Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fun with Mishna.

Entry for 23 July, 2006


I just finished Tractate Mikvaot, and found this little gem tucked away in the notes concerning chapter 8, part 1:

"The Land of Israel is tahor as opposed to foreign lands (chutz l'aretz) which were declared tamei by a Rabbinic decree (Rash)...All earth from outside of the Land of Israel is regarded as a source of tumah, even if it originates from towns inhabited by Jews. Additionally, they decreed that a person incurs tumah even by just passing through the airspace of these foreign lands (Rav, Rambam, and Tos. Yom Tov to Ohalos 2:3; Raxh)....Rav states [further] that towns in the Land of Israel are tahor, even those inhabited by...[those] lax in their religious observance (Chullin 4a)."

In other words, outside the land of Israel, it does you no good whatsoever to even undergo a mikvah immersion, because as soon as you come up for air you are unclean again. Well, actually, to be technical, the mikvah didn't make you clean in the first place, since the source of contamination in the Diaspora is corpses, and the remedy for uncleanness from the dead is being sprinkled by the ashes of the Red Heifer, which we don't currently have available.

(Though no Temple is required to make them - the first batch was made long before the Temple ever existed. All they need is a perfectly red heifer. The Rabbis, of course, will say that the ashes would have to be mixed with the old ashes from the previous red heifer, but there's nothing in the written Torah that says that. Obviously, Mosheh didn't have any previous ashes, either.) Anyway, since everyone has that problem, you'd think they'd be trying harder to find a red heifer. But they aren't, of course, because it would only be effective for those people who live in Israel, according to Tractate Mikvaot. Out here in the Diaspora, you are always unclean.

So why would any Jew want to live outside of Israel? Hmmmm.

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