Pesachim 64 Relying on miracles

The Mishna on daf 64a describes how the Kohanim were divided into 3 different shifts for offering up the קרבן פסח  in order to prevent overcrowding.

When the first group was full,  נעלו דלתות העזרה (they locked the doors of the courtyard.)

On daf 64b, Aba opines that the correct גירסא (wording) of the Mishna is “ננעלו”  (“were locked”-or that is at least what was meant by the Mishna.)

This implies that the doors were miraculous locked when occupancy was full.

Rava, in contrast, upholds the reading of the Mishna in front of us, and insists that people locked the doors.

The Gemara understands this as a debate between Abaya and Rava regarding whether we rely on miracles.

According to Abaya, people kept entering until the doors locked by themselves, relying on the expected miracle to keep them from the dangers of overcrowding.

In contrast, Rava holds that we do not rely on such miracles, and that people actively locked the doors.

Although it might  seem from here that Abaya believes that it is permitted to rely on miracles, it is possible that this was only in the בית המקדש  where miracles were the norm.

In fact, the Gemara on our daf later quotes a Beraisa that says that there was only one case in history  when a person was harmed by the crowding in the Beis haMikdash!

Further, The Mishna (Avos 5/5) lists no less than 10 miracles that regularly  took place in the בית המקדש , which I have attempted to translate as follows:

  1. No woman miscarried from the smell of the sanctified meat.
  2. The sanctified meat never became rotten.
  3. A fly was never seen in the slaughterhouse.
  4. The Kohain Gadol never had a seminal emission on Yom-Kippur.
  5. The rain never extinguished the fire on the altar.
  6. The wind never prevailed over the pillar of smoke.
  7. A disqualifying property was never found in the Omer, two loaves, or show bread.
  8. People stood crowded but had plenty space to bow.
  9. A snake or scorpion never caused damage in Jerusalem.
  10. No one ever said that he felt claustrophobic in Jerusalem .

Whereas most or perhaps all of this miracles could be considered natural miracles that though unlikely, do not involve that which is impossible according to the laws of nature, it is certainly clear from here that the בית המקדש  was not comparable to anywhere else when it comes to the frequency of miracles, and even if  a supernatural miracle such as doors automatically closing occurred there regularly enough that it could be relied upon, one can certainly not conclude from there that Abaya would condone relying on miracles anywhere else.

Although there is a concept that Torah and Mitzvos offer a degree of protection (see Sotah 21a and  post on Pesachim 8) it is clear that where the danger is common or definitely present, one may not rely on that protection even while fulfilling a mitzva (Pesachim 8.)

Although Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi took the rather extreme step of learning next to people who were afflicted with רעתן  (a terrible contagious disease) relying on this protective power (Kesubos 77b), most Amoraim were particular to keep their distance, and if that was the case with some of the greatest Amoraim, it follows that this is certainly the case for all of us, whose stature does not compare to theirs.

Returning to our daf, we should note that Rava appears to hold that relying on miracles is not acceptable where a common danger is present, even in the בית המקדש  where miracles were so common, AND even though it was during the fulfillment of  one of the greatest mitzvos!

We should also note that with only 6 exceptions (see Bava Metzia 22b ) the halacha usually follows Rava in his disputes with Abaya.

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.

Pesachim 67-68 טומאה הותרה בצבור , bringing sacrifices in our day, and visiting Har habayit

One of the main (though not the only) halachik impediments to visiting the Temple Mount as well as offering up the קרבן פסח  in our day is the fact that in the absence of a פרה אדומה (red heifer), whose ashes are biblically  required for purifying a טמא מת , we generally assume that we have this status and are thus not permitted to enter or offer or eat  the קרבן פסח  and risk the severe penalty of כרת  for doing so.

It should be noted that it is clear from the discussion on daf 68 that a טמא מת is not prohibited from entering the entire הר הבית, which has the halachik status of the מחנה לויה  (Levite camp), but only from entering the area of the עזרה  (Temple courtyard) itself, which has the halachik status of the holier מחנה כהונה (Priests camp.)

This contrasts with a זב  who is forbidden to enter the מחנה לויה  and a מצורע (leper) who is forbidden to the enter the entire camp of Israel.

Although the status of זב is not applied in our time, the related albeit less severe type of impurity known as טומאת קרי (impurity due to a seminal emission) also disqualifies one from entering the מחנה לויה  and thus the entire הר הבית  but can be removed by going to Mikva according to halacha before entering.

This is the practise of those who permit visits to the parts of הר הבית  known to have been outside the עזרה  itself, while the plurality of poskim who forbid or at least caution against doing so base their view mainly on the lack of certainty as to the precise place of the עזרה  and בית המקדש itself, a topic I hope to address in the future.

I would like to focus on a different but related question, that being whether it is permitted to offer up a קרבן פסח in our times, something which might theoretically require neither a rebuilt     בית המקדש  (see Zevachim 107b) nor a פרה אדומה, as we shall see.

It goes without saying that this would be provided all other halachik issues have been resolved , such as the status of today’s kohanim, the possible requirement for a kohain gadol, the need for the special garments to be worn, etc. (for a detailed discussion on the topic, see the article by  מורי וידידי haGaon haRav Gavriel Saraf   שליט”א on https://www.kby.org/hebrew/torat-yavneh/view.asp?id=7234

It also assumes that this is physically and legally possible, without endangering lives, as however seriously this קרבן  is taken in halacha, it does not override the laws of פקוח נפש  (the question of שעת הגזירה and whether this applies to our situation is beyond the scope of our discussion.)

Having shown that the תמיד  (daily communal burnt offering) and קרבן פסח  (Passover offering) are both performed on shabbos, overriding the prohibition of melacha, the Gemara turns to another powerful property of these sacrifices, namely their ability to override the rule of טומאה  (impurity) provided that  the majority of the community is impure.

Usually speaking, a person who is טמא מת (impure due to contact with a corpse) is not permitted to bring the קרבן פסח, just like other קרבנות, and rather brings his קרבן  one month later  on פסח שני  when his טומאה  has passed.

However, the Mishna (Pesachim 76b) tells us that the קרבן פסח  may both be brought and eaten in impurity if the majority of the community is impure, and of course entering the עזרה  while impure in order to perform the offering must thus also be permitted for the kohanim.

As such, the fact that we are all assumed to be טמא מת  and unable to leave that status due to the lack of a פרה אדומה should theoretically not stand in the way of bringing a קרבן פסח  in our time!

On daf 66b,the Gemara derives via the same גזירה שוה that Hillel used regarding shabbos, that the תמיד  may also be brought under those conditions, though being an עולה, it obviously is not eaten (see Tosfos 66a ד”ה “מה” who discusses other possible sources for this.)

On daf 67a, The Gemara concludes that the source that theקרבן פסח   itself may be offered while impure if the majority of the community are impure comes from the law of פסח שני  itself.

Regarding פסח שני, the פסוק  ( Bamidbar 9/10) states “איש איש כי יהיה טמא לנפש ”  – (any man who will be impure from a life .)

From the phrase “איש איש”  , we derive that only an individual who is impure needs to put off his קרבן  till פסח שני  but if the community in whole or majority is impure, the קרבן פסח  is offered as usual on Pesach itself!

From the word לנפש, it derives that this concession applies only to טומאת מת  and not to other forms of impurity.

Although there are other forms of impurity that affect many or most of us today, the most common being טומאת קרי (impurity due to a seminal emission), these impurities can be resolved through mikva without the red heifer’s ashes and need not stand in the way of קרבן פסח.

As such, should all the other issues be resolved, neither the lack of a Beis haMikdash, nor the issue of impurity seem to stand in the way of bringing a קרבן פסח  today, and given the severe penalty for not doing so, it seems at first glance that we should obligated to do whatever we can do make this possible.

Many of us feel extremely uncomfortable with the idea of returning to what might seem like a primitive and barbaric form of worship, and there might even Torah sources that seem to back up such discomfort, a topic for another occasion.

Yet, as Moreinu haGaon Rav Asher Weiss שליט”א  once said to me over a barbecue in Africa while we were discussing this subject, its is rather hypocritical to sit eating a steak and criticize sacrificial worship- after all if one is comfortable with slaughtering an animal for one’s own pleasure, why would one be uncomfortable with doing so as part of the Torah mandated divine worship?

Of course, one could argue that whereas human beings NEED sustenance, and meat  has been viewed through most of history as an important form of sustenance, Hashem certainly does NOT need it, and there should be better ways to show our dedication to him than killing his creatures and offering them to him.

