Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Safek Tumah Birshut Harabim

Rav Wolf’s chapter on ספק טומאה ברשות הרבים וברשות היחיד in מנחה טהורה begins with the question of source. I remember, while I was in Rav Noam Vershner’s shiur, he would often begin a sugiya with an investigation of the source source of a Halacha, before getting into the lomdus. I found this methodology helpful. Knowing where a din comes from is an important key in attempting to understand it.

Related to the question of source, one of the most basic chakirot is whether a din is deoraita or derabanan(see “The Conceptual Approach to Torah Learning”, Lichtenstein). This distinction alone has a big effect on what sort of svarot we’re willing to consider. Also, if a halacha is derived from another din, then this gives us further conceptual fodder, assuming the comparison is a fundamental one.

Reshut Harabim


So there’s a general rule in Taharot about dealing with sfeikot. If the safek occurred in a public space then we’re lenient, but if it occurred in a private space then we’re machmir. Rav Wolf cites four possible sources for this rule:

  1. Tosafot in Chullin(ט: ד"ה התם הלכתא) learns both sides of this rule(reshut hayachid/reshut harabim) from Sotah, whose potential tumah occurred in a private space and who is therefore forbidden to her husband.
  2. Tosafot in Sotah(כח: ד"ה מכאן), on the other hand, says that there is always a chezkat tahara. Only the chumra in reshut hayachid is derived from Sotah
  3. The Tosefta(טהרות ו:יז) and Yerushalmi also learn reshut hayachid from Sotah, however they learn reshut harabim from a kal vachomer from the din that the korban Pesach can be brought betumah if most of the nation are tmeiim
  4. The Rambam(שאר אבות הטומאה טז:א) also learns the kulah of reshut harabim from Pesach, but he argues that this is the default option for Taharot. He says, the chumra in reshut hayachid is derabanan.

Why is there a difference?

Rav Wolf then moves on to his main chakira for this chapter: whether the difference between reshut hayachid and reshut harabim is due to a difference in the level of safek or due to some difference in how we relate to tumah in particular:
  • Raglayim Ladavar- Reshut Hayachid is an enclosed space so ‘raglayim ladavar’. Therefore our doubt is weighted towards suspicion of tumah, like Sotah.
  • Becoming Tamei in Reshut Rarabim is Less Severe
    • Knas- should have been more careful in Reshut Hayachid, since it's easy to do so.
    • Social Neccessity- it's not practical to be machmir in Reshut Harabim.

Mapping Sources to Svarot

So how do these explanations match up with the sources we suggested earlier?

Raglayim Ladavar- This explanation works with the first three derivations, which all learn Reshut Hayachid from Sotah. It’s clearly incompatible with the Ramabam, however, who thinks the comparison with Sotah is not fundamental

Knas- This sounds much like the Rambam who says that the chumra birshut hayachid is derabanan.

Social Neccessity- This sounds most like the Tosefta/Yerushalmi, who compare reshut harabim to the Korban Pesach. In Pesach too, the leniency with regard to tumah sounds more like a practical necessity than an ideal.

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