The gemara at the end of Yoma tells us that in a case of pikuach nefesh where one has a choice between which issurim to violate, one should choose hakal hakal techila – always, where given a choice, violate the least stringent issur. This opens a pandora’s box of discussion as to the hierarchy of issurim. The Rishonim debate the following case: a person is deathly ill on Shabbos and requires meat. Non-kosher meat is readily available. Is it better to feed the sick person that non-kosher meat, or to slaughter an animal on Shabbos in order to obtain fresh kosher meat? At first glance one would assume that Shabbos is a far more stringent prohibition than eating non-kosher food. However, the Ra’avad makes the counter-argument that every single bite of non-kosher food counts as a separate issur while slaughtering an animal for kosher meat is a single prohibited act. Perhaps it is better to perform a single prohibited act, albeit one as serious as violating Shabbos, than to violate a lesser prohibition numerous times over.
R’ Yosef Engel writes that this debate revolves around the issue of kamus vs. eichus which we raised yesterday. Shabbos is qualitatively the more stringent issur, but eating non-kosher violates a greater quantity of issurim. The debate in the Rishonim centers around which of these factors wins out.
Those learning daf yomi recently studied the Mishna (Nazir 47) regarding the case of a meis mitzvah which is found by a nazir and kohein gadol. The Tanaim argue as to which of these two, the kohein or the nazir, should become tamei to bury the body. The MaHaRaT”Z Chiyus cites a question raised by the Sha’ar haMelech that relates to the previous issue. A nazir who becomes tamei violates a greater number of issurim than a kohein who becomes tamei (remember, there is bal yacheil in addition to the issurei nazir). If so, according to the Ra’avad who argues that it is better to violate Shabbos than eat non-kosher because kamus overrides eichus, why is it not clear that the kohein and not the nazir should become tamei?