Friday, January 11, 2013

Shabbat 92-93: Many Leviim washing one kohen's hand

The Mishna on the bottom of Shabbat 92b:
MISHNAH. IF ONE CARRIES OUT A LOAF INTO THE STREET, HE IS CULPABLE; IF TWO CARRY IT OUT, THEY ARE NOT CULPABLE. IF ONE COULD NOT CARRY IT OUT AND TWO CARRY IT OUT, THEY ARE CULPABLE; BUT R. SIMEON EXEMPTS [THEM].17
In the gemara that follows, a distinction is made between where both are capable and where only one is capable. Where both are capable, the lack of culpability might arise from a special Scriptural derivation, which might not be extended to other cases. Where only one is capable and the other is merely helping, helping is considered no concrete act. And this extends to many different cases, in all fields of Jewish law.

So what of the Leviim washing the kohanim's hands, prior to duchening? In many shuls I've been, the Leviim greatly outnumber the kohanim, and so multiple hands lift the cup, or one pushes the elbow of the one who is pouring. Should this be considered a case when both are capable, or is "both are capable" dealing with a case where both are capable and are equally carrying the object, to the exclusion of both capable but one merely assisting? Can we extrapolate to our case from the gemara?

If one can extrapolate from two capable actors to declare the act not valid, would that invalidate the hand-washing as not being the result of koach?

Is assisting is considered no concrete act, then is there any point in all these other Leviim crowding in? I suppose to show eagerness for the mitzvah.

No answers here, nor even off-line analysis. The answers are left as an exercise to the reader.

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