“How do we know that one who sees something unseemly in his friend, that he must rebuke him? Because it says (Vayikra 19:17), ‘You shall rebuke, rebuke, amitecha, your friend’” (Erachin 16b). While on the surface this seems like a straightforward question and answer, it is in fact much more. It is not, for good reason, the practice of the Gemara to ask, “how do we know” that which is explicitly mentioned in the Torah.
Which would you prefer? That those who gossip about you do so behind your back and thus, you may never hear about it? Or that the gossip be said to your face, even in the presence of others?
“What is lashon hara?” (Erachin 15b). This is a most reasonable question—had it been asked at the beginning of a discussion on the laws of lashon hara. However, this question appears after more than a page of Talmudic discussion regarding the prohibition of lashon hara. Why the wait?
One would not expect to find the major Talmudic discussion on the laws and moral failings of speaking lashon hara in masechet Erachin. This masechet concerns itself with technical laws of gifts of valuations to the Temple, laws that are no longer applicable today. But as we have encountered many times, Talmudic discussions flow from one topic to another—always in a most precise and logical fashion.
In our last post, we began our discussion as to why in so many disparate cases, one might have thought that kohanim are exempt from a mitzvah and hence, must be specifically obligated in that mitzvah.
In our opening post on masechet Erachin we discussed how the use of the word hakol, everybody, comes to obligate one in a mitzvah, someone whom we might otherwise have exempted. We discussed no fewer than ten examples appearing on the first page alone.
Amongst the most obscure laws of the Torah are those of erachin, which form the subject matter of the last chapter of sefer Vayikra. The Torah details the amount of money that one must give to the Temple treasury when one proclaims his or her erech, loosely translated as one’s value. The amount is determined by one’s age and sex with no reference to one’s personal attributes.