Pesachim 9-10 Chazaka, Rov, and other great rules of psak by roller-coaster ride

There are some dapim that flow from one to the other remaining focussed on one theme or sugya, bringing proof and counterproof for possible answers to a certain question regarding this theme.

There are other daf that seem to have much of shas contained in them, microcosms of many different albeit often interrelated principles and rules.

These daf are extreme examples of the “mini-shas” style daf, moving  roller-coast style from one global principle to the next, making all but the most experienced students of Talmud gasp for breath.

Examining all of them in detail could take years but let us have a brief look at some of them and how they relate to the central theme of the perek, namely getting rid of chametz before Pesach.

The Mishna on Daf 9 rules that there is no need to be concerned that a weasel has taken chametz into a house that one has already checked for chametz from one that has not been checked, or from one place to another.

Once one has checked it, one may assume that it remains chametz free.

The Mishna adds that if one would have to be concerned about this, there would be no end to the matter (אין לדבר סוף) , and even a complete chametz-free city would not be immune from the concern that chometz was brought in from a neighboring settlement.

This kicks off a discussion in the Gemara which involves some of the most important rules and concepts in all of Shas and  halacha, among them

  1. חזקה מעיקרא – we assume an item retains the status it had when we last saw it unless we have significant reason (רעותא)  to believe its status has changed.

This rule is derived (Chullin 10b) from the case of the בית המנוגע (leprous house.)

In the case of our Mishna, we assume that a house that has been checked remains free of chametz unless we have strong reason to assume otherwise. In fact, this is such an established principle that we need to understand what theחדוש  of the Mishna is and why we need the idea of אין לדבר סוף  to explain it.

  • כל דפריש מרובא כפריש – we assume that any item that has left its place of origin, and whose place of origin is subject to doubt, has the status of the majority of places it could have left. This is an extension of the general rule of זיל בתר רובא (following the majority,)  derived from the verse “אחרי רבים להטות”  (see Chullin 11a)

In our sugya, if crumbs became separated from one of 10 piles, 9 being matza and 1 being chametz, and is then dragged by a weasel into a room, we follow the majority and assume it was chametz that was dragged in.

  • כל הקבוע כמחצה על מחצה דמי – so long as the item in point 2 above is in its place of origin (or by extension, if we observed it leaving its place of origin,) the rule of majority does not apply, and in case of doubt as to the status of the place of origin, it is regarded as 50/50 and the rules of ספק  (doubt) apply (presumably in biblical matters be stringent and in rabbinical matters be lenient, but perhaps not as simple as all that.)

This rule is extremely complex and hard to define precisely.

In our case, if one sees a weasel dragging crumbs from one of 10 piles into a checked house, 9 being matza and 1 being chametz, and one is not sure about the status of the pile it was taken from, we do not follow the majority, and must check again out of doubt.

(the assumption here seems to be that בדיקת חמץ  is  דאורייתא , possibly in the absence of בטול  ועיין תוס’ ד”ה “היינו” )

  • אין ספק מוציא מדי ודאי – a doubt may not remove a certainty.  If an item has a certain status and there is a chance that that status may have been removed, that chance is not sufficient to remove that status.

In our case, if one sees a weasel dragging chametz into an already checked house, one may not assume that it ate it all, and needs to recheck.

  • שאני אומר – There are two boxes, one containing something permitted and one containing something forbidden, and there are also 2 items, one of the same status as the contents of the permitted box and one of the same status as the contents of the forbidden box.

Each item falls into one box, and we are not sure which item fell into which box.

We sometimes assume that the permitted item (for example Chullin)  fell into the box with permitted contents (Chullin) and that the forbidden item (for example Teruma) fell into the box with the forbidden contents (Teruma) thus preserving the permitted status of the box with the permitted contents.  The Gemara limits this rule to rabbinic prohibitions, possibly due to the general rule of ספק דרבנן לקולא .

It is interesting to note in this context that Rashi points out, possibly based on this sugya, that Teruma in our time is rabbinical in nature

Regarding chametz, the Gemara suggests that this rule applies in a case where there are 2 boxes, one of chametz and one of matza, and two houses, one that has been checked, and one that has not been checked.

One mouse takes something from the chametz box and drags it into one of the houses, and  another mouse takes something from the matza box and drags it into the house.

We are not sure which house each mouse went into.

By this rule, we can assume that the mouse with the chametz went into the checked house and the mouse without the chametz went into the unchecked house.

  • חזקת הטבע (assumptions regarding human nature)- for example, on our daf, produce left by a deceased Torah scholar can be assumed to have been tithed, as there is a חזקה  that a Talmid Chacham does not allow untithed produce to leave his hands (חזקה אין חבר מוציא מידו דבר שאינו מתוקן). This makes it a case of ודאי וודאי  and not comparable to the case regarding chametz we brought where we say אין ספק מוציא מידי ודאי.
  • הערמה  (legal fiction)- there are times when a person may you a legal loophole to permit something that would not normally be permitted.

For example, one our daf, one is permitted to intentionally bring one’s produce “through the back door”  [דרך גגות חצירות וקרפפות]  in order to exempt them from מעשר. This would make a case of produce bought from a Talmid Chacham ספק וספק  even in the absence of חזקה  mentioned in point 6.

All that and so much more to analyze in one or 2 daf and we have barely touched the Rishonim!- this is one of those times when the pace of daf yomi starts to get seriously frustrating!

How I yearn for the Yeshiva days….

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

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