Daf Yomi

For the week ending 14 August 2004 / 27 Av 5764

Bechorot 58 Erachin 4

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Getting Them Out

"Any tithe of cattle or of the flock, any that passes under the staff, the tenth one shall be holy" (Vayikra 27:32).

This is how the Torah commands the tithing of animals. Our Sages supply the details in this fashion:

The animals are placed in a corral that has a narrow exit passage to prevent more than one going out at a time. As they exit the owner counts them. When he reaches ten he takes his staff and marks that animal with a red dye to indicate that it is holy and will be offered as a sacrifice.

The phrasing of the Torah passage is "any that passes," which indicates that the animal must pass through the exit on its own and not be driven by its owner. How is this accomplished?

The method that our Sages insisted on is to place the mothers of these recently born animals outside the corral so that they will provide a maternal magnet for their offspring. An alternative method of placing some food for them outside the passage is rejected, because this would also attract animals that are not supposed to be tithed those whose mothers died before they were born or those who were purchased. By using only the "mother method" the owner will remember not to include in his tithing those who never had a mother and those that he purchased since most young animals are purchased without their mothers.

  • Bechorot 58b

Old Enough But Not Quite

A Jew who becomes contaminated with spiritual impurity through contact with the dead is forbidden to enter the Sanctuary until he purifies himself in the manner prescribed by the Torah. Should he willingly enter in his impure state his penalty is karet (extirpation).

In introducing this rule the Torah uses the term "the man who shall be contaminated and fail to purify himself" (Bamidbar 19:20). The stress on man cannot mean that a katan a child who has not yet reached manhood does not become contaminated through contact with the dead, because we find two passages earlier that the Torah requires purification for "all the souls who were there (in the tent where the corpse was)", a phrase which includes Jews of any age. The stress on man is therefore understood as exempting from the penalty of karet a minor who became contaminated and entered the Sanctuary.

This raises a question as to why it was necessary for the Torah to state this exemption from punishment for a katan when we already know that a minor is exempt from any punishment!

The answer offered by Tosefot is that since the Torah placed the katan in the same category as an adult as regards becoming contaminated and subsequently contaminating others with whom he comes into contact, there was a basis for assuming that he should be regarded as an adult as well in regard to the penalty for entering the Sanctuary in an impure state.

A very original approach to this question is presented by Rabbi Shmuel Strashoon (RaShaSh) of Vilna. Had the Torah not stressed the term man we might have assumed that if an adult pushed an impure katan into the Sanctuary he would be liable for karet. The stress on man therefore teaches us that no karet is possible when it is not an adult who enters.

  • Erachin 3a

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