It is well known that many earlier authorities were opposed to the codification of Jewish law and believed that the halacha should be derived directly by the true Torah scholars of the time from the Gemora.
Among them, was the famous Maharal of Prague, who claimed (Netiv haTorah 15) that had the Rambam and Tur been aware that people would rule straight from their codes rather than analyzing the subject themselves from the Gemara, they would not have written them, and that he would rather his students rule directly from the Gemora even if they err, than rule directly from the codes .
While it is debatable if the Rambam shared these feelings, and the Maharal does not appear to have got his way, it is essential for young aspiring Torah scholars to get used to analysing the Gemora and Rishonim independently, without jumping to the Achronim and codes first and using them as a crutch, and so I was taught by my Rebbe , Rav Mendel Blachman שליט”א , and try to convey to my own students .
However, we all need to know our limits, and at the end of the day, our mastery of the Shas and the analytical methods needed to derive halacha from it are so behind, that only very rare Gedolei Torah are able to practically rely on ruling direct from Gemara and Rishonim – the rest of us, and even almost all senior Talmidei-Chachamim need to limit their independent analysis to the study-hall and bow to the Shulchan Aruch and later poskim for matters of practical halacha.
I would like to use this daf as an example of how a quick and superficial reading of the gemara might lead one to totally different conclusions than those of most or all our great Torah authorities.
On this daf, we continue learning about various Melachos and examples of their application.
There is a family of 3 melachos, all involved in production of materials for the Mishkan, and all performed in the production of bread, that all involve some form of separation or selection.
In fact, they are so similar, that the Gemora asks why they are counted as 3 separate categories of melachos, rather than 1.
These melachot are:
Zoreh- winnowing – exposing the threshed grain to the wind in a winnowing fork to allow the wind to remove the lighter unwanted material that is mixed with it.
Borer- removing unwanted material that remains after winnowing with the hand (see Rashi) or an instrument.
Merakeid- sifting the flour once it has been ground to remove any remaining bran or other unwanted material.
The Gemara explains that even though these 3 melachos are similar, because they are all separate and essential stages in the production process for the Mishkan, they get counted as separate melachos.
It follows that the main prohibition of Boreir seems to be removing “psoles” (waste material) from “ochel” (wanted material).
But what happens if one has 2 types of edible foods in front of him, and he wants to separate the one to eat and the other for another time?
Our Gemora brings a Beraita which says that this is also considered boreir (the logic probably being that the food which one does not want is considered to be the “psoles” relative to that which he does want.)
The Beraita is rather cryptic though, and reads as follows:
“If one has in front of one different types of food, he may select some and eat, and select some and leave over, but he shouldn’t select, and if he selected, he is liable to a sin offering.”
It is clear to the Gemora from the long winded and seemingly contradictory wording of the Beraisa, that we are dealing with different types of selection- the Amoraim argue as to what the distinction is though:
1. Ullah distinguishes between selecting for use on the same day, which is permitted, and selecting for use on a later day, which is forbidden and subject to a korban.
2. Rav Chisda rejects the possibility that a melacha can be permitted just because it is for use on the same day, and instead distinguished between selecting less than the minimum amount one can be held liable for, which is permitted, and selecting more than that amount, which is forbidden.
3. Rav Yoseif rejects the possibility that it would be permitted to select less than the minimum amount, and instead makes a three-way distinction between
a. selecting with one’s hand, which is permitted
b. selecting with a vessel that is not a typical vessel used for selection, like a funnel or a plate), which is forbidden rabbinically but not biblically as it is considered “backhanded” (see yesterday’s post on Shinui)
c. selection with a vessel typically used for selection, like a sifter or sieve, which is biblically prohibited and subject to a korban if done beshogeig.
4. Rav Hamnuna rejects this distinction, not in principle, but based on it not fitting the wording of the beraisa, and instead distinguishes between removing what one wants from what one does not want, which is permitted (according to Rashi, because it is not the normal way of selecting), and removing what one does not want from what one wants (psoles mitoch haochel), which is forbidden.
5. Abaya rejects this distinction too, also not in principle, but because it does not fit the wording of the Beraisa, and instead distinguishes between selecting for immediate use, which is permitted, and selecting for later use, even on the same day, which is forbidden.
Rashi once again explains that separating for immediate use is not the usual way of separation (possibly because the whole sorting process in the mishkan and bread production is meant to precede the grinding process, and not the act of eating.
Rava accepts the ruling of Abaya, and given his seniority and the rule of following the later authority, it is likely that the halacha will be that way too.
It seems, however , that whereas the first two leniencies, separating for the same day but later use, and separating less than the minimum amount that requires a korban, were rejected out of hand, the next two were not rejected for reasons of halachik opinion, but simply because they do not fit the text of the Beraisa well enough to be considered a valid interpretation thereof (another fascinating subject for discussion.)
It therefore could well be, that everyone would agree that separating with one’s hand, or separating what one wants from what one does not want, are also permitted, seeing as they are not the usual way of separating things, they are just not what the permissive view in the Beraisa was referring too.
It could also be that once there is no source in the Beraisa for permitting those two things, they too are forbidden, at least rabbinically (like doing a melacha with a shinui usually is ), and only selecting for immediate use is permitted.
At a minimum, the simple flow of the Gemora seems to indicated that selecting for immediate use is permitted however ones wants, whether with the hand or a special vessel, or whether one selects what one wants from what one does not want, or vice versa.
Yet anyone who is familiar with Shulchan Aruch and the later poskim )O.C. 319 1-2), has seen that it is generally accepted that for boreir to be permitted, ALL 3 of these conditions are required:
1. it must be selecting what one wants from what one does not want
2. it must be with the hand and not a special instrument
3. it must be for immediate use
How did we get from our sugya which seems to be far more lenient and only require the third condition, or perhaps even ANY one of the three conditions, to this ruling which requires ALL three?
Is this perhaps some kind of later chumra and not the simple reading of the Gemora?
A closer look shows that we see this stringent ruling already as early as Rabbeinu Chananel on the daf, and the Tosfos too derive this ruling from various contradictions within this sugya (see the next case brought in the sugya) and from other sugyas.
Have a look there, and enjoy, and let us be careful not to jump to conclusions!