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Steinsaltz

MISHNA: If a court erroneously issued a ruling permitting the Jewish people to violate one of all the mitzvot that are stated in the Torah, and an individual proceeded and performed that transgression unwittingly on the basis of the court’s ruling, then whether the judges performed the transgression and he performed it with them, or whether the judges performed the transgression and he performed it after them, or whether the judges did not perform the transgression and he performed it alone, in all these cases the individual is exempt from bringing an offering. This is due to the fact that he associated his action with the ruling of the court.

If the court issued a ruling and one of the judges knew that they erred, despite the fact that the majority ruled against his opinion, or if he was a student and he was qualified to issue halakhic rulings, and that judge or student proceeded and performed that transgression on the basis of its ruling, then whether the judges performed the transgression and he performed it with them, or whether the judges performed the transgression and he performed it after them, or whether the judges did not perform the transgression and he performed it alone, in all these cases, the judge or the student is liable to bring an offering. This is due to the fact that he did not associate his action with the ruling of the court. This is the principle: One who associates his action with himself is liable, and one who associates his action with the ruling of the court is exempt.

GEMARA: Shmuel says: The judges of the court are never liable to bring an offering for an erroneous ruling until they say to those seeking a ruling: It is permitted for you. Rav Dimi from Neharde’a says: The judges are not liable unless they say to those seeking a ruling: It is permitted for you to perform this action. What is the reason that Rav Dimi says that there is liability only if the judges say: To perform this action? It is due to the fact that the ruling is not completed if they say only: It is permitted, as perhaps the judges were expressing a theoretical opinion and not issuing a ruling.

Abaye said: We learn proof for Rav Dimi’s opinion in a mishna as well. The mishna teaches with regard to a rebellious elder (Sanhedrin 86b): If the Sanhedrin ruled contrary to the ruling of the elder and the elder then returned to his city, and nevertheless he taught in the manner that he was teaching previously, he is exempt from punishment. But if he instructed others to act on the basis of his ruling that stands contrary to the ruling of the Sanhedrin, he is liable to be executed.

Rabbi Abba said: We learn proof for Rav Dimi’s opinion in a mishna as well. The mishna teaches (Yevamot 87b): If the court instructed a woman to marry on the basis of inaccurate testimony, but she proceeded and disgraced herself and engaged in promiscuous intercourse, she is liable to bring an offering, as they permitted her only to marry, and her conduct lacked the approval of the court. This indicates that it is not sufficient for the court to issue a general ruling to the woman; rather, the court issues a ruling that includes instruction to perform a specific action.

Ravina said: We learn proof for Rav Dimi’s opinion in the mishna here, as well: If a court unwittingly issued a ruling permitting the Jewish people to violate one of all the mitzvot that are stated in the Torah, etc.; and nothing more need be said, as it is clear from the phrase: Issued a ruling to violate, that the ruling must include instruction to perform a specific action.

Some say there is a version of this amoraic dispute with the opposite opinions. Shmuel says: The judges of the court are not liable to bring an offering for an erroneous ruling until they say to those seeking a ruling: It is permitted for you to perform this action. Rav Dimi from Neharde’a says: Even if the judges say to those seeking a ruling: It is permitted for you, the ruling is completed and they are liable. Abaye said: But isn’t it so that we did not learn in accordance with the opinion of Rav Dimi in a mishna with regard to a rebellious elder: If the Sanhedrin ruled contrary to the ruling of the elder and the elder then returned to his city, and nevertheless he taught in the manner that he was teaching previously, he is exempt from punishment. But if he instructed others to act on the basis of his ruling that stands contrary to the ruling of the Sanhedrin, he is liable to be executed.

Rabbi Abba said: But isn’t it so that we did not learn in accordance with the opinion of Rav Dimi in a mishna: If the court instructed a woman to marry on the basis of inaccurate testimony, but she proceeded and disgraced herself and engaged in promiscuous intercourse, she is liable to bring an offering, as they permitted her only to marry, and her conduct lacked the approval of the court.

Ravina said: But isn’t it so that we did not learn in accordance with the opinion of Rav Dimi in the mishna: If a court unwittingly issued a ruling permitting the Jewish people to violate one of all the mitzvot that are stated in the Torah, etc.; and nothing more need be said.

§ The mishna teaches: And the individual proceeded and performed that transgression unwittingly on the basis of the court’s ruling. The Gemara asks: And let us teach only: And performed that transgression on the basis of the court’s ruling; why do I need to add: Unwittingly? Obviously, it was unwitting, as he thought his action was permitted. Rava said: The term unwittingly serves to include a case where the court issued a ruling that it is permitted to eat forbidden fat, and the forbidden fat became confused for him with permitted fat, and he ate it under the impression that he was eating permitted fat. In this case he is exempt. Then, when the mishna says: On the basis of the court’s ruling, it means that he ate forbidden fat actually on the basis of the court’s ruling.

And some say that Rava said a different interpretation of the mishna: It is specifically in a case where the individual proceeded and performed that transgression unwittingly on the basis of the court’s ruling that he is exempt. But if the forbidden fat became confused for him with permitted fat and he ate it under the impression that he was eating permitted fat, he is liable to bring an offering, because his unwitting transgression of eating forbidden fat was not associated solely with the ruling of the court.

