web analytics
November 1, 2014 / 8 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Leprosy: Stringency and Leniency

timeless torah

The Torah introduces the code of law that the Priest was to use in order to determine the ritual status of objects stricken with Leprosy, “to pronounce it pure, or to pronounce it impure” (Lev. 13:59).

Invariably, cases would have arisen where the straight-forward reading of the Code of Law would have left doubt whether “to pronounce it pure, or to pronounce it impure.” How was the Priest to deal with cases of uncertainty? How did God expect us to deal with uncertainty in the laws of the Torah itself?

This central and critical question, as one can imagine was already a matter of dispute among the Sages. The [Jerusalem] Talmud of Eretz Yisrael teaches:

“Rabbi Eliezer said: Just as it is prohibited to pronounce pure that which is impure so too it is prohibited to pronounce impure that which is pure.” (Terumoth 5:3, 30b)

The Law is not merely a societal fail-safe, but a sacred and Divine prescription. Permitting the prohibited as well as prohibiting the permissible carries with it an inherent violation. According to Rabbi Eliezer, when one is in doubt about the law one must always weigh the risk of permitting the prohibited and prohibiting the permissible.

Other Sages took a different stance. The [Jerusalem] Talmud of Eretz Yisrael teaches us further:

“Rabbi Aba the son of Yaakov in the name of R. Yochanan said: If a law about [the purity/impurity of Terumah] comes before you and you do not know whether to suspend (i.e. weight until it is definitely impure) or to burn [Terumah] always pursue burning over suspending for there is nothing (i.e. offering) in the Torah more beloved [to God] than ‘bulls that are burned’ and ‘he-goats that are burned.’ And they in fact are burned!”

The “bulls and he-goats that are burned” refer to the exceptional offerings whose blood was sprinkled inside of the Temple as opposed to other sacrifices whose blood was sprinkled in the courtyard outside of the Temple. The meat of these special offerings as beloved and desirable to God as it may have been, was nevertheless burned, and by God’s own order!

According to Rabbi Yaakov bar Aha, the Torah itself reveals its mind on how cases of uncertainty should be handled. The example of bulls and goats shows us that destroying that which is sacred may not only permissible, but even desirable to God. Accordingly, Terumah whose purity/impurity is undetermined should be burned dispite the risk of burning pure Terumah rather than first waiting until it becomes definitely impure and permissible to burn.

By analogy, in cases of doubt, “destroying” or violating a sacred law by not weighing the risk of prohibitting the permissible should be normative procedure.

Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Aba the son of Yaakov’ point of dissent is whether in cases of doubt, one must consider the risk of prohibiting the permissible or may automatically rule stringently.

In its closing passage, the Talmud of Eretz Yisrael teaches:

Rabbi Yose asked: Can we derive something whose performance is not in this manner (by burning) from something whose performance is in this manner?

Burning the flesh of the offerings is part of their ritual prescription as opposed to burning Terumah which is done only when it is impure. Rabbi Yossi argues against Rabbi Aba the son of Yaakov and in favor of Rabbi Eliezer that one may not make any deductions from sacrifices.

The Talmud of Eretz Yisrael, which closes with this argument and does not come to the defense of Rabbi Aba the son of Yaakov would seem to be making its ruling.

About the Author: Michael Linetsky is the director of the Torat Eretz Yisrael Institute whose mission is to bring to the broader audience the teachings of the Land of Israel.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “Leprosy: Stringency and Leniency”

  1. Jim Little says:

    Most nominal so called Christian preachers don’t and won’t understand this.Can’t teach what you don’t understand.A lot of the Jewish orders apply to gentiles also but tradition strangles them

  2. Jim Little says:

    Most nominal so called Christian preachers don’t and won’t understand this.Can’t teach what you don’t understand.A lot of the Jewish orders apply to gentiles also but tradition strangles them

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Yehudah Glick on the Temple Mount.
Yehuda Glick’s Condition Stabilizing, “He Was Very Lucky” (1:00 PM)
Latest Indepth Stories
Which glass has the poison?

The White House wanted to defame Netanyahu, undermine his reputation, impugn him & his policies

Adolf Hitler and the representative of the Palestinian Arabs, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, December, 1941.

Palestinian anti-Semitism in 2014 is more extreme and mainstream than German A/S in the 1930s.

Sheldon Silver

Woven deeply through it all is the Jewish obligation to fight injustice.

Cravatts-Richard--new

Only in the inverted world of academia would Jewish professors denounce the AMCHA Initiative report.

Many poskim were and are adamant about the responsibility of every individual to vote.

Individuals who may have been abused are the “clients” in need and receiving care and protection.

An accomplished Torah scholar and ardent adherent of Bobov chassidus, he was renowned for his self-effacing dedication and skills as an international lawyer and law professor

The fact that the United States government after World War II sought to take advantage of the expertise of German scientists, even those known to have contributed to the Nazi war effort, is well known and largely accepted as having been necessary for America’s national defense. (Wernher von Braun is perhaps the most famous and […]

The New York State comptroller manages the state’s $180.7 billion pension fund, audits the spending practices of all state agencies and local governments, oversees the New York State and Local Retirement System, reviews the New York State and City budgets, and approves billions in State contracts and spending.

Rabinovich is the author of several popular books on Israel’s wars, including The Battle for Jerusalem, The Yom Kippur War, and The Boats of Cherbourg.

To say he was beloved because of the way he loved his students does not sufficiently capture the reality.

The birth I speak about is to give birth to ourselves, to our full potential.

The extreme hypocrisy, contempt & vulgarity of the attacks indicate more than a policy disagreement

More Articles from Michael Linetsky
The_United_Nations_Building

It is in the nature of the Nations of the World to be hostile towards the Jewish People.

rabbinic dreams

The unity of the Jewish People and their tolerance for each other is of cosmic import.

God judges the Jewish People as a National Entity.

The Law is not merely a societal fail-safe, but a sacred and Divine prescription.

The meaning of “God’s watch” here is not entirely clear.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/leprosy-stringency-and-leniency/2014/03/25/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: