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Arel and Terumah

Yevamot (8:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 5 days ago

The eighth perek opens by teaching that a kohen who is an arel (uncircumcised) may not eat terumah. Nevertheless, his wife and servants would be able to eat terumah. Exactly which arel is being discussed is the subject of debate.

Rashi (Yevamot 70a) explains that the arel discussed in the Mishnah is an individual that was not allowed to have a brit millah because his older brothers died as a result of having a brit millah ­-- arel she'metu achav.

The Tosfot (s.v ha'arel) agree with Rashi and explain that this case is not the same as a child younger than eight days old which is the subject of debate in the Gemara. The question would be relevant if, for example, one wanted to rub terumah oil on the baby. The Tosfot explain that that case is debated because a brit millah is not relevant for any child younger than eight days old. The individual in our case, even though he is not allowed to have a brit millah because it will be dangerous to him, since he is older than eight days old, he is defined as an arel and therefore everyone would agree that he cannot eat terumah.

The Tosfot continues that a proof for this position is found in the discussion later in the Gemara. The Gemara explains that a tumtum cannot eat terumah. A tumtum is an individual whose gender is not clear because their private parts are covered over. Despite the fact they are not obligated to undergo surgery to clarify their gender, the Gemera explains that still cannot have terumah. In other words, even though they are not obligated to have a brit millah, they are still not allowed to eat terumah. If a child under eight days old is to be treated the same as any other case where one is not obligated to have a brit millah, then the case of a tumtum should have been bought as a proof in the debate regarding whether a kohen under the age of eight days can eat terumah. The fact that the Gemara does not do so, proves that there is a difference between the case of a young child and other cases where one is not allowed or obligated to have a brit millah as explained above.

The Tosfot Yeshanim however understands that in the case of an arel she'metu achav, the individual is completely exempt, much like a newborn boy1. Since the Gemara has a doubt regarding the latter case, and does not cite our Mishnah to clarify the debate, our Misnhah cannot be referring to case of an arel she'metu achav. Instead, he cites Rabbeinu Tam who understands that our Mishnah is referring to a case of someone who simply refuses to have a brit millah.2

Consequently, we find that there is a debate between Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam whether an arel she'metu achav is allowed to eat terumah.

The Kovetz Haarot (48:19) explains the debate as follows. Rabbeinu Tam must under that in a situation of pikuach nefesh, where there is a danger to one's life, there is no mitzvah at all. This is not the same as a regular case of ones -- where one is unable to perform the mitzvah. For example, it is obvious that if the person had not had a brit millah because they had no access to a knife, then that kohen would not be able to eat terumah. Rashi on the other hand would understand that the case of an arel she'metu achav is no different to any other case of ones, where, for reasons beyond his control, he is not able to perform the mitzvah.

1 The Minchat Chinnuch (17:14) notes that even after eight days the child is also not obligated to give himself a brit millah -- he not obligated in any mitzvot on a biblical level. One might therefore think that even after eight days, an arel child should be able to have terumah. The Minchat Chinnuch therefore explains that a katan is no different than a gadol and is part of the world of mitzvah like a gadol. Just as a gadol is not allowed to eat issurim, one cannot feed issurim to a katan. The difference is that the Torah does not punish a katan since they are not considered bnei daat. Nevertheless, the chiyuv exists.

2 The Ritvah suggests that one cannot bring a proof from the case of the tumtum (as the Tosfot did above) because since surgery could be performed to clarify the gender, the tumtum is still somewhat considered in the parsha of mila. The Rashba rejects this argument since if that was the case, an eved tumtum would prevent his master from enjoying from the korban pesach. The footnotes on the Ritvah (18, Mosad HaRav Kook) suggests a defence for the Ritvah that since that surgery is not obligated, the eved tumtum would not prevent the master from eating the korban pesach. The Rashba however would argue that if the eved is considered a bar millah it should affect the master whether or not the chiyuv for intervention exists.



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