The Gemara comments: The matter that is obvious to Rava, that one who confuses between forbidden fat and permitted fat is either exempt, according to the first version, or liable, according to the second version, was raised as a dilemma for Rami bar Ḥama, as Rami bar Ḥama raised a dilemma: If a court ruled that forbidden fat is permitted, and the forbidden fat became confused for him with permitted fat and he ate the forbidden fat, what is the halakha?

Rava said: Come and hear proof from the mishna: The individual proceeded and performed that transgression unwittingly on the basis of the court’s ruling, etc. Why do I need the redundancy: Unwittingly on the basis of the court’s ruling? Is the redundancy not stated to include a case where the court issued a ruling that it is permitted to eat forbidden fat, and the forbidden fat became confused for him with permitted fat, and he ate it under the impression that he was eating permitted fat, and the mishna is teaching that he is exempt? The Gemara rejects this: Perhaps the intent of the mishna is: It is in a case where one performed that transgression unwittingly on the basis of its ruling that he is exempt; but if the forbidden fat became confused for him with permitted fat, and he ate it under the impression that he was eating permitted fat, he is liable.

Some say that Rava said: Come and hear a proof from the mishna: The individual proceeded and performed that transgression unwittingly on the basis of the court’s ruling. What, is it not in a case where one performed that transgression unwittingly on the basis of its ruling that he is exempt; but if the forbidden fat became confused for him with permitted fat, and he ate the forbidden fat, he is liable? The Gemara rejects this: Perhaps the mishna is saying that he is liable if he either confused forbidden fat with permitted fat and ate the forbidden fat unwittingly, or ate the forbidden fat on the basis of the court’s ruling.

The Gemara notes: This matter was already taught in the dispute between amora’im of earlier generations: If a court ruled that forbidden fat is permitted, and the forbidden fat became confused for him with permitted fat and he ate the forbidden fat, Rav says: He is exempt, as the court ruled that it is permitted, and Rabbi Yoḥanan says: He is liable, as he did not base his conduct on its ruling. The Gemara raises an objection to the statement of Rabbi Yoḥanan from a baraita that teaches: The verse states: “And if one soul from among the common people shall sin unwittingly in performing one of the mitzvot of the Lord that are not to be done, and he is guilty” (Leviticus 4:27). This serves to exclude an apostate. When an apostate sins unwittingly, he is exempt from liability to bring a sin-offering even if he repents, as even his unwitting action is considered intentional.

Rabbi Shimon ben Yosei says in the name of Rabbi Shimon: It is unnecessary to derive this halakha from that phrase, as it says in the same verse: “Shall sin unwittingly in performing one of the mitzvot of the Lord that are not to be done, and he is guilty; or if his sin, which he has sinned, be known to him” (Leviticus 4:27–28). From the words “be known to him” it is inferred that only one who repents due to his awareness, i.e., he would not have sinned if he had known the act was prohibited, brings a sacrifice for his unwitting transgression in order to achieve atonement. But one who does not repent due to his awareness that he sinned, e.g., an apostate, who would have sinned even had he been aware that the act is prohibited, does not bring an offering for his unwitting action.

The Gemara asks: And if it is so that one who would not repent due to his awareness is exempt, isn’t this person who confused forbidden fat with permitted fat considered one who will not repent due to his awareness? Even if he discovers that he ate forbidden fat he will not regret his action, as he relies on the ruling of the court that forbidden fat is permitted. This contradicts the statement of Rabbi Yoḥanan, who says that one is liable in that case.

Rav Pappa said that Rabbi Yoḥanan holds: Since once it becomes known to the court that it erred, the judges will retract their erroneous ruling, and this individual will also repent when he discovers that he ate forbidden fat which the court erroneously permitted, we characterize him as one who repents due to his awareness, and he is liable to bring an offering.

Rava says: Even though Rav says the individual is exempt, and his sin is dependent on the court, Rav concedes that in a case where one confused forbidden fats with permitted fats, he does not complete a majority of the congregation. The court is liable to bring an offering only when the majority of the congregation performs a transgression based on its ruling. This individual who thought the fat was permitted is not included in the majority of the congregation. What is the reason? It is as the verse states: “For all the people it was performed unwittingly” (Numbers 15:26), from which it is derived: There is no liability unless they are all unwitting in one and the same manner; and the action of this individual is unwitting in a different manner than the rest of the transgressors.

§ The mishna teaches: Whether the judges performed the transgression and he performed it with them, or whether the judges performed the transgression and he performed it after them, or whether the judges did not perform the transgression and he performed it alone, in all these cases the individual is exempt. The Gemara asks: Why did the tanna in the mishna need to teach all of these cases? Granted, in the first clause of the mishna, the tanna teaches the mishna employing the style: Not only this but also that, i.e., not only is he exempt if the judges performed the transgression with him, but he is exempt even if he performed the act after the judges, and even if he alone performed the transgression. But in the latter clause of the mishna, where the tanna is teaching liability, the tanna should have taught the opposite. He should have started with the case where he is most likely to be liable, the case where the judges performed no transgression and he sinned alone.

Talmud - Bavli - The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren No=C3=A9 Talmud
with commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Israel (CC-BY-NC 4.0)
אדם סלומון
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