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Mechusrei Kapara

Keritut (2:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 4 days ago

The second perek of Masechet Keritut begins by listing the four mechusrei kippurim – the zav, zava, yoledet and metzora. The Bartenura explains that while these four people bring a “kapara1, it is not for a particular sin. Instead the korban enables them to partake thereafter in kodshim. The Tifferet Yisrael writes that we find that the word “chi’per” is used as to mean purify, “va’yitaher”. Consequently these people are lacking the final step in their purification process – their korban.

R’ Eliezer ben Yaakov however argues that a ger (convert) is also considered a muchusar kapara prior to bringing their korbanot. The Gemara asks why the Chachamim did not also include the case of the ger as well. The answer given is that the Chachamim “only taught [korbanot] that enables one to eat kodshim; when a ger brings a korban it is to enable him to enter the community.” We shall try to understand this answer and the position of the Chachamim.

Rashi understands that the Chachamim agree with R’ Eliezer ben Yaakov that a ger cannot eat from kodshim until he brings his korban. The term “mechusar kapara” however does not apply to him. The Rambam (Hilchot Mechusrei Kapara 1:2) also understands that the ger would not be able to partake of korbanot till he brings his own. Nevertheless he explains that he is not a mechusar chapara. The reason is that his korban stands in the way of being a complete ger and sharing all the laws of an Yisrael. His inability to partake from korbanot is a side effect of the situation and not because he is a mechusar kapara.

The Tifferet Yisrael however asks that according to this explanation what are they really arguing about? What is the difference between the two opinions? When the Gemara explains that the number given in the Mishnah is to exclude the opinion of R’ Eliezer ben Yaakov, what is actually being excluded? The Tifferet Yisrael explains that the Gemara (Yevamot 47b) teaches that once the ger has mila (circumcision) and tevila (immersed in a mikveh) they are a complete Yisrael. There does not appear to be any room left for distinction between the two positions.

Based on that Gemara the Tifferet Yisrael also rejects those that explain that the Chachamim are taking a stricter position, maintaining that prior to the korban the ger is not yet a yisrael – has not yet converted. This would explain why the ger is not considered a mechusar kapara since they are not a yisrael. Yet the above-cited Gemara contradicts such a position.

The Tifferet Yisrael therefore brings the following opinion. The Rambam in his Peirush Mishnayot explains that the Chachamim understand that after the ger has mila and tevila he can already partake of korbanot even prior to bringing his own korbanot. The Bartenura explains further that his own korban is only required to for him to enter the community.2 Consequently, he is not a mechusar kapara. Furthermore, he is already an yisrael and the korban is only required for him to join the community in marriage.

The Tosfot Yesheinim (2b) however explains that when the Gemara writes that the number listed is to exclude the opinion of R’ Eliezer ben Yaakov it does not necessarily mean that the argument is fundamental. He cites other cases where differences of opinion are stressed based on terminology and not legal ramifications. The Chachamim therefore agree with R’ Eliezer ben Yaakov that a ger is a mechusar kapara. Yet since his korban serves an additional purpose, they did not include it in their list.3


1 The Tosfot Yom Tov notes the Bartenura languages varies slightly from Rashi. Rashi write that these four people bring a “chatat” as opposed to “kapara”. The Rashash explains that the Bartenura found the change in language necessary since the four listed excludes the opinion of R’ Eliezer ben Yaakov who maintains that a ger is also a mechusar kapara. Note that the ger brings a pair of birds that are both olot – they do not bring a chatat. Consequently the broader term kapara was used to make clear that the ger is excluded.

2 The Tifferet Yisrael comments that nowadays, with the absence of korbanot, a ger is able to enter the community after mila and tevila (YD 268:2)

3 The Tifferet Yisrael cites a similar position at the end of Boaz (1).

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