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KINNIM (Heb. קִנִּים), the 11th and last tractate in the *Mishnah order of Kodashim. The term means "nest" or "birds in a nest," and it designates the pair of sacrificial "birds," "two turtle-doves" or "two young pigeons," which were obligatory offerings in certain cases and voluntary in others (Lev. 1:14–16; 5:1–10; 12; see Shek. 6:5). In the case of "obligatory offerings" one of the two birds is a burnt offering and the other is a sin offering, while in the case of "voluntary offerings" both are burnt offerings. This distinction plays a significant role in the discussions of this tractate. Equally important is the distinction between ken meforeshet, meaning that the offerer has decided which of the two birds is to be the burnt offering and which the sin offering, and ken setumah, where no such decision has been taken and the designation is left to the priest. Kinnim is not concerned with the laws of bird sacrifices in general (dealt with in Zev. 6:4ff.) but with the special problem of "confusion of birds"; e.g., birds assigned as sin offerings mixed up with those assigned as burnt offerings. The problem arising in such a case is indicated in the opening paragraph of the first chapter. The blood of a sin offering is sprinkled on the lower part of the altar (under the "red line"), while that of a burnt offering on the upper part; if the actions were performed in the reverse fashion the sacrifice would be invalid. Subtle differences arise if the confused birds belong to one or to several persons, and the confusion of birds of the same sacrificial species belonging to one person also has some consequence.

The second chapter elaborates on the distinction between ken meforeshet and ken setumah. It mentions incidentally that a turtledove and young pigeon do not constitute a ken, and concludes, somewhat out of context, with the qualified ruling on the duty of an heir to supply the sin offering for a woman who died in childbirth. The third chapter enlarges on points already discussed in the two previous chapters and ends with the adage that the stupidity of an ignoramus, like the wisdom of a scholar, increases with age. English versions are to be found in the Mishnah translation of Danby (1933) and Blackman (1951).


Ḥ. Albeck, Shishah Sidrei Mishnah, Kodashim (1959), 337–8.

[Arnost Zvi Ehrman]

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