Zevachim 4:6

By :  Daniel Nevins Former Pearl Resnick Dean of The Rabbinical School and the Division of Religious Leadership Posted On Jan 1, 2008 | Mishnat Hashavua

What intentions are necessary to make a sacrifice valid?

לשם ששה דברים הזבח נזבח: לשם זבח, לשם זובח, לשם השם, לשם אשים, לשם ריח, לשם ניחוח; והחטאת והאשם – לשם חטא. אמר רבי יוסי: אף מי שלא היה בלבו לשם אחד מכל אלו – כשר, שהוא תנאי בית דין; שאין המחשבה הולכת אלא אחר העובד.

An animal sacrifice must be made with six intentions: that it is offered as a sacrifice; that it is on behalf of the donor; that it is for God; that it is a fire offering; that it is to produce a smell; that it be pleasing [to God]. [If the sacrifice is] a purification or guilt offering, then it should [also] be intended [to purify] for the sin. Rabbi Yose says, even if someone offered the sacrifice without one of these intentions it is still valid, for it is a decree of the court that intention is implied by the action.


Although the Mishnah was edited about 130 years after the Temple was destroyed, the sacrificial system loomed large in rabbinic consciousness. This mishnah is interesting for its attention to the state of mind of a sacrificial donor. Ideally, the donor must keep all six intentions for his sacrifice, but after the fact, the deed itself testifies to his good intentions.


  1. Substitute “prayer” for “sacrifice.” Could you make a list of six intentions required for proper prayer?
  2. What if a person is inattentive to the purpose of prayer, and just says the words by rote? Is it better to wait until one is inspired, or should one pray even in an unfocused fashion?