Yet it is axiomatic that Torah practices tend to be very symbolic and use methods of divine service which people can relate too-The fact that Hashem has no need for anything does not stop us from showing our appreciation of him by offering up that which is valuable to us and seeing as meat is  a major source of sustenance and pleasure for most of us, the above argument is rather mute.

When it comes to the קרבן פסח, this argument falls away completely , seeing as this unique korban is primarily about us eating it .

Almost all of us enjoy our lavish meat meals on Seder night, so why would we be opposed to first dedicating the very meat we are about to eat to Hashem?

Those people who are “religiously” vegetarian and are against killing animals at all even for food, or claim that meat is no longer needed for sustenance might indeed hold the moral high ground needed to at least start this discussion, but it seems like the rest of us should really grow up and prepare for the time when we will at least be able to fully dedicate our lust for meat to Hashem before eating it, a time which might virtually be here already, at least once a year!

יהי רצון מלפניך שיבנה בית המקדש במהרה בימינו ותן חלקינו בתורותיך ושם נעבדך ביראה כמי עולם וכשנים קדמוניות. “וערבה לה’ נמחת יהודה וירושליים כימי עולם וכשנים קדמוניות.”

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.

Pesachim 65-66 שבות במקום מצוה , קל וחומר, and גזירה שוה

The Opening Mishna of our new perek lists the various מלאכות  that form part of the process of the קרבן פסח  that override Shabbos.

These include slaughtering it, sprinkling its blood, מחוי קרביו  (cleaning the insides), and burning its fat, but not roasting it or rinsing the insides-Rashi explains that  the later two can done after dark on Pesach night itself and thus do not override the shabbos laws.

Furthermore, the Tana Kama rules that הרכבתו  (carry it on one’s shoulders), bringing it from outside the techum, or cutting a יבולת  (wart) off it may not be done on shabbos.

Rabbi Eliezer, however, attempts to learn by way of קל וחומר that if מלאכה דאורייתא is pushed aside by the קרבן פסח , surely a שבות  should be.

Rashi explains the view of the Tanna Kama, later expressed by Rabbi Akiva, that  although these are all only שבותים  (rabbinical prohibitions- see inside for why,) they could have been done before shabbos and are thus not permitted, an explanation Rabbi Akiva himself gives after some back and forth which itself requires further analysis.

It should be noted that although we have indeed seen places where a שבות  is treated more stringently than a מצוה דאורייתא  in order that people should not make light of it (see my post of Eruvin 2 for sources and some discussion), neither Rabbi Eliezer nor Rabbi Akiva appear to apply this argument to our discussion.

 This seems consistent with what appears to be the default principle that biblical prohibitions are to be treated more seriously than rabbinical ones, in the absence of Chazal ruling to the contrary, something which itself is subject to much discussion and analysis.

The Gemara on daf 66 opens by relating how the בני בתירה  had forgotten the rule that the קרבן פסח  pushes aside the laws of shabbos, as per the above Mishna.

Hillel then proceeded to prove it to them by way of גזירה שוה based on the word “במועדו”  which is used both by the תמיד  and the פסח- just like the תמיד  pushes aside the laws of shabbos, so does קרבן פסח.

He then adds that this can also be derived by means of a  קל וחומר- if a regular תמיד  which does not cause one who fails to bring it to be liable to כרת  overrides shabbos, surely the קרבן פסח whose neglect brings about כרת  should do so.

The Gemara asks how we know that the תמיד  itself may be offered on shabbos, and concludes that we learn this from the  passuk “עולת שבת בשבתו על עולת התמיד ונסכה”( “ The burnt-offering of Shabbos on its Shabbos, in addition to the regular burnt-offering” – Bamidbar 28/10), which clearly implies that the  regular burnt-offering (תמיד)  is offered even on Shabbos.

The Gemara then ask how  Hillel could base himself on the קל וחומר  when the logical argument is flawed- the תמיד   is תדיר (regular) and is also a   burnt offering, the holiest type of sacrifice which is completely burnt whereas the קרבן פסח  is only once a year and is eaten by the owners!

Although the קרבן פסח  is taken more seriously regarding punishment, the תמיד  is taken more seriously in other ways and the former can thus not be said to be objectively more important than the later.

It answers that the קל וחומר   was actually argued first, and when the בני בתירה countered its logic as per the above argument, he then presented the גזירה שוה.

Unlike a קל וחומר  argument, which any sage could make based on his own logic but could also be countered by another sage’s logic, a גזירה שוה   is based not on logic (at least alone) but on מסורת  (tradition.)

A sage may not simply derive anything he wishes from a גזירה  שוה, but may only apply a גזירה שוה  which he has received from his teacher as part of the oral tradition (see Rashi ד”ה “וכי מאחר”  for his precise explanation of this rule, which we shall hopefully be able to revisit in a later post.)

This limitation also gives it an advantage, in that a countering logical argument cannot push It aside.

The Gemara explains that despite this advantage, Hillel initially preferred to use the קל וחומר  argument , seeing as his contemporaries could retort that they not received this גזירה שוה  by way of tradition like he had- only once the קל וחומר  failed, did he resort to the גזירה שוה.

Although the Mishna clearly holds like Hillel, it remains unclear if and how he was able to convince the בני בתירה  of this, given that they had countered the logic in the קל וחומר  and also did not have the גזירה שוה  as part of their tradition.

Are we to learn from this event that even if a certain sage has not received a גזירה שוה  from his Rabbi, once another sage has revealed a גזירה שוה  to them from his מסורות, they are also to accept it?

If so, why was Hillel initially reluctant to use this גזירה שוה?

On the other hand, if those sages are not required to accept a גזירה שוה  revealed by a colleague, of what help was the גזירה שוה in advancing Hillel’s argument at the end?

The Gemara on daf 66b returns to discussing the relative weight of a שבות  as compared to aמלאכה דאורייתא  and asks whether a melacha may be performed כלאחר יד  (in a back-handed or unusual manner) for the sake of a mitzva.

The specific case discussed is what happens if one forgot to bring the knife needed for the שחיטה  before Shabbos, seeing as this is not one of the things one is permitted to do on shabbos for the sake of the קרבן.

On the previous amud, we learnt that Hillel and his teachers, Shmaya and Avtalyon, had permitted sticking the knife required for the שחיטה  in the wool or hair of the animal so that it is carried by the animal and not by a person.

The Gemara queries this for various reasons, among them the fact that it is biblically forbidden to  perform an action which causes one’s animal to carry something for him on shabbos  (מחמר).

It answers that this is מחמר כלאחר יד , an unusual way of getting an animal to carry something,and Rashi explains that this is because a lamb is not usually used for carrying things (like a donkey or camel are.)

The Gemara counters that מחמר  כלאחר יד is still forbidden on a rabbinical level, and answers that this is precisely the question that had been asked of Hillel.

As its wording seems rather cryptic, I choose to quote the original Aramaic:

דבר שיש לו התיר מין התורה ודבר שבות עומד לפניו לעקרו כלאחר יד במקום מצוה מאי?

Something which is permitted on a biblical level and a rabbinical prohibition stands in its way- may one up-route it in a back-handed manner for the sake of a mitzva?

Although the precise wording seems to be referring to performing a שבות  in a backhanded manner, closer to what we often referred to in halacha as a שבות דשבות לדבר מצוה, the comparison drawn to our case seems to be referring to performing a מלאכה דאורייתא  with  a  שנוי  for the sake of a mitzva, which would be a far more drastic leniency.

The answer he gave, as quoted on the previous amud was in the affirmative – הנח להם לישראל אם לא נביאים הם בני נביאים הם!

May one derive from here that any שבות  may be performed for the sake of the mitzva?

It seems clear from the Mishna (according to Rabbi Akiva)  that it certainly may not, even for the sake of a קרבן פסח, at least if it could have been done before Yom-Tov.

As such, this leniency needs to be applied less broadly, perhaps specifically to the שבות  of כלאחר יד .

Rashi (ד”ה שיש לו התיר) , explicitly notes this distinction and explains that doing something כלאחר יד  is less severe than other שבותים, seeing as it is (relatively) uncommon (Chazal usually only make their decrees in cases that are common!)

In contrast, the Tosfos do not appear to make this distinction, and query how this could be permitted, seeing that it is clear from the Mishna that even a שבות  may not be done for the sake of the mitzva of korban pesach if it could have been performed before Yom-Tov.

Whereas Rashi’s distinction would render their query rather mute, the Tosfos suggest a different distinction, namely between a שבות  performed by a Jew and one performed by his animal- only the later is permitted for the sake of a mitzva-a distinction that appears to fit less into the actual wording of the question asked to Hillel, where no mention of an animal is made.

