Sunday, August 16, 2009

Baba Metzia 114b - Techiyas Hameisim and Pikuach Nefesh

In the story with Eliyahu Hanavi, he justified being in the cemetery even though he was a kohen (as rashi explains that he was pinchas, but tosafos questions whether he was truly a kohen or just pushing off the sho'el). Eliyahu's justification was that non-jews aren't metamei b'ohel (Tosasfos holds that we don't pasken like this, rather we pasken that they are metamei b'ohel - shulchan aruch y.d. 372:2 paskens that "it is proper to be careful and not go over a gentile grave", rama says that some are meikil but it is good to be machmir).
Tosafos asks: How was Eliyahu allowed to enter the ohel of the child of the widow since he was a kohen it should be forbidden for him to be metamei? Tosafos answers:
ויש לומר שהיה ברור לו שיחייהו לכך היה מותר משום פיקוח נפש
Tosafos holds that Eliyahu's heter was based on pikuach nefesh. But why does Tosafos need to say that Eliyahu was "certain" that he would resucitate the child, since even a safeik of pikuach nefesh also overrides all issurim in the torah?
I once wrote an article where i used this tosafos to make what i believe is a very significant point. The gemara in Yoma 84 discusses the source that pikuach nefesh pushes off issurim. One of the sources that the gemara uses is חלל שבת אחת כדי שישמרו שבתות הרבה, that it is worth sacrificing one shabbos for many. But, the gemara ultimately concludes that the heter is based on וחי בהם ולא שימות בהם. The gemara prefers this source because it serves as a source that even safeik pikuach nefesh over rides shabbos, but all the other sources only justify definite pikuach nefesh. It seems to me that there is a limitation on the source of וחי בהם ולא שימות בהם, in that it only allows one to preserve life, but to resucitate one who is already dead may not qualify as pikuach nefesh and one would not be entitled to violate an issur in an attempt to restore life. Our Tosafos who cites the rationale of pikuach nefesh to justify how Eliyahu was able to enter an ohel ha'meis to resucitate the child, must be relying on the drasha of חלל שבת אחת כדי שישמרו שבתות הרבה, meaning that for the net gain of this child keeping many mitzvos in the future (as the biur halacha explains in hilchos shabbos that this concept can be generalized outside the realm of shabbos), Eliyahu was justified in violating the issur of tu'mah. Since the concept of this heter is that there will be a net gain in shemiras hamitzvos, there is no reason to make and distinction between preserving a life and restoring a life - based on this Tosafos can cite pikuach nefesh as the source. But, as the gemara in Yoma says, this source only justifies definite pikuach nefesh, it doesn't justify safeik pikuach nefesh. That is why Tosafos is very meduyak - שהיה ברור לו שיחייהו - that Eliyahu was confident that he would succeed in resucitating the child, because if it were only safeik pikuach nefesh he would not be allowed to violate the issur tu'mah.
It seems to me that this may also be the machlokes brought by the Ran in Yoma (3b b'dapei HaRif) who cites a machlokes whether one is allowed to be mechalel shabbos for a fetus when it won't be pikuach nefesh for the mother(although the Ran's medical opinion is that this is not possible). The opinion who allows one to be mechalel shabbos for a fetus has to deal the the gemara in nidah that doesn't consider it to be a full life (such as one who aborts isn't chayev misah). The Ran quotes that in respect to mitzvos however we say that one can be mechalel shabbos to save it, because it may lead to keeping many mitzvos in the future. Others disagree and say that one can only be mechalel shabbos when the mothers life is at risk. It seems that all agree that the concept of וחי בהם ולא שימות בהם doesn't apply yet since the fetus is not a full life. But since there is potential for mitzvos, the rationale of חלל שבת אחת כדי שישמרו שבתות הרבה would indeed apply. The two opinions in the Ran disagree as to whether we rely on the חלל שבת אחת כדי שישמרו שבתות הרבה even when וחי בהם ולא שימות בהם doesn't apply [Although the Ran says that it is permitted to save the fetus because it MAY come to keeping mitzvos, he may only permit in a case where the attempt to save the fetus will definitely save the fetus just that we don't know if the fetus will be keeping mitzvos. But for a safeik pikuach nefesh, meaning a safeik as to whether the fetus is in danger or a safeik whether the efforts will help, doesn't warrant chilul shabbos. However, it is more likely that the Ran disagrees with Tosafos and holds that we combine the sevara of וחי בהם ולא שימות בהם and the sevara of חלל שבת אחת כדי שישמרו שבתות הרבה to be matir even a safeik when the fetus isn't yet a full life).

1 comment:

Avi Lebowitz said...

A similar point can be illustrated based on Rashi in chulin 2a who explains that a baby less than a month old has not eruchin value, but if one would pledge as a nedava the value of a baby less than a month old it is binding. Why? It seems that a child less than a month old who hasn't left the chezkas neifel, is considered worthless now, therefore he has no eruchin, but he has potential value for what he may become therefore he has a value based on his potential.