Keritot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Nine



Rabbi Akiva continues to ask questions. This mishnah returns to the subject of mishnah seven—what constitutes separate transgressions?


Mishnah Nine

1)      Rabbi Akiba asked again: If a man slaughtered five sacrifices outside [the Temple] in one spell of unawareness, what is the law? Is he liable to a separate offering for each act or only to one for them all?

2)      They replied: we have heard nothing about this.

3)      Rabbi Joshua: I have heard that if one eats an offering from five different dishes in one spell of unawareness, he is guilty of sacrilege for each of them; and it seems to me that the case in question may be inferred from this by a kal vehomer.   

4)      Rabbi Shimon said: Rabbi Akiba did not ask this, but rather concerning one who ate of notar (remnant) from five sacrifices in one spell of unawareness — what is the law? Is he liable only to one [offering] for all of them, or is he liable to one for each of them?

5)      They replied: we have heard nothing about this.

6)      Rabbi Joshua: I have heard that if one eats an offering from five different dishes in one spell of unawareness, he is guilty of sacrilege for each of them; and it seems to me that the case in question may be inferred from this by a kal vehomer.   

7)      Rabbi Akiba replied: if this is a received tradition we accept it; but if it is only a logical deduction, there is a rebuttal.

8)      He [Rabbi Joshua] said: rebut it.

9)      He replied: It is not so. For if you hold the view with regard to sacrilege, for in this case one who gives food to another is as guilty as the one who eats it himself, and the person who causes others to derive a benefit from them is as guilty as the person who himself made use of them; furthermore, [small quantities are] reckoned together in the case of sacrilege even after the lapse of a long period, can you say it in connection with notar (remnant) where not one of these laws applies.



Section one: After having heard from Rabban Gamaliel and Rabbi Joshua that if a man has relations with five different menstruants during one period of unawareness he is liable for five separate hatats, Rabbi Akiva asks a follow-up question concerning a person who slaughters five sacrifices outside the Temple, all in one period of unawareness. We might say that in the case of the menstruants there were five separate transgressions because the prohibition of relations with a menstruant applies to the women as well, and therefore, since each woman is transgressing, so too the man must be committing a separate transgression with each woman. In contrast, when it comes to the sacrifices, they can all be treated as one, because they (obviously) are incapable of committing their own transgressions.

Section two: Again, both rabbis respond that they do not have an answer to his question.

Section three: Rabbi Joshua derives a kal vehomer from a person who illegally eats one sacrifice which has been put onto five plates. Here, the fact that the meat is on different plates serves to separate these into different transgressions of sacrilege, even though it is only one sacrifice. If the separate plates make us consider one act to be several different acts, all the more so would we consider five different sacrifices to be five different acts, for which he is liable for five hatats.

Sections 4-6: Rabbi Shimon, a student of Rabbi Akiva’s, rejects the previous version of the question and answer between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Joshua, because it made a comparison between slaughtering and eating. Rather Rabbi Akiva asked Rabbi Joshua about a person who ate “remnant” (sacrificial meat left over beyond the time in which it must be eaten) from five different sacrifices. To this question Rabbi Joshua responded with the same answer given above. If someone is guilty for five different offenses for eating one sacrifice divided into five different plates, all the more so he is guilty of five separate transgressions for eating remnant from five different sacrifices.

Section seven: Rabbi Akiva responds that if what Rabbi Joshua is saying is a received tradition, one that Rabbi Joshua learned from his teachers, then he will accept it. But if it is deduced logic, he can offer a logical rebuttal.

This answer is generally understood as showing a preference for revealed tradition over logic—Rabbi Akiva would have accepted Rabbi Joshua’s answer if it was a tradition, but logic can be refuted. However, in my opinion, this is merely lip service. It is easy for Rabbi Akiva to say that he would accept Rabbi Joshua’s answer if it was a revealed tradition when he knows very well that it is not so—Rabbi Joshua said it was a “kal vehomer,” a type of reasoned argument. Rather, Rabbi Akiva and the editors of the mishnah espouse a philosophy of accepting tradition over reason, but at the same time undermine that preference by pointing out that tradition does not answer many questions, and that therefore one must rely on reason to arrive at answers to new questions. Although reason is susceptible to argumentation, it is, in the end, what we must rely upon to know what to do.

Sections 8-9:  Rabbi Joshua now gives Rabbi Akiva a chance to rebut his answer, and Rabbi Akiva eagerly takes up the challenge. He points out that Rabbi Joshua was dealing with a case of “sacrilege”—a person eats holy things when he is not allowed to do so. Sacrilege is treated strictly in three ways: 1) a person who gives to another person to eat is just as guilty as if he ate it himself; 2) similarly, if he allowed others to benefit from holy things, he is guilty as if he himself benefited; 3) if a person ate or derived benefit today from a half a perutah’s worth of holy things, and then at a much later period derived benefit from another half of a perutah, these two half perutahs are joined together and he is liable for sacrilege. None of these stringencies apply to notar, remnant. Therefore, one cannot make an analogy from a tradition concerning sacrilege which is treated stringently, to a question concerning notar, which is treated more leniently.