Daf Yomi

For the week ending 3 April 2010 / 18 Nisan 5770

Sanhedrin 51 - 57

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

When Logic Stops

The kal v'chomer is a method used in the Oral Law to interpret the Written Law. It is a logical deduction which states that if a particular rule applies to a situation which is of a less serious nature (kal) then this rule should certainly apply to a situation of a more serious nature (chomer).

An attempt to apply this method to determining a death penalty for an offender is rejected by one school of thought in our Gemara on the grounds that we cannot punish someone on the basis of a kal v'chomer ("din").

The explanation for such limitation is offered by the Maharsha (Sanhedrin 64b):

The death penalty administered by the Sanhedrin is an atonement for the sinner, perfectly matched to the gravity of the crime. If someone commits a crime of a more serious nature we cannot assume that he can achieve atonement for that graver sin through the penalty which is sufficient as an atonement for the lighter one.

  • Sanhedrin 54a

The Price of Impatience

"Many old camels have carried on their backs the skins of younger ones."

This is a folk saying which sums up this background story of the death of Aaron's sons, Nadav and Avihu:

Moshe and Aaron were once walking with Nadav and Avihu behind them, followed by all of Israel.

Said Nadav to Avihu: "When will these two old men die so that you and I will lead the generation!"

At that moment Hashem said to them: "Let us see who will bury whom!"

  • Sanhedrin 42a

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