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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Yebamoth

Folio 5a

This1  is satisfactory according to the view of the Tanna of the School of R. Ishmael;2  as to the Rabbis,3  however, how do they arrive at the deduction?4  — They derive it from his head;5  for it was taught: [Scripture stated], 'His head';5  what need was there for it?6  — Whereas it has been stated, Ye shall not round the corners of your head,7  one might infer that [this law8  applies to] a leper also, hence it was explicitly stated, his head;9  and this Tanna is of the opinion that rounding all the head is also regarded as 'rounding'.10  This [conclusion, however,] may be refuted: The reason why the prohibition of11  'rounding' [may be superseded is] because it is not applicable to everybody!12  — But [the inference] is derived from his beard;13  as it was taught: 'His beard';13  what need was there for stating it?14  — Whereas it was said, Neither shall they shave off the corners of their beard,15  one might infer that this prohibition applies also to a leprous priest,16  hence it was explicitly stated, 'his beard'.17  And since there is no object in applying it to a prohibition which is not incumbent upon everybody,18  let it be applied to a prohibition which is incumbent upon all.19  But this20  is still required [for its own context]! For since it might have been assumed that as priests are different from [other people]. Scripture having imposed upon them additional commandments, and so even a prohibition which does not apply to everybody is not superseded in their case; [therefore] it was necessary to teach us that it does supersede.21  — In truth the inference comes from 'his head' [in the manner deduced by] the following22  Tanna. For It was taught: His head:23  what need was there for mentioning it?24  Whereas Scripture had stated, There shall no razor come upon his head,25  one might infer that the same prohibition is applicable to a leprous nazirite26  also, hence it was explicitly stated, 'his head'.27  This,28  however, may be refuted: The reason why a [leprous] nazirite [may shave his head] is because he is also in a position to obtain absolution.29  For, were not this the reason,30  what then of the accepted rule,31  that no positive precept may supersede a negative and positive precept combined; why not deduce the contrary from the law32  of the [leprous] nazirite?33  Consequently, [it must be conceded that] the reason why no deduction may be made [from the law of the nazirite is] because it may be refuted [on the grounds] that in his case absolution is possible; so here also the refutation may be advanced, 'Since in his case absolution is possible'!34  — The deduction, in fact, is made

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. The deduction from semukim that a positive precept supersedes a negative one.
  2. Since on the lines of his interpretation the text, 'wool and linen' is superfluous and consequently free for the deduction mentioned.
  3. Who do not interpret 'garment' as denoting such as is of wool and flax.
  4. The text, 'wool and linen', being required for the completion of the plain meaning of the text, there remains no superfluous expression for the deduction. V. supra n. 2.
  5. Lev. XIV, 9, dealing with the purification of the leper.
  6. It was previously stated, and shave off all his hair (Lev. XIV, 8) which obviously includes that of the head.
  7. Lev. XIX. 27.
  8. The prohibition to round the corners of the head.
  9. Indicating that, despite the general prohibition, it is the leper's duty to round his head.
  10. Though the text speaks of rounding the corners. Such a rounding then, though generally forbidden, is in the case of a leper, permitted, because Scripture explicitly stated 'shave all the hair of his head' (Lev. XIV, 9). Thus it has been proved that the positive precept of the shaving of the leper supersedes the prohibition of rounding off one's head. Similarly, in the case of the levirate marriage, it might have been assumed that the positive precept of marrying the deceased brother's widow supersedes the prohibition of marrying a wife's sister; hence the necessity for a special text (v. supra 3b end and p. 10, n. 7) to prove that it does not.
  11. Lit., 'what as to the negative (command)'.
  12. Lit., 'equal in all'; women being exempt. (V. Kid. 35b). The prohibition of the marriage of a wife's sister, however, is applicable to the man and to the woman, the brother-in-law as well as the sister-in-law.
  13. Which also occurs in the regulations for the purification of the leper. (V. Lev. XIV, 9).
  14. Seeing that it was previously mentioned (Lev. XIV, 8) that the leper must 'shave off all his hair', which obviously includes that of his beard.
  15. Lev. XXI, 5.
  16. The prohibition of shaving the corners of one's head having been addressed to the priests. V. Lev. XXI, 1ff.
  17. Indicating that in the case of a leprous priest the precept of shaving supersedes the prohibition of 'shaving'.
  18. That such a prohibition is superseded by a positive precept having been deduced supra from 'his head'.
  19. Thus it has been proved that a positive precept supersedes any prohibition even if the latter is generally applicable. Marriage between a levir and his deceased brother's widow who is his wife's sister might, consequently, have been assumed to be permitted had not an explicit text pointed to its prohibition.
  20. The text, 'his beard'.
  21. How, then, can the same text which is required for the purpose mentioned also be used for a general deduction.
  22. Lit., '(manner) of that'.
  23. Lev. XIV, 9.
  24. Cf. supra, p. 16, n. 7.
  25. Num. VI, 5 dealing with the laws of the nazirite.
  26. So Rashal. Cur. edd. read, 'leper and nazirite'.
  27. Thus it is proved that a positive precept supersedes a prohibition. Cf. supra, note 7.
  28. The deduction from the nazirite.
  29. Heb. [H] 'request', i.e., the nazirite may request a qualified person to disallow his vow and thus avoid the prohibition of shaving.
  30. Lit., 'if you will not say so'.
  31. Lit., 'that which is established for us'.
  32. Lit., 'let it be deduced'.
  33. The shaving of a nazirite's head is forbidden (a) by the precept that he must grow his hair long and (b) by the prohibition of allowing a razor to come upon his head.
  34. Whence, then, is it proved that a positive precept supersedes a prohibition?

