A fellow named Mark Zagorin asked the following question in our daf yomi shiur: Since we conclude (on 37a) that the mishna on 35b is like Rabbi Elazar ben Yaakov and not Rabbi Elazar Ben Shimon who said that the bull was not directly in front of the mizbeach, then why was it necessary for the bull to be Rosho L'Darom? The gemara on 36a says this was 'Shema Yarbitz Gallalim', which Rashi explained as improper for the animal's rear to face the mizbeach. But if the animal, according to Rabbi Elazar ben Yaakov was not in front of the mizbeach, let the animal's head be facing west, and the back east?
Ira wiznitzer, Skokie, IL USA
This is a very interesting question. I suggest the following answer.
1) First, we should pay attention to what Rashi writes on 36a (DH Shema), that it is a disgrace for the rear of the animal to be "l'Tzad ha'Mizbe'ach" -- facing towards the Mizbe'ach. Therefore, it is better that the tail should be facing north, and this way the tail is not opposite the Mizbeach. Rashi adds that the entire length of the bull is not on the south side, but rather some of the body is between the Ulam and the Mizbe'ach.
2) It appears from Rashi that the tail of the bull was not between the Ulam and the Mizbe'ach at all. Part of the bull was between the Ulam and the Mizbe'ach but the tail was not opposite the Mizbe'ach. The Ritva adds that the thighs of the bull were set up outside the area between the Ulam and the Mizbe'ach.
3) We learn from this that it was important to be careful that there should be no connection between the rear of the bull and the Mizbe'ach, and therefore its thighs were placed entirely outside that area.
4) Later, the Gemara (37a) concludes that the bull stood "b'Vein ha'Ulam la'Mizbe'ach." The Rashash changes the text from "b'Vein" to "k'Vein." This means that the bull was not actually between the Ulam and the Mizbe'ach but rather it was "like" it was between the Ulam and the Mizbe'ach. Rashi (DH Kulah) writes that it was near the area between the Ulam and the Mizbe'ach but was actually further north.
5) I suggest that -- even though according to the conclusion of the Gemara -- the bull was not between the Ulam and the Mizbe'ach, it was still important to keep the tail facing north. This is because if the bull would face east-west, even though it it would be outside the area of the Mizbe'ach, the rear of the bull would still be "l'Tzad ha'Mizbe'ach" (as Rashi on 36a wrote), at the side of the Mizbe'ach. This also is considered a disgrace for the Mizbe'ach. Therefore, even according to the conclusion on 37a, it still is better to have the bull set up as we said on 36a -- namely, that the tail is facing totally away from the Mizbe'ach. This is preferable to having the rear of the bull parallel to the Mizbe'ach, even though it is not actually in the area of the Mizbe'ach.
Yasher Ko'ach for your Shi'ur's very good question.