Bechorot 29 - 35
All or Nothing at All
"The kohanim", writes Rambam (Laws of Bikkurim 1:1), "were awarded 24 gifts, all of them explicitly mentioned in the Torah. Regarding all of them a covenant was made with Aaron. Any kohen who does not believe in one of them has no portion in the priesthood and receives none of these gifts."
The source for this ruling is in our gemara which bases it on a passage in the Torah. In discussing the portions of the shelamim sacrifice which are awarded to the kohanim the Torah writes: "The one who sacrifices the blood of the shelamim and its fats, from amongst the sons of Aaron, to him shall be awarded the right leg as a portion" (Vayikra 7:33). This is interpreted by our Sages as an indication that only one who conducts himself in all matters like the sons of Aaron is entitled to such a portion, to the exclusion of a kohen who deviates from his commitment in even one matter. The gift of sacrificial portions mentioned in this passage serves as a prototype for eligibility for all the other gifts.
Where is there such an indication in this passage?
In his commentary on Chumash, Malbim points out that from a grammatical angle the phrase "from amongst the sons of Aaron" should have followed the phrase "the one who sacrificed the blood of the shelamim and its fats" because it serves as a modification of "the one" mentioned at the outset. Whenever the Torah thus places a phrase out of grammatical order, it is a signal to see in this phrase a special significance. In this case the message is that it is not sufficient for receiving gifts awarded to kohanim to be a genealogical descendant of Aaron alone but a full spiritual one as well. The descendant who has reservations about any of the obligations or gifts assigned to Aaron is therefore ineligible for "any portion in the priesthood and receives none of these gifts".
- Bechorot 30b
The Laws of Flaws
The Torah prohibited inflicting a mum (flaw) on a firstborn animal or any other animal which has been consecrated for sacrificial purposes. Does this prohibition apply to a sacrificial animal which has already been disqualified through a flaw?
Two conflicting opinions are mentioned in our gemara and they revolve around the definition of the word kol used in the passage containing the prohibition.
In regard to the animal qualified for sacrifice the Torah states that "If it is flawless it shall be willingly accepted (by G-d), kol mum (all sorts of flaws) shall it not have" (Vayikra 22:21).
Rabbi Meir saw in the all-inclusive term "all" an indication that no matter how many flaws the sacrificial animal has it is forbidden to inflict another. The other Sages ruled this out on the basis of the first part of the passage which speaks of a flawless animal which will be willingly accepted as a sacrifice. Only in regard to such an animal is there a prohibition to disqualify it by inflicting a flaw and not in regard to an animal already disqualified because of a flaw.
How do these Sages apply the all-inclusive term kol?
They apply it to a situation where a man causes a flaw to come about in a sacrificial animal in indirect fashion. The example cited is that of one placing a chunk of dough on the ear of the sacrificial animal in order to invite a dog to come and eat it and incidentally inflict a wound on that ear. Even though this was not inflicted directly, the all-inclusive term kol serves as a prohibition for such action.
Tosefot points out that even those Sages mentioned in Mesechta Pesachim (43b) who are reluctant to interpret every kol as an all-inclusive term will agree that in this particular case it should thus be interpreted because there is a logical basis for assuming that the Torah prohibited disqualifying an animal through a flaw no matter how it is done.
- Bechorot 33b