Tuesday, November 12, 2013

:ד Need to Know Basis

דאיתמר מלואים ר' יוחנן ורבי חנינא חד אמר כל הכתוב בהן מעכב בהן וחד אמר דבר המעכב לדורות מעכב בהן שאין מעכב לדורות אין מעכב בהן

It took me a while to get to the bottom of this but it does appear that this מחלוקת has no practical ramifications after the מילואים in the מדבר. Furthermore, not only is this discussion historical, it is also hypothetical. It relates only to what would have happened if someone would have left out one of these components. It is ironic that on the very next page, the גמרא asks כיצד הלבישן, how did they dress the כהנים? This question is immediately attacked - whatever was, was. And as far as what we might need to know in the end of days - משה and אהרן will tell us then! Quite a contrast.

There is one simple answer: Although the direct halachic ramifications are indeed constrained to the מילואים we do see from the exchange between ר' יוחנן and ריש לקיש that the understanding of those laws does impact how we would understand the laws governing the yearly separation of the כהן גדול. So it is important on that account.

Perhaps there might be a deeper answer to the general approach given to these issues. There are many times in ש"ס that the גמרא will seem to go a circuitous route to reach a final conclusion. Various approaches and understandings are suggested and debunked, some even seeming illogical from the start. Why arrange the גמרא this way? Why not just get to the end point directly? Clearly, רבינא and רב אשי intended the גמרא to be more than a collection of הלכות. We have ראשונים like the רי"ף and רמב"ם to zero in on what we need to know. But the גמרא is meant to mold are minds and train our brains for the analytical thinking that is required to fully grasp any one subject matter.

In addition to the irony mentioned above, תוספות ה: ד"ה מאי דהוה הוה also asks that the גמרא in סנהדרין discusses how an ox that made contact with הר סיני would have been judged and no objection is brought there either. So how are we to understand this? I believe that really, there is no problem with discussing a legal issue which has no practical import. If it was worthy of discussion then it is just as worthy of discussion now. So why then did the גמרא object to כיצד הלבישן? I think the answer might just be that the גמרא asked the question because there was an answer. The question was posed solely for the purpose of exposing the give and take that would ultimately teach us that there are two contradictory פסוקים which we need to understand. If there's no real answer to the question "why do I need to know this?" then the גמרא simply won't ask it. I hope this approach is not too controversial.

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