Tuesday, 16 December 2014

More on Tuma by Hagdara

The third chapter of Rav Wolf’s מנחה טהורה discusses tuma and tahara of נבלת עוף טהור as well as the possibly related cases of פרה אדומה, שעיר המשתלח, ופרים ושעירים הנשרפים. The main chakira in this chapter is whether these are cases of tuma by העברה or הגדרה.

Rav Wolf first shows that the Rambam holds that Nivlat Of Tahor is metamei by Haavara, while Seirim and Parim are all Hagdara. For example, he brings the Rambam on Tumat Ochlin. The Rambam distinguishes between Nivlat Of Tahor which needs no hechsher(סופו לטמא טומאה חמורה—אינו צריך הכשר), while Seirim and Parim need הכשר שרץ. This is apparently because Nivlat Of Tahor is an av hatuma which creates its own inherent tumah, while Seirim and Parim don’t actually possess their own tumat haguf.

רמבם שאר אבות הטומאה פרק ג

ה חישב עליה לאכילה, הרי זו מיטמאה טומאת אוכלין; והרי היא כאוכל ראשון לטומאה--אף על פי שלא נגעה בה טומאה אחרת, אינה צריכה הכשר.

ו [ג] פרה אדומה ושעירים הנשרפים אינן כן, אף על פי שהן מטמאין המתעסק בהן: אם חישב עליהן לאכילה--צריכין שתיגע בהן הטומאה, ואחר כך ייטמאו טומאת אוכלין.

Rav Wolf then brings the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim which seems to contradict this approach:

ומפני זה היה העוסק בפרה ובשעירים הנשרפים מטמא בגדים, כשעיר המשתלח אשר יאמן בו כי מרוב מה שנשא מן העונות הוא מטמא מי שנגע בו.(מורה נבוכים חלק ג, פרק מ"ז)

Rav Wolf explains that the Rambam sees Seir Hamishtalayach as

מטמא במידה מסויימת, ולא רק היכי תימצי להגדיר את המשלח בזהות של משלח את השעיר.

But he never elaborates how it can be that Seir Hamishtalayach is metamei by Hagdara, but at the same time somewhat Haavara. I’d like to suggest an explanation…

Hagdara and Haavara Revisited

I would suggest that this apparent contradiction in the different writings of the Rambam helps us sharpen our understanding of the difference between Haavara and Hagdara. When the Rambam in the Moreh says that one who deals with the Seir Hamishtalayach becomes Tamei because of the weight of the sins that have been cast upon it, he isn’t saying that the person becomes Tamei via Haavara rather than Hagdara. The scapegoat isn’t tamei with ritual tumah. That said, it does carry a less corporeal form of Tumah, as do all sins, along the lines of טומאת הנפש. I would argue that many, if not all, cases of tumah by Hagdara are like this in that their Tumat Haguf has some, somewhat more ethereal, source.

For example, חרב כחלל, according to the opinion that it only applies to a weapon. Its tumah wasn’t passed on by contact with the dead body, and yet the sword didn’t become tamei by Hagdara from nowhere. It’s the weapon’s association with the lethal act that gave it the high level of Tumah it now carries. The point is that Tumah by hagdara still comes from “somewhere”.

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