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Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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Introduction to Pesachim
PESACHIM 2 - has been sponsored through a generous gift from Eli
Rosengarten of Zurich, Switzerland, and family
1) "OHR L'ARBA'AH ASAR" - THE NIGHT BEFORE THE FOURTEENTH
QUESTION: RASHI points out that the proper reading of the text of the
Mishnah is "Or l'Arba'ah Asar," with the letter "Lamed" coming after the
word "Or." Rashi repeats this on 3a, DH Or l'Shlishi. What alternative
text is he rejecting, and why?
2) THE REASONS FOR "BEDIKAS CHAMETZ"
(a) From TOSFOS Zevachim (56b, DH Or l'Shlishi) it is evident that there
was another text that read, "l'Or Arba'ah Asar," placing the "Lamed"
*before* the word Or. Tosfos rejects that reading because we find later
(2b) that the Gemara cites a Mishnah (when attempting to prove that "Or"
means night) that says, "l'Or Iburo," which clearly means the night
*after* the Ibur (the thirtieth day of the month). Our Mishnah, though, is
referring to the night *before* the fourteenth. Evidently, this is the
intention of Rashi here as well. When the "Lamed" comes before the word
"Or," it refers to the *following* evening, and when the "Lamed" comes
afterwards, it refers to the *preceding* evening. (This is also how the
MICHTAM explains Rashi, see Dikdukei Sofrim, #20).
(b) The RAN and MAHARAM CHALAVAH disagree with Rashi and maintain that it
does not make a difference where the "Lamed" is placed. Both ways can mean
either the evening before or after. Therefore, in order to avoid mistakes,
it is best to *leave the Lamed out* altogether ("Or Arba'ah Asar").
They point out that a practical Halachic difference between the meanings
of l'Or Arba'ah Asar and Or l'Arba'ah Asar manifests itself when writing
the date in a contract. According to Rashi, if the "Lamed" is before the
word "Or" in the date of the contract, then it refers to the night after
that day. According to the Ran, on the other hand, it could mean either
the evening before or after that day, and thus the safest way to write the
date is to write it without the "Lamed" at all (which refers to the night
preceding the day).
It could be that Rashi argues on this opinion as well and maintains that
the Mishnah should *not* leave out the "Lamed" altogether, but it should
say "Or l'Arba'ah Asar." His reasoning would be as follows.
The Gemara (3a) asks that if "Or" means night, then why did the Mishnah
say "*Or* l'Arba'ah Asaar" and not "Leilei Arba'ah Asar," which is a more
straightforward way of saying "the night of the fourteenth?" If the text
of the Mishnah has no "Lamed," then the Gemara's question is very weak.
Certainly the Mishnah would choose to say "Or Arba'ah Asar" over "Leilei
Arba'ah Asar," because that way the Mishnah saves one letter, and it
always preferable for the Mishnah to express the Halachah with the
shortest number of letters possible (as the Gemara says on 3b). The
Gemara's question, then, would not be valida. It must be that the proper
text is with a "Lamed." (M. Kornfeld)
RASHI (DH Bodkin) says that Bedikas Chametz serves as a preventative
measure so that we do not transgress the prohibitions of Bal Yera'eh and
TOSFOS disagrees with this analysis. The Gemara (6b) says that one who
does Bedikah must do Bitul (mental nullification) of the Chametz as well.
Once a person does Bitul Chametz, there is no longer any fear that he will
transgress Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei, because as a result of his Bitul
the Chametz is no longer extant (Pesachim 4b, see Insights there). If
Bedikah is done only to assure that one will not transgress Bal Yera'eh
and Bal Yimatzei, why does one still have to do Bedikah after Bitul? Bitul
should suffice without Bedikah!
(a) The RITVA and the RAN explain that either Bitul or Bedikah - --
whichever is done first -- will prevent one from transgressing Bal Yera'eh
and Bal Yimatzei. Rashi is therefore justified in saying that Bedikah
prevents transgressing Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei -- that is, if it is
done before Bitul.
The Acharonim point out that Rashi and Tosfos seem to disagree regarding a
fundamental understanding of how Bitul works. Tosfos did not suggest the
answers that the Ran and others give for Rashi, because he understood that
Bitul is a type of Kinyan, i.e. through Bitul one makes the Chametz
ownerless (Hefker). Therefore, Tosfos learned that it is impossible to be
concerned that after one does Bitul he might find Chametz on Pesach, wait
some time before destroying it, and thereby transgress Bal Yera'eh and Bal
Yimatzei ((b), above). Even if he does wait and does not burn it
immediately, it is Hefker, because his Bitul effected an actual Kinyan
making it as such. The person does not acquire the Chametz again by merely
looking at it and *wanting* it. Similarly, if one proclaims verbally his
Bitul, but does not have his heart in it, the Chametz nevertheless becomes
irrevocably Hefker (as opposed to the logic mentioned in (c), above). It
is the proclamation that matters when making a Kinyan, and not the mindset
The RAN goes so far as to suggest that the Mishnah, which mentions only
Bedikah and not Bitul, evidently was written prior to the Takanah
requiring one to do Bitul. At the time the Mishnah was written, it was
indeed only Bedikah which prevented a person from transgressing Bal
Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei. Only later, during the times of the Amora'im,
did the Rabanan make a Takanah that one should also do Bitul after the
Bedikah in case one did not find everything. (From that point on, we
apparently perform Bedikah for other reasons, and not just because of Bal
Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei -- see below, (d).)
