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ZEVAḤIM (Heb. זְבָחִים; "Animal Sacrifices"), first tractate in the order Kodashim, in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Babylonian Talmud (there is no Jerusalem Talmud to Kodashim). Just as tractate *Ḥullin is also called Sheḥitat Ḥullin ("The Slaughter of Profane Animals", i.e., for human consumption), so Zevaḥim has the alternate name Sheḥitat Kodashim ("The Slaughter of Sacrificial Animals") in the Talmud (bm 109b, etc.) and deals almost exclusively with the regulations for the slaughter of animals and birds for the Temple worship. The tractate consists of 14 chapters in the Mishnah and 13 in the Tosefta.

Chapter 1 deals with the validity of sacrifices offered up under incorrect designations. Chapters 2–4 deal with irregularities due either to unfitness on the part of those carrying out the rites, in the deed itself, or in the intention with which it was performed. Chapters 5 and 6 detail locations where the various sacrifices of the animals, birds, and meal offerings took place; the sprinkling of the blood of the animals and birds; and the manner of their consumption. Chapter 5 constitutes the basis of the whole tractate, giving a complete enumeration of all sacrifices, and for this reason it was included, from as early as the Seder of Amram *Gaon, in the introductory portion of the daily prayers. Chapter 7 deals with irregularities in the sacrifice of birds. Chapter 8 discusses the mixing up of sacrificial animals and of their blood and limbs after slaughter. Chapter 9 discusses the sanctity which articles incur by being placed on the altar or in the sacrificial vessels. Chapter 10 gives the order of precedence of the sacrifices. Chapter 11 deals with the washing of garments stained by the blood of sacrifices and the laws concerning meat boiled in the sanctified vessels. Chapter 12 is concerned with the rights of the priests to share in the sacrifices. The subject of the last two chapters is sacrifices offered elsewhere than in the Temple, including the Temple of *Onias and the bamot ("high places").

Most of the tannaim mentioned in the Mishnah belong to the post-Temple period, when the sacrificial system no longer obtained. They nevertheless studied it and even established the halakhah. Thus R. Simeon b. Azzai states "I have heard a tradition… that any animal offerings which must be consumed remain valid though slaughtered under a different name…" but the sages did not agree with him (1:3). Nevertheless, the Mishnah contains passages which belong to the Temple period. Although Mishnah 10:8 is given in the name of R. Simeon and the whole of chapter 10 is derived from his Mishnah, Epstein (Tannain 157) maintains that it belongs to the Second Temple period and was only reported by him. Similarly, 3:6 is given in the name of Judah b. Ilai, but it is actually from his teacher Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, who lived during Temple times, as can be seen by a comparison with Tosefta 3:6 (ibid., 189ff.). Mishnah 9:1 cites a law anonymously, and Joshua b. Hananiah and Rabban Gamaliel disagree as to its interpretation. Tosafot maintains that the law must therefore have been in existence prior to the recorded dispute, while Rashi is of the opinion that the law was no older than the dispute itself (cf. Halevy, Dorot 1. 5 p. 256 and Albeck, Mishnah (Ger.) p. 105).

The Tosefta includes several passages of aggadic material. Chapter 13 tells the history and laws of the bamot and sanctuaries which preceded Solomon's Temple. In 11:16 it tells about the gedolei kehunnah ("the leading priests"), who took the hides of the sacrifices for themselves. Despite measures taken to prevent this expropriation, the priests continued this practice until the people adopted the custom of specifically devoting the hides "to heaven." Tosefta 2:17 has an interesting description of the persistent questioning of Eleazar b. Shamua by one of his disciples until a law which had been overlooked was traced to its origin. Realizing that through this persistence on the part of the student his teaching had been restored to the college, Eleazar exclaimed: "Happy are you, the righteous who love the Torah, as it is written, Oh how I love thy Torah! I meditate on it all day."

The Gemara contains comparatively little aggadic material. Worthy of mention is the statement "sacrificing without repentance is an abomination" (7b). Another saying speaks of the atoning powers attaching to the high priests' garments (88b). One passage lists the centers of worship before the building of Solomon's Temple (118b). The rabbis stated that the returning exiles built their bronze altar on the very site of the original altar destroyed by the Babylonians. They located it on seeing the angel Michael at worship near an altar which was still standing. According to Isaac Nappaḥa, however, they were assured of the spot when they saw the ashes of Isaac upon the ground as they walked (62a). Zevaḥim was translated into English by H. Freedman in the Soncino edition of the Talmud (1948).

[Encyclopedia Hebraica]