There could be a major נפקא מינה  (practical ramification) between these two distinctions:

According to Rashi, it seems to follow that ANY melacha may be performed  כלאחר יד/ with a שנוי  for the sake of a mitzva but no other שבות  is permitted (except perhaps in the case of a שבות דשבות.)

In contrast , according to Tosfos, it seems like ANY שבות  might be performed by one’s animal for the sake of a mitzva, but not even כלאחר יד  is permitted by a Jew himself even for such a purpose.

Although this seems the most precise conclusion, given that the Gemara mentions “for the sake of a mitzva” in general and does not limit its version of the question asked to Hillel to the case at hand, it is also possible that both Rashi and Tosfos would limit their respective interpretations of this leniency to a mitzva of the stature of קרבן פסח, however that is defined, which sometimes pushes aside even severe biblical restrictions such the laws of shabbos, and not any other mitzva!

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.

Pesachim 58-59 When one mitzva clashes with another: עשה דוחה עשה

In loving memory of our dear friends, Judith Ginsburg and Ian Shapiro of blessed memory, who were both recently taken by the cursed COVID-19 plagues, as well as that pillar of the South Africa and world Jewish community, the great philanthropist and איש חסד, Eric Samson of blessed memory, who passed away yesterday in Los Angeles.

In an all-encompassing field such as halacha, it is inevitable that at times, one value will clash with another, and it is reasonable to assume that the halacha itself provides solutions for such a clash.

One of the rules we have seen is the principle of עשה דוחה לא תעשה  – a positive mitzva pushes aside a negative one  (Yevamos from 3a.)

Although the basis behind this rule requires much analysis, one approach seems to be that when one action involves both a prohibition and a positive mitzva, we define the act based on the positive mitzva and not based on the prohibition.

For example, the act of circumcision when the 8’th day falls on shabbos involves a prohibition against melacha on Shabbos, as well as the mitzva of circumcision, and this rule tells us that the positive mitzva of circumcision pushes aside the prohibition of melacha on shabbos, and the act is performed.

Where a garment is made out of linen and the tzitzit are made out of wool, the same principle tells us that the act of wearing is defined by the positive mitzva of tzitzit and not by the prohibition of wearing shaatnez.

On the other hand, a different principle tells us that the ends does not always  justify the means- for example, one may not fulfil the mitzva of the 4 species on Sukkot if they have been stolen- this would be considered a מצוה הבאה בעבירה  (a mitzva that comes/came   with/through a sin), another rule requiring more precise definition.

On our dapim, we encounter another principle that relates to clashes between mitzvos, this time when one positive mitzva clashes with another.

There is a positive mitzva, known as עשה דהשלמה , which states that the תמיד של בין הערביים  (regular afternoon sacrifice) should be the last sacrifice of the day, with the notable exceptions of the נרות  (evening candles)  the evening קטורת  (incense), and the קרבן פסח  (pesach offering.)

Yet there are times when someone might need to offer a different sacrifice after the afternoon offering has already been made, in order to be declared fit again to eat the קרבן פסח .

For example, a מצורע  (leper) might need to still bring his final offerings that afternoon, without which he would not be permitted to eat his קרבן פסח .

The same might apply to one who needs to eat a קרבן שלמים  (peace offering) that he has brought.

Here, there is no blanket permission to actively be מבטל מצות עשה  (nullify a positive mitzva) in order to actively fulfill another.

Yet there are cases where due to the greater status of the one commandment, the other will take priority.

The Gemara on 59a brings a Beraisa which tells us that a מצורע  (leper) who needs to bring his final sacrifices to clear him to fulfill the command of eating the korban pesach, one of the only two positive mitzvot that one incurs the severe punishment of כרת  for neglecting to perform, the more severe commandment to eat the korban pesach pushes aside the requirement for the regular afternoon sacrifice to be the last non-Pesach sacrifice of the day!

The same Beraisa, however, also gave permission any time to a regular impure person on any evening of the year to bring his outstanding sacrifice after the   תמיד של בין-הערביים in order to be able to eat his קרבן שלמים that needs to be eaten that night!

The Gemara notes that seeing as refraining from eating these sacrifices is not subject to the same severe terms, they should not in and of themselves be enough to push away the עשה דהשלמה.

The Gemara thus qualifies the later permission to be referring to situations where the אסור עשה does not apply, seemingly concluding that only a positive mitzva that involves כרת  if not performed may push aside another positive mitzva (or its related אסור עשה.)

Yet, as mentioned above, there are other times when a positive mitzva pushes aside another one, among them:

  1. The laws of mourning (even the biblical ones on the first day) do not apply on Chol-hamoed, as the obligation to mourn is pushed off by the obligation to rejoice on the festivals, which is an  עשה דרבים  (positive command on the public-Moed Katan 14b.)
  2. The prohibition against freeing an עבד כנעני  (Caananite slave [in the days when slavery was acceptable]) is derived from the positive mitzva of לעולם בהם תעבודו  (you shall work them forever.)   Yet, the Gemara (Brachos 47b) tells us how Rabbi Eliezer freed his slave to make a minyan (Brachos 47b), and that it was not considered a מצוה הבאה בעבירה  because it was for the sake of a מצוה דרבים  (public mitzva.)

We should note that the term עשה דרבים  is not used there, probably because making a minyan is only a rabbinical mitzva, but that we see that even a rabbinical mitzva of the public, however that is defined, might push aside an אסור עשה , at least this particular one.

3. There is a similar case of the חצי עבד חצי בן חורין  (half slave half free person whose owner is compelled to free him so that he can fulfill the mitzva of פרו ורבו  (having children- Gittin 41a) Seeing as the mitzva of פרו ורבו  is based on the idea that the world should not become desolate of people, perhaps this is also considered a מצוה דרבים- see Tosfos and other Rishonim on the above sugyos for further discussion.

There is much to discuss about the rule that a more serious mitzva can push aside a less serious one, but I would like to focus on one issue brought up by the Tosfos.

One of the limitations of the rule of עשה דוחה לא תעשה is that one has to perform the לא תעשה  at the same time as the עשה .

If the לא תעשה  is done before the עשה, then the rule does not apply, its is forbidden, and might also be a מצוה הבאה בעבירה.

This makes sense according to the explanation we brought regarding the dynamics of עשה דוחה לא תעשה.

One can only define an action based on its mitzva component as opposed to its aveira component when they are both components of the same action, forcing one to choose how to define it. In such a case, the Torah teaches us that the mitzva component prevails.

If however,  two different actions are involved, then there is no need to choose, and the initial forbidden action cannot become permitted because of a later different “mitzva” action- here we say that the ends do not justify the means.

Assuming the mechanism whereby a more serious positive mitzva pushes aside a less serious one is similar to that of עשה דוחה לא תעשה, one would expect the same limitation to apply, and in the case of mourning on chol hamoed, it indeed could- one is pushing aside one’s obligation to mourn at precisely the same time that he is fulfilling the mitzva of rejoicing on the festival.

Yet in our case, we see that one may bring a sacrifice after the תמיד של בין בערביים in order that one will later be able to fulfill the mitzva of קרבן פסח, even though these do actions are clearly not at the same time!

Tosfos points out that the same applies in the case of freeing the slave in order to make the minyan (as it does while freeing a slave in order for him to be able to have children.)

In truth, one could have explained the case of the slave differently, saying that the very prohibition of freeing a slave only applies if it is not done for the sake of a mitzva, making it different from other אסורי עשה .

From the fact that Tosfos does not do this, we see that he sees the case of the slave not as an exception but as a precedent for any public mitzva pushing aside an אסור עשה, possibly even a rabbinical one, which would be a tremendous חדוש  requiring further discussion.

In any case, in our case, there is no possibility of such an explanation, and Tosfos concludes that when it comes to situations where we do apply the rule of עשה דוחה עשה, the limitation that the two need to take place simultaneously does not apply. This is because unlike its “sister” principle where a positive mitzva pushes off a negative mitzva which is generally treated as more severe than a positive mitzva, in this case it is the more serious mitzva which is pushing off the less serious one.

It is clear that even if Tosfos would accept the “lomdus” in עשה דוחה לא תעשה  that we have discussed, this same mechanism could not explain the principle of עשה דוחה עשה , making them two unrelated principles, rather than “sister principles” as we assumed!

It remains for us to suggest an alternative explanation for the dynamics of at least this second principle!

Hopefully we shall have a chance in the future to do precisely that.

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.

