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Bais HaVaad on the Parsha, Parshas Yisro


Excerpted and adapted from a
shiur by Dayan Yosef Greenwald

January 20, 2022

He said to the people, “Be ready for three days; do not go near a woman.”

Shmos 19:15

Ezra instituted that a ba’al keri (one who experiences a seminal emission) must immerse in a mikveh before speaking words of Torah.[1] According to the Gemara (see Brachos 20b), this enactment was derived from Matan Torah, where B’nei Yisrael were given the status of ba’al keri and had to purify themselves before hearing the Aseres Hadibros. The Gemara comments that although there is a dispute whether hirhur kedibur dami (thought is like speech), all agree that a ba’al keri may think divrei Torah.

Tosafos notes that if Matan Torah is the basis for the takanah, then B’nei Yisrael’s listening to the Dibros should prove that a ba’al keri may not even listen to divrei Torah. Tosafos rejects this on account of the principle of shomeia ke’oneh (hearing is like speaking), due to which B’nei Yisrael were considered to have spoken when listening to Hashem.

The Or Sameiach (Hilchos Krias Shma 4:9) asks that according to Tosafos, a ba’al keri should be forbidden to listen to divrei Torah as well, but the Yerushalmi says a ba’al keri may do so. How, then, can Matan Torah, where B’nei Yisrael listened to the Dibros, serve as the source for the takanah? He answers that perhaps the Yerushalmi holds that shomeia ke’oneh means one fulfills his obligation, not that he is considered to have spoken the words he heard (an issue the Acharonim debate). But the Mechilta says Klal Yisrael affirmed each of the Dibros, and that response was certainly actual dibur.

[1] This enactment was later abolished (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 88:1).

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