Thursday, May 15, 2008

more on nazir vs. kohein (Nazir 47), kamus and eichus

Yesterday’s post focused on the dispute in the Mishna (Nazir 47): where no one else is available except for a kohein and nazir, which one should become tamei to bury a meis mitzvah. R’ Eliezer argues that the nazir should not become tamei. Since the nazir must bring a korban if he becomes tamei, it proves his kedusha greater than that of the kohein. The Chachamim disagree and hold that the nazir should become tamei. The kohein has “kedushas olam”, a permanent and constant kedusha, which is more significant than the temporary kedusha of the nazir. R’ Yosef Engel explained the focal point of the debate revolves around the following abstract question: given that X is greater than Y, if Y endures longer, does that make up the difference? In our case, even if the kedusha of a nazir is more stringent, perhaps the fact that the kedusha of a kohein endures longer lends it greater significance.

R’ Akiva Eiger comments on the Mishna (pointed out by Anon1 yesterday) that the dispute in Nazir parallels the machlokes in Zevachim whether a korban which is tadir (offered regularly) is more or less significant than mekudash, a korban of greater sanctity. Using R’ Yosef Engel’s matrix, tadir vs. mekudash boils down to the same basic abstract idea: can a lesser kedusha which endures longer, or is more constant, be considered more significant than something which has a greater quality of kedusha?

I think one could argue that the two cases are different (and R’ Yosef Engel retracts the comparison later in his essay). Recall the case of kamus vs. eichus which we started this discussion with earlier in the week: if a sick person needs meat on Shabbos, is it better to shect an animal and violate Shabbos once to obtain kosher meat, or to eat non-kosher meat, violating a separate issur with each bite? Everyone agrees that eating non-kosher meat is the lesser issur – the point of debate is whether the fact that it is violated repeatedly lends it greater significance. This issue of tadir vs. mekduash parallels this type of debate. Tadir is obviously of lesser kedusha than mekudash, as the label itself indicates. The debate is whether the fact that tadir recurs lends it greater significance. The debate in Nazir 47 is not whether the kohein’s lesser kedusha is given more significance by virtue of being permanent – the debate is whether permanence is itself not indicative of the kohein having the greater level of kedusha to begin with! Who says the nazir is greater just because if he becomes tamei he must bring a korban - maybe the kohein is greater because his kedusha is “kedushas olam”?! This is a different question entirely.

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