For the week ending 26 June 2010 / 13 Tammuz 5770

Shavuot 2 - 3

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Common denominator of oath violations and other Torah laws
  • Explanation of sequence and numbers
  • Sacrificial atonement and lashes for oath violation
  • Exemptions from punishment by lashes
  • Forgetting that one is impure or forgetting that he has entered the Sanctuary
  • Interpreting the Torah on basis of general rule preceding or following a detail
  • The meaning of vene'elam in regard to entering Sanctuary
  • The categories of colors in determining tzara'at leprosy
  • Sacrificial atonement for entering the Sanctuary or eating sacrificial flesh in impure state
  • The three sins also characterized as tumah but requiring a different atonement
  • Atonement provided by the Yom Kippur sacrifices

Exempt from Lashes

  • Shavuot 3b

Mesechta Shavuot, which we begin this week, follows Mesechta Makkot, and the reason given in the gemara for the sequence is based on a certain similarity between the last mishna of the former and the first of the latter.

There is a topic in the opening pages of this mesechta that recalls the subject of the punishment of lashes so elaborately discussed in its predecessor. Although the general rule is that one who violates a prohibition of the Torah is punished by lashes, there are exceptions. One of them is the case of someone who took an oath to eat a loaf of bread today and failed to do so. Despite the fact that he is guilty of transgressing the command to avoid false oaths, he is not liable for lashes. Two different approaches are offered by the Sages for this exemption.

Rabbi Yochanan's position is that lashes are due only for an active violation and since failure to eat the bread is a passive one it is not punished by lashes.

Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish (Reish Lakish) sees this exemption as the result of an impossibility to definitively warn the transgressor, an absolute requirement for any punishment administered by the court. Since the witnesses issuing a warning that he must eat the bread or be guilty of violating his oath cannot be certain at that moment that he will not eat sometime during the day, such a warning cannot make him liable for lashes.

These two explanations also apply to the case of one who transgresses the prohibition against leaving any of the flesh of the Korban Pesach overnight. In this case, however, we find a third reason for exemption from lashes. Rabbi Yehuda states that since the Torah commanded one who did leave such flesh overnight to burn it, we consider this as the Torah's way of saying that such burning is the atonement and no other atonement is necessary.

What the Sages Say

"The possibility of a Jew being totally unaware of the Torah laws of impurity exists in the case of one who was taken captive by non-Jews as a baby and grew up among them."

  • The Sage Abaye - Shavuot 5a

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