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May An Impure Minor Enter The Mikdash?

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This column is dedicated to the refuah sheleimah of Shlomo Eliezer ben Chaya Sarah Elka.

In this week’s parshah the Torah discusses many halachos of tumah. One halacha is that a person who is tamei may not enter the Mikdash. Doing so makes him liable for kareis.

The Gemara in Arachin 3a derives from a pasuk in this week’s parshah, where the word “ish” (man) appears, that a minor who enters the Mikdash in a tamei state is exempt from kareis. Tosfos, on the Gemara there, asks why it was necessary for the Torah to write the word “ish,” thereby excluding a minor from the punishment of kareis. After all, a minor is never liable for his actions and never receives any form of punishment. Tosfos answers that since the Gemara earlier drew from a pasuk that a minor becomes tamei when he touches a dead body, and will then require to be sprinkled with the ashes of a parah adumah, one may have thought that a minor is included in the entire parshah of tumah. If so, he would be liable for kareis if he enters the Mikdash in his tamei state. Therefore, the Torah wrote “ish” in order to teach us that a minor is exempt from kareis.

The Rashash suggests another explanation as to why the Torah felt it necessary to exclude a minor from the punishment of kareis when he enters the Mikdash in a tamei state. He says that the pasuk is necessary in a situation whereby an adult brings the minor into the Mikdash. Generally, when one person brings another who is tamei into the Mikdash, the one who brought him in is liable. However, when one brings a minor who is tamei into the Mikdash, he will be exempt based on the exclusion from this pasuk. This halacha is found in the Yereim (391): if one brings a minor who is tamei into the Mikdash, he is exempt from kareis.

The Rogatchover Gaon, in his sefarim Tzafnas Paneach (Hilchos Kilayim 9:2), offers another solution to Tosfos’s question. The Gemara in Shavuos 17a says that one is liable for entering the Mikdash, and if he remains there he is liable for each one of the allotted time periods that he is there. (The time period is the amount of time it would take a person to enter and leave the Mikdash.) But if one entered the Mikdash in a pure state and became tamei while there, he would have a different amount of time to leave the Mikdash before he would become liable. His time period is the amount of time it would take to perform the act of properly bowing down (hishtachaveh). His time period is different because he did not enter the Mikdash while in a tamei state.

What would the halacha be if a minor who was tamei entered the Mikdash and remained there until he reached adulthood? Do we say that since he was tamei upon entering the Mikdash, his time period to leave the Mikdash is the same as one who entered the Mikdash in a tumah state? Or do we consider him to have been in a pure state upon entering the Mikdash, thereby granting him the same time period allotted to one who entered the Mikdash in a pure state?

If the Torah had not written the word “ish,” exempting a minor from this parshah, we would consider the minor’s entry to the Mikdash to be impure. And even though the minor would not be liable for his actions, we would consider it as an entry to the Mikdash in a tumah state. This would result in the following: If he remained in the Mikdash until he reached adulthood, he would be allotted the same time period as one who entered the Mikdash in a tumah state.

But since the Torah wrote “ish,” excluding a minor from this parshah, we now consider it to be that a minor who enters the Mikdash in a tumah state is like he entered in a pure state. Thus, if he would remain in the Mikdash until he became an adult, he would be allotted the same time period as someone who entered the Mikdash in a pure state but became tamei in the Mikdash.

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