Talmud Tips

For the week ending 10 August 2019 / 9 Av 5779

Temura 16-34, Keritot 2-15

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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The Torah is Not in Heaven

Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shmuel, “Three thousand halachot were forgotten in the days of mourning for Moshe Rabbeinu.”

During that dark time of the mourning period, after the passing of Moshe Rabbeinu from this world, the Jewish nation’s grief was so great that three thousand halachot were forgotten. The people begged Yehoshua, Moshe’s successor, to ask G-d to return the halachot to them. Yehoshua answered, “The Torah is not in Heaven!” (Devarim 30:12)

They similarly asked Shmuel, Pinchas and Elazar to plea with G-d for halachot that were forgotten. And the response was the same. Once the Torah was given, it is in this world to be studied and observed as it exists in the world. From the time the Torah was given to the Jewish People, “A prophet is not allowed to introduce any new Torah mitzvah or halacha.”

  • Temura16a

Existing Before Birth

Rabbi Yochanan holds the position that “A fetus is not a ‘limb’ of its mother.”

This reason helps explain a teaching of Rabbi Yochanan: “A person who designates a pregnant animal to be a sin-offering may atone with either the mother or the offspring once it’s born.” Rashi explains that the well-known halacha which requires the offspring of a sin-offering to die applies only when the consecration precedes the pregnancy. However, if the animal is already pregnant when he consecrates it, both it and its fetus are kadosh and fit for offering in the Beit Hamikdash.

The commentaries bring a proof from here that a fetus in the womb of its mother is considered as “being in the world.” Otherwise, there is a halacha that prevents a transaction or change of status of any item that does not yet exist in the world. (Ketzot Hachoshen, Choshen Mishpat 209:1)

  • Temura 25a

How Much is that Doggy in the Window?

The Mishna states, “What is meant by ‘the price of a dog’? One who says to his fellow man, ‘Take this sheep in place of that dog…’”

The Torah prohibits offering “mechir kelev” — the price of a dog — as a sacrifice in the Beit Hamikdash. As the verse states, “You shall not bring a prostitute's fee or the price of a dog to the House of the L-rd, your G-d, for any vow, because both of them are an abomination to the L-rd, your G-d.” (Devarim 23:19)

Why is an animal exchanged for a dog unfit for sacrifice?

One reason is that hunters and guards train vicious dogs that are a public menace, and then seek atonement by offering an animal exchanged for the dog as a sacrifice.

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch writes that a dog, at least in the wild and by its animal nature, is not a social animal (unlike the domesticated, friendly pets that we have grown accustomed to in modern society). Since the Beit Hamikdash was a place for all people to gather in service of their Creator, it is not fit to bring an offering derived from an anti-social source.

  • Temura 30a

Extirpation Explained

The first mishna in this new masechet lists 36 transgressions which if violated intentionally are punishable by karet. What is karet?

Rashi explains in Chumash that karet is a punishment from Above that entails dying childless and before one’s time. (Ber. 17:14, based on Yev. 55a and M. K. 28a) The Talmud Bavli in Mo'ed Katan 28a indicates that karet involves death before the age of sixty, whereas the Talmud Yerushalmi defines karet as dying before the age of fifty.

The Talmud Bavli’s age definition is consistent with an event the gemara relates about Rav Yosef. When Rav Yosef reached his 60th birthday he made a festive meal for the Torah scholars, saying, “I see now that I am not deserving of karet since I have passed the age for which I would have been punished with karet!” As a note, I have heard that many people make a special celebration on their 60th birthday for this very reason.

Another explanation of karet is that the soul has been cut off, destroyed and no longer exists. This is due to the person’s sinking into physical delights, thereby rejecting the truth of G-d and His Torah. As a result, the person will not be able to have a share in the World-to-Come, which is not a physical but a spiritual reward. (See commentary of the Rambam in his Introduction to Perek Chelek, and the writings of Rav Chaim of Volozhin in Nefesh Hachaim, Sha’ar aleph.)

It’s of utmost important to note that according to any definition of the punishment of karet, one may be exempt from karet if he repents and does teshuva, reestablishing his original connection with G-d.

  • Keritot 2a

PWI: Paskening While Intoxicated

And to teach the Jewish People about all the laws that G‑d told them through Moshe Rabbinu.” (Vayikra 10:11)

This verse, in its context, prohibits teaching halacha while intoxicated. Regarding teaching of Talmud, however, there is a dispute between the Tana Kama and Rabbi Yossi b’Rabbi Yehuda in a beraita on our daf. The Tana Kama prohibits it, whereas Rabbi Yossi the b’Rabbi Yehuda permits it, reasoning that only teaching Torah that is halacha l’ma’aseh is forbidden while intoxicated. (Rashi)

Rav rules that the halacha is like the opinion of Rabbi Yossi b’Rabbi Yehuda who permits teaching Talmud while intoxicated, and forbids only issuing a psak halacha. So why, asks the gemara, did Rav refrain from teaching Talmud to the congregation on Yom Tov, a time when there is a mitzvah to drink wine to rejoice in celebration of the Festival? The answer given is that since Rav was such a great Sage, it was inevitable that people would approach him at the lecture to ask for psak halacha, and Rav would not have been able to avoid the practical halachic questions from the congregation without the appearance of dishonor to the asker or the Torah. (See Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 242:13 in the Rema and Poskim — as well as learning Shas and Rishonim, of course — for further discussion of what constitutes being “intoxicated,” what possible exceptions to the prohibition may exist, and more.)

  • Keritot 13b

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