Shabbos 72 “Misaseik” and bugs in fruit
If one eats a fruit and accidently lands up swallowing a bug , should one worry that he has transgressed up to 5 prohibitions, or so long as he checked them first according to halachik requirements , may one be relatively relaxed?
Our perek has spent significant time dealing with the requirement to bring a korban afte00r breaking shabbos beshogeig – when one intends to do the forbidden action but has forgotten that it was shabbos or that the action was forbidden on shabbos .
Today, we are introduced to a different principle, namely that of Misaseik.
Although the difference may seem subtle, classic Misaseik is usually understood as a form of unintentional transgression where one intended to do something permitted and landed up doing something forbidden.
At least regarding the laws of shabbos , Misaseik is treated more leniently than shogeig, and no korban is required – at worst, it is an unpunishable transgression, at best, it isn’t viewed as a transgression at all, similar to oneis ( an action completely beyond someone’s control and totally unavoidable).
An example given on our daf is if a person intended to lift up something from the ground that is not attached to the ground, like a knife which he dropped (an example given by Rashi.)
Instead, he lands up lifting and detaching something attached to the ground, thus inadvertently performing the forbidden melacha of kotzeir (reaping.)
As he never intended to perform an act of cutting at all, everyone agrees that he is exempt, and this is derived in Maseches Kerisos, probably the main sugya on the subject, from the phrase in Vayikra וחטא בה- he needs to sin with the intended action in order to be liable to bring a korban .
In a possible extension of this concept, the Gemara brings a debate between Abaya and Rava regarding what happens if he intended to cut something detached from the ground and landed up cutting something attached.
The subtle difference here is that he intended to perform the action of cutting, not just lifting, and he did indeed perform such an action- the lack of intention here does not relate to the מעשה ( the action) but to the חפצא ( the item the action is performed on.)
In such a case, Abaya maintains that one is liable, as in a regular case of shogeig, whereas Rava holds that one is still exempt, as a form of מתעסק.
There is a further debate between Rashi and Tosfos as to what precise case Abaya and Rava are arguing about.
Rashi seems to maintain that we are dealing with a case when he intended to cut an item that is not attached, but his hand slipped and landed up cutting a different item, which was attached ( see his commentary on the parallel sugyos in Sanhedrin and Kerisos.)
However if he merely was unaware that the item he intended to cut was attached, and later found out that it was attached after tearing it, he could be liable to bring a korban הואיל ונעשית מחשבתו ( seeing as his intended action was performed on its intended object.)
Tosfos, on the other hand, seems to maintains that everyone agrees than in the former case, he will be exempt, and holds that the argument is specifically in a case where he succeeded in tearing the precise item he thought was detached, and then realised that it actually was attached .
The halacha, as usual, is like Rava, and even if one intended to cut, so long as one intended to cut something permitted, he is exempt.
Whether we follow Rashi or Tosfos might be dependent on how we interpret a rather cryptic Rambam and later sources, but that’s for another time.
Our Gemara makes it clear that shabbos is more lenient than other prohibitions when it comes to מתעסק, and in the sugya in Kerisos, Shmuel says explicitly that misaseik is exempt on Shabbos, because of the general requirement of מלאכת מחשבת – a melocho must be significant in order to be subject to punishment on shabbos – any lack in the intention is enough thus to exempt someone .
On the other hand, if one intends to eat permitted fats (שומן) and lands up eating forbidden fats (חלב), one is liable, seeing as one derived benefit from it.
What is unclear from the sugya is what happens with other sins performed unintentionally, but without benefit.
On the one hand, the exemption of מלאכת מחשבת does not apply, but on the other hand, the benefit factor is missing to make him liable.
Tosfos on our daf seems to understand that the exemption of מלאכת מחשבת is only needed to exempt a third form of מתעסק – if one intends to detach something that is attached and lands up detaching a different attached item.
In this case, he had full intention to sin, but because his action was applied to an object other than the intended one, his thoughts were not fully carried out, and he is exempt due to the lack of מלאכת מחשבת .
On the other hand, if he intended to apply an action to a permitted item and applied it to a forbidden item, the regular exemption of וחטא בה פרט למתעסק applies ( an unintentional sin is excluded from the obligation to bring a korban)
The only time when one would then be liable would be if one derived benefit from the sin, like eating forbidden fats.
It follows that the exemption of מתעסק when there was no intention to sin at all applies not only to shabbos but to other prohibitions as well, so long as one does not benefit from them.
Now for the crunch- if one intends to eat a fruit that is not normally infested , or that one has done one’s reasonable best to check and appears clean, and lands up eating a bug which he isn’t aware of –
It seems to follow that so long as one never got benefit from eating the bug ( as most of us would clearly not), then this is no worse than misaseik and one would be exempt even from a korban ( or the equivalent prayer and repentance.)
Indeed, as Rav Eitam Henkin הי”ד pointed out in his work לכם יהיה לאוכלה, there are various poskim including the Rogotchover Gaon and Rav Shlomo Zalman who suggest or even rule that this might indeed be a case of מתעסק.
Others take issue with it, and in a more analytical Hebrew analysis on the subject , I have discussed the pros and and cons of applying the exemption of מתעסק to unintentionally eating bugs in insects, and point out that it could be tied to the argument between Abaya and Rava as well as that of Rashi and Tosfos.
I also argue there that according to some Rishonim, it could actually fall under the even more lenient category of דבר שאין מתכוין.
Suffice to say that without minimizing the requirement as coded in Shulchan Aruch to check vegetables that are commonly infested before eating them, the common fear-based argument that not doing so is worse than eating non-kosher, given that some bugs involve 5 different prohibitions, could clearly be exaggerated given that one’s intention is not to eat any bugs.
If one saw a bug, he clearly would remove it , all he intends is to eat the very kosher fruit , and he clearly does not benefit from the bugs either – on the contrary he finds them disgusting ( at least in our culture…)
Of course, the usual disclaimer is that we are simply learning and exploring the concepts together – I do not rule very much, so before deciding on your policy in this matter, discuss with a serious Torah scholar who is well versed in these issues as well as the actual facts on the ground.