Choshed Be'Kesheirim

Yoma (1:5) | Yisrael Bankier | 12 days ago

The first perek of masechet Yoma discusses the preparation of the kohen gadol prior to Yom Kippur. The Mishnah (1:5) describes how they would compel the kohen gadol to swear that he would not act differently to the way he was instructed. The concern was specifically regarding the way the ketoret was offered.

Recall that there was debate between the Chachamim and the Tzedukim whether the ketoret was burnt once the kohen gadol was already inside the kodesh ha'kodashim or prior to entering. No one else was allowed near the kohen gadol at the point. Consequently, out of concern that the kohen gadol might be a tzeduki, they made him swear no to deviate from the manner he was instructed. Last cycle (14(28) we analysed how and why the shevua (oath) would be effective if indeed the kohen gadol was a tzeduki. In this article, we shall focus on the end of the Mishnah.

After the oath, the Mishnah explains that the kohen gadol and those that made him make the oath would separate and cry. The kohen gadol would cry that they suspected him of being a tzeduki. The kohanim (or some say the beit din) cried because they suspected him of being a tzeduki. The Bartenura cites the Gemara (19b) that the kohanim cried because they may have been choshed be'kesheirim -- suspected someone who was really honest. If someone was indeed choshed be'kesheirim they are punished with a physical injury. The Gemara (Shabbat 97a) learns this from Moshe Rabbeinu. When Hashem sent him to Egypt, Moshe resisted saying that Bnei Yisrael would not believe him. One of the signs that Hashem gave Moshe was that his hand turned white with tzaraat.

The Maharal (Chiddushi Agadot 97a) explains with a mashal. If one were to throw a stone against a stone wall, it would bounce right back at him. If however the wall was made of mud it would embed itself in the wall. If one suspects another and that person is deserving, then the "stone" will embed itself in the "wall". If however the person is innocent and the suspicions unfounded, then it bounces right back at him.

The Chatam Sofer (Shabbat 97a) however explains that unlike chodesh be'kesheirim, Hashem's punishments for other sins or first meted out on one's property. The reason is Hashem judges the person favourably, and hopes that the effect on one's property will motivate them to do teshuva. For someone who is choshed be'kesheirim, who assumed the worst in others, he is treated in the same way. He is punished directly, and his property preserved for his offspring.

Rav Soleveitchik (Avodat Yom Hakippurim) however notes that in Masechet Derech Eretz we learn that, "one should always view others as being robber, and honour them like Rabban Gamliel". We learn from the Beraita that one is allowed to take precaution to prevent the potential theft by guest. Rav Soloveitchik cites his father who explains that being choshed be'kesheirim is regarding an assessment of what one may have done in the past, but not what one might do in the future.

Our Mishnah however might appear to contradict that distinction. The shevua was regarding what the kohen will do in the future, and it is about that shevua that the kohanim were concerned.

Rav Soloveitchik cites the piut of ata konanta that writes as follows, "they would make him swear... in case he had in his heart some heresy..." In other words, the choshed be'kesheirim, the suspicion, is regarding who he is at the time of the shevua. It follows that Moshe Rabbeinu was punished, not because he suspected that they would not believe when he came to Egypt, but rather they lacked the faith to believe there then.


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