1) EATING THE MEAT OF A SICK ANIMAL
QUESTION: The Mishnah discusses the types of blemishes and defects which invalidate a Korban from being slaughtered in the Beis ha'Mikdash and outside of the Beis ha'Mikdash. The Mishnah says that an old ("Zaken") or sick ("Choleh") animal may not be slaughtered. It is clear from the Mishnah that an animal that is not a Korban may be slaughter and eaten even though it is old or sick.
The Mishnah in Chulin (37a) discusses the Shechitah of an animal that is a "Mesukenes," an animal that is close to death due to sickness (as the ARUCH writes, "Choleh ha'Karov l'Misah"). The Gemara there discusses the source for permitting a Mesukenes in the first place. It is clear from the Gemara there that one is allowed to eat the meat of a Mesukenes when the animal twitches ("Pirchus") after the Shechitah, but it is a proper practice to avoid such meat. The Gemara there seems to contradict the Mishnah here, which implies that a sick animal may be slaughtered and eaten even if there is no "Pirchus" after the Shechitah. Why is a Choleh different from a Mesukenes?
ANSWER: The CHASAM SOFER in Chulin points out that the Gemara here teaches that two separate verses are necessary to teach that a Zaken and a Choleh may not be offered as Korbanos. If the Torah would have excluded only a Choleh, then one would have thought that a Zaken may be offered, because "it is the normal manner" for animals to age. If the Torah would have excluded only a Zaken, then one would have thought that a Choleh may be offered, because "it tends to recuperate." According to the Gemara here, the Choleh mentioned in the Mishnah is an animal that has a curable illness. This is consistent with the principle that "Rov Cholim l'Chayim" -- most sick people (or animals) will survive.
A Mesukenes, in contrast, is an animal that is close to death. The majority of animals that are Mesukenes will die. Hence, a Mesukenes has neither of the two reasons to permit it as expressed here in Bechoros; it neither will recuperate, nor is it a natural state of an animal.
Is there any reason to be stringent and avoid eating the meat of a sick animal, as it is proper to avoid eating the meat of a Mesukenes?
1. The TEVU'OS SHOR (end of #17) proves that there is no need to be stringent. The Gemara in Chulin (37b) derives that a Mesukenes is permitted to eat from the fact that Yechezkel ha'Navi proclaimed, "I never ate Neveilah and Tereifah" (Yechezkel 4:14). It is obvious that Yechezkel was referring to something that the Halachah permits and that other people eat, since, otherwise, Yechezkel would not have asserted his virtue by saying that he was stringent not to eat such things. The Gemara says that he must have been referring to a Mesukenes. It is evident from his statement that one is permitted to eat a Mesukenes, but that it is Midas Chasidus to be stringent.
If one is permitted to eat a Choleh, but it is Midas Chasidus to be stringent, then what is the Gemara's proof from Yechezkel that a Mesukenes is permitted? Perhaps Yechezkel was referring to a Choleh! It must be that there is no Midas Chasidus to refrain from eating the meat of a Choleh.
2. The CHASAM SOFER argues with the proof of the Tevu'os Shor. He says that even if a Choleh should not be eaten because of Midas Chasidus, Yechezkel could not have been referring to a Choleh. Yechezkel refers to the meat that he did not eat as "Neveilah and Tereifah." Since a Choleh is an animal that will probably recover and live, it cannot be called a Neveilah or Tereifah. Only a Mesukenes -- an animal that will probably die -- can be called a Neveilah or Tereifah, since it is on the verge of becoming one. Therefore, the verse there provides no proof that a Choleh is permitted even according to Midas Chasidus. (Mordechai Zvi Dicker) (See also Insights to Chulin 37:1.)
2) "SHECHIN MITZRAYIM"
QUESTION: The Gemara quotes the verse that warns that if the Jewish people sin, "Hash-m will smite you with the Shechin of Mitzrayim... with Garav and with Cheres" (Devarim 28:27). The Gemara explains that Garav and Cheres are types of boils. Cheres is dry both inside and out, while Garav is the "Yalefes," or "Chazazis ha'Mitzris" (mentioned in Vayikra 22:22), which is dry inside and moist outside (see Chart).
If Garav is the same as Chazazis ha'Mitzris (Egyptian boils), then what is the "Shechin Mitzrayim" that is mentioned in the beginning of the verse? "Shechin Mitzrayim" literally means "Egyptian boils"! (TOSFOS DH Ela)
(a) Perhaps there is a slight difference between Chazazis and Shechin, and they are two different maladies.
(b) Alternatively, perhaps the end of the verse is explaining the words "Shechin Mitzrayim" of the beginning of the verse. The verse is explaining which Shechin Mitzrayim Hash-m will bring upon the Jewish people -- both the Garav and the Cheres. (M. KORNFELD)
3) "U'MAREHU AMOK"
QUESTION: The Gemara proves that the Mum known as "Cheres" causes a depression in the skin from the verse, "u'Mar'ehu Amok Min ha'Or" - "and it looks deeper than the skin" (Vayikra 13:30), in the same way that sunlight appears sunken from the shade (that is, optically, the lighter area appears to be depressed, while the darker area appears higher).
Why does the Gemara compare the affliction of Cheres to the appearance of sunlight? What does Cheres have to do with the sun?
