How Invalid is a Sacrifice That Became Piggul?

Provided courtesy of Real Clear Daf

We learned about this on Sunday’s daf (79a) this week. The topic of the Gemara there is the halacha that, normally, upon slaughtering the Korban Todah animal, its accompanying bread becomes sanctified. The Mishnah lists some cases where the bread doesn’t become sanctified due to a problem with the sacrifice. Now clearly if there was a basic problem with the sacrifice--like if it were a treifa--the shechita would obviously not sanctify the loaves. But what if the physical requirements of the korban were met, just that the Kohen had some disqualifying intent?

There is unanimous agreement in the Gemara that in a case of piggul, i.e. where the Kohen had intent while slaughtering the Todah that it be consumed beyond the allowed time frame, that the loaves do become sanctified. However according to the Braissa, there is a dispute of Tannaim about the halacha where the Kohen had intent that the Todah be consumed outside of the permitted area. R’ Eliezer says that in this case as well the loaves become sanctified, but R’ Yehoshua says they do not. R’ Eliezer’s reasoning is straightforward: The same way that the loaves are still sanctified in the case of piggul intent, they are also sanctified in the conceptually similar case of “outside-the-permitted-area” intent. So what is R’ Yehoshua’s argument?

Both versions of Rashi that we have on the daf mention the same concept to explain the distinction that R’ Yehoshua is making. Rashi refers to the law in piggul which states that a korban cannot be deemed piggul unless everything about the offering is valid aside from the piggul intent. This law demonstrates, Rashi argues, that there is a certain degree of validity to a piggul offering. In light of the partial validity of a piggul  offering, a shechita done with piggul intent does sanctify the loaves.

I found this argument difficult to understand. Since the fact is that a korban brought with piggul intent is very disqualified--so disqualified that if someone eats it, he’s liable to kareis--how could it have any significant level of validity? Moreover, the notion that a piggul offering is more valid than a korban brought with “outside-the-permitted-area” intent--which is not subject to kareis--seems to defy logic.

Eventually I realized that the Gemara’s argument is clear and indeed fascinating. On the surface, the concept of piggul should be impossible: Once the korban becomes invalidated by the disqualifying thought, the whole avoda being done with this korban should be considered null and void with the result that we should judge this animal as something that never truly became a korban. There thus seems to be no logical basis to attach a punishment of kareis for eating the meat of this animal, a punishment which only makes sense if the animal somehow attained the sanctity of a korban and then became disqualified (like in the case of a korban that was actually left over beyond the allowed time). Yet the Torah of course does impose a penalty of kareis for eating piggul meat, so, apparently, the Torah considers a piggul korban as a valid korban for the purpose of imposing kareis. We find a similar concept by the prohibition against owning chametz on Pesach. At first glance it should be impossible to violate this prohibition since normally it’s halachically impossible to own something that carries a prohibition from benefit. But of course the Torah does impose lashes on one who violates this prohibition, so, apparently, the Torah put the prohibited chametz into the violater’s legal jurisdiction for the purpose of imposing lashes. Thus, R’ Yehoshua argues that specifically in the case of a korban deemed piggul, there’s enough validity to sanctify the loaves. A korban deemed invalid on the basis of an “outside-the-permitted-area” intent, by contrast (where no kareis is imposed) is judged like a korban that was never valid to begin with and thus its shechita lacks the capacity to sanctify the loaves.