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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nazir

Folio 43a

But even [on entering] a house, as soon as his hands are inside he becomes unclean,1  so that when he has gone right in he is already unclean?2  — As a matter of fact, said R. Eleazar, if he put his hands together and entered there would be [a penalty only] for defilement but none for entering, but if he drew himself up3  and entered, defilement and entering occur at the same moment.

But it is impossible for his nose not to go in first? — As a matter of fact, said Raba, if he introduces his hand4  there would be [a penalty] for defilement and not for entering, but if he introduces his body,5  defilement and entering are simultaneous.

But it is impossible for his toes not to enter first? — R. Papa therefore said: It is supposed that he entered in a box, or a chest, or a turret,6  and his fellow came and broke away the covering,7  so that defilement and entering are simultaneous. Mar b. R. Ashi said: It is supposed that he entered whilst the other lay dying,8  and whilst he was sitting there the spirit departed so that defilement and entering were simultaneous.

Our Rabbis taught: To profane himself9  signifies that until the time that the other dies [he is permitted to remain with him].10  Rabbi said that, When they die11  signifies that he may be in contact with them until they die.

What is the difference between these two [alternative reasons]?12  — R. Johanan said that they differ only as to the texts selected.13  Resh Lakish said: They differ as regards the rule for a dying man. The one who takes the text 'To profane himself' considers a dying man [as profanation],14  whilst the one who takes, 'When they die', says that [there is no prohibition] until he is dead, and so none in the case of one who is dying.

Now, according to the one who derives [the law] from 'to profane himself', is there not the text, 'When they die'?15  — He requires this for [the following inference] of Rabbi. For it has been taught: Rabbi said that 'When they die' he is forbidden to defile himself, but he may defile himself [by association with them] when they are suffering from leprosy16  or an issue.17

But does not the one who derives [the law] from 'when they die' also require it for this inference? — If this is [its sole purpose], the text should read 'When dead'. Because it says 'When they die' we infer both things.

Now according to the one who derives [the law] from 'When they die', is there not the verse, 'to profane himself'?18  — 'To profane himself' signifies the following, viz: — that one who is not profaned [incurs a penalty] but not the one who is already profaned.19

But does not the one who derives [the law] from 'to profane himself' also require it for this inference? — If this were its sole purpose, the text should read 'to profane'. Because it reads, 'to profane himself' we infer both things.

An objection was raised. [We have learnt:] A man does not spread defilement until his life departs. Not even one whose arteries are severed or who is in the throes of death does so.20  Now according to the one who bases the rule on 'to profane himself',21  does it not say here that they do not spread defilement?22  — Defilement is not spread until the life departs, but there is profanation already.23

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Defilement is supposed to pervade the whole of the interior of a house containing a corpse, and so any organ introduced has touched the source of defilement.
  2. And thus even with a house there can be no additional penalty for entering.
  3. I.e., kept his hands at his sides.
  4. Or any other organ. Asheri reads here 'head'.
  5. Keeping his head and arms well back.
  6. Being in a separate domain he would not then become unclean.
  7. Making the interior of the box part of the interior of the tent. [It is assumed that he too helped in the removal of the covering, or otherwise he would incur no penalty (Asheri)].
  8. [As a priest he had no right to enter a house where a person lay dying, v. infra (Asheri)].
  9. Spoken of the priests in connection with the prohibition against defiling themselves with the dead other than near kin, Lev. XXI, 4.
  10. I.e., only the actual profanation is forbidden.
  11. Spoken of the nazirite prohibition against defilement even with near kin. Num. VI, 7.
  12. I.e., what difference in law results.
  13. Lit., 'the implications of the phrases in need of interpretation'. There is no practical difference.
  14. For most people who are dying do die and so actual defilement is very probable. The risk therefore counts as profanation.
  15. What is his interpretation of the latter verse?
  16. V. Lev. XIII, 1ff.
  17. Gonorrhoea, v. Lev. XV, 1ff.
  18. What is his interpretation of it?
  19. Cf. supra 42b.
  20. Oh. 1, 6.
  21. To include a dying man as profanation, as the Rabbis interpret this verse in the opinion of Resh Lakish.
  22. Contradicting Resh Lakish.
  23. A priest is accordingly forbidden to come in contact with the dying.
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Nazir 43b

R. Hisda, citing Rab, said: [A priest] if his father was decapitated, must not defile himself for him, For what reason? The text says for his father,1  meaning when he is whole and not when he is defective.2  R. Hamnuna said to him: In that case, suppose [the father] were travelling through the valley of 'Araboth3  and robbers cut off his head, would you also maintain that [the son] is not to defile himself for him?4  — He replied: You raise the question of a meth mizwah!5  Seeing that we consider it his duty [to defile himself under such circumstances] to strangers,5  how much more so is this true of his father!

But is this considered a meth mizwah? Has it not been taught: A meth mizwah is [a corpse] with none to bury him. Were he able to call and others answer him,6  he is not a meth mizwah;7  and here this man has a son?8  — Because they are travelling on the road, it is as though he had none to bury him.

An objection was raised [from the following]: [It has been taught,] For her may he defile himself9  signifies that he may defile himself for her herself but not for one of her limbs; for he may not defile himself for a limb cut off [even] from his father10  whilst still alive; but he may search for a bone the size of a barleycorn.11  Now what means 'he may search for a bone the size of a barleycorn'? Surely that if there is a small part missing [he may nevertheless defile himself]?12  — No. The author of that statement is R. Judah. For it has been taught.' R. Judah said that he may defile himself for her, but not for her limbs; for he is forbidden to defile himself for limbs severed from his father whilst still alive; but he may defile himself for limbs severed from his father after death.

But R. Kahana taught amongst [the Baraithas of] R. Eliezer b. Jacob [the following one]: 'For her may he defile himself,' but he must not defile himself for limbs, thus excluding an olive's bulk of [the flesh of] a corpse, or an olive's bulk of nezel13  or a spoonful of rakab.13  It might be thought that he is also forbidden to defile himself for the spinal column, or the skull, or the greater part of the bodily frame [of his sister's corpse]14  or the majority [of its bones],14  but since it is written, and say unto them,15  it follows that Scripture has permitted you an additional defilement.

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Although the priest is forbidden to defile himself for the dead yet he may defile himself for near relatives such_as his father, Lev. XXI. 2.
  2. If the head is severed from the body, even though it is beside it, the corpse is considered defective.
  3. A valley in Babylonia, notorious for its robber bands. (Jast.).
  4. R. Hamnuna assumes rightly that R. Hisda would not deny this.
  5. A corpse whose burial is a religious duty, v. Glos. Infra 44a.
  6. I.e., if he has relatives to provide for his burial.
  7. And a priest must not defile himself by undertaking his burial.
  8. Who could arrange for other people to bury his father. If, then, he is allowed to do so himself it must be because decapitation does not matter; which contradicts R. Hisda.
  9. Of the spinster sister of a priest, Lev. XXI, 3.
  10. Who is a closer relation.
  11. I.e., if he is engaged in burying his father he may search for any parts missing to restore them to the corpse.
  12. And since no other opinion is mentioned, it is to be presumed that no-one disagrees with the statement; and thus R. Hisda is contradicted.
  13. V. Mishnah infra 49b.
  14. Each of these counts as a whole corpse for the purposes of defilement in a tent.
  15. Lev. XXI. 1. The phrase is superfluous, for the verse begins, Speak unto the priests …
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