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Reaching One’s Objective
‘The One In Thought And The Other Silently’
(Zevachim 41b)



For the past few weeks, we have been studying pigul (a status a korban attains if one intended to eat it at the wrong time) and lishmah (the requirement that one properly designate a korban). The halachic importance of thoughts comes up elsewhere in the Torah. Our sages teach (Gittin 31a) that one may separate terumah by mere thought as per the Torah’s statement “and your terumah shall be considered” (Bamidbar 18:27). They also teach (Shevuos 26b) that one may vow or contribute by mere thought as per the Torah’s statement “and each man came whose heart inspired him” (Shemos 35:22).

Actually, a brief glance at the mitzvos of the Torah reveals that many mitzvos depend on thought. Tzitzis must be made lishmah – i.e., its threads must be woven and put on a garment for the sake of the mitzvah of tzitzis – matzah must be baked lishmah, etc.

Interestingly, one must actually state that tzitzis threads are being woven for the mitzvah (Mechaber, Orach Chayyim 11:1). But why? Why is mere thought not good enough (as it is for terumah)?

According to the Rambam (Mishneh Lamelech, Hilchos Pesulei Hamukdashin 13:1), the avodos of a korban must be lishmah, but only thought is required, not speech. Thus, for an olah, for example, not to be lishmah, a kohen has merely to think at the time of its slaughtering that it is being slaughtered as a shelamim and not as an olah.

However, Rashi (s.v. “Kegon”) disagrees (and Tosafos 4b, s.v. “Machashava be’alma…,” concurs), insisting that speech is necessary as per the Torah’s words concerning pigul, “You shall not slaughter…a bull or a sheep in which there be a blemish, any bad thing” (Devarim 17:10). “Davar” means “thing,” but it also means “word.” (The Shitah Mekubetzes, Bava Metzia 43b, offers support for Rashi from the Sifrei and Acharonim offer a few Talmudic proofs in support of Rashi as well.)


Terumah Or Kodshim?

So terumah only needs thought (Bamidbar 18:27) while kodshim and pigul require speech. How about other mitzvos? Should they be likened to terumah or kodshim?

Rishonim discuss this question (see the Rosh’s Halachos Ketanos, Hilchos Sefer Torah 3, and Sefer Haterumah 192) and because of doubt, the Mechaber rules stringently that speech is required.


Molding A Thought Into Speech

If kodshim requires speech, why do most of the discussions in our tractate refer to thought – such as “one thinks from one avodah to another” (10a), “thought disqualifies” (13a), “he should not mix in other thoughts” (29a), etc.?

Rabbi Y.M. Epstein (Aruch Hashulchan He’asid 146) explains that the crucial component is thought. However, concerning kodshim, the Torah adds that the person who conceives the thought must forge it into speech. We do not have two separate matters here but actually one – thought – which is the main matter, expressed in speech.

Rabbi Epstein concludes that this explanation has a meaningful halachic implication. If a kohen later states that he made a sacrifice pigul, the sacrifice is, in fact, not pigul if his thoughts were proper at the relevant time (see ibid., se’if 8 – he believes the Rambam agrees with Rashi and Tosafos, but other Acharonim disagree; see Responsa Minchas Baruch 1, anaf 4).