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PESACHIM 17 - Dedicated by Reb Mordechai Rabin (London/Yerushalayim)
1) CHAGAI'S QUIZ TO THE KOHANIM
QUESTION: Chagai tested the Kohanim who returned from the exile in the time
of the second Beis ha'Mikdash. He asked them what the Tum'ah-Taharah status
would be in the case of a Sheretz which touched an object, which in turn
touched another object, until a total of four levels of objects had been
touched. "If one carried affected meat (Rashi: a Sheretz) in the hem of his
garment, and with his garment he touches bread, and cooked food, and wine,
and oil, and any other food, does it become Tamei? The Kohanim answered and
said, 'No'" (Chagai 2:12).
From the Gemara it is clear that according to the verse's simplest reading,
Chagai was asking about an object that was four levels of Tum'ah below a
Sheretz ("Revi'i b'Kodesh"). The verse, then, should have mentioned only
five things -- a Sheretz and four levels below. Yet the verse mentions seven
How does the Gemara see here only five objects, when seven are listed?
- affected meat ("Basar Kodesh" = Sheretz),
- the garment,
- cooked food,
- oil, and
- "any other food?"
(a) RASHI explains that "affected meat" ("Basar Kodesh") means Sheretz, and
the word "Kodesh" here means "Tamei," defiled. The word "garment" also
refers to the Sheretz itself, since the Sheretz is held in the garment, and
not to a garment which merely touched a Sheretz. The last two items in the
verse, oil and "any other food" are a single either/or phrase and are not
separate levels. Thus, he does not count numbers 2 & 7.
(b) TOSFOS disagrees strongly with Rashi's explanation and asserts that
there is no reason to say that "any other food" goes together with oil more
than any of the other items mentioned in the verse go together. Furthermore,
there is no reason to skip the garment and assume that it is not a separate
level touched by the Sheretz. (This question is especially strong, since the
Gemara looks for one more level according to Shmuel, and it does not simply
answer that the garment is separate from the Sheretz. Secondly, according to
this way of counting, Ravina [later in the Gemara] is declaring the bread an
Av ha'Tum'ah, as Rashi tells us DH Ravina. But food can never be more than a
Tosfos therefore explains that it was known to everyone that a food can only
be Metamei a liquid or v.v., but not food/food or liquid/liquid.
Consequently, when Chagai said that the garment touched bread and cooked
food, he meant that it touched *either* bread *or* a cooked food, and not
that the bread touched a cooked food, because bread and cooked food are both
solids and one cannot be Metamei the other. Similarly, wine and oil cannot
be Metamei one another because one liquid cannot be Metamei another liquid.
Therefore, those two pairs must have been either/or choices. We then
eliminate numbers 4 & 6, leaving only five items.
(c) The METZUDAS DAVID says that perhaps it was known to everyone that a
liquid cannot be Metamei mid'Oraisa (in accordance with the Tana in the
Beraisa who is of that opinion). It is clear that Chagai could not have
meant that the wine or oil touches something else and makes it Tamei.
Rather, wine or oil must be the last step in the chain of Tum'ah because
they cannot make anything after them Tamei. Therefore, the last three items
-- wine, oil, or any food -- go together and are read as either/or,
eliminating numbers 6 & 7.
(d) The RADAK says that "affected meat" ("Basar Kodesh") is not referring to
the Sheretz itself. The Sheretz is not mentioned in the verse, but it is
understood that it is the source of the Tum'ah which made the meat Tamei.
The chain of transferal of Tum'ah starts with the Sheretz and ends with
bread: a Sheretz touched the meat (making it a Rishon), the meat ("Basar
Kodesh") touched a garment (making it a Sheni), and then the garment touched
bread (making it a Shelishi). All of the other items listed in the verse
after bread until "any other food" are alternatives to bread ("either bread
or..."). "Any other food" is a separate step, and the fourth and final one
(making it a Revi'i), in the chain of Tum'ah. (That is, he eliminates
numbers 4,5 &6, and adds an unmentioned Sheretz to the verse.)
2) REBBI YEHUDAH'S OPINION THAT LIQUIDS ARE "METAMEI" UTENSILS MID'ORAISA
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses the opinion of Rebbi Yehudah who says that if
we are not sure whether a liquid touched a utensil or not, then out of doubt
we assume that the utensil is Tamei. The Gemara says that it must be that
Rebbi Yehudah holds that mid'Oraisa a liquid can be Metamei a utensil, since
otherwise, Rebbi Yehudah would not be consider the utensil Tamei in a case
of a doubt.
How does the Gemara know that Rebbi Yehudah's reason for being stringent
when in doubt is because he holds that liquids can be Metamei utensils
mid'Oraisa? Perhaps there is another reason why he is stringent:
(a) Perhaps Rebbi Yehudah maintains that a Safek d'Rabanan is also Tamei in
Reshus ha'Yachid, and that is why he says that a utensil is Tamei when in
doubt if a Tamei liquid touched it. The RAN in Nedarim (19a) mentions such
an opinion. (SEFAS EMES)
ANSWER: The SEFAS EMES, based on the PNEI YEHOSHUA, answers that there is
indeed no proof from the words of Rebbi Yehudah here that he holds that
liquids can be Metamei utensils mid'Oraisa. However, the Gemara is basing
itself on the words of a Beraisa in Toras Kohanim and in the Yalkut (Parshas
Shemini), where we find that Rebbi Yehudah learns from a verse that liquids
are Metamei utensils.
(b) Perhaps Rebbi Yehudah is stringent in the case of a doubt whether a
Tamei liquid touched the utensil because he is referring to utensils other
than earthenware, that can be brought to the Mikvah and made Tahor. Since
they can be made Tahor, they have the status of a "Davar she'Yesh Lo
Matirin," for which we must be stringent even when dealing with laws that
are d'Rabanan, as the Gemara says in Beitzah 4a. (TZELACH)
The Pnei Yehoshua adds that with this Toras Kohanim in mind we can
understand another point in our Sugya. In the Toras Kohanim, Rebbi Yehoshua
ben Karchah asks a question on the opinion of Rebbi Yehudah, and Rebbi
Yehudah does not give an answer. If so, we can now see why our Gemara, in
the conclusion, says simply that Rebbi Yehudah changed his mind and
rescinded his opinion that liquids are Metamei utensils mid'Oraisa.
Normally, we do not just give up and say that a Tana "changed his mind, but
here the implication of the Toras Kohanim is that Rebbi Yehudah admitted to
the validity of the question posed to his opinion.