Pesachim 57 “Their pots and pans will go to heaven”

In memory of the Av Beis Din of Cape-Town, Rabbi Desmond Maisels of blessed memory who held the fort of halachik honesty for so many decades in that beautiful city.

One of the great achievements of the past few decades in the Jewish world has been the return to observance by so many people, spear-headed by the “Baal Teshuva” movement.

Whereas 60 years ago, Orthodox Judaism was considered almost dead and buried, the most vibrant and growing Jewish communities of today are found mainly in the Torah-observant world.

This trend is highly noticeable in the plethora of kosher supermarkets, Pesach products, eruvin,  mikvaos, and Torah day school that form the heart of any Jewish neighborhood.

Although many members of these communities are also involved in a large selection of outreach and charitable organizations, there seem to be many who still do not put the same focus on the area of ethical behaviour and inter-human relations as they do in the realm of ritual.

People very often get swept up in the “frumkeit” (ritualistic piety) without even realizing how it sometimes comes at the expense of other things that the Torah values even more dearly.

We have mentioned elsewhere  that the Gemara  (Brachos 17a) cautions against a person learning lots of Torah and acting in a disdainful fashion to his parents and teachers- the stereotype of the yeshiva bachur who will no longer eat in his shul Rabbi’s home because “his hechsher” is not good enough for him.

On our daf we are told how the son of בוהין used to leave פאה  (the corner of a field left for the poor) from certain vegetables, even though they are exempt from this requirement.

When בוהין  later saw poor people collecting the פאה, he told them to rather take double the amount from other produce of his that had already been tithed.

 All though פאה  is not subject to tithing , פאה  taken on vegetables is not considered פאה  and one who eats it without separating tithes is both eating טבל  and  stealing from the Levi and Kohain.

We see how easy it is to be so stringent in one mitzva that one lands up transgressing another, something that we have referred to elsewhere as a stringency that leads to a leniency, or a full-blown transgression.

We also note that rather than be seen to be strict about maaser at the expense of the poor, בוהין was prepared to double the portion collected by the poor from his own tithed produce, at great expense to himself!

Our  daf carries on painting a disturbing picture of a period when the כהונה  (priesthood) was so corrupt that the stronger kohanim used to forcibly take the portions of the weaker ones.

We are taught how Initially the skins from the sacrifices were divided amongst the kohanim on shift, but due to the above corruption, they started rather declaring them הקדש (sanctified for the Temple.)

We see the incredible irony that these thugs were still “frum” enough that they would never think of benefitting fromהקדש , but they were happy to steal from their fellow kohanim and intimidate them.

It reminds me of the famous story of the Yeshiva student who used to store his milk in the communal fridge of the yeshiva dormitory.

He noticed that certain students had been regularly drinking his milk without permission and responded by putting a sign on the milk container that read  : “not chalav yisroel!”- the stealing immediately stopped.

My father of blessed memory would often tell how his mentor, Chief Rabbi Louis Rabinowitz zt’l once intervened in the case of a very observant man who refused to give his wife a גט  (bill of divorce.)

After various warnings, he took to the pulpit to condemn his hypocrisy, noting that due to his high level of kashrus at home , he was certain that “his pots and pans will go to heaven!”

There are people who think that it is possible to serve Hashem by treating him like a king, while treating other people like slaves.

Hashem teaches us that an essential part of his service is doing good for his creations – if our service does not make the world a better place, it is not service, but rather an abomination, a point well illustrated by countless excerpts from our prophets and sages.

There are plenty “frum” people who try to follow the ethical and interpersonal elements of the Torah as precisely as they follow the rest of the commandments.

It is those people, and their leaders,  whom we should strive to emulate.

Rav Maizels zt’l  virtually created halachik observance in Cape Town, bringing standards of public kashrus and religious observance to incredible heights for a small community at the southern tip of Africa . At the same time, he always taught  by example that it is not a mitzva to be excessively stringent at the expense of others, and that growth in one’s relationship with Hashem is directly proportional to one’s growth in one’s relationship with one’s fellow human beings.

May we all merit to continue his legacy.

Pesachim 55-56 Honoring a wicked father

In the previous post, we quoted how the Gemara applied the passuk  “ועמך כולם צדיקים”  (and your nation are all righteous) to 2 different communities with opposite halachik practices, so long as they both grounded in halachically sound considerations.

This passuk is also applied at an individual level (Sanhedrin 90a) where the Mishna brings it to prove that “כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא”  (“all of Israel have a share in the world to come.”)

Yet unfortunately, neither the passuk nor the words of the Mishna are without qualifications.

The very same Mishna lists a variety of sins for which one can lose one’s portion in עולם הבא .

And on Daf 56 in our Masechta, we are told how King Chizkiyahu dragged the bones of his wicked father King Achaz on a cheap  bed made of ropes, and how the sages agreed with his actions.

The Mishna at the bottom of daf 55b tells us about 6 unusual practices of the people of Jericho, 3 of which the sages protested, and 3 of which they did not.

The Gemara opens with a Beraisa that records 6 things done by King Chizkiyahu, 3 of which the sages approved, and 3 of which they did not approve.

At face value, the only connection that stands out is the numbers of questionable practices performed and the equal split between the things that Chazal reacted negatively to and those that they were either silent  (in the case of the people of Jericho) or complementary about (in the case of Chizkiyahu.)

At a deeper level, it is possible that there many connections, and I would like to suggest one.

One of the practices of the people Jericho that Chazal did not protest was “כורכין את שמע”  (literally tying up the Shema.)

The Gemara brings various views as to what this means.  Rabbi Yehuda opines that they did not make any break between the first passuk of Shema and the first paragraph to say “ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד”  as we are accustomed to do.

The Gemara proceeds to discuss the reason that we say this verse, and notes that it was the response Yaakov gave to his sons when they all confirmed their loyalty to the faith by saying the words of the Shema in front of him.

Yaakov was afraid that like his father Yitchak and Grandfather Avraham before him, not all his progeny would follow in his path, and when he was reassured by his sons that they would do so, this famous line was his response.

Unlike Yaakov, Chizkiyahu’s grandfather, the righteous king Yotam, did not have the same fortune, and his son and successor, Achaz, become one of the most wicked kings in our history (Melachim II/ 16.)

It is a sign of the greatness of King Chizkiyahu that he was able to rise above the evil legacy of his father and rebuild a Torah society (Melachim II/18), but he too shared the misfortune of his grandfather, and his own son, Menashe, become the most wicked king we ever had (Melachim II/21.)

Perhaps the people of Jericho felt that saying the passuk “ברוך שם”  was insensitive to those who despite their righteousness, did not share the same fortune as Yaakov when it came to all their offspring, and in the tragic cases of King Yotham and King Chizkiyahu, their very heirs.

Although Chazal did not agree with them and chose to focus on the ideal experience that our last forefather, Yaakov had, they did not wish to protest given the good intentions of the people of Jericho and their strong argument.

Back to the halachik subject at hand, Chizkiyahu was praised for degrading his late wicked father by dragging him on a bed made of ropes, which seems to indicate that the mitzva of honoring one’s father does not apply to a wicked man like Achaz.

Before jumping to any conclusions however, we need to examine the nature of and reasons for this action of Chizkiyahu.

Rashi offers two explanations:

  1. Rather than afford him the normal honors given to a king or wealthy person, he was given a poor mans treatment as an atonement for his terrible sins.
  2. This was done for the sake of Kiddush Hashem to show how a wicked man like that was disgraced and encourage other wicked people to mend their evil ways.

According to the first explanation, the actions of Chizkiyahu were for the benefit of his wicked father and helped him achieve atonement.  As such, it is possible that this was not a case of the mitzva of כבוד אב ואם    not applying to a wicked father, but rather of it being the best thing for his honor in the long term, similar perhaps to giving one’s father a curative injection.

According to the second explanation, this was not done for the long-term benefit of Achaz’s soul, but rather for the sake of the Mitzva of Kiddush Hashem.

Here again, there is no need to conclude that the mitzva of honoring parents does not apply at all to a wicked parent, but rather that the mitzva of Kiddush Hashem simply takes priority. It could well be that in a private setting, Chizkiyahu might have still shown honor to his father, and that a wicked person who did not have the same public status and power that King Achaz has, would still be entitled to a degree of כבוד.

Another difference between the two explanations in Rashi could possibly relate to the nature of Chizkiyahu’s actions:

According to the first explanation, Chizkiyahu did not necessarily degrade his father, but simply withheld honor from him.

According to the second explanation, however, Chizkiyahu intended to degrade him as a message to other wicked people, and Rashi highlights this by use of the word “שיתגנה”.