(b) The RAN suggests further that a person is required to do Bedikah even
though Bitul suffices, because we are afraid that a person will find
Chametz on Pesach. Even though he was Mevatel it, when he sees it and it
looks good he might think in his mind that he wants to keep it. Such
thoughts will *invalidate* the Bitul from that point on, thereby causing
him to transgress Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei. (This is also the way the
BARTENURA understood Rashi. Indeed, Rashi himself (6b DH v'Da'ato)
mentions such a concept later on.)
(c) The RAN suggests another answer. Rashi holds that the reason Bedikah
is necessary to prevent Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei even though one did
Bitul is because we are afraid that one did not do the Bitul with a full
heart and absolute intent. When one is Mevatel half-heartedly, the Chametz
remains his, and he would transgress Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei.
(d) TOSFOS argues with Rashi and says that Bedikas Chametz is *not* done
in order to prevent one from transgressing Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei;
for that, Bitul suffices. Rather, the Bedikah is done only so that one
should not find any Chametz on Pesach and *eat* it. Thus, the Bitul and
the Bedikah serve two different purposes -- the Bitul prevents one from
transgressing Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei, and the Bedikah prevents one
from eating any Chametz that he might find on Pesach.
Rashi, though, perhaps understood the mechanism of Bitul as the Ran
explains it: Bitul is not a Kinyan, but it is a frame of mind whereby one
shows that he does not want the Chametz. That frame of mind knocks the
Chametz out of his ownership, as it were. (Although normally, it is not
possible to knock something out of one's ownership without a real Kinyan,
when it comes to Chametz on Pesach the Chachamim said that since it is
already out of his domain partially as a result of being Asur b'Hana'ah
(forbidden by the Torah to derive benefit from it), if one simply has a
frame of mind at the time that it becomes Asur b'Hana'ah that it is not
considered of value to him, it leaves his possession entirely. Since Bitul
is not a Kinyan but a frame of mind, it is a constant process - one must
constantly have in mind that he does not want the Chametz. Therefore, if -
- during Pesach -- he changes his mind and decides that he wants the
Chametz, then the Torah makes it his again, because it was never
absolutely Hefker (since there was no real Kinyan, just a frame of mind).
Similarly, if one did not do Bitul with full intention to make the Chametz
ownerless, since he did not have the proper frame of mind that the Chametz
is worthless, it remains in his domain.
2) A THIEF WHO COMES TO KILL
QUESTION: In the fifth of the Gemara's fifteen attempted proofs whether
"Or" means day or night, the Gemara cites a verse from Iyov which says,
"At *Or* the murderer arises... and at night he is like a thief," which
seems to imply that "Or" means day. The Gemara answers that the verse is
not saying that "Or" means day, but rather it is teaching that if it is
"clear to you like the light of day" that the thief has in mind to kill
someone, then you may kill him, but if you are not sure that the thief has
intention to kill, then you may not kill him.
The teaching which the Beraisa derives from the verse in Iyov is identical
to the teaching derived from the verse in the Torah which discusses a
thief who breaks in, as discussed by Rashi (Shemos 22:1,2): "'If the sun
shone upon [the thief]' -- this is a metaphor, meaning, 'If it is as clear
that the robber is at peace with the homeowner as it is clear that the sun
brings peace to the world.' That is, if it is clear that the robber will
not kill even should the homeowner stand before him to protect his
property -- for instance, if a father is found trying to steal from his
son -- in such a case... it *is* considered murder if the thief is
The verse, if read literally, limits this law to nighttime robbers ("If
the sun shone..."). However, Rashi, based on the Gemara (Sanhedrin 72a)
explains that this is not so. A would-be robber/murderer may be killed in
an act self-protection both by day and by night (Mechilta ad loc.).
Rather, if it is "as clear as day" that the homeowner's life is *not* in
danger, he may not slay the robber. The Torah's mention of day is to be
understood as no more than an idiomatic expression.
How is it possible to interpret a verse in the Torah by ignoring its
literal meaning? Is it not a rule that "Ein Mikra Yotzei m'Ydei Peshuto" -
- the simple meaning of a verse is always preserved?
(a) We find numerous instances in which Chazal teach that the words of a
particular verse are *not* to be taken literally. A Beraisa teaches that
"words of the Torah should not be understood metaphorically *except for
three instances*...," one of which is the verse we are discussing.
(Beraisa of "Rebbi Eliezer's 32 Midos," #27; Mechilta Shemos 21:19 and
Indeed, the Rambam uncharacteristically makes a point of stressing that
these three verses must be understood in a non-literal fashion (Hilchos
Geneivah 9:8-10; Hilchos Rotze'ach 4:4).
(b) However, other early commentators insist that the above verses may
indeed be understood in a most literal fashion. RA'AVAD (Hilchos Geneivah
9:8) explains that by day, it is not permitted to kill the robber since
the robber probably meant to run away immediately if spotted. A night-
thief knows that the owner is in the house, and he comes to kill or be
killed, while a day-thief assumes that the owner is not home, and plans on
making a quick getaway. The RAMBAN (on the Torah, ad loc.) proposes a
similar interpretation of the verse, suggesting that a day-thief will not
kill for he is afraid he will be recognized and tried for his crime.
(The Ramban and Ra'avad do not mean to argue with the Midrashim cited
above. Rather, it is their opinion that the simple, literal understanding
of the verse is only *slightly modified* by the metaphoric interpretation.
The verse is giving a *common example* of a certain law. *Commonly*, the
day-thief will not kill and the night-thief will, therefore one may not
kill a day-thief. However, it is not day or night that determines whether
or not the thief may be killed, but rather the readiness of the thief to
kill. Therefore a father robbing a son may not be killed, since the life
of the son is certainly not endangered. See Parasha-Page, Mishpatim 5758
for further analysis of this subject.)