Thursday, 3 August 2017

Sanhedrin 18: The Kohen Gadol; Kings

Our daf completes Perek I with further debate about how many people in cities require how many judges.  The rabbis question whether the judges are included in the count of people in each city.

We begin Perek II with a new Mishna: about the kohen gadol, the high priest. We learn that his role is complex.  He might:
  • judge and be judged
  • testify and have others testify about him
  • have his widow do chalitzah or yibum
  • not do chaliza or yibum for he cannot marry a widow
  • when mourning for a friend, he follows the coffin from afar (Rabbi Meir)
  • does not leave the Mikdash (Rabbi Yehudah)
  • when he is consoling others, the memuneh is on one side and all others are on the other side
  • when being consoled, he is told "we are an atonement for you to bear what should have come to you" and he says, "HaShem should bless you"
We also learn about rules regarding a king:
  • when being consoled, he is told "we are an atonement for you to bear what should have come to you" and he says, "HaShem should bless you"
  • when taking the havra'ah, the first meal after losing a relative, he sits on a bench and others on the ground
  • he does not judge nor is he judged
  • he does not testify nor do others testify about him
  • neither he nor his widow participate in chalitza nor yibum
  • if he wants to do chalitza or yibum he is permitted and praised (Rabbi Yehudah)
  • the Sagaes do not allow the above
  • his widow remains a widow and does not remarry
  • a king may marry a king's widow, ex. David married Shaul's widow (Rabbi Yehuda)
The Gemara begins with the question of a king judging.  Some rabbis believe that of course a king can judge.  Before judging, one must be open to being judged: hiskosheshu v'koshu, fix yourself then correct others (Reish Lakish).  

A baraita comments on what should happen if a kohen gadol killed intentionally.  We learn that he is killed.  If he killed accidentally, he is exiled to an ir milklat, a city of refuge.  He is considered to be a commoner in just about every way.  We learn that if one killed a kohen gadol, he might be exiled forever - or not at all.  The rabbis argue about this.  And are 71 judges required to hear his case?  They might even be required to hear anything that he is accused of doing wrong.

The Gemara wonders about a kohen gadol testifying.  It might be considered below his dignity to testify for others, just as a Sage might ignore a lost object because it is beneath him; a worker might ignore it because it is worth less than his wages.  But does a kohen gadol testify for a king?  What about a king's son - a commoner?  And the king would not be put on the Sanhedrin, so the kohen gadol would not testify in front of the king.  The rabbis argue about the propriety of putting the king on the Sanhedrin - he would have to testify first, and if he were wrong, no one would disagree.  Would only a very learned king, who would not speak first, be permitted to be on the Sanhedrin?  

The Gemara notes that the King would not be permitted to sit on the Sanhedrin regarding issues in which he has a vested interest, like intercalating the year (he pays his soldiers annually, and so he would benefit from a leap year).  And a kohen gadol cannot sit on the Sanhedrin regarding the same issue but because of a different interest: he would not want a leap year because when Yom Kippur comes late, the water in which he immerses five times is cold.  

The rabbis then discuss whether the temperature follows the months of the tekufot.  It gets cold after tekufat Tishrei even if the year was intercalated too many times and it becomes Elul.  Sages hear the shepherds say that it is only Adar if the ground is warm enough to cause the early wheat crop and the late barley crop to sprout together.  Another said that it is only Adar if it is so cold that an ox nearly dies in the morning but in the afternoon it needs the shade of a date tree to survive the heat.  Yet another says that it is only Adar if the cold winter has calmed enough for the east (cold) wind is blowing and you can overpower it with your warm breath.  

Based on all of this, we are told that the Sages intercalated the year - these signs had not yet come, and so they put Adar 2 before Nisan.  But could the Sages have relied on shepherds for their rulings? We are told that the Sages intercalated the year based on their own calculations; the shepherds' comments simply provided support for their ruling.

The notion of the educated versus the uneducated is thriving today.  One of the difficulties with this separation is that the knowledge of the shepherds is just as valid and as important as the calculations of the rabbis.  Both are critical when creating rulings that affect everyone.  The rabbis might have the benefit of education, but the experience of the shepherds is just as necessary.  When we forget the importance of all voices, those in power create rulings that do not make sense to those who work with their hands.  This rift leads to the creation of artificial differences and very real strife between groups.

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