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Steinsaltz

Rabbi Shimon says: They bring thirteen bulls; and for idol worship they bring thirteen bulls and thirteen goats, a bull and a goat for each and every tribe and a bull and a goat for the court.

The mishna continues: If the judges of the court issued a ruling, and at least seven tribes, or a majority of each of those tribes, performed a transgression on the basis of their ruling, the judges bring a bull; and for idol worship they bring a bull and a goat. This is the statement of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Yehuda says: The seven tribes that sinned bring seven bulls, i.e., each tribe brings one bull, and each of the rest of the tribes, i.e., those that did not sin, brings one bull on the basis of the sin of the other tribes, as even those who did not sin bring an offering on the basis of the actions of the sinners. Rabbi Shimon says: When seven tribes sin eight bulls are brought as offerings, one bull for each and every tribe and one bull for the court. And for idol worship, eight bulls and eight goats are brought, one bull and one goat for each and every tribe and one bull and one goat for the court.

If the court of one of the tribes issued a ruling and the majority of that tribe performed a transgression on the basis of its ruling, that tribe is liable to bring an offering and the rest of all the tribes are exempt; this is the statement of Rabbi Yehuda. And the Rabbis say: One is liable to bring an offering for an unwitting communal sin only for rulings of the High Court alone, as it is stated: “And if the entire assembly of Israel shall act unwittingly” (Leviticus 4:13), from which it is derived that there is liability only for a ruling of the assembly, i.e., the court, of the entire people, but not for a ruling of the assembly of that particular tribe.

GEMARA: The Gemara elaborates on the dispute cited in the mishna. The Sages taught in a baraita: In a case where the judges knew that they issued an erroneous ruling, and erred in remembering which erroneous ruling they issued, one might have thought that they would be liable to bring an offering for this. The verse states: “And the sin that they sinned became known, the congregation shall sacrifice” (Leviticus 4:14), indicating that liability is only in a case where the sin became known to the court that issued the erroneous ruling, and not in a case where it became known only to the sinners. In this case, the sinners are certain that they sinned, but the court does not know the sin with regard to which it issued the ruling.

From the phrase “that they sinned” it is derived: If two tribes sinned they bring two bulls, one from each tribe; if three tribes sinned they bring three bulls, one from each tribe. Or perhaps that phrase says only that if two individuals sinned they bring two bulls, one from each individual; if three individuals sinned they bring three bulls, one from each individual. Therefore, the verse states: “The congregation,” from which it is derived: The congregation is liable, and each and every congregation is liable. How so? If two tribes sinned they bring two bulls. If seven tribes sinned they bring seven bulls. And each of the rest of the tribes that did not sin brings one bull on the basis of the sin of the other tribes, as even those tribes that did not sin bring an offering on the basis of the actions of the sinners. For that reason “congregation” is stated in the verse, to render each and every congregation liable. This is the statement of Rabbi Yehuda.

The baraita continues: Rabbi Shimon says: Seven tribes that sinned bring seven bulls, and the court brings one bull on the basis of their actions, as the term “congregation” is stated below: “The congregation shall sacrifice” (Leviticus 4:14), and the term “congregation” is stated above: “And the matter is hidden from the eyes of the congregation” (Leviticus 4:13). Just as with regard to the term “congregation” that is stated above the reference is to the court, i.e., “the eyes of the congregation,” together with “the congregation,” so too, with regard to the term “congregation” that is stated below, with regard to liability to bring an offering the reference is to the court together with the congregation.

Rabbi Meir says: In the case of seven tribes that sinned, the court brings a bull on the basis of their sin and the members of the tribe are exempt, as the term “congregation” is stated below: “The congregation shall sacrifice” (Leviticus 4:14), and the term “congregation” is stated above: “And the matter is hidden from the eyes of the congregation” (Leviticus 4:13). Just as with regard to the term “congregation” that is stated above the reference is to the court and not to the public, so too, with regard to the term “congregation” that is stated below the reference is to the court and not to the public.

The baraita concludes: Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says in the name of Rabbi Meir: If six tribes sinned and in terms of population they constitute a majority of the congregation, or if seven tribes, which constitute a majority of the tribes, sinned, even though in terms of population they do not constitute a majority of the congregation, the court brings a bull.

The Gemara proceeds to analyze the baraita. The Master said: “And the sin that they sinned became known,” indicating that liability is only in a case where the sin became known to the court that issued the erroneous ruling and not in a case where it became known only to the sinners. Who is the tanna whose opinion is expressed here? Rav Yehuda said that Rav said, and some say it was Rava who said, that this is not in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer, as we learned in a baraita that there is a dispute with regard to one who had two pieces before him, one of them prohibited because it is forbidden fat and one of them prohibited because it is left over from an offering after the time allotted for its consumption [notar], and he ate one, but does not know whether he ate the forbidden fat or the notar.

