Friday, August 10, 2007


The Gemora cites a braisa: Rabbi Elozar bar Tzadok said: I testified once in my life regarding the genealogical status of a person, and through that testimony, I elevated a slave to the genealogically qualified.

The Gemora asks: Do you think that he actually elevated a slave to the genealogically qualified? Hashem does not even allow the animal of a righteous person to transgress (referring to the animal of Rabbi Pinchas of Yair, who would not eat untithed produce); certainly Hashem would not bring a stumbling block to the righteous person himself!

The Gemora answers: Rather, Rabbi Elozar bar Tzadok wanted to elevate a slave to the genealogically qualified, but he realized at the end that he was in fact a slave. The Gemora explains the incident: Rabbi Elozar was in the city of Rabbi Yosi when he observed them giving terumah to a slave in the granary. He went and testified regarding his lineage in the city of Rabbi Yehudah. (He then realized that he could not testify regarding his genealogy, for even though, in Rabbi Yehudah’s locale, they would elevate one’s status on the evidence of having received a share of terumah, that was only because they didn’t give a slave terumah when he wasn’t in the presence of the master, whereas, in Rabbi Yosi’s locale, they did give terumah to a slave in absence of the master, but they didn’t testify regarding his genealogy based on that evidence.)

Tosfos s.v. salka da’atach states that the text of our Gemora should not have the challenge from the fact that Hashem does not even allow the animal of a righteous person to transgress; certainly Hashem would not bring a stumbling block to the righteous person himself. This principle is applicable only to the inadvertent consumption of forbidden foods. (The reason for this is because it is degrading for the righteous to eat forbidden foods.) Here, the scholar did not violate any prohibition by elevating the status of the slave; this would not be included in the protection that Hashem provides for the scholars.

Reb Dov Zupnik from Kollel Iyun Hadaf discusses this Tosfos at length.
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Yerushalayim
Rosh Kollel: Rabbi Mordecai Kornfeld

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu asked:

I understand that a chacham can decide if the Bet Din has erred. If he knows it erred but nevertheless goes by its decision to allow something forbidden, he is guilty. But in the Torah we are commanded that we must follow decisions, even if we are told "left is right and right is left". In Horayot, the chacham is deciding whether to follow the bet din or not, thereby putting himself above the bet din. Please clarify.
Shvua tov--Tzvi

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, Bet Yatir Israel

Shmuel K. asked:

Our Mishna states that if the individual knew the the Psak of Bet Din was wrong, and yet follows their Psak, he is liable. Yet we see many cases in Shas that individuals are forced to follow the majority, Rov, and do things that they feel is Asur. In these cases the individual knew the Bet Din was wrong, and yet we see it is a Mitzvah to follow them. I.e.. 1 - Bava Metziah 59B, R. Eliezer Ben Horkanis, and the oven 2 - Rosh Hashana 25B, and the debate as to which day is Yom Kippur. Are we to say that our Mishna is referring to a case, where the individual did not share his information with the Bet Din. But had he shared his information, and they don't accept it. Then he is obligated to follow the Bet Din, even though it is against his beliefs?

Thank You,
Shmuel Katz

Aurel Littmann asked:

How could beis din err? Did they not have daas torah that would have prevented them from erring? The donkey of a rabbi would not eat food that was not tithed...certainly these rabbis? Many stories are said of R.Moshe how he did not err in permitting agunos....where it was easy to err as people got separated during the war...but he had siyato d'shmayo.

What is the halacha of lo sosuru min... where if the rabbis tell you something that you may not fully understand, still follow the first mishnah in horeyos ... if one suspects that the beis din paskened wrong he should not follow them!? Does the first mishnah show that we don't have a concept of papal infalibility? But, again...when is one to follow daas torah?

The Kollel replies:

(a) Let us first refer to the words of the RAMBAN in Sefer ha'mitzvos la'Rambam, Shoresh ha'Rishon (p. 24 in Frankel edition):

"And one who transgresses the words of the Sanhedrin of his generation, and relies on his own opinion, has transgressed this Lo Saa'seh (of Lo Sasur) and this Aseh. Even if Beis Din is divided on the issue, we follow the majority as it is said in Sanhedrin 88.... And one who transgresses and relies on his own opinion is a Zaken Mamrei... and this is what is said in the verse regarding one who acts 'b'Zadon' not to heed the Kohen. For the Written Torah which was given to us by Moshe Rabeinu A'H clearly will not be understood in the same way by each person, and therefore Hashem decreed that we follow the Sanhedrin in whatever they say, whether they have received the interpretation through transmission or whether they interpret the Torah as they understand it, for the Torah was given according to the understanding of the Sanhedrin.

"And this is what is written in the Sifri: 'Even if they tell you regarding right that it is left.' For that is the Mitzvah of the Giver of the Torah -- that a dissenter should not say, 'I shall permit this to myself for I know clearly that they are mistaken,' for we will reply to him, 'It is this that you are commanded (i.e. to follow the Torah according to the Sanhedrin's interpretation), as Rebbi Yehoshua conducted himself with Raban Gamliel on the Yom Kipur of the latter's calculation, as related in the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah.

"However, there is a contingency, as can be seen in the Gemara in Horayos 2, which is that if there was in the time of the Sanhedrin a scholar who had reached the level of Hora'ah and the Sanhedrin ruled to allow an Isur, and this scholar thinks that they have made a mistake, he may not listen to them and be lenient with himself, but rather he should observe the stringency with regard to his own conduct, and surely if he was actually a member of the Sanhedrin... he must come before them and voice his objections, and if they all agreed to dismiss his objection and his reasoning, he must then follow their ruling."

(b) We do not believe in infallibility, nor do we believe in the pope. Tosfos throughout Shas (Shabbos 12b, Gitin 7a, Yevamos 99b, etc.) says in the name of Rabeinu Tam that "Ein ha'Kadosh Baruch Hu Mevi Takalah Al Yedeihem" applies only to where the Chacham eats something Asur, but not with regard to a ruling that a Chacham makes for someone else or with regard to a transgression that does not involve eating. (Everywhere the Gemara seems to cite this principle with regard to another type of mistake, Rabeinu Tam changes the Girsa.)

(c) As for the rulings regarding Agunos, although in general there is Siyata d'Shemaya in any Pesak Halachah and mistakes are rare, the Agunah situation is something else entirely. If the husband were to arrive, it would not be because the Rav erred in his understanding of the Torah's laws; he may have ruled correctly, in accordance with the Torah, and decided that the evidence that was presented sufficed to permit the woman to get married. However, the husband may actually be alive (because the Torah does not require 100% certain evidence to remarry; a near certainty will suffice). Rav Moshe says about such situations that a Rav has Siyata d'Shemaya that since his Pesak was correct according to the parameters of the Torah, nothing wrong will come about because of his correct Pesak (and the husband will not be alive).

Here, in contrast, we are talking about a mistaken Pesak, where the judges erred in their interpretation of the Torah's laws. Such a mistake may have come about because the Sanhedrin were not on the impeccable level that Hashem expected of them, or because the people of the generation were not fit.