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The korban tamid was slaughtered north of the altar (mizbeach). Its body was oriented lengthwise so that its head was toward the altar, and rotated so that its face was directed toward the hechal. A bit of ASCIIUnicode art:

 |    hechal   |
 '-------------'
   __
altar| ǒdd
  '--'

Why? Well, there are two reasons (at least) given for its head's being toward the altar:

  • The m'faresh says: The pasuk says about the tamid "slaughter it near the altar", so we get its head as close as possible.
  • The Rav says: In case it defecates while there, it does so away from the altar.

And then there are two reasons (at least) given for its face's being toward the hechal:

  • The m'faresh says: The pasuk says about the tamid "slaughter it before Hashem", so we have its neck, where it's slaughtered, face the hechal.
  • The Tif'eres Yisrael says: The pasuk says about the tamid "slaughter it before Hashem", so we have it face the hechal.

My question is about other korbanos, specifically kodshe kadashim.

The pasuk I keep referring to is Vayikra 1:11, which concerns every korban ola, not just the tamid. Moreover, the location of an ola's slaughter — that it's north of the altar as dictated by that pasuk — is extended via d'rasha to the location of all kodshe kadashim, that they, too, are slaughtered north of the altar. Conceivably, then, the rules about orientation of the body and the face may also be extended to all kodshe kadashim. The defecation-away-from-the-altar reason would also seem to apply to any korban slaughtered north of the altar (i.e., kodshe kadashim). On the other hand, in my limited knowledge I know of no source that extends these two rules (which way the animal should be situated and which way it should face) to any korban other than the tamid.

So: Do we know whether the rule about which way the animal should be situated or the rule about which way it should face was applied in practice, or is applied according to any shitos (opinions), more generally than to the tamid?

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Toward the weekly topic challenge. –  msh210 Jan 16 '12 at 22:38
2  
+1 for the cool art. :-) –  Dave Jan 16 '12 at 22:45

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The part about the animal facing west is indeed applied to other korbanos: that's the position they should be when the owner performs semichah (leaning) on them before they are slaughtered (Yoma 36a, cited as halachah in Rambam, Hil. Maaseh Hakorbanos 3:14). Since "in the place where they do semichah they slaughter it, and semichah should be immediately followed by slaughtering" (Rambam ibid. :12), then indeed that would be the usual practice. (Although Rambam goes on to note that it's not essential that these two actions follow each other directly, so possibly the position of the animal's head isn't indispensable either, so long as it's standing on the north side of the mizbe'ach.)

The part about what direction its head vs. hindquarters face, though, does seem to be mentioned specifically only about the tamid and the kohen gadol's bull (Yoma 3:8 and Rambam, Hil. Avodas Yom Hakippurim 4:4). Conceivably they might indeed have tried to do this with all korbanos (and for the same reasons), but there might have been constraints on doing this when lots of korbanos were being offered at once (whereas, by contrast, the tamid and the kohen gadol's bull were the only korbanos being offered at their respective moments).

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+1, seems eminently plausible and I thank you. I'll likely accept this answer (and ping me if I don't), but I'll wait and see whether, perhaps, someone knows of a stronger source. –  msh210 Jan 17 '12 at 9:07

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