Whereas the second explanation seems to indicate that actively degrading one’s wicked father is permitted, the first merely indicates that withholding honor is acceptable.

We should also note that either way we learn this, Achaz was no longer alive at the time, and although there is a mitzva to honor parents after death as well (Kiddushin 31b) , it would be pushing things to attempt to prove anything from this case regarding honoring a wicked parent who is still alive.

Further, defining someone as wicked is a complex task, which most people are not even qualified to do, and comparing anyone to a totally wicked king like Achaz who not only sinned in the most awful ways but corrupted his people in those same ways is most of the time completely off the mark.

There are other important sugyas that are relevant to this topic (see for example Sanhedrin 85b and compare with Yevamos 22b), which ultimately lead to a significant halachik debate on this matter  (see Y.D. 240/18), but as is our way in these posts, we shall focus for now on what we can get from this daf and look forward to carrying on the discussion as the relevant sugyos come up!

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.

 

Pesachim 53-54 Yom-Kippur candles, good intentions, and the power of looks

In loving memory of my dear father, Moreinu haRav Avraham Benzion ben Azriel Hertz Isaacson zt’l, whose love of Torah, passion for justice, and acts of kindness inspire everything I do.

Towards the bottom of daf 53, the Gemara presents a debate that took place while Ullah was travelling on his donkey, accompanied by Rabbi Aba and רבה בר בר חנה.

First, some background:

The Mishna had discussed a difference in customs regarding whether to light candles for Yom-Kippur or not.

Unlike shabbos eve, where lighting candles was a universally accepted obligation, Yom Kippur eve had no such consensus in this regard, and whereas in some locations there was a practise to do so, in others, the practise was to refrain from this.

Keeping with the general requirement to follow local custom, the Mishna ruled that everyone must follow the custom of his place.

The Gemara pointed out that this was not an issue of being stringent or lenient ,as is the case in many of the customs we have discussed- rather, there was strong reasoning on both sides, both related to the same concern.

Before we attempt to explain this, we should note that various reasons are given for the rabbinical mitzva of lighting candles for shabbos, among them:

  1. עונג שבת  (to allow one to enjoy shabbos- it being rather difficult to do so in the dark- see Rambam Shabbos 5/1)
  2. כבוד שבת  (honoring shabbos- a banquet without light is not  honorable – see Rashi Shabbos 25b ד”ה “חובה”  and Rambam Shabbos 30/5]
  3. שלום בית  (keeping the peace at home- it being rather difficult to do so if people are constantly falling over things or bumping into one another- see Rashi, Shabbos 25b ד”ה “הדלקת נר”

Whereas all these reasons could apply, perhaps with some nuances, to Yom-Tov, Yom Kippur might indeed be different.

Whereas there is no mitzva of עונג    (enjoyment) on Yom Kippur, there might certainly be a mitzva of כבוד  , yet according to Rashi, the כבוד  provided by the candles is achieved by making the meal more distinguished, and there is no meal on Yom-Kippur!

At first glance, it seems that given the holiness of the day, שלום בית  is certainly also  an applicable reason, and having people falling over things on Yom-Kippur is hardly a reason for this.

Yet שלום בית  has multiple implications, and its most highlighted component sometimes seems to revolve around the physical and emotional relationship between man and wife, the former being limited on Yom-Kippur by the prohibition against תשמיש המיטה  (sexual relations) and other physical contact. (See Shabbos 152a where Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta refers to his אבר תשמיש  (sexual organ) as the עושה שלום בבית  (the peacemaker at home!)

It might be that the damage to this  important component of שלום בית  when people are bumping into each other, putting the husband and wife in a bad mood not suitable for such relations, is what makes shabbos candles on shabbos obligatory, and this consideration is lacking on Yom-Kippur.

However, the Gemara’s analysis of this debate does not seem to center on these considerations, but rather on the prohibition of sexual relations on Yom-Kippur. (though see later the view of Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar regarding lighting candles before Yom-Kippur that falls on Shabbos, for reasons of כבוד שבת!)

Rashi explains that on the one hand, if there is a candle lit on Yom-Kippur, people will be more likely to refrain from sexual relations due to the added prohibition of having such relations by the light of a candle (itself quite a statement, given that this seems to be a relatively mild prohibition compared to that of having sexual relations itself on Yom-Kippur, as well as the fact that everyone agrees that a candle is need on shabbos and this seems to present no such concern).

On the other hand, if one can see one’s wife on the night of Yom-Kippur, one is more likely to be attracted to her and tempted to transgress the more severe prohibition of actual sexual relations.

Whereas some explanation is needed for both above claims, the Gemara sees this as an example of how two communities can have opposite customs both with righteous intentions, applying the  passuk “ועמך כולם צדיקים לעולם ירשו ארץ. (“and your nation are all righteous people, they will forever inherit the land!)

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Another dispute is recorded regarding whether one makes the bracha בורא מאורי האש  on a candle during havdala after Yom-Kippur, or whether this bracha is reserved for motzai-shabbos.

Rav Yehuda quotes Shmuel as ruling that one does not, seeing as fire was created on motzai shabbos, and the bracha on it is thus reserved exclusively for that time.

רבה בר בר חנה is quoted as agreeing and as claiming that Rabbi Yochanan agreed!

Now, we return to the incident we opened up our post  with:

Rabbi Aba asked Ullah if it was true that Rabbi Yochanan had agreed that one only makes the bracha  בורא מאורי האש  on motzai shabbos, and not motzai Yom-Kippur, and Ullah responded initially by giving Rabbah bar Chana a “bad look.”

He then explained that when he quoted Rabbi Yochanan, it was not regarding this law, but rather regarding Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar’s claim regarding Yom Kippur that fell on shabbos.

Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar claimed that everyone agrees that one needs to light candles on the eve of such a day, out of honor for shabbos, and Ullah had quoted Rabbi Yochanan as noting that the Chachamim did not agree, and held that it was still subject to the same debate above (note that כבוד שבת  seems according to this view to be more important than כבוד כפור  and to override the concern of being attracted to one’s wife- it also does not seem to be related to the shabbos meal)

רבה בר בר חנה then relented and accepted that Ullah was correct.

We should note that receiving a “bad look” from someone, particular a Torah leader, is not a simple thing, recalling how Rabbi Yochanan when angered by  a student’s heresy, stared at him and turned him into a pile of bones. (see Bava Basra 75a )

Yet in this case, Rav Yosef seems to see this “bad look” in a positive light, praising Ullah for the ability to communicate his disapproval with a look rather than by verbally attacking רבה בר בר חנה, and praising רבה בר בר חנה for his ability to note such disapproval and accept it, applying  a relevant passuk in משלי  to both of them.

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After asking what our custom is regarding the bracha on fire in havdala, the Gemara notes that רבי בנינין בר יפת  quoted Rabbi Yochanan (contrary to what was initially reported) as ruling that this bracha is made both on motzai shabbos and motzai Yom-Kippur, and that this is the way the people have spoken!    (note that this ruling is later qualified with the requirement that the candle used on motzai Yom-Kippur needs to be a נר ששבת  [a candle that was already lit over shabbos for permitted reasons, such as pikuach nefesh, or one that was lit before Yom-Kippur- see Rashi.])

Rashi explains that in the absence of the reason that fire was created on motzai shabbos, we require the other reason to make such a bracha, namely the fact that one is now able to use this fire for things one could not use it before (perhaps like lighting another fire with it.)

As such, we need a candle which was already burning but whose use was limited to us before Yom-Kippur ended due to the prohibition of melacha.

In conclusion, when it comes to lighting candles on erev Yom-Kippur, it seems that the usually authoritative view of Rabbi Yochanan is that it is still dependant on custom , whereas when it comes to making the bracha of בורא מאורי האש  on motzai shabbos, his view is that we do so, but only with a נר ששבת.

We have also learnt two amazing lessons in positivity, the one regarding how we view opposing halachik views as both coming from a place of righteousness, and the other regarding the benefits of using non verbal communication to resolve disputes.

As usual, counter examples to both the above could be found, but we shall focus on this angle for purposes of this post.

Pesachim 50-51 When is a minhag binding?

In loving memory of my dear father, Moreinu haRav Avraham Benzion ben Azriel Hertz Isaacson zt’l, whose love of Torah, passion for justice, and acts of kindness inspire everything I do.

Much of modern Jewish practise involves extra-halachik customs which have developed between the time of the Gemara and now, and a thorough analysis of the scope and authority of such “minhagim” is required.

