כ׳ בניסן ה׳תשע״ח (April 5, 2018)

Horayot 5a-b: Tribe As Community

Up until this point we have worked with the assumption that when the High Court rules erroneously and that decision is acted upon by the majority of the Jewish community, the High Court will be obligated to bring a sin-offering on behalf of the community, but the individuals will be free of the obligation to do so. The Mishna on today’s daf explains that this understanding follows the opinion of Rabbi Meir. There are other positions on the matter, however. According to Rabbi Yehuda, it is not the court that brings the sacrifice, but the community, so that twelve sin-offerings must be brought – one by each of the twelve tribes. Rabbi Shimon says that thirteen sacrifices must be brought – one by each of the twelve tribes and an additional one by the High Court who made the erroneous ruling.

The Gemara asks how Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Shimon derive that each tribe is considered to be a kahal – a community – in itself, which obligates them in individual community sin-offerings.

One suggestion is that the source is a passage in Sefer Divrei HaYamim II, or Chronicles II (20:5) that refers to King Yehoshafat standing in the midst of kahal Yehuda – the community of the tribe of Yehuda – in Jerusalem. Although only a single tribe was there, nevertheless they were called a kahal. The Gemara rejects this source, arguing that Jerusalem cannot be brought as a proof, since the tribe of Binyamin was there, as well. Rav Aḥa bar Ya’akov suggests another source, pointing out that the patriarch Ya’akov refers to a promise made by God to grant him a kahal (see 48:4, as well as 35:11) and only a single child, Binyamin, was yet to be born.

With regard to the situation in Jerusalem, following King Solomon’s reign during the first Temple period, the monarchy in Israel was divided between the Davidic house in Southern Israel – the kingdom of Judea – and the Northern Kingdom – Israel – that underwent constant political upheaval and was ruled by a number of successive families. The Southern Kingdom was comprised of two tribes, Binyamin and Yehuda, and the city of Jerusalem, which was originally mainly the territory of the tribe of Binyamin, served as the religious and political capital of these two united tribes.