The First Sighting of a Zav

Zavim (1:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

This week we started Zavin. A Zav refers to a man that has two or more abnormal emissions, whether on the same day or consecutive days. The Zav is both tameh and a source of tumah. He must observe seven "clean" days before he can immerse in a mikveh in order to become tahor. If there were more than two emissions, then he would also be required to bring a korban on the eighth day to complete the process, thereby enabling him to partake in korbanot.

The first Mishnah discusses a person who sees the first sighting of a zav. The question is an important one as since it is only the first sighting, he is not yet a zav. Beit Shammai maintains that he shares the same status as a shomeret yom keneged yom. This refers to a woman who has seen one or two sightings of ziva. We have already learnt recently (Volume 12, Issue 58) about difference between a zava and a nida. We also learnt that for the first two sightings of a zava she must be shomeret yom keneged yom - meaning she must wait till the next day to ensure she no longer sees dam. If she stops, she may immerse in the mikveh. If she sees dam again, she is a zav gedolah and must observe seven clean days.

Rashi (Nidah 72a) explains that the comparison by Beit Shammai of the zav to a shomeret yom keneged yom, is that if he immerses immediately, any ma'aser he touches is talui (suspended); we are unsure of its status. In other words, since he may have another sighting which would thereby render him tameh even now, we are unsure of his status and we must wait to see what happens.

Beit Hillel in the Mishnah however disagrees. He explains that that the man after the first sighting is like a ba'al keri (a man that had a regular emission). Rashi explains that therefore, immediately after he immerses in a mikveh he is tahor.

The Bartenura provides a further distinction between the opinions of Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel. He explains that according to Beit Shamma, that after the first sighting the person already can create a mishkav u'moshav. In other words, unlike most sources of tumah, if the person sits on an object that is suited for sitting or lying on, then it too becomes an av ha'tumah. Beit Hillel however argues that the person is like a ba'al keri and can only transfer tumah through direct contact.

This distinction is brought in the Beraita (Nidah 72b). It explains that (after the tevillah) regarding one that is meisit (moves without contact) the re'iya (sighting itself) or something touched the mishkav u'moshav, according to Beit Shammai we are tolin whereas according to Beit Hillel rules it is tahor.

We find that according to Beit Shammai if there is a second sighting, all those things that were tolin are now tameh. Rashi explained that first sighting combines with the second in making him a zav. The Maharsha understands that according to Rashi, it appears that this is on a biblical level. In other words, after the second sighting he was retroactively a zav from the first sighting and everything is tameh. However, it appears according to the Tosfot that the tumah between the first and second sighting is rabbinic.

The Chazon Ish finds support for the position of the Tosfot. He cites a Tosefta that explains that regarding a person who had only one sighting, both Beit Shamma and Beit Hillel agree that he may immerse in a mikveh and partake in the korban pesach that night. This makes sense if the potential tumah is rabbinic. We can explain that they did not enforce their decree in order to allow the person to partake in the korban pesach. If however, according to Beit Shammai he could potentially be tameh on a biblical level, how can we allow him to take part in the korban pesach?

The Chazon Ish presents an answer in defence of Rashi's position. He cites the Gra who equates retroactive tumah with tumat tehom (buried tumah that is unknown) and tumat tehom is permitted. The Chazon Ish finds this answer difficult since the Gemara (Pesachim 80b) excluded tumat tehom in the case of ziva. The Mordechai1 however suggests that for the korban pesach, that since the person has a chazkat Tahara (he is tahor now) he does not need to be concerned for another sighting and may partake in the korban pesach.


1 Cited by the Ilkut Biurim, Nida 72b.

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