ANSWER: We find that the word "Cheres" also means "sun" as the verse states, "b'Terem Yavo ha'Charsah" -- "before the sun had set" (Shoftim 14:18). The Mum called "Cheres" was probably named after the sun, because its appearance is sunken in the skin just as the sunlight appears to be lower than shaded areas. (Based on RABEINU GERSHOM)
4) "TUMTUM" AND "ANDROGINUS" AS A KORBAN
QUESTIONS: The Mishnah (41a) discusses various problems in a Bechor that prevent it from being slaughtered both inside and outside the Beis ha'Mikdash. A Bechor with any of these problems may not be slaughtered inside the Beis ha'Mikdash, because only the choicest animals may be slaughtered there (BARTENURA). It may not be slaughtered outside of the Beis ha'Mikdash, because the problems enumerated in the Mishnah are not actual blemishes that remove the Kedushah from the Bechor. The animal retains its Kedushah, and therefore it may not be slaughtered outside of the Beis ha'Mikdash.
The Tana Kama in the Mishnah states that a firstborn animal that is a Tumtum (its reproductive organs are covered with skin and its gender cannot be identified) or an Androginus (an animal with both male and female reproductive organs) may not be slaughtered either in the Beis ha'Mikdash or outside. RASHI (41a, DH v'Tumtum) states that there is a doubt about whether each of these types of animals is a male, in which case it is a Bechor and has Kedushah, or whether it is a female, in which case it has no Kedushah. Rebbi Yishmael disagrees with the Tana Kama and says that there is no greater Mum than this.
In the Gemara (41b), Rava asks attempts to clarify Rebbi Yishmael's opinion. Does Rebbi Yishmael maintain that an Androginus is definitely a Bechor, but it is a Bechor with a Mum (the female organ), or is he in doubt about whether an Androginus is a male or female? The Gemara cites two sources to prove that Rebbi Yishmael maintains that an Androginus is a definite Bechor but with a Mum, but it refutes those proofs.
RASHI (41a, DH Ein) explains that when Rebbi Yishmael says that "there is no greater Mum than this," he refers only to an Androginus. Its female organ is considered a Mum, and therefore it is considered to be a Bechor with a Mum. Accordingly, it may be slaughtered outside the Beis ha'Mikdash, but one may not shear it or work with it, like any Bechor Ba'al Mum. (The Chachamim, in contrast, maintain that an Androginus is an entirely separate species and thus it is not a Bechor. Therefore, one may shear it and work with it.)
Rashi's assertion that Rebbi Yishmael in the Mishnah refers only to an Androginus is supported by the Gemara here that discusses only an Androginus according to Rebbi Yishmael.
The RAMBAM, however, apparently has a different understanding of Rebbi Yishmael's opinion. When the Rambam (Hilchos Isurei Mizbe'ach 3:3) discusses different types of Mumim that invalidate even fowl from being offered as Korbanos, he writes, "A Tumtum and Androginus, even though there is no greater Mum than these, are invalid for the Mizbe'ach in a different way, because there is a doubt about whether they are male or female, and they therefore are considered to be a different species. With regard to Korbanos, the Torah states, 'An unblemished male' (Vayikra 1:3), and, 'An unblemished female' (Vayikra 4:32), teaching that a Korban is valid only when it is a definite male or a definite female. Therefore, even a bird that is a Tumtum or Androginus is unfit for the Mizbe'ach."
The Rambam's words pose a number of questions.
1. The Rambam's statement that "there is no greater Mum than these" is clearly a paraphrase of the words of Rebbi Yishmael. However, the Rambam elsewhere rules like the Chachamim! The Rambam (Hilchos Bechoros 2:5) writes, "A Bechor that is an Androginus has no sanctity whatsoever and is like a female, from which the Kohen receives nothing. One may work with it or shear it like any unsanctified animal. If it was born as a Tumtum, then it is a doubtful Bechor, and when it develops a Mum its owners may eat it." The Rambam there clearly follows the view of the Chachamim. Why, then, does he quote the words of Rebbi Yishmael?
2. Even Rebbi Yishmael's statement applies only to an Androginus. A Tumtum, however, is not a definite Bechor with a Mum. Why does the Rambam write that "there is no greater Mum" even with regard to a Tumtum?
3. If a Tumtum itself is a Mum, then why does the Rambam (in Hilchos Bechoros) write that one must wait until it develops a Mum before he eats it? Why may one not eat it right away, due to the Mum of being a Tumtum?
4. Finally, why is a bird that is a Tumtum invalid? The Gemara says in a number of places (see, for example, Menachos 6a) that the requirements of gender apply only to animal Korbanos, but not to bird Korbanos!
ANSWER: The LECHEM MISHNEH (Hilchos Isurei Mizbe'ach 3:3) explains that the Rambam rules that a Tumtum is not a Mum in a Bechor (as Rebbi Yishmael himself maintains). In the case of an Androginus, the Rambam maintains that the Halachah follows the view of the Chachamim and not Rebbi Yishmael. However, even though a Tumtum and an Androginus both are not actual Mumim in a Bechor (according to the Chachamim), with regard to other Korbanos they are classified as major Mumim, according to the Rambam. This is because the prophet admonished those who were sacrificing blind, lame, and sick animals in the Beis ha'Mikdash: "Would you donate such a present to your prince?!" (Mal'achi 1:8). Similarly, a Tumtum and Androginus are not quality animals, and in the Beis ha'Mikdash one must bring only "your choice vows" (Devarim 12:11; Rambam, Hilchos Isurei Mizbe'ach 2:8). The Rambam (Hilchos Isurei Mizbe'ach 3:1) states that the rule that Mumim do not invalidate bird offerings applies only to small Mumim. Tumtum and Androginus, however, are considered to be large Mumim; a bird that is a Tumtum or Androginus is like a bird that is missing an entire limb.
The Lechem Mishneh says that from the verses of "male" and female" alone we would not have invalidated a bird that is a Tumtum or Androginus from being offered as a Korban. Only because of the combination of both reasons -- they are not "choice vows," and they are not "male" or "female" -- are a Tumtum and Androginus unfit as Korbanos. (D. BLOOM)