web analytics
March 28, 2015 / 8 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


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.

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu to Release Frozen Palestinian Authority Tax Revenue
Latest Indepth Stories
Islamic Relief Worldwide Logo

In November 2014, Islamic Relief Worldwide was classified as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates.

Safran-032715

Too rarely appreciated for its symbolic weight; it can represent freedom and independence.

Erica Pelman is a spiritually-driven woman. She is founder and director of “In Shifra’s Arms” (ISA), an organization that offers aid to pregnant Jewish women of all religious backgrounds practically, financially and emotionally. Its arms are open to any pregnant woman in need whether single, divorced, separated, or from a financially-strapped family. “Presently, we are […]

Gerstenfeld-032715

Many so-called “humanitarian NGOs” frequently abuse Israel by applying false moral equivalencies

Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers

In God’s plan why was it necessary that Moses be raised by Pharaoh, away from his own family&people?

In their zechus may we all come to appreciate that life is a fleeting gift and resolve to spend every precious moment of it as if it were the last.

In any event, Mr. Netanyahu after the election sought to soften his statement on Palestinian statehood and apologized for what he conceded were remarks that “offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli Arab community.”

A worthy idea any way you look at it.

There is something quite distinctive about the biblical approach to time.

The Waqf kept control of the Temple Mount due to Dayan’s “magnanimity in victory” after 6 Day war

The event promotes “1 state” solution (end of Israel as a Jewish State), BDS, lawfare against Israel

I rescued you?! You’re doing me a favor letting me help you!

“Tzedakah tatzil mi-mavet: Charity saves from death”; No death & a tax break? Where do I sign up?

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: