How many sheep must be sheared in order for the law of Reishit ha-Gez
– offering the first shearing to a kohen
– to apply?
In the Mishnah
(daf, or page, 135a
) we learn that this was the subject of a dispute between Bet Shammai
and Bet Hillel. Bet Shammai
points to the passage in Sefer Yeshayahu (7:21
) to conclude that there must be a minimum of two sheep; Bet Hillel brings a passage from Sefer Shmu’el
) from which he learns that there must be at least five sheep for the obligation to take effect.
A third opinion appears on today’s daf
. A baraita
taught in the study hall of Rabbi Yishma’el b’Rabbi Yossi
ruled that the minimum number of sheep that must be sheared is four, based on a passage in Sefer Shemot
concludes that we would follow Rabbi Yishma’el b’Rabbi Yossi’s teaching even if it was divrei kabbalah
– “words of tradition” – against divrei Torah
, and we certainly follow his teaching in this case, given that his source is biblical.
explains the distinction between divrei kabbalah
and divrei Torah
as follows. Divrei kabbalah
are the words of the prophets, who received a tradition that was appropriate for that time and place. This stands in contrast with divrei Torah
that were given to be written down and established for all generations.
Although one might have thought that Rabbi preferred Rabbi Yishma’el b’Rabbi Yossi’s teaching to that of Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai because it was a compromise position, this is rejected by the Gemara. The Gemara concludes that in this case, Rabbi had a tradition that Rabbi Yishma’el b’Rabbi Yossi’s ruling was handed down from the prophets Haggai, Zekhariya and Malakhi. These three Second Temple prophets established the meaning of biblical laws as well as rabbinic ordinances whose purpose was to protect the integrity of those laws.