1) THE PLACEMENT OF THE CHAPTERS IN MASECHES HORAYOS
QUESTION: The Gemara in Sotah (2a) teaches that the order of two topics in a Mishnah should follow the order of those topics in the verses in the Torah. The BE'ER SHEVA asks that the Tana does not seem to follow this rule in Maseches Horayos. The first chapter of Horayos discusses the case of a mistaken ruling of Beis Din, and the second chapter discusses the case of a mistaken ruling of the Kohen Gadol. In the Torah, however, the verses first discuss the case of a mistaken ruling of a Kohen Gadol (Vayikra 4:3), and afterwards the case of a mistaken ruling of Beis Din (4:13). Why does the Mishnah change the order of these laws?
(a) The BE'ER SHEVA answers that the Gemara later teaches that the Kohen Gadol's sin is tantamount to the entire Jewish people sinning as a result of a mistaken ruling of Beis Din. Accordingly, the Mishnah first discusses the laws of Beis Din's mistaken ruling, and then it discusses the laws of the Kohen Gadol's mistaken ruling.
(b) In his second answer, the Be'er Sheva suggests that since the Torah states that if a Kohen Gadol makes a mistake it is "l'Ashmas ha'Am" -- "to the fault of the nation" (Vayikra 4:3), the Mishnah does not want to begin the Masechta with a topic which is denigrating to the Jewish people. Why, then, does the Torah itself mention this topic before the topic of the mistaken ruling of Beis Din? The Be'er Sheva answers that the Torah wants to teach that when there are two Korbanos which are waiting to be brought, a Par He'elem Davar and a Par Kohen Mashi'ach, the Par Kohen Mashi'ach is offered first.
(c) The Be'er Sheva gives a third answer which also explains the placement of Maseches Horayos in the order of the Masechtos. The RAMBAM, in his Introduction to Mishnayos, writes that in the order of the Mishnayos, Horayos is placed after Avos. (Although TOSFOS in Avodah Zarah (2a, DH Lifnei) argues and says that Horayos is places after Avodah Zarah, as it is in our texts of the Gemara, the Be'er Sheva maintains that the Rambam's opinion is more accurate in this regard.) In what way is Horayos related to Avos? The Gemara often asks why a particular Masechta is placed after another Masechta. The Gemara assumes that the placement of the Masechtos expresses some logical continuation from one Masechta to the next. What is the logical connection between Avos and Horayos? Moreover, Horayos deals primarily Korbanos, it should be placed in Seder Kodshim. Why is it placed in Seder Nezikim?
The Be'er Sheva quotes the Rambam who answers this question. The Rambam explains that the reason why Avos is placed after Sanhedrin is that the traits required of a Dayan (judge) are listed in Maseches Avos, which begins with the Mishnah, "Hevei Mesunim b'Din" -- "Be patient in judgment." After the traits of Dayanim are discussed, the Mishnah lists the possible errors a Dayan might make. Accordingly, the Be'er Sheva reasons, this also explains why the first chapter discusses with the mistaken ruling of the Dayanim and not the mistaken ruling of the Kohen Gadol. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) A STUDENT WHO FOLLOWS THE MISTAKEN RULING OF BEIS DIN, KNOWING THAT BEIS DIN IS INCORRECT
QUESTION: The Mishnah (2a) teaches that if Beis Din mistakenly permitted something that the Torah forbids (the Gemara later will establish the criteria the prohibition to which these laws apply), and a student who knew that Beis Din was mistaken acted in accordance with the ruling of Beis Din, the student must bring his own individual Korban to atone for his sin. The Gemara concludes that the Mishnah does not refer to a student who was certain that Beis Din was wrong, because such a person would be considered one who sinned intentionally, who cannot attain atonement with a Korban. Rather, the Mishnah must refer to a student who mistakenly assumed that it was a Mitzvah to do as the Chachamim say, even when they say that one should commit a sin.
According to the Mishnah, even if the greatest Beis Din makes a mistaken ruling, a student who is aware of the mistake but knowingly follows Beis Din's ruling is guilty of committing a sin for listening to Beis Din. Similarly, if the student assumes that it is a Mitzvah to listen to the Chachamim even in such a case, the Mishnah teaches that he is still guilty and must bring a Korban. Why, though, is he liable in either case? The Torah states, "Do not turn away from what they (the Chachamim) instruct you, to the right or to the left" (Devarim 17:11). If the Torah commands a person to listen to the Chachamim even if they err, why should the student be liable?
ANSWER: The Gemara is teaching an important lesson. Ultimately, every single person is responsible for his own actions. Although it is understood that not every Jew is able to delve into the depths of complex Halachic questions, if one does have the ability to understand Torah properly, he should conduct himself according to his understanding of the Halachah. Though this might not apply to all areas of Halachah (for example, where he is lenient and others are stringent), it certainly applies to a case in which one understands that a certain act is forbidden and he has no need to perform that action, such as in the case of the Mishnah here, in which Beis Din permits the consumption of a type of animal fat (Chelev) or blood (Dam). Since the student had no need to partake of that newly permitted food, he should not have done so. The Gemara (see Berachos 19b) teaches that "in any situation in which there will be a desecration of Hash-m's name, one does not give respect to the Rav (when doing so will not allow him to stop that desecration)." The Gemara (Berachos 20b) also cites the verse, "There is no wisdom, and no understanding, and no counsel against Hash-m" (Mishlei 21:30). The DA'AS TORAH (OC 63) discusses a case in which a person attends a banquet and sees important Rabanim eating meat which he considers definitely (and not possibly) not Kosher, while the Rabanim consider it Kosher. What should he do? The Da'as Torah rules that the person is not allowed to eat the meat.
Similarly, a person must always be aware not to jump to conclusions based on actions of important people. For example, when one who has learned the laws of Lashon ha'Ra and hears a Talmid Chacham say something which he understands is Lashon ha'Ra, he should not sanction that speech by saying, "If he said it, and he is a Talmid Chacham, then it must be permissible to say such things." Rather, he first should ask other knowledgeable people (without mentioning the scholar's name, or repeating the Lashon ha'Ra) why a similar statement is not considered Lashon ha'Ra. The fact that another person, even a scholar, made such a remark, is not reason enough to assume that such a remark is permitted. The Gemara and Midrash teach that Do'eg and Achitofel were great Talmidei Chachamim, but they were also guilty of serious transgressions of Lashon ha'Ra (see Sanhedrin 106b, and Midrash Rabah, beginning of Parshas Emor). One who would have permitted himself to speak the way that did would have been liable for grave transgressions of Lashon ha'Ra. (Y. MONTROSE)