon Rav Asher Weiss שליט”א  once said to me over a barbecue in Africa while we were discussing this subject, its is rather hypocritical to sit eating a steak and criticize sacrificial worship- after all if one is comfortable with slaughtering an animal for one’s own pleasure, why would one be uncomfortable with doing so as part of the Torah mandated divine worship?

Of course, one could argue that whereas human beings NEED sustenance, and meat  has been viewed through most of history as an important form of sustenance, Hashem certainly does NOT need it, and there should be better ways to show our dedication to him than killing his creatures and offering them to him.

Yet it is axiomatic that Torah practices tend to be very symbolic and use methods of divine service which people can relate too-The fact that Hashem has no need for anything does not stop us from showing our appreciation of him by offering up that which is valuable to us and seeing as meat is  a major source of sustenance and pleasure for most of us, the above argument is rather mute.

When it comes to the קרבן פסח, this argument falls away completely , seeing as this unique korban is primarily about us eating it .

Almost all of us enjoy our lavish meat meals on Seder night, so why would we be opposed to first dedicating the very meat we are about to eat to Hashem?

Those people who are “religiously” vegetarian and are against killing animals at all even for food, or claim that meat is no longer needed for sustenance might indeed hold the moral high ground needed to at least start this discussion, but it seems like the rest of us should really grow up and prepare for the time when we will at least be able to fully dedicate our lust for meat to Hashem before eating it, a time which might virtually be here already, at least once a year!

יהי רצון מלפניך שיבנה בית המקדש במהרה בימינו ותן חלקינו בתורותיך ושם נעבדך ביראה כמי עולם וכשנים קדמוניות. “וערבה לה’ נמחת יהודה וירושליים כימי עולם וכשנים קדמוניות.”

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.