Freezing Mikvah – Sanhedrin 18


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The king or the Kohen Gadol may not be members of the Beis Din involved with the intercalation of the year The king cannot on account of the upkeep of his army (since they are paid annually, he might wish to make a leap year in order to save money). The Kohen Gadol cannot because of the cold the following year (since he might be against intercalation of this year, for if the year is extended, Yom Kippur, being a month later, will be colder, and it will cause him distress during his five immersions on that day).

Tosfos asks from a Gemora in Yoma (31b) which states that if the Kohen Gadol found it difficult to immerse in a cold mikvah, iron bars were heated prior to Yom Kippur and placed into the mikvah to warm it up!?

Tosfos learns that the Kohen Gadol would be cold from the floor of the Beis Hamikdash, since he performed the Temple service while barefoot.

The Margoliyos Hayam answers Tosfos’ question by saying that the Mishna is Yoma states that they would only do that if the Kohen Gadol was finicky or elderly; otherwise, it would not be done for him. Accordingly, a healthy Kohen Gadol would not want the year extended.

Alternatively, he answers based upon Reb Akiva Eiger, who asserts that this allowance was not permitted for his first immersion on Yom Kippur, since that did not take place in the sanctified part of the Temple; rather, it was done outside. The Rabbinic prohibition against throwing a heating element into the cold mikvah was only permitted in the Mikdash (based upon the dictum of “ein sh’vus ba’Mikdash). Accordingly, the Kohen Gadol would not want the year extended, for there was no way to avoid the cold water of the first immersion.


When is One Exempt from Returning a Lost Item

The Mishna had stated: The Kohen Gadol may testify and others may testify about him

The Gemora asks from a braisa: And you will look away. This teaches that sometimes one looks away (from returning a lost article), and sometimes one cannot look away. What is the case? If a Kohen saw a lost object in the cemetery, or an elderly man saw an object that it was not honorable for him to carry, or if his work is more valuable that the lost object of his friend, this is why it says: And you will turn away from them. [Seemingly, it should not be respectful for a Kohen Gadol to testify on behalf of a common person!?]

The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 263:1) clarifies that even a young Torah scholar, or a well respected person (Aruch Hashulchan), is exempt from returning a lost item which is below their dignity to deal with, for example a bale of hay.

Although they are usually exempt from returning a lost item that is beneath their dignity to deal with, they will be required to do so if they actually moved or picked up the item, since they started the mitzvah (ibid 263:2).

The Shach directs us to a halachah (in 261:2) where the Shulchan Aruch rules that if one found an animal grazing in someone else’s vineyard or field, then he is obligated to return it, because the animal is damaging that property. This is termed aveidas karka (in other words, the owner of the vineyard is being caused a loss, so the person seeing the animal grazing has an obligation to return it to his owner, so as not to cause a loss to the owner of the field).

At first glance it is difficult to see the apparent connection. Rabbi Akiva Eiger explains that the Shach is proving that since the Shulchan Aruch does not state that he should just simply move the animal to a ownerless field, that shows that once he moved the animal he is obligated to return to its owner. However, the Or Zerua cites Ritva who disagrees and maintains that it is enough if he merely moves it to an ownerless field.

The Shulchan Aruch (ibid 263:3) rules that if the these people want to go beyond the call of duty and lower themselves to return the lost item, they may do so. The Rema disagrees, and quotes Rosh that the most such people are allowed to do is to pay the owner for the lost item.


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