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Friday, May 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Emor

At the beginning of this week's parsha, (21:2) we are told that a kohein, although he is not permitted to become temei meis, he is allowed to do so for his mother or father and other immediate family. The midrash on this pasuk states that after the pasuk has told me that he may become tamei for his mother, I might have thought only for his mother may he become tamei for she is definitely his mother. But his father is technically uncertain, for we can never be 100% sure that this is in fact his father, but we consider him his father only by a chazakah, an assumption of sorts. Therefore, we might have thought it does not apply to his father. So the pasuk states "ul'aviv," indicating that this exception applies to his father as well.

In T`shuvos haRashb"a (27), R"Y asks the Rashb"a what kind of assumption would that have been? Either way he can become tamei for his father. If this man is in fact his father, then he may become tamei because he is his father. But if this man is not his father, then who says he is a kohein?! Surely, he may become tamei for him.

Rashb"a answered him that surely as far as permission to become tamei for one's father, we would not have had any doubt that this kohein may become tamei for his father. However, from the words at the end of the next pasuk, "lah yitama," we learn that not only is the kohein permitted to become tamei for these relatives but he is required to. The intention of the midrash is that with regards to the requirement to become tamei, since there is a doubt as to whether this man is this kohein's father, one might have thought that it does not apply to him.

Rashb"a offers another answer. The sanctity of the kohein which prohibits him from becoming tamei is, as the pasuk states, "ki es lechem elokecha hu makriv," a direct consequence of the fact that he serves God's bread (in the form of korbanos.) Chasam Sofer in his t`shuvos (Yoreh Dei'ah 338) explains that since we allow this kohein to bring korbanos, whether it is rightfully done or not, he is elevated to the kedushah of a kohein and may not become tamei. Therefore, a suspicion as to the paternity of his father, while it may create doubt as to his permission to become tamei for him, will not affect his general prohibition to become tamei. Klei Chemdah disagress with Chasam Sofer on one point. He argues that the deciding factor is not whether he brings korbanos but rather whether he may eat them. For if it were dependent on bringing korbanos, then it would not apply to "ba'al mum," a kohein with a blemish that prevents him from being able to perofrm the service. But we know that even a ba'al mum may not become tamei. So either way, the end result is that a kohein involved in korbanos is subject to the prohibitions of tum'ah, no matter what our doubts are regarding his father.

Have a good Shabbos and a wonderful Pesach Sheini!

Eliezer Bulka

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