Whereas the authority of rabbinic law is based on biblical law, the authority of customs taken on by an individual, family, or community seemingly lack this  strong grounding, and needs to be sourced and defined.

In the opening Mishna of chapter 4, we see that at least certain types of minhagim are grounded in rabbinic law.

The Mishna takes for granted the prohibition of performing work after midday on Pesach eve (a discussion in its own right) and discusses the custom followed in some places to forbid it even before midday, ruling that each place needs to follow its own minhag in this regard.

It then addresses an individual who comes from a place with one custom, who is currently in a place with a different custom.

Here, the ruling is that a person must keep the stringencies of  his place of origin as well as those of the place he is currently in.

That means that such a person will need to avoid work on erev pesach either way, either because that is the custom of the place which he came from, or because it is the custom of the place where he currently is- both customs are binding on him.

The Mishna then adds that one should never act differently to the מנהג המקום  (the custom of the place where one is ) because of מחלוקת  (conflict.)

An initial analysis of this case in the  Mishna reveals that

  1. No mention is made as to whether the relocation is temporary, as in a visit, or permanent.
  2. There seems to be an inherent contradiction between the need to keep the stringencies of both places, and the need not to act contrary to the customs of the place one is in. For example, if a person comes from a place where work is not done the whole day  to a place where it is done before midday:
  3. The first rule implies that one must refrain from work in deference to his own custom
  4. The second rule implies that one should not refrain from work in order not to “stick out.”
  5. The case in the Mishna refers to a stringency practiced in a certain place. In cases where an actual rabbinic prohibition applies in one place and not in another, or where one place follows a different opinion regarding the עיקר הדין  (actual law) that the other, it is not clear yet whether the same principles apply.

When one examines the סיפא (last case) of the Mishna, one sees that this principle applies to a related though possibly different situation too.

This case revolves around the prohibition of eating produce of the שמיטה (sabbatical year) after that species is no longer available in the fields, before performing a procedure called בעור  (removal.)

The Mishna rules that if one takes such produce from a place where it is no longer available in the fields to a place where it is still available or vice versa, he must be stringent and perform בעור, in deference to either the practise in the place from whence he came or to the practise in his current location.

In this case, it is not simply a question of one locale taking on a certain stringency and not the other.

Here, the עיקר הדין  requires those in the one locale to perform בעור  on that specific species, whereas there is absolutely no reason for those in the other locale to do so yet.

One can also note that if the produce comes from a place where בעור is already required, the obligation might have already fallen on the produce ( in Brisker terms חיוב הבעור כבר חל על החפצא.)

Yet despite these essential distinctions, the same principle seems to apply, something we will hopefully return to in later posts.

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At the bottom of Daf 50, the Gemara discusses a different custom.

The people of ביישן  had the custom to avoid sailing from the port of צור  to the port of צידון  on erev shabbos, despite their proximity and the commercial need  for them to be there for the market day in צידון.

This was clearly an extra stringency not required by law, and Rashi explains that this was to avoid neglecting their shabbos preparations.

The next generation approached Rabbi Yochanan asking him to let them off this stringency, seeing as unlike their fathers, they were unable to cope with it.

He answered that their fathers had already accepted this stringency, and it was binding upon them, based on the verse “שמע בני מסור אביך ואל תיטוש תורת אימך”    (Mishlei 11- “Hear my son the “Mussar” of your father and do not forsake the Torah of your mother.”)

Unlike the case in the Mishna, which deals with מנהג המקום  (the customs of the place,) this case seems to be an example of מנהג המשפחה (a family custom.)

Despite the above, it is not immediately clear whether this ruling applies only while they continued to live in ביישן, or whether they would still be bound by it even after moving to a different place with no such stringency.

The Gemara moves on to discuss a different custom, this time a stringency of the people of חוזאי, who used to separate חלה  from rice.

When Rav Yosef was told about this, he ruled that a זר  (non kohain( should deliberately eat it in front of them (to make the point that חלה  taken from rice is NOT חלה!)

We are immediately faced with the question why this is different to any other מנהג המקום  (local custom) which needs to be respected, as in the previous cases we have discussed.

Abaya questions Rav Yosef’s ruling based not on our Mishna or the case with Rabbi Yochanan, but on a related halachik principle.

This is the rule of “דברים המותרים ואחרים נהגו בהן אסור אי אתה רשאי להתירן בפניהם”  – permitted things that others have forbidden to themselves may not be permitted by you in front of them.

As such, how could Rav Yosef permit a non-kohain to eat what the people of this town treated as חלה  in front of them?

Rav Yosef responded that Rav Chisda had already ruled that the above principle only applied to כותאי  (Samaritans,)  who already made light of rabbinic law and who might be led to further leniency by such actions, to which Abaya retorted that these people were like כותאי  – Rashi explains that this was due to their ignorance.

Due to the above, Rav Ashi qualifies  Rav Yosef’s ruling to only apply to a place where most of the people eat grain products.

In such a case, the concern that allowing a non-kohain to eat the rice “חלה”  In front of them would cause them to practise further unjustified leniency is mitigated by the risk that they would land up using rice as חלה  for grain, a very serious action which would result in them eating טבל.

As such, this was a stringency that could lead to sin, and needed to be crushed!

However, in a place where most people ate rice and there was no such concern, one should not undermine their stringency, as it had the benefit of helping them remember the laws of challah!

At first glance, this seems to be a typical example of stringency not required by law.  However, it is also possible that their “minhag” was to follow the halachik opinion of רבי יוחנן בן נורי  who considered rice to be a form of grain (Pesachim 35a), which would make this an example of a custom to follow an already existing stringent halachic opinion, not just a new practise without halachic precedent.

The Gemara proceeds to bring 3 other examples of minhagim where the rule of דברים המותרים…  applies, pointing out that all 3 cases involved בני מדינת הים  (“overseas” people) who due to their lack of proximity to Torah centers, were also ignorant and treated like כותאי  regarding this law.

It seems clear that whereas no distinction is made between ignorant and learned people in the case of our Mishna and that of בני ביישן, the rule of דברים המותרין  is limited to ignorant people, suggesting that two or more very different principles regarding the source and  authority of minhagim are at play here, despite the relationship between them implied by their proximity in the sugya.

____________________

The Gemara near the bottom of daf 51a brings yet another example of different customs.

This case revolves around דייתרא , a kind of fat that was treated as permitted in the land of Israel but not in Bavel.

It relates how רבה בר בר חנה  came from Israel to Bavel and continued to eat this fat, in accordance with the custom of Israel.

When רב עוירה סבא  and רבה בריה דרב הונא  came in, he quickly covered it up, so that they should not see him eating it.

Abaya, understanding that this was due to the rule of דברים המותרים … commented to them that רבה בר בר חנה  was obviously treating them like כותאי, further proof that this rule only applies to  ignorant people, but also very telling us what standards Abaya believed רבה בר בר חנה  applied to the definition of “ignorant” in this regard !

At this point, the Gemara finally relates to the principle of our Mishna and asks how רבה בר בר חנה could ignore the מנהג המקום and eat the דייתרא  even while he was by himself.

Whereas the rule of דברים המותרים… only applies לפניהם  (in front of those who are stringent,) it seems that the Gemara holds that the rule of the Mishna, namely following the stringencies of both places, applies in private as well.

Whereas Abaya answers differently, Rav Ashi answers that רבה בר בר חנה  intended to return to Israel, and in the absence of the concern of דברים המותרים…, the stringencies of Bavel were not yet binding on him!

With this distinction, Rav Ashi shows how he has interpreted the rule of “being bound by the stringencies of the place one has come to” as only applying to one who has relocated permanently.

Until one has permanently relocated, one is not personally bound by the stringencies of the place one is merely visiting, but simply needs to be careful not to “permit them” in front of the locals, if they are ignorant.

It is not immediately clear what the law would be where a person from a stringent locale permanently relocates to a lenient locale .

Would Rav Ashi go so far as to extend the rule that one goes by one’s permanent place of residence even to the leniencies of one’s new place, or would he require one to keep the stringencies of one’s previous abode even after permanently resettling?

The key to this and other unresolved issues that we have raised can be found in other sugyas on the subject, and will hopefully be discussed in our next post, in relation to second day Yom-Tov.

To sum up what we have seen so far, there are various  principles on which the authority of minhagim are based:

  1. מנהג המקום  (the local minhag) binds all inhabitants (the Mishna.)
  2. One who relocates is bound by the stringencies of his old place and of his current place (the Mishna) but this rule might depend on the nature of one’s relocation (as per Rav Ashi)
  3. One should not act contrary to local practise מפני המחלוקת  (the Mishna)
  4. A family minhag can be binding, based on the passuk in Mishlei. (the case of בני ביישן )
  5. Even where one is not bound by local stringency, one should not be lenient in front of the locals, if they are ignorant, due to the rule of דברים המותרים  .

