Hesech Daat from Eating Terumah

Taharot (7:8) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

A Kohen must be tahor in order to eat terumah. The Mishnah (7:8) discusses a case where a kohen that was tahor, no longer intended to eat any more terumah. R’ Yehuda reasons that he is still tahor since people who are not careful with the laws of tumah are aware that he is and will continue to avoid him. The Chachamim however disagree. Why?

The Tosfot Yom Tov maintains that in our Mishnah the Kohen is no longer concerned about becoming tameh – there has been a hesech daat(diversion of attention) from becoming tameh. Since he is no longer careful we can no longer presume that he is tahor.

The Mishnah in Chagigah (3:3) however appears to contradict our Mishnah. That Mishnah rules that an onen (a mourner on the day of death) and mechusar kippurim (a person requiring a korban to complete his tahara) is required to immerse in a mikveh in order to partake of kodesh, but not for terumah. Since an onen cannot eat terumah, that Mishnah appears to contradict our Mishnah that rules that we assume he is tameh.

The Tosfot Yom Tov explains that the Mishnah in Chagigah concerns an onen that has had hesech daat from eating kodesh, but is nevertheless still conscious of remaining tahor. Unlike terumah, a stringency is applied to kodesh, that since he is no longer eating kodesh we are concerned that the person became tameh due to a lapse in concentration. That Mishnah would simply be another example where we find the Chachamim applied a higher standard for kodesh than terumah.

The Tifferet Yisrael however explains that it is in our Mishnah where the kohen no longer wants to eat terumah - the hesech daat is from eating terumah but not from becoming tameh. The Tifferet Yisrael explains that we are nevertheless concerned that there might be a lapse in consciousness in maintaining his state of purity. Even though other people may avoid contact with him, as R’ Yehuda argued, he may however not be as careful.1

The Mishnah Achrona agrees with the Tiffert Yisrael on this point and cites the Rambam, that there is difference between this case and whether the person was definitely no longer conscious in maintaining his state of purity. If there is a hesech daat from eating terumah he could simply immerse in a mikveh and immediately eat terumah where as if there is a hesech daat from becoming tameh he would also be required to wait until nightfall after immersion (in the same manner as one that was definitely tameh).

The Mishnah Achrona therefore argues with the Tosfot Yom Tov. He points out that according to the Rambam, even the intention to longer eat terumah is enough to require immersion in a mikveh. The Mishnah Achrona explains that even if the person is completely certain that he has not become tameh, the very act of hesech daat from eating terumah is enough to invalidate him for eating terumah until he has immersed in a mikveh. Note, that this is different to the Tifferet Yisrael cited above that explains that the reason is because we are concerned he may have become tameh.

Recall that the Tifferet Yisrael understands that our Mishnah concerns a person that had hesech daat from simply eating terumah. How then does he explain the Mishnah in Chagigah that rules that an onen, who is not allowed to eat terumah, is not required to immerse in a mikveh to eat terumah once he is allowed?

The Tifferet Yisrael explains that in Chagigah there was no hesech daat at all. The onen continued to be careful with tumah and fully intended to continue eating both kodesh and terumah when allowed. Nevertheless, since the onen was not allowed to eat kodesh a stringency is applied in that case requiring his tevila. For terumah, since it is an external prohibition preventing him from eating terumah, as long as there is no hesech daat, he may eat terumah without immersion as soon as the prohibition lift.2


1 Note that the logic the Tosfot Yom Tov applied to kodesh in the Mishnah in Chagigah is similar to the logic the Tifferet Yisrael’s applied to terumah in our Mishnah.

2The Tifferet Yisrael cites the case of an adult Kohen that had a brit millah as another case where as soon as the prohibition lifts he may from terumah immediately.

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