Rabbi Eliezer says: Whichever way you look at it, he is liable to bring a sin-offering. If it was forbidden fat that he ate he is liable, and if it was notar that he ate he is liable. Therefore, he must bring an offering. Likewise, in the case in the baraita, since the court issued an erroneous ruling and it is known that the erroneous ruling was with regard to a matter for which it is liable to bring an offering, according to Rabbi Eliezer it should make no difference that they do not know the precise nature of their error, and they should be liable to bring an offering. Nevertheless, the ruling in the baraita is that they are exempt, counter to what one would expect to be the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer.

Rav Ashi said: Even if you say that the baraita is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer, one can explain the ruling of the baraita. Here, in the baraita, it is different, as it is written: “And the sin that they sinned became known” (Leviticus 4:14). The verse underscores that the judges must be aware of the specific sin for which they are liable to bring an offering. The Gemara asks: There too, with regard to an individual sin-offering, isn’t it written: “Or if his sin that he sinned became known to him” (Leviticus 4:23), leading to the same conclusion? The Gemara answers: In the case of the individual sin-offering, that expression is necessary for the tanna to exclude one who acts unawares. One is liable to bring a sin-offering for an unwitting transgression only if he performs the action with intent.

The Gemara asks: What is the reasoning of Rabbi Yehuda, who holds that even one tribe that sinned is liable to bring an offering? The Gemara answers that he holds: There are four mentions of the term congregation written: Congregation, the congregation, congregation, the congregation. The term “the congregation” appears in both verses. Since the Torah could have written the term: Congregation, in both instances, Rabbi Yehuda derives two matters from each of the two terms, one from the term “congregation” itself, and another from the fact that it is written with the definitive article “the.”

One serves to render each and every congregation liable, as a tribe is also called a congregation; and one serves to establish that the ruling is dependent on the court and the action is dependent on the congregation; and one serves to teach the concept of drawing, i.e., a tribe that did not sin is drawn after a tribe that sinned and is liable to bring an offering; and one serves to teach that a tribe that performed a transgression on the basis of the ruling of its tribal court is liable to bring a bull as an unwitting communal sin-offering.

And what is the reasoning of Rabbi Shimon, who holds that seven tribes that sinned bring seven bulls and the court brings one bull? He holds that there are three mentions of the term congregation written. The first two are: The congregation, congregation, which he interprets in the manner that Rabbi Yehuda interpreted. He counts the third and last mention of the term: The congregation, as in the verse: “From the eyes of the congregation.” This is written in the typical manner of the verse, as people say: From the eyes of so-and-so, and the definitive article “the” does not serve to teach another halakha.

Of those three, one serves to render each and every congregation liable, as a tribe is also called congregation, and the other two come so that a verbal analogy can be derived: The term “congregation” is stated below, and the term “congregation” is stated above. Just as with regard to the term “congregation” that is stated there, above, the reference is to the court, i.e., “the eyes of the congregation,” together with the congregation, so too, with regard to the term “congregation” that is stated here concerning liability to bring an offering, the reference is to the court together with the congregation.

And what is the reasoning of Rabbi Meir, who holds that the court brings a bull on the basis of its sin and the members of the tribe are exempt? He does not derive a halakha from the difference between the terms “congregation” and “the congregation.” He does not consider the addition of the definite article to be significant. Therefore, he holds that there are two mentions of the term congregation written. They are necessary for him to derive: The term “congregation” is stated below, and the term “congregation” is stated above. Just as with regard to the term “congregation” that is stated there, above, the reference is to the court and not to the public, so too with regard to the term “congregation” that is stated here, below, the reference is to the court and not to the public.

And what is the reasoning of Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar, who holds that if six tribes sinned and in terms of population they constitute a majority of the congregation, or if seven tribes sinned even though in terms of population they do not constitute a majority of the congregation, the court brings a bull? It is written: “Then it shall be, if it was performed unwittingly, hidden from the eyes of the congregation” (Numbers 15:24). Apparently, the reference is even to a minority of the people, as “from the eyes” is written, indicating: Not all of them, but some of them. And it is written: “As for all the people it was performed unwittingly” (Numbers 15:26), to say that based on the principle: The halakhic status of a majority is like that of the entirety, if the majority of the congregation sinned, then yes, the court is liable to bring an offering. If the minority sinned, then no, the court is not liable.

How so? How can this apparent contradiction be resolved? The Gemara explains: If six tribes sinned and they constitute a majority of the congregation, or if seven tribes sinned, even though in terms of population they do not constitute a majority of the congregation, the court is liable to bring a bull. Although in both cases they are not a majority in every sense, the court is liable, as a reference to the minority is also indicated in the verse.

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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