“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?
Thoughts from the Daf
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 This masechet concerns itself with technical laws of gifts of valuations to the Temple, laws that are no longer applicable today.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.
The toy industry has come a long way since Talmudic times. Perhaps the most popular "toy" during the Talmudic era was that of a chicken’s head. It was the need for the chicken’s head—I’m not quite sure how the game was played—that serves as the background to one of most famous and important principles of the laws of Shabbat, namely, that of p’seik reisha.
When a kosher animal gives birth to a bechor, a firstborn male, there is an inherent conflict of interest that arises. The Torah instructs that one is to give the animal—potentially worth thousands of dollars—to the kohen, who then offers it as a korban. Furthermore, the owner must watch over this animal for a period of between 30 days and three months, during which time he may not work the animal or shear any of its wool.
It is highly unlikely that one would give repeat business to a supposedly kosher butcher who sold you non-kosher meat, or to one who misled you regarding a particular product. But what about a butcher who tells you that, while he does not keep kosher himself, he only sells kosher meat? Or the butcher who you know keeps strictly kosher in some areas but not in others? And when, if and under what conditions should we give a cheat a second chance?
In our last post, we discussed the need to have an expert examine a bechor in order to declare that it has a mum, thus allowing its consumption and use by all. Even if the mum was most obvious, nonetheless the halacha still demanded an expert's opinion, fearful that the potential monetary gain would lead one to declare the not-obvious defect to be an obvious one.