1) THE REASON OF REBBI SHIMON BEN ELAZAR
OPINIONS: The Gemara discusses the opinions of various Tana'im with regard to who brings the Par He'elem Davar and in what situations. Rebbi Shimon ben Elazar maintains that if six Shevatim sin and together they are a majority of the population of the Jewish people, they bring a Par He'elem Davar. He also rules that if seven Shevatim sin, even if they do not comprise a majority of the Jewish people, they bring a Par He'elem Davar.
The Gemara explains that Rebbi Shimon ben Elazar derives his ruling from two verses. One verse states, "If, from the eyes of the people, it was done unintentionally" (Bamidbar 15:24). This verse implies that even if some, and not all, of Bnei Yisrael sin, there is an obligation to bring a Par He'elem Davar. However, a different verse states, "For it was for the entire nation an unintentional sin" (Bamidbar 15:26). This verse implies that the obligation to bring a Par He'elem Davar applies only when the entire nation sins. Rebbi Shimon ben Elazar understands that together, these verse teach that there is a case in which a minority of the nations sins, and yet they still bring a Par He'elem Davar. Such a case exists when the sinners constitute a minority of the Shevatim but a majority of the nation, or a minority of the nation but a majority of the Shevatim. the minority is most of the Shevatim but the majority of the people, or most of the people but not the majority of the Shevatim. How exactly does Rebbi Shimon ben Elazar derive this from the verses?
(a) RASHI (DH v'Rebbi Shimon) explains that the first verse, "If, from the eyes of the people...," implies that only some from among the people sinned, and it teaches that the Par He'elem Davar is brought even when a minority of people sinned. The second verse, "For it was for the entire nation...," implies the exact opposite -- that most (which has the status of all) of the nation must sin in order to be obligated to bring a Par He'elem Davar. How can both of the laws of these two verses co-exist? Both laws can exist in a case in which the sinners are a minority of the Shevatim but the majority of the people, or a majority of the Shevatim but a minority of the people.
The TOSFOS HA'ROSH quotes the RAMAH who asks many questions on the explanation of Rashi. He asks that the first verse which the Gemara quotes is not from the verses which describe the normal case of a Par He'elem Davar, but it is from the verses which describe the special goat-offering which the entire congregation must bring for accidentally serving Avodah Zarah. If the basis of Rebbi Shimon ben Elazar's Derashah is the word "from" (in "me'Einei ha'Edah"), this Derashah should be derived instead from the verse, "me'Einei ha'Kahal" (Vayikra 4:13), which is written in the verses which describe the normal case of a Par He'elem Davar! Moreover, the verse of "me'Einei ha'Edah" -- "from the eyes of the people" (Bamidbar 14:24) does not refer to the people, but rather to Beis Din. How, then, does this verse teach that if a minority of the people sin that there still is a requirement to offer a Par He'elem Davar?
(b) The Ramah therefore explains that the source for Rebbi Shimon ben Elazar's ruling is the word "me'Einei," but from the words, "... it was done unintentionally" (Bamidbar 15:24). This implies that the focus of the verse if the fact that the sin was done, even if it were done by only a minority of the people. The Ramah agrees with Rashi that the second verse (Bamidbar 15:26) implies a majority of the people.
The Tosfos ha'Rosh defends Rashi's explanation. Although "ha'Edah" sometimes refers to Beis Din, in this case it refers to the nation. The Tosfos ha'Rosh points out that if the word "Edah" in this context refers to Beis Din's mistaken ruling, it should say, "v'Ne'elam me'Einei ha'Edah" -- "and it was hidden from the eyes of the Edah." This wording would show that the verse refers to the mistaken ruling of Beis Din. Since the verse does not use this terminology, and it says immediately after these words, "it was done accidentally," it is evident that the verse is referring to the congregation that accidentally did something, not the congregation of Beis Din. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) THE PROOF THAT ONE "SHEVET" IS CALLED A "KAHAL"
QUESTION: Rebbi Yehudah and Rebbi Shimon maintain that each Shevet is called a "Kahal" ("congregation") in its own right. Rav Acha bar Yakov explains that their source is the verse, "I will multiply you and make you many, and will place you as a congregation of nations (l'Kehal Amim)" (Bereishis 48:4). At that time, when Hash-m promised Yakov Avinu that He would make him into a "Kahal of nations," only one child was not yet born to Yakov Avinu: Binyamin. It must be that Hash-m was telling Yakov Avinu that he would have another "Kahal," a reference to Binyamin, a single Shevet.
Rav Sheva questions Rav Acha's source. Perhaps Hash-m was telling Yakov merely that after he has Binyamin, he will then be a Kahal, comprised of all of the Shevatim. Rav Acha answered that "eleven Shevatim would be called a 'Kahal,' and not twelve." What is Rav Acha's answer?
(a) RASHI (DH Yud Alef) explains that Rav Acha's response is one of astonishment. He refers to the previous Gemara, which derives from the verse, "And Yehoshafat stood in the congregation of Yehudah and Yerushalayim" (Divrei ha'Yamim II 20:5) that two Shevatim certainly are called a "Kahal." The verse calls the Shevatim of Yehudah and Binyamin, who were present at that time, a "Kahal." The only thing which the Gemara has not successfully shown is that even a single Shevet is called a "Kahal." Accordingly, why should Rav Sheva say that eleven Shevatim would not be called a "Kahal" unless one more Shevet was added? It must be that Hash-m was telling Yakov Avinu that now he will have another "Kahal" with the birth of Binyamin.
The MAHARSHA has difficulty with Rashi's explanation. Rebbi Meir maintains that only the entire nation is called a "Kahal," and thus only one Par He'elem Davar is brought for the entire nation, and not for individual Shevatim. Rebbi Meir clearly had a way to refute the teaching earlier in the Gemara that two Shevatim are called a "Kahal." Why, then, does Rav Acha base his opinion on a proof that is refutable?
(b) The MAHARSHA explains, therefore, that the simple intent of Rav Acha's answer is that eleven Shevatim are clearly called a "Kahal" because of the concept of "Rubo k'Chulo" (the majority is like the entirety). It therefore does not make sense that before the birth of Binyamin, the rest of the Shevatim were not considered a "Kahal." It must be that Hash-m was telling Yakov Avinu that he will have another "Kahal" with the birth of Binyamin.
The CHOK NASAN answers the Maharsha's question on Rashi. One of the main points of dispute between Rebbi Meir and Rebbi Yehudah (and Rebbi Shimon) is that Rebbi Meir does not agree with the earlier teaching because the words of the verse are "Kahal Yehudah" -- "the congregation of Yehudah." The fact that the verse does not call them a "Kahal" without adding the word "Yehudah" shows they are not a true "Kahal." Rebbi Shimon and Rebbi Yehudah disagree and do not differentiate between these two terms. They therefore maintain that two Shevatim certainly are called a "Kahal." (Y. MONTROSE)