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Yebamoth 5b

from the first cited text:1  Since2  Scripture could have used the expression, Thou shalt make thee fringes,3  what need was there for that of 'twisted cords'? Consequently it must have been intended for the purpose of allowing that text to be used for the deduction.4  But this5  is required for the determination of the number [of threads, thus]:6  'Twisted cord' implies two threads,7  [and so] 'twisted cords'8  implies four threads, therefore,9  one twisted cord is to be made [of the four] and from the middle of it separate threads10  are to hang down!11  — If so,12  Scripture should have stated, Thou shalt not wear a mingled stuff wool and linen:13  what need was there to add 'together'?13  Consequently it must have been intended for the purpose of allowing a free text for the deduction.14  But this text too15  is required for the deduction that two stitches16  form a combination17  and that one stitch does not! — If so, the All Merciful should have written, Thou shalt not wear wool and linen together; what need was there for inserting 'mingled stuff'? Hence it must be concluded that the purpose was to allow a free text for deduction.18  But is not this text19  still required [for the deduction that 'mingled stuff'20  is not forbidden] unless it was hackled, spun and twisted?21  — But [the fact is that] all this is deduced from the expression of 'mingled stuff'.22

So far it has been shewn that a positive precept supersedes a mere prohibition;23  where, however, do we find that it supersedes also a prohibition involving kareth,24  and that in consequence [the explicit expression] ''aleha'25  should be required to forbid it?26  And if it be replied that this26  might be deduced from circumcision,27  [it may be retorted]: Circumcision stands in a different category,28  for concerning it thirteen covenants29  were made!30  From the paschal lamb?31  — The paschal lamb also stands in a different category32  since it too involves kareth!30  From the daily offering?31  — The daily offering also stands in a different category33  since it is also a regular [offering]!30  [Now though] it34  cannot be derived from one35  it might be derived from two. From which shall it be derived? [If the reply is]: Let it be derived from circumcision and the paschal lamb, [it may be retorted]: These also involve kareth.36  From the paschal lamb and the daily offering? — Both are also intended for the Most High.37  From circumcision and the daily offering? — Both were also in force before the giving of the law,38  this being according to the view of him who holds that the burnt-offering which Israel offered in the wilderness was the daily burnt-offering.39  Nor [can the derivation be made] from all of them, since they were all in force before the giving of the law.40

But [this is the reason for] the need of a special text:41  It might have been assumed42  that this43  should be derived from the precept of honouring one's father and mother; for it was taught: Since one might have assumed that the honouring of one's father and mother should supersede the Sabbath, it was explicitly stated, Ye shall fear every man his mother and his father, and ye shall keep My Sabbaths,44  it is the duty of all of you45  to honour Me. Now is not the case in point one where the parent said to him, 'Slaughter for me',46  or 'Cook for me';46  and the reason [why the parent must not be obeyed is] because the All Merciful has written, 'Ye shall keep my Sabbaths',44  but had that not been so47  it48  would have superseded?49  — No;

