Meat From Heaven?
‘Only Young Ones Are Acceptable…’
Our daf discusses the acceptability of offering mature turtle doves and young pigeons as sacrifices in the Temple. The Mishnah (Parah 1:1) derives from various pesukim that we may only sacrifice a lamb that is not more than one year old, a ram that is not more than two years old, and a steer that is not more than three years old.
Age: Sibah or Siman?
An interesting question is often asked: Are these age limitations a sibah (the cause of disqualification) or merely a siman (an indication that the animal is disqualified)? In other words, perhaps the real cause of disqualification of an animal is a certain size or level of maturity. If that is the case, then a two-year-old lamb may perhaps still be offered as a sacrifice if it is very small and possesses the maturity of an 11-month-old lamb. Conversely, a grown lamb created with Sefer Yetzirah would not be able to be sacrificed. It may be only one day old, but it looks five years old and has the maturity of a five-year-old.
An Absolute Requirement
It is clear from the Gemara (Zevachim 25b) that the age requirement is absolute. The Gemara notes that an animal is disqualified if it was slaughtered right before its first birthday and then turned one year old before there was time to sprinkle its blood on the altar. Even though it obviously stops developing after it was slaughtered, it is considered to have aged and is no longer acceptable.
A Miracle Occurs
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 59b) relates that R. Shimon b. Chalafta once encountered two lions as he was traveling on the road. Fearing for his life, he repeated the words of Tehillim 104:21, “The young lions roar for prey,” and a miracle occurred. Two pieces of meat fell from heaven and the lions satiated themselves with one of them. R. Shimon b. Chalafta took the other piece of meat to the beis medrash and asked if it was tahor. The sages replied that it was surely tahor as “nothing impure descends from heaven.”
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 67b) also recounts that R. Chanina and R. Oshaya would study the halachos of creation every Erev Shabbos. They would combine letters of Heaven’s name with which Hashem created the world and, behold, a fine third-grown calf would emerge, which they would then eat.
The Gemara makes no mention of the need to shecht this animal. Is that because it didn’t need it?
Later authorities discuss this question. The Shelah Hakadosh (Parashas Vayeshev, p.70) argues that an animal created with Sefer Yetzirah needs no shechitah. The Seder Hadoros (Seder Tanaim Ve’amoraim, os shin, Ma’areches R. Shimon b. Chalafta, os beis, 182) maintains that the Gemara we cited earlier (Sanhedrin 59b) serves as proof for this position since R. Shimon B. Chalfta only asked if the meat was tahor. He wasn’t worried about it having come from a non-shechted animal.
The author of Tur Barekes (Hilchos Yom Tov, p.143) adds that there is no need for nikkur (removing forbidden fats or veins) in an animal that descended directly from heaven, nor is there any need to remove its gid hanasheh.
The Sdei Chemed (Ma’areches Chametz u’Matza 2:3) rules strictly. He says a person encountering a piece of meat “from heaven” should suspect that the wind blew it toward him from another locale (not heaven). As such, the meat is forbidden for consumption. As far as the halachos mentioned in the Gemara are concerned, they were only meant for the Amora’im who possessed the ability to create animals via Sefer Yetzirah and thus knew with certainty that meat that seemed to descend from heaven did, in fact, come from there.