The Letter Of The Law?
‘If He Was…Unable to Enter
Because of the Camels’
The Torah (Bamidbar 9:10-13) states that if one fails to offer the paschal sacrifice on the 14th of Nissan because he is ritually impure or on a distant road (“bederech rechoka”), he should offer a “make-up” korban Pesach on the 14th of Iyar (Pesach Sheni). If, however, his failure to bring a korban Pesach was not due to ritually impurity or distance, he is subject to the penalty of kares.
Our Mishnah and Gemara (supra 93b) define “bederech rechoka” as “beyond the city of Modi’in,” which was 15 mil (a mil is 2,000 cubits) from Jerusalem.
The Rambam (Hilchos Korban Pesach 5:2) rules that even if someone fails to offer the paschal sacrifice on the 14th of Nissan deliberately or due to willful negligence, he can still spare himself the kares penalty by offering a Pesach Sheni sacrifice.
There is a difference, however, between someone who deliberately (be’mezid) didn’t bring a pesach rishon sacrifice and someone who was unable to do so due to an unpreventable accident (oness). The Rambam rules that someone who didn’t bring a pesach rishon due to negligence receives kares if he fails to bring a pesach sheni sacrifice, even if his failure is due to an oness. On the other hand, someone who didn’t bring the pesach rishon due to oness is not subject to kares unless his failure to bring a pesach sheni sacrifice is deliberate (see Rebbi’s opinion on 93a).
It Was Only an Accident
The Rambam distinguishes between an ordinary oness (e.g. sickness) and cases of oness delineated by the Torah, i.e., tum’ah and bederech rechoka. If one fails to bring a pesach rishon sacrifice because of ritual impurity or distance, he is exempt from kares unequivocally, even if he deliberately does not bring a pesach sheni sacrifice. Whereas if one misses a pesach rishon sacrifice due to other onassim, he is subject to kares if he willfully neglects to bring a pesach sheni sacrifice.
A Stricter View
The Rabad (ad loc.) disagrees with the Rambam’s distinction between different categories of accidents. He maintains that even if one’s failure to bring a pesach rishon sacrifice was due to tum’ah or derech rechoka, he is subject to kares if he willfully neglects to bring a pesach sheni sacrifice.
About the Author: RABBI YAAKOV KLASS, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. RABBI GERSHON TANNENBAUM, rav of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights, Boro Park, Brooklyn, is the Director of Igud HaRabbanim – The Rabbinical Alliance of America.
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