- To Next Folio -

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. 'Mingled stuff' in the case of zizith. (V. Deut. XXII, 11, 12 and supra p. 15, n. 3).
  2. Lit., 'if so', i.e., if according to the Rabbis the expression, 'wool and linen', is required for its own context and that text, therefore, is not available for deduction.
  3. The expression used in Num. XV, 38 in the section dealing with the precept of the fringes.
  4. That a positive precept supersedes a prohibition. Cf. supra, p. 10, n. 13.
  5. The expression of 'twisted cords', [H], Deut. XXII, 12.
  6. In the fringes.
  7. The twisted cord cannot be made of less than two threads.
  8. The plural, i.e., twice two.
  9. To harmonize this text (Deut. XXII, 12) which implies twisted cords, with that of Num. XV, 38, and that they put with the fringe of each corner a thread of blue, which implies only twisted threads.
  10. The four threads are inserted into the corner of the garment and, having been folded to form a fringe of eight threads, they are joined (by winding one of the threads round the others) into one twisted cord which extends over a section of length and is then separated again into eight separate threads.
  11. Men. 39b. Now, since the expression, 'twisted cords', is required for the determination of the number of the threads, how could the Rabbis deduce from it the law of 'mingled stuff' in the fringes?
  12. That the law of 'mingled stuff' in the fringes was not to be deduced from the text cited.
  13. Deut. XXII, 11.
  14. Cf. supra p. 18, n. 10.
  15. Together, in Deut. XXII, II.
  16. Combining a material made of wool with one made of flax.
  17. Of 'mingled stuff' which is forbidden.
  18. Cf. supra p. 18, n. 10.
  19. Mingled stuff, Deut. XXII, 11.
  20. Of wool and flax.
  21. An etymological explanation of, or a play upon, the words 'mingled stuff' [H], in Deut. XXII, 11. [H] is assumed to be an abbreviation of [H].
  22. The use of the peculiar expression, [H], and not the usual [H], implies both (a) the deduction mentioned, (v. previous note) and (b) the deduction that a positive precept supersedes a prohibition (v. supra p. 10, n. 13).
  23. Cf. 3b end and p. 10, n. 7.
  24. V. Glos.
  25. Lev. XVIII, 18.
  26. The marriage by the levir of the widow of his deceased childless brother, when she happens to be a forbidden relative. V. p. 8, n. 9.
  27. Which must be performed on the eighth day of the child's birth even though that day happens to be a Sabbath when manual work is forbidden under the penalty of kareth.
  28. Lit., 'what in respect of circumcision'.
  29. The expression 'covenant' (in various grammatical forms) occurs thirteen times in Gen. XVII, the section dealing with the precept of circumcision, v. Ned. 31b.
  30. Hence it may also supersede the Sabbath. It supplies, however, no proof that a positive precept which is not so stringent (such as the marriage with the levir) also supersedes a prohibition involving kareth.
  31. The slaughtering of which (a positive precept) supersedes the Sabbath though slaughtering is manual work which is forbidden on the Sabbath under the penalty of kareth.
  32. Lit., 'what in respect of the paschal lamb'.
  33. Lit., 'what in respect of the daily offering'.
  34. V. p. 19, n. 16.
  35. Circumcision, the paschal lamb, or the daily offering alone.
  36. Cf. supra n. 1.
  37. They are offered on the altar. Cf. supra n. 1.
  38. On Mount Sinai. Lit., 'speech' i.e., of the Deity. 'revelation', and as such are deemed of greater stringency.
  39. V. Ex. XXIV, 5 and Hag. 6a. Circumcision was ordained in the time of Abraham. V. Gen. XVII.
  40. V. supra nn. 9 and 10. The law of the paschal lamb also was given in Egypt prior to the date of the Revelation. V. Ex. XII.
  41. Beside her (Lev. XVIII, 18), to indicate that levirate marriage is forbidden when the widow of the deceased brother is the surviving brother's forbidden relative.
  42. Had not that text (in Lev. XVIII, 18; v. previous note) been written.
  43. That a positive precept supersedes a prohibition involving kareth and that consequently a levir may marry his deceased childless brother's widow even if she happens to be a forbidden relative of his.
  44. Lev. XIX, 3.
  45. Parents and children.
  46. I.e., to desecrate the Sabbath by an action the penalty for which is kareth.
  47. Had no such text been available.
  48. A parent's order, (the positive precept of honouring one's parents.)
  49. The prohibition of work on the Sabbath, though it is one involving kareth. Similarly in the case of the levirate marriage. Cf. supra p. 20, n. 14.
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