The Exemption of the Individual

Horayot (1:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 7 years ago

This week we began masechet Horayot that opens with the law of par helem davar. This refers to the sacrifice that is brought after the Sanhendrin discovers they made an erroneous ruling that had subsequently been adopted by a majority of Am Yisrael. We have covered which ruling and prohibition that qualify for this korban as well as the conditions that obligate it. We have also learnt that in the event that the korban is required, the individuals that transgressed the prohibitions are exempt from bringing their sacrifice. We shall try and understand why.

The Grach (Shegagot 13:4) explains that there are two ways to understand the exemption of an individual in these cases. The first is because the Sanhedrin is bringing a korban and it is that korban that is exempting the people from bringing their own. Alternatively, the individual is exempt because they followed the ruling of the Sanhedrin. The obligation of Sanhedrin to bring their sacrifice is a separate law.

The Gemara (5a) cites a Beraita that states as follows:

[Sanhedrin] knew that they made a ruling, be they forgot what they ruled – is it possible that they would be obligated [to bring a par]? We learn And they knew the sin…” (Yayikra 4:14) and not that they knew they had sinned.

Rashi explains that this means that, if a majority performed a number of transgressions and one of them was a result of an invalid ruling, but the Sandhedrin are no longer sure which of the transgressions they had ruled on, then a par is not brought. This is despite the fact that they know with certainty that a majority sinned as a result of their ruling. The Rambam(Shegagot 14:4) explains that even if the people knew which prohibition it was, Sanhedrin must know with certainty.

The Grach notes that regarding this case, the Rambam (Shegagot 14:4) rules that the individuals would be required to bring their own sacrifices. This is despite the fact that the individuals acted according to the ruling they received. Consequently, he understands that it is the korban of the Sanhedrin that exempts the individual, which is in line with the first understanding. Since in this case the Sanhedrin does not bring a sacrifice, the individuals must.

One difficulty with adopting this approach is that we have learnt (1:2) that an individual that acted in accordance with the ruling can be exempt even if it is after the Sanhendrin have realised their error and brought their sacrifice. It is difficult to say that it is the korban of the Sanhedrin that exempts the individual, since one cannot bring a korban to exempt them from a future transgression.

The Grach answer that there is a difference between an individual that sins before and after the par helem davar has been offered. Certainly after it has been offered, the individual cannot combine with the tzibur (community) for the obligation to bring the sacrifice – it has already been offered. If however we look at the sin itself and what it obligates – concerning the act itself – it certainly combines with the tzibur. The sacrifice for such an acts is a par helem davar, even though it has already been brought and cannot be brought now. Contrast this with the earlier Beraita. Since in that case, there was a problem with the obligation to bring the korban tzibur itself, the case was excluded from the obligation to bring a korban tzibur. Therefore each individual had to bring their own.

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