י״ז בתשרי ה׳תשע״ד (September 21, 2013)

Pesaḥim 93a-b: When on a Distant Journey

Much of the ninth perek, which began on the last daf (92b), focuses on the laws of Pesah sheni, and who has the opportunity to bring a korban Pesah in the month of Iyyar in the event that they could not bring it on time in Nisan. According to the Torah (Bamidbar 9:10-14) there are two circumstances that would allow someone to bring a Pesah sheni: either if the person was tameh – ritually defiled – or if he was be-derekh rehoka – far from the Temple grounds when the sacrifice had to be brought.

Mishna: What is the definition of a distant journey that exempts one from observing the first Pesah? Anywhere from the city of Modi’im and beyond, and from anywhere located an equal distance from Jerusalem and beyond in every direction; this ist the statement of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Eliezer says: From the threshold of the Temple courtyard and beyond is considered a distant journey; therefore anyone located outside the courtyard at the time that the Paschal lamb is slaughtered is exempt from observing the first Pesah. Rabbi Yose said to him: Therefore, the word is dotted over the letter heh in the word “distant [rehoka]” to say that the meaning of the word should be qualified: It should be understood that it is not because he is really distant; rather, it includes anyone located from the threshold of the Temple courtyard and beyond.

We find, on occasion, that tradition has the scribe writing dots that are placed on top of – or even within – words in the Torah. Generally speaking these dots are understood to mean that the word or letter has some question about it and that it should, therefore, be viewed with caution. The Jerusalem Talmud distinguishes between situations when there are more letters with dots than without them when we include the dotted letters and exclude the ones without, and cases where the majority of the letters are without dots, when we exclude the dotted letters.

In our case, the Jerusalem Talmud explains that the single letter with the dot should be left out, so the pasuk reads be-derekh rehok, referring not to the travel distance but to the person himself. If he is outside the Temple precincts he is not included in the korban.

The Bartenura explains that the dot on the heh should be understood to mean that if someone is five (the numerical value of the letter heh) amot from the Temple courtyard he will bring a Pesah sheni instead of the regular sacrifice, which, according to the Rashash was the depth of the wall. Thus, anyone beyond the entrance of the courtyard was considered be-derekh rehoka.

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