The scope, authority, and interaction between these principles has been partly discussed already, and will hopefully continue in the next post, but it is clear that before one is able to define clear rules regarding the types of minhagim that are binding and under what circumstances they are binding, a thorough understanding of the above and any related sugyas needs to be obtained.

Not every custom is binding under all or any  circumstances, but the concept of certain customs being binding is well grounded in numerous Talmudic principles.

Pesachim 42-45 Mixtures with chametz and which products require kosher certification

In loving memory of my dear father, Moreinu haRav Avraham Benzion ben Azriel Hertz Isaacson zt’l, whose love of Torah, passion for justice, and acts of kindness inspire everything I do.

In earlier days, we did not have the level and scope of kosher supervision which is virtually taken for granted.  Meat products were always purchased from reliable sources, and there were various decrees made requiring milk, cheese, and bread to be produced by or in the presence of Jews but many other products were purchased from regular suppliers and assumed to be kosher by default.

With the advent of the industrial age and the listing of ingredients on products, it was not uncommon to rely on these ingredients lists to accept products as kosher, and it is only in recent decades that a hechser can be found for virtually every type of product imaginable, including some, such as bottled water, which certainly do not require one.

In order to make an educated decision as to which kinds of products required certification, which can be assumed by default to be kosher, and which can be treated as kosher based on ingredients, it is essential to have a broad and deep knowledge of all the halachik principles and laws pertaining to mixtures of kosher and non-kosher substances, AND ALSO  of the facts on the ground in each locale where products are produced and stored.

I do not profess to have this level of knowledge, and thus defer to experts in these matters, but as is our mandate, would like to at least highlight some of the issues from our dapim that relate to mixtures containing chametz on Pesach as well as mixtures that might contain non-kosher ingredients throughout the year.

One argument made by some people (often layman but also what appears to be a small minority of Bnei-Torah) who do not require certification for many shelf-items that contain mostly visible kosher ingredients is that any non-kosher ingredients do not form a significant part of the makeup and are thus בטל  (nullified) by the majority of kosher ingredients or even בשישים  (in sixty times.)

Others might not go this far but are happy to simply read the ingredients and make decisions based on what is listed. They sometimes argue that even if ingredient lists are not completely accurate and the government allows small quantities of certain ingredients to be excluded from these lists, such amounts are clearly negligible and the rule of בטול  applies, not only by majority, but even by 60 times!

Yet as we shall see, while there might be some merits to the arguments which allows one to rely on ingredients, assuming one is in fact familiar with each ingredient and what it is derived from (enzymes, flavorings, colorings spring to mind here,) this is also not quite so simple for various reasons, some of which I hope to address today.

The opening dapim of this chapter contain some of the most important principles pertaining to kashrut in general, and chametz in particular, namely the rules regarding the halachik treatment of mixtures containing both permitted and forbidden foods.

When a mixture contains both chametz and non-chametz material, for example, it is important to determine whether the mixture is defined based on its forbidden (chametz) ingredients or based on its permitted ingredients (non-chametz.)

One of the rules used to define the status of such a mixture is the biblical rule of בטול ברוב – a minority of either permitted or forbidden ingredients is nullified by the majority with opposite status, and the mixture takes on the status of its majority ingredients.

However, there are times, either on a biblical or rabbinical level, where even a minority of forbidden ingredients can impart its forbidden status to the entire mixture, and though this can apply in all areas of halacha, chametz on Pesach in one of the areas where we are most stringent in this regard.

The opening Mishna of the chapter lists various things that while forbidden and punishable on Pesach, are not subject to the extremely severe penalty of כרת .

Though there is some dispute amongst the Rishonim as to whether the Mishna is referring to a prohibition against eating these things, or even against owning them, it seems to be agreed upon that the things listed therein can be divided into 2 categories:

  1. תערובת חמץ  גמור –   a mixture containing fully fledged chametz
  2. חמץ נוקשה  – substances that have only partially fermented and are not fit for normal eating, but rather only for eating in an emergency.

The Bertenura explicitly states that the first 4 fit into the former category whereas the last 3 fit into the later category, and this grouping could be hinted at by the Gemara itself, which refers to “4 states” and “3 professions,” as well as later on daf 43.

For our purposes, I wish to focus on the first category, and the 4 examples given by the Mishna:

  1. כותח הבבלי  (Babylonian ‘kutach’ [roughly translated as dip])- the Gemara notes that this contains 3 unhealthy ingredients, namely נסיוני דחלבא  (the fatty milky residue left over from cheese making), מילחא (salt – according to Rashi specifically מלח סדומית), and קומניצא דאומא  (moldy bread)
  2. שכר המדי  (Median beer)- the Gemara notes that this contains barley water (what else it contains is not mentioned explicitly )
  3. חומץ האדומי  (Edomite vinegar)- the Gemara identifies this as wine vinegar that barley was added to in order to assist the fermentation process.
  4. זיתום המצרי  (Egyptian ‘zeytun’)- The Gemara says that this consists of one third barley, one third קורטמי  (a kind of herb used among other things to treat impotence-see Gittin 70a), and one third salt.

In all 4 cases, it appears that there is a significant minority of ingredients that contain chametz, and despite the usual rule of following the majority, the Gemara derives from כל מחמצת  (“any leaven”) that one is forbidden to eat even such mixtures.

The Gemara also notes that this stringency is not universally accepted but is the view of Rabbi Meir and/or Rabbi Eliezer (see debate between Rav Yehuda and Rav Nachman in this regard on daf 43a)- the Chachamim hold that at least on a biblical level, there is no such prohibition for such mixtures!

There are various possibilities regarding when and why this stringency would apply:

  1. The moment a kezayis of the mixture is eaten בכדי אכילת פרס  (In the time it takes to eat a loaf of bread- the usual period used for measuring a  kezayis)  , seeing as we view the entire mixture as chametz.
  2. Only if one eats a kezayis of the actual chametz contained within the mixture during the above period.
  3. If the entire mixture contains the taste of the chametz, and a kezayis of the mixture is eaten within the above period

The above are all discussed on the daf in the context of the principles of התר מצטרף לאסור  and  טעם כעיקר, an understanding of which is vital for any student of הלכות תערובות .

The first principle, subject to debate, is that when it comes to certain prohibitions, when  ) אסור a prohibited substance) is eaten together with התיר  (a permitted substance), the permitted substance joins together with the prohibited one to make up the kezayis for which one is liable.

It is thus possible to eat less than a kezayis of the actual אסור   and still be liable.

The second principle tells us that if a permitted substance contains the taste of a forbidden substance (such as water in which grapes were soaked, for a nazir), even if there is an insignificant amount of the original forbidden substance in it, the entire substance is viewed as אסור.  

Hopefully, we shall have more time to discuss these in the future- due to time limitations, I have been forced to be brief of late, yet one can immediately see that it is important to be very sure what ingredients are contained in products that one buys and that sometimes even miniscule amounts of non-kosher substances can render the entire product non-kosher, in the case that they give taste to the mixture, and as we shall hopefully see in future discussions, under various other circumstances too.

As such, it seems clear that when it comes to relying on ingredients alone, even in a place where kosher certified products are not available, the layman should not make these decisions himself, but should seek guidance from the kind of experts mentioned above, who is well versed both in the theoretical and practical matters required to make such decisions.

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.

Pesachim 37-38 Must the matza you eat on seder night belong to you?

In loving memory of my dear father, Moreinu haRav Avraham Benzion ben Azriel Hertz Isaacson zt’l, whose love of Torah, passion for justice, and acts of kindness inspire everything I do.

There is a well-known dispute between Rabbi Akiva and Chachamim regarding מעשר שני  (the second tithe that is supposed to be eaten in Jerusalem.)

Rabbi Akiva holds that this tithe is ממון גבוה  (the property of Hashem, so to speak) which the owners have the right to eat under certain conditions.

The Chachamim hold, in contrast, that it is ממון בעלים, the property of the owners, albeit with certain restrictions that apply to where it may be eaten.

At the bottom of daf 37b, Rav Asi lists 3 ramifications of this debate:

  1. A loaf of maaser sheini –  according to Rabbi Meir, חלה  need not be separated, whereas according to Chachamim, it must be.
  2. Matza of maaser sheini- according to Rabbi Meir, one may not fulfil one’s obligation with it on pesach night, whereas according to the Chachamim, one may.
  3. An esrog of maaser sheini- according to Rabbi Meir, one may not fulfil one’s obligation on the first day of sukkot with it, whereas according to Chachamim, one may.

