Horayot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three

 

Introduction

Mishnah three continues to teach laws of errant rulings in which the court is treated the same way that a high priest is treated. It also continues to equate errant rulings with regard to idolatry with errant rulings with regard to other sins.

 

Mishnah Three

I)                      The [court] is not obligated [to bring a sacrifice] except where ignorance of the law was accompanied by an unwitting action, and so it is with the anointed priest.

A)                                Nor [is obligation incurred] in the case of idolatry unless ignorance of the law was accompanied by an unwitting action.

II)                    The court is not obligated unless they ruled concerning a prohibition the punishment for which is kareth, if it was transgressed intentionally, and a sin offering if transgressed unwittingly, and so it is with the anointed priest.

A)                                Nor [is obligation incurred] in the case of idolatry unless they ruled concerning a matter the punishment for which is kareth, if it was transgressed intentionally, and a sin offering if transgressed unwittingly.

 

Explanation

Section one:  The court is not obligated to bring a sacrifice except in a case where they did not realize that they were issuing an errant ruling and those that acted did not realize that they were transgressing.  The same is true if the high priest issues an errant ruling. He must rule and act unwittingly for him to be able to bring a bull as a sin offering.  There is no difference in this rule between idolatry and all other commandments.

Section two:  The particular commandment with regard to which the court erred and the people transgressed unwittingly, must be one for which the punishment is kareth (heavenly excommunication) if done intentionally and a sin offering if done unwittingly.  Examples of such commandments are Shabbat, many incest prohibitions, the eating of certain prohibited foods, work on Yom Kippur, and cursing God.  These are all listed in tractate Karetoth 1:1-2.

Idol worship is a sin for which one is potentially liable for kareth or a sin offering (if done unwittingly).  However, not all forms of idol worship are punishable by kareth or a sin offering.  If one worships an idol in an unusual manner, a type of worship that is not considered normal for that idol or any other idol, than he is not liable for kareth or a sin offering.  If the court were to issue an errant ruling with regard to one of these types of worship, the court would not be liable to bring a bull as a sin offering.

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