In this week's parsha we learn that when a person dies he is mitamai. There is a machlokes regarding the reason for this tumah. The Ramban in the beginning of this week's parsha explains that when a person dies by means of the malach hamaves (angel of death) he is mitamai. However if one dies by means of nishika (a form of death performed by Hashem and not the malach hamaves) he will not be mitamai. It is for this reason that chazal said that tzadikim do not become tamai in their death, since presumably they died by means of nisheka. The Avnai Nezer (yorah deah 466) adds that Reb Chaim Vital says that the malach hamaves sprinkles three 'bitter drops' on a person when he comes to kill him, and those 'drops' are what create the tumah.
The Or Hachaim has a different understanding of why a dead person becomes tamai. He explains that since we accepted the Torah every Jew is on a high level of kidusha. All of the forces of tumah are constantly anticipating and eagerly awaiting a chance to cling to the kidusha. As soon as a person dies the forces of tumah are able to enter the body and thus the person is tamai. He explains that it is for this reason that goy does not become tamai when he dies; since in his life he was desolate of kidusha the forces of tumah are not interested in entering the body. The Or Hachaim explains that with this understanding we can answer the question of the wording of the passuk "Zos chukkas haTorah", why does the Torah refer to the mitzvah of tumah as the chok of the Torah. Since tumah only sets in as a result of being on a high spiritual level and the Torah is the means by which b'nai yisroel were elevated to the higher level of kidusha, the Torah refers to this mitzvah as the chok of the Torah. The Avnai Nezer cites a Zohar that seems to be in accordance with the reason given by the Or Hachaim.
The Avnai Nezer, cited above, says that there is a halachic difference between the opinion of the Ramban and Reb Chaim Vital, and the opinion of the Or Hachaim. The Zohar says that only one who dies naturally is killed by the malach hamaves, all those who are killed by others are not killed by the malach hamaves. Based on this, according to the Ramban who said that tumah only sets in when the malach hamaves kills, when one is killed by another he should not be tamai.
It is unclear if kivrai tzadikim (graves of tzadikim) are mitamai or not and whether a kohen can visit such places. According to the opinion of the Ramban who said that a dead person is only mitamai when the malach hamaves kills him, tzadikim may be mitamai when they die. Since the Gimorah in Moed Katan says that there were many tzadikim who died by means of the malach hamaves and not nisheka.
On the other hand according to the Or Hachaim who said that a dead person is mitamai as a result of the forces of tumah attempting to attach to the kidusha, perhaps when a tzadik dies he will not be mitamai. While a person is alive the forces of tumah cannot set in because the kiddusha is present and does not allow the tumah in. after he dies the tumah can now enter. However regarding a tzadik even his body becomes kaddosh and remains kadosh even after his death. Therefore the forces of tumah cannot enter even after he dies, for kisusha still remains.
Tosafos in Baba Mitzeya 114b cites a Medrash Yalkut in Mishlei that says that Eliyahu Hanavi and Reb Yehoshua (a talmid of Rebi Akiva) were burying Rebi Akiva. Reb Yihoshua asked Eliyahu Hanavi how is it that you can burry a dead person when you are indeed a kohen? Eliyahu Hanavi answered that talmidai chachamim and their talmidim are not mitamai. Tosafos says that Eliyahu Hanavi only answered what he said out of respect for Rebi Akiva, because the actual reason that Eliyahu Hanavi was allowed to burry Rebi Akiva was since Rebi Akiva was put to death by the malchus, no one would dare bury him. Therefore he had the status of a mais mitzvah for which a kohen is allowed to be mitamai. Apparently Tosafos holds that we paskin that tzadikim are mitamai.
The Gemarah in Baba Basra 58a says that Reb Binuh was setting markings of graves so no one would be mitamai. The Gemarah says that he went to miaras hamachpela to mark where the graves actually were. Some want to use this as a source that tzadikim are mitamai, since their graves had to be marked. However the Minchas Elazar (3:64) says that we cannot deduce anything from this Gemarah. Because the Gemarah in Sota 13 says that Chushim the son of Dun decapitated Esav and his head rolled into Miaras Hamachpela and was buried there. Since Esav was a Jew as the Gemoarah in Kiddushin 18a says, therefore he would be mitamai and it was for him that Reb Binuh felt necessary to mark Miaras Hamachpela.
Posted By KH to KollelH blog at 7/01/2011 01:15:00 AM