The Gemara in Shabbas 12b writes as follows

אָמַר רַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל בֶּן אֱלִישָׁע: אֲנִי אֶקְרָא וְלֹא אַטֶּה. פַּעַם אַחַת קָרָא וּבִקֵּשׁ לְהַטּוֹת. אָמַר: כַּמָּה גְּדוֹלִים דִּבְרֵי חֲכָמִים שֶׁהָיוּ אוֹמְרִים לֹא יִקְרָא לְאוֹר הַנֵּר. רַבִּי נָתָן אוֹמֵר, קָרָא וְהִטָּה וְכָתַב עַל פִּנְקָסוֹ: אֲנִי יִשְׁמָעֵאל בֶּן אֱלִישָׁע, קָרִיתִי וְהִטֵּיתִי נֵר בְּשַׁבָּת, לִכְשֶׁיִּבָּנֶה בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ אָבִיא חַטָּאת שְׁמֵנָה Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha said: I will read and will not adjust. Once he read a book by candlelight and sought to adjust. He said: How great are the words of the Sages, who would say that one may not read by candlelight. Rabbi Natan says: he read and adjusted, and he wrote in his notebook [pinkas]: I, Yishmael ben Elisha, read and adjusted a lamp on Shabbat. When the Temple will be rebuilt I will bring a fat sin-offering

The Rambam (Shegagot 15:1) explains that for any unintentional transgression for which a "Hedyot" (not a Nasi or Kohen Gadol) brings a Chatos (goat or sheep) a Kohen Gadol has to bring a Par (bull), with the condition that The Kohen Gadol was the one who ruled the ruling that led to the unintentional transgression. Otherwise, he is doesn't bring a Korban at all.

Being that Rabbi Yismael Ben Elisha was a Kohen Gadol (Berachos 7a), even if all the conditiona mentioned were met, he at most would have to bring a Par (bull). If so, why did he write "Chatas Shmeinah" in his notebook? The Lashon Nekeiva alludes to a regular chatos which has female animals and not the Par a Kohgen Gadol would have to bring.

  • Nazir 6:8 הראויה לעולה תקרב עולה but an olah has to be male. Apparently the gender is going on the word בהמה and not the actual animal. Here also it could just be going on the word חטאת.
    – Heshy
    Commented Jun 19, 2022 at 13:14
  • The word "shmeinah" modifies the word "chatas", which is in the female gender. Gender of animal has nothing to do with it.
    – N.T.
    Commented Jun 19, 2022 at 20:11

2 Answers 2


R. Chaim Kanievsky was asked this question (see Derech Sichah p. 337.)

He answered (based on Tosafot Yevamot 104a s.v. amar rabbi yishma'el) that there were two different tanna'im with this name, only one of whom was ever kohen gadol.

  1. The Rambam talks about a Kohen "mashiach" (Kohen Gadol who was oiled with the holy oil) in the mentioned halacha. We can derive from this that a Kohen Merube Begadim (a kohen Gadol who got his status by wearing 8 garments and not by being oiled) would not follow that halacha and will bring an ordinary Chatos. Because the oil used for meShiche wasn't available in בית המקדש השני rebbi Yishmael was only a Kohen Merube Begadim, that's why he wrote chatas shemeina.
  2. Rebbi Yishmael possibly lost his status as the current Kohen Gadol with the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash and had a din of a כהן גדול שעבר. Some Rishonim learn that such a kohen has to bring an ordinary Chatos.

For further reference - ראש גולת אריאל , עמוד רפ"ה

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