Wednesday, August 22, 2007

mamzer talmid chacham vs. kohen gadol am ha'aretz

The last Mishna in Horiyos lists the order in which people should be saved in a life-or-death crisis (e.g. who gets in the lifeboat first): kohen, levi, yisrael, mamzer, nasin, ger, freed slave. However, concludes the Mishna, this rule is true only where comparing people of equal scholarship - even a mamzer who is a talmid chacham takes precedence over a kohen gadol who is an am ha’aretz.

My son was medayek: if the Mishna wanted to contrast the extreme cases of a talmid chacham with tainted lineage vs. the kohen hagol am ha’aretz, why choose the case of a talmid chacham mamzer? The Mishna should have illustrated the point with the most extreme case of bad lineage, the case of a freed eved!

The Tiferes Yisrael makes the same observation and concludes that a talmid chacham who is a nasin, ger, or freed eved would not in fact take precedence over a kohen gadol. The status of talmid chacham only tips the scales in favor of someone who is a yisrael, levi, or mamzer.

On that note, my son gets a mazel tov for finishing the mishnayos in Seder Nezikin, which was certainly a productive use of his summer break, and I am happy to see he is learning to make diyukim and ask thoughtful questions.

12 comments:

  1. Good question by your son and mazel tov on the siyum. Interesting point by the tiferes yisrael -- but why? If the principle here is that torah trumps yichus, why should it be that a ger talmid chacham be less than a KH am ha-aretz?

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  2. I have no idea why, nor does the T"Y explain. My son does not yet think in "lomdish" terms so he accepts the conclusion purely on the merits of the diyuk without worrying about conceptually how to understand the chiluk.

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  3. anon12:51 PM

    IYH your son should continue to learn for many years to come. They'll get to the lomdus soon enough. Still the point is interesting, maybe I'll look more if I get chance and obviously, interested in your thoughts if you have any.

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  4. The T"Y says - מדהוא זרע ישראל. It seems that full Talmid Chacham status can only be when building upon Zera Yisrael.

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  5. But Why? Doesn't the gemara elsewhere quote R' Meir that even a non-Jew who learns torah is like the Kohen Gadol? (A"Z 3a)

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  6. anon13:30 PM

    Dorong -- also add in shmaya and avtalyo descended from geirim as well -- though not sure how long the ger status remains, e.g., le-inyan heter le-mamzer the gemara in kidushin says it is 10 generations but maybe not for this?

    Re: Chaim's point from R"Meir -- my recollection is that the gemara says that is only referring to the non-Jew learning about the 7 mitzvos benei Noach. Hard to think you can achieve talmid chacham status just with knowledge of the 7 mitzvos BN. But still not sure I understand the sevara of the TY.

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  7. Tos in A.Z. 3 says the nochri is osek only in 7 mitzvos, but Tosfos also says the gemara's comparison to kohen gadol davka is based on exactly the same source (y'karah hi m'pninim - y'karah m'kohen gadol hanichnas lifnim) as the limud that mamzer talmid chacham is greater than kohen gadol. So if it is the same source, why is the din of precedence different?

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  8. Tosfos also says the gemara's comparison to kohen gadol davka is based on exactly the same source (y'karah hi m'pninim - y'karah m'kohen gadol hanichnas lifnim) as the limud that mamzer talmid chacham is greater than kohen gadol. So if it is the same source, why is the din of precedence different?

    I don't think Tosfos is saying that this is the source for the 'Din' that a Nochri is like a Kohen Gadol - the Gemara says that the source is "HaAdam".

    Tosfos means to explain why the Gemara picked Kohen Gadol as the one the Goy is compared to - why not like "Gadol B'Yisrael" or something like that. The answer is that Kohen Gadol is the benchmark used when comparing someone who learns Torah - based on Yekara Hi etc.

    Tosfos there is actually a Raaya that a Nochri who learns Torah is less than the Mamzer - a Mamzer T"C is Kodem LKohen Gadol, but the Nochri is only equal. ("K'kohen Gadol"). So this actually brings us closer to the T"Y.

    BTW, R' Chaim Kanievsky (Derech Emunah Matnos Aniyim 12:8) quotes the Chida quoting the Meiri (RCK says it isn't in our Meiri) as disagreeing with the T"Y, and the reason why Mamzer was chosen is because it isn't likely that any of the lesser ones will be a T"C!

    Also, the Margaliyos HaYam to Sanhedrin (Perek 2:2) says that the parallel between the Kohen Gadol and a Mamzer is that the KG may never leave Yerushalayim, and the Mamzer may never enter (Avos D'rabbi Nosson), so the point is that we save the one who can't enter over the one who can't leave.

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  9. anon14:44 PM

    thanks Doron!

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  10. >>>The answer is that Kohen Gadol is the benchmark used when comparing someone who learns Torah - based on Yekara Hi etc.

    From the word ha'adam we know a nochri has schar, but the shiur of that schar (i.e. being = to K"G) is based on y'kara m'pnimim. What I was driving at it that since you invoke y'kara m'pnimim by mamzer and by nochri, what is the sevara for the T"Y's distinction?

    >>>the Mamzer may never enter

    How would he perform the mitzvah of aliya l'regel?

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  11. Anonymous5:32 PM

    i think it's a dovor pashut that the halachas of kadima are about kavod to torah, mitzvos etc that we give in this world whereas goy shelamad torah harey hu kekohen gadol is about intrinsic spiritual state and schar. The prooftexts in the midrash (sifra vayikra 18:5) are in that spirit - ranninu tzadikim bahashem and not ranninu kohanim leviim veyisraelim. heytiva hashem latovim and not heytiva hashem lekohenim etc therefore goy shelamad torah harei hu kekohen gadol. Goy shelamad torah is an aggadic statement - it's not about practical kadima or halacha. It is in contrast to it, i.e. the normal hierarchy in halacha notwithstanding, the spiritual worth/accomplishment of the goy who keeps/learns 7 mitzvos is kekohen gadol.

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