Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayikra
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Hana Bat Haim

Parashat Vayikra

Jews and The Jewish Nation


Rabbi Menachem Shrader

In Parashat Vayikra, we read of the sacrifice known as the Par He’elem Davar shel Tzibbur. This sacrifice is brought when "kol adat yisrael," the entire congregation of Israel," unintentionally violates a prohibition as a result of a mistaken ruling of the Sanhedrin. This sacrifice is only brought if the intentional violation of the prohibition would have been punishable by karet (severing of the individual from the nation in one or another way).

There is a lengthy discussion in tractate Horayot regarding the definition of "the entire congregation of Israel." One of the questions raised relates to the way and extent to which each of the twelve tribes must be represented in order to qualify as "the entire congregation of Israel." Basing himself on a verse in Melakhim, Rabbi Asi maintains that only Jews residing in the land of Israel are taken into account with respect to the Par He’elem Davar shel Tzibbur. While the Talmud cites this position only in Rabbi Asi’s name, there is no dissenting opinion, and the Rambam records it as halakhah in the laws of Shegagot 13:2.

In effect, Rabbi Asi and the Rambam are saying that while every Jew anywhere in the world is part of the Jewish nation, when it comes to quantifying the Jewish people, it is only those who live in Eretz Yisrael who count! The Rambam states this as a general rule in his commentary to Bekhorot 4:3: "For it is the Jews of Eretz Yisrael who are called the congregation. God calls them a ‘congregation,’ even when they are only ten in number. None of those living outside of Israel are taken into consideration." The Rambam uses this principle to explain why in certain Halakhic areas, only a court ordained in Eretz Yisrael is qualified to render a ruling, and why the Jewish calendar can only be determined by Jews living in Eretz Yisrael (see Sefer Hamitzvot, positive precept 153;Hilkhot Kiddush Hachodesh 5:1,2,13).

All Jews are part of the Jewish nation. But it is the Jews living in Israel who are authorized to represent the Jewish nation as a whole.

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