The implication of Rav Asi’s words are that both Rabbi Meir and Chachamim agree that one needs to own the matza one uses on pesach night, just like with esrog and the dough which challah is separated from, the only debate is to whether a person is the owner of his maaser sheini or not.

Rav Papa immediately questions this ruling :

When it comes to the obligation of  separating challah, the passuk specifically refers to “עריסותיכם”  (your loaves), and regarding estrog (and the other 4 species) it specifically says “ולקחתם לכם”  (and you shall take for yourselves)- yet we do not see any such requirement regarding מצה!

Rava answers that we learnt his requirement from a   גזירה שוה  (comparison based on similar usage of language.)

Both מצה  and the dough which requires challah to be taken are referred to as  “לחם”  (bread) and both thus have to belong to the person.

Given that this is derived from one of the 13 principles used to interpret the Torah, it would seem that this is a biblical requirement without which one might not fulfil his obligation.

The Gemara then brings a beraisa to support the ruling of Rav Asi:

This beraisa says explicitly that maaser sheini is exempt from challah according to Rabbi Meir and liable to challah according to Chachamim.

The wording of the beraisa is so similar to Rav Asi’s first law that the Gemara wonders what is being taught by this.

It answers that the Amora meant to bring this beraisa as a support for ALL 3 rulings of Rav Asi- This is not a foregone conclusion for  we might have thought that Rav Asi’s נפקא מינה (practical ramification) was limited to challah where the word “עריסותיכם” is mentioned twice , but that when it comes to matza and esrog, even Rabbi Meir would agree that one can use maaser sheini, despite the גזירה שוה  and word “לכם”.

The obvious difficulty with this suggestion is that it does not seem to make sense ממה נפשך (whatever you say.)

If maaser sheini is ממון בעלים, then it  belongs to the owner of the produce and all 3 should be valid.

If on the other hand it is ממון גבוה, it does NOT belong to him and the fact that the requirement for ownership is mentioned once and not twice doesn’t change that!

Anticipating this issue, Rashi explains that we might have thought that the single mention of the requirement for ownership is coming to exclude a stolen or borrowed item, not מעשר שני  which one is at least permitted to eat , and that only in the case of challah (and possibly מצה  via ג”ש  but this is another subtlety in the text that requires study) where it is mentioned twice, is מעשר שני  also excluded.

The essence of Rashi’s explanation is that there are two different levels of lack of ownership:

  1. In the case of something that one has stolen or borrowed, one is not permitted to eat the item but must return it (one who is שואל  (borrows) an item is permitted to make use of it as is but not to eat or destroy it.) 

It is thus considered completely detached from him ownership-wise .

  1. In the case of מעשר שני , even Rabbi Meir agrees that although it is not one’s property, one is permitted to eat it. This gives a person a certain level of ownership in it, which we might have thought would be enough for the mitzva of esrog (and possible matza.)

The fact that the Gemara brought the Beraisa as a proof for all 3 rulings of Rav Asi, however, shows that there it holds that there is no distinction in practise, and that all 3 mitzvos require full ownership. (see in contrast Sukkah 35a where Rabbi Chiya bar Aba indeed holds that permission to eat the esrog is enough to make it fit for the mitzva!)

If we have read the sugya correctly, it seems to follow that just like the esrog has to belong to the person using it for the mitzva on the first day of sukkos, so also the matza has to belong to the person eating it for the mitzva on the first night of Pesach!

Not only would stolen matza not do the trick, but neither would borrowed matza!

This could have various ramifications:

  1. If many people put their matza in the same oven to bake, it would be necessary to ensure that everyone gets his own matza back, or at least make some form of valid transaction among one another that transfers ownership of each matza to whomever gets it back from the oven.  We have indeed seen a similar idea regarding lulavim left in shul over shabbos. (Sukkah  42b)
  2. If one borrows matza from one’s neighbor, one might need to take full ownership of it before using it for the mitzva.
  3. If one eats at someone’s else’s home and eats from HIS matzos, one might need to ensure that the owner legally (either implicitly or explicitly ) gives the matza to him as a gift before eating it, something that does not appear to be widespread practise.

The Tosfos seem to take the requirement for matza to belong to the eater seriously enough that they ask why the Gemara earlier brought other reasons for invalidating מצה של טבל  (matza that has not been tithed.)- it should be unsuitable simply because it does not fully belong to the eater! (see Tosfos on 38a for the two different answers he gives.)

Yet the Rambam (Chametz uMatza 6/  7 ),  while ruling that stolen matza may not be used,  groups it together with other things that one is not permitted to eat, such as טבל  and  מעשר ראשון from which תרומת מעשר  has not been separated.

He rules that anything which one does not say ברכת המזון ( grace after meals) for due to the act of eating it having been a sin, may not be used for matza, but that anything on which one does say it may indeed be used.  

It seems clear that the Rambam is only concerned about the aveira aspect and not the lack of ownership.

This reason is also backed by the Yerushalmi  (quoted by the Rosh and others) that specifically brings this reason.

Consistent with the above, the Rambam also allows one to use maaser sheini for matza, despite the fact he rules like Rabbi Meir that maaser sheini is ממון גבוה ! (Maaser Sheini 3/24)

The simple explanation of this Rambam seems to be that he does not rule like Rav Asi who requires the matza to belong to the eater, but followers the Yerushalmi that simply requires it to be something that one is halachically permitted to eat, due to the concern of מצוה הבאה בעבירה.

As normal practise is to follow the Bavli in a dispute with the Yerushalmi, this is unusual, but not entirely unprecedented for the Rambam, and in this case, it could be because Rav Asi’s ruling is subject to dispute by Rabbi Chiya bar Aba in the parallel sugya (Sukkah 35a.)

As such, the Rambam might hold that so longer as the person eating matza has permission from the owner to do so, and no sin is being committed by so doing, he fulfills his obligation, irrespective of whether he has full ownership of it or not.

In the case of the multiple people who put their matza in the oven and receive different matzos back, the fact that people implicitly give permission to others to eat their matza in exchange for them reciprocating might be sufficient according to the Rambam to remove any concern of מצוה הבאה בעבירה  even if ownership itself is not transferred, and the same would apply to borrowed matza.

On the other hand, according to Tosfot and other Rishonim who seem to see Rav Asi’s ruling as authoritative (see מהר”ם חלואה  who specifically rules this way regarding someone else’s matza) it seems that explicitly having in mind to transfer ownership might be required.

When it comes to eating matza given out by one’s host, it is necessary to determine what the halachik status of the host’s action is:

  1. He could be giving it as a complete gift to the guest
  2. He could simply be giving permission to the guest to eat HIS food without giving him ownership over it. This certainly seems to be the situation at a simcha buffet where one is permitted to eat whatever one wishes but may not take anything home with him, even once put on his plate.

If the former is correct, one would have to deal with the prohibition against acquiring things on   shabbos or Yom-Tov, but if a solution were found for this issue, one would fulfill one’s obligation according to all opinions.

However, if the second option his correct, then whereas according to the Rambam, permission to eat the matza might indeed be enough, according to the opinions that require complete ownership, one would need to ensure that he acquires the matza legally, assuming this is in fact possible on Yom-Tov.

When it comes to matza which one has borrowed from a neighbor, it seems that just like one may not use a borrowed esrog or lulav for the mitzva on sukkos, one may not used borrowed matza for the mitzva on pesach either.

However, the consensus of the poskim (Taz O.C. 454/4 , Mishna Berura 454/16) seems to be to follow the reasoning of the Ritva (Sukkah 35a)  who claims that borrowing matza is intrinsically different to borrowing an esrog.

When one borrows a consumable item like matza, the lender knows that the borrower is going to eat it and will not be returning the very same piece of matza that he received.

This  gives the transaction the status of a הלואה  (monetary loan,) where we apply the rule of מלוה להוצאה נתנה (a loan Is given to be spent.)

Unlike when one borrows an item for use and eventual return, borrowed money (or in this case food) automatically became the property of the  לוה (borrower) and a debt is created whereby the borrower owes the lender the equivalent amount.

In short, while there is reasoning to allow one to fulfill one’s obligation with one host’s matza, given that we are dealing with a biblical obligation, one would do well to consider all the above issues and it might indeed be preferable to bring one’s own matza with or make a valid transaction on the matza one is going to eat before Yom-Tov.

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