כ״ז בכסלו ה׳תשע״ח (December 15, 2017)

Shevuot 17a-b: Time to Bow

As we have learned, the Temple precincts have a high level of kedusha – of holiness – and someone who is tameh, that is he has become ritually defiled by contact with a dead person or animal, cannot enter. What if someone enters the Temple while ritually pure and suddenly becomes tameh? What should he do in such a situation?

The Mishna (14b) requires such a person to leave in the most direct way possible. If he does so, he is not obligated to bring a sin-offering. If he stops to bow, however, or if he stops a long enough time to bow down, or if he chooses a longer path to leave, then he is obligated to bring a sin-offering.

On today’s daf Rava asks what the halakha would be regarding a person who suspends himself in the air above the Temple. Would the same rules apply? The Gemara concludes teiku – the question stands and there is no clear conclusion.

Rava’s question is unclear. One version of the text seems to present the question as asking whether the air above the area of the Temple has the same laws as the Temple itself. Tosafot object to that reading, arguing that that question was discussed and decided in Massekhet Zevaḥim (32a) where the clear ruling is that someone who places his hand in the air of the Temple would be held liable for doing so.

The text as it appears in our Gemara presents Rava’s question as focusing on bowing down. The R”i Migash explains the question as asking whether “the amount of time of bowing” is the description of what is considered a significant length of time as far as the Temple is concerned, or is there a real requirement that it be possible for the person to bow down – something that he cannot do while suspended in mid-air – and he would not be held liable in such a case. Tosafot HaRosh approach the question differently and say that Rava was asking whether “the amount of time of bowing” is the description of what is considered a significant length of time as far as the Temple is concerned, or, perhaps that only applies on the ground where bowing is possible. In the air, however, where a person cannot bow, he would transgress immediately.

As noted, the Gemara comes to no conclusion regarding this question.

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