Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Shabbos: Inadvertent Transgressions

In today's daf, the rabbis ponder multiple Inadvertent Transgressorinadvertent transgressions. "All [R'yochanan and Reish Lakish] agree about a betrothed slavewoman that one is liable to only one asham for numerous violations when only awareness separates them, in accordance with the statement of Ulla." (72a). In plain language: if you inadvertently sleep with a slavewoman who is engaged to someone else on more than one occasion, gaining awareness between incidents that she is in fact engaged, you are only liable for one penalty. Is it that all those slavewomen look alike, or that it's dark, or that you forgot she's engaged, or is it like the fellow who designated the funds to pay his fine and then said, "Wait for me until I cohabit another time"?

In today's New York Times, spokesmen for the President of the United States are reported as attempting to argue that there was no transgression, and even if one took place, it was inadvertent. Talmudic scholars can appreciate the tortured logic by which Karl Rove may keep his job because Bush is on record that he would fire "anyone who leaked Ms. Wilson's name," while so far, it seems that "Mr. Rove discussed Ms. Wilson's role, though apparently without naming her." Was this an inadvertent transgression or a deliberate transgression by one who knew that once you identify a woman as the wife of so-and-so, it is not necessary to name her in order to make known about whom you are speaking?

What asham offering does Karl Rove owe to the American people? If Bush continues to rely on Rove's counsel, are we being asked to wait for him until he cohabits another time? Or, using the colorful language of an unidentified "former official," will the President "find a graceful way for Mr. Rove to exit . . . to 'get the benefit of the brain without the proximity of the body'"? If the latter, cohabitation ceases but transgressions nevertheless go on and on.


Anonymous Reed Chopper said...

It is hard to imagine the case described in the gemara happening in real life. I suppose the guy could have Korsakov's and had forgotten each time that she was betrothed.

The case of Mr. Rove seems to me to be more of the "depends on what the meaning of 'is' is" type of thing, at best. More likely, this is after-the-fact pleading -- I don't believe he thought it would ever see the light of day. It may get him off of criminal charges, but it isn't enough to clear Bush of his Jephtah-type pledge to fire whoever leaked the information. Or maybe there's a deeper ply: That Bush was behind it, and his outraged pledge was his way of obscuring it.

One wonders what the story is with douchbag-for-freedom Bob Novak. Why isn't he going to jail, especially since he's the only one who actually published the information? Maybe he's been singing! Let's hope he gives them all up.

4:25 PM  
Blogger NeilLitt said...

In Talmud and in politics, the coverup may be the graver transgression. In both cases, the transgression may be “inadvertent,” but once you’re aware of it, the asham obligation kicks in. In Rove’s case, he may not have deliberately transgressed, but if he concealed what he did do, then he could be convicted of perjury.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Mike R said...

The only explanation that seems to make any sense is that Novack cooperated from the beginning on the grounds that his source signed a waiver (essentially everyone in the White House was forced to), and to get a perjury indictment Fitzgerald needs someone to cooberate Novack's account which is why he needed either Cooper or Judith Miller to tell their source. We'll see when Fitzgerald either indicts or explains why there are no indctments.

10:58 PM  

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