Pesahim 22a-b - Deriving meaning from every word
In order to investigate whether the Torah forbids deriving benefit from things that cannot be eaten in general, our Gemara considers a number of cases of forbidden foods in an attempt to clarify whether an issur hana'ah (prohibition against deriving benefit) is an inherent part of this proscription. Among the cases examined are gid ha-nashe [sciatic nerve] (see Bereshit 32:33), blood (see Vayikra 17:12), ever min ha-hai (see Devarim 12:23) and shor ha-niskal (see Shemot 21:28).
The case of shor ha-niskal is one where someone's ox gores and kills another person. In that case, the Torah teaches that the ox is stoned and its meat cannot be eaten. The passage that says that its meat cannot be eaten - v'lo ye'akhel et besaro - is understood by the Gemara to teach us prohibitions against eating its meat, as well as deriving benefit from its meat. According to some opinions in the Gemara, the word et is understood to teach that the animal's hide also cannot be used; according to others we must learn this from elsewhere in the passage, since they do not believe that the word et can be used to teach halakhot.
As it was taught in a baraita: Shimon HaAmmassoni, and some say that it was Nehemya HaAmmassoni, would interpret all occurrences of the word et in the Torah, deriving additional halakhot with regard to the particular subject matter. Once he reached the verse: "You shall be in awe of the Lord your God [et ha-Shem Elokekha tira]; you shall serve Him; and to Him you shall cleave, and by His name you shall swear" (Devarim 10:20), he withdrew from this method of exposition, as how could one add to God Himself? His students said to him: Rabbi, what will be with all the etim that you interpreted until now? He said to them: Just as I received reward for the interpretation, so I shall receive reward for my withdrawal from using this method of exposition. The word et in this verse was not explained until Rabbi Akiva came and expounded: "You shall be in awe of [et] the Lord your God": The word et comes to include Torah scholars, and one is commanded to fear them just as one fears God. In any case, Shimon HaAmmassoni no longer derived additional halakhot from the word et.
One of the popular questions asked by the rishonim about this baraita is, why did Shimon HaAmmassoni encounter difficulties only when he reached this passage? Shouldn't the passage in Devarim 6:5 – v'ahavta et ha-Shem Elokekha, that you should love Hashem your God - have presented the same type of problem? The Maharsha suggests that Shimon HaAmmassoni had no doubt that there was an obligation to love Torah scholars that could be derived from that pasuk (verse). His only question was whether the same rule could apply to awe, as well, a question that Rabbi Akiva eventually related to.
Pesahim 23a-b - Deriving benefit from the sciatic nerve
As noted on yesterday's daf (page), the Gemara considers a number of cases of forbidden foods in an attempt to clarify whether an issur hana'ah - a prohibition against deriving benefit - is an inherent part of the issur akhila - the prohibition against eating something. One of the cases where we find a disagreement on this matter is gid ha-nashe (the sciatic nerve - see Bereshit 32:33), where Rabbi Shimon rules that we cannot derive benefit from it and Rabbi Yosei HaGelili rules that we can.
The Gemara suggests that Rabbi Yosei HaGelili learns this from a kal va-homer (an a fortiori argument) as follows: We know that the punishment for eating helev (forbidden fats) is very severe (karet), and that the punishment for eating gid ha-nashe is less severe (malkot). Since one is allowed to derive benefit from helev (this is clearly indicated in the Torah - see Vayikra 7:24), then certainly in the less severe case of gid ha-nashe one would be permitted to do the same.
The Gemara asks: And why does Rabbi Shimon, who prohibits deriving benefit from the sciatic nerve, not accept this a fortiori inference? The Gemara answers: This inference can be refuted, as it is possible to say: What is unique to fat? Is it that it is released from its general prohibition with regard to non-domesticated animals, as the prohibition only applies to the fats of kosher domesticated animals. Can you say the same with regard to the sciatic nerve, which is not released from its general prohibition with regard to non-domesticated animals and remains prohibited? Apparently, in some ways the prohibition of the sciatic nerve is more stringent than that of fat.
The expression used by the Gemara to argue against a kal va-homer is ikka lemifrakh – literally, "you can break the argument." The idea is that a kal va-homer is predicated on the assumption that one law is more severe than another and will remain so in all of its characteristics. If we can find even one instance where that assumption does not hold up, that is to say, if we can find even one case where the assumed hamur (severe case) is kal (lighter) or the assumed kal case is hamur, the kal va-homer relationship is broken. In that case we can no longer extrapolate from one case to the other.
Pesahim 24a-b - Can one be held liable several times for eating one forbidden food?
While discussing hametz and its status on Pesah, the Gemara compares it to other situations where the Torah forbids eating certain foods, and to those sources in the Torah from which we learn those prohibitions. In several cases, when the Gemara finds a passage that seems repetitious, it tries to derive from it other halakhot regarding forbidden food.
Upon observing this methodology, Ravina asks Rav Ashi whether perhaps the Torah repeats the halakha in order to teach us that a person can be held liable several times for eating one forbidden food. To prove that such a thing is possible, he quotes Abaye who taught that someone who eats a putita would receive four sets of malkot (lashes) from the Bet Din, someone who eats a nemalah (an ant) receives five sets of lashes, and someone who eats a tzirah (a wasp) receives six sets of malkot – each set representing a further prohibition that attaches to that particular non-kosher creature.
Rav Ashi responds that the Gemara is only willing to apply a Biblical passage to the creation of an additional prohibition if it cannot find a more useful purpose for the pasuk (verse).
We are not certain of the identity of the putita, for which Abaye ruled that there are four prohibitions, since it is not very well described in the Gemara. From what we know, it is likely a small water creature, perhaps a water beetle, or, as the Arukh explains, a non-kosher fish, like a small eel. Some point to a similar word in Latin, which is a general term for several types of flat fish – most of them non-kosher – that live on the bottom of rivers.
With regard to the idea that you can be held liable for several forbidden actions by eating one non-kosher creature, it is interesting to note that in his introduction to his Sefer ha-Mitzvot, Maimonides sets out a number of general principles that govern his decision as to whether something should be considered one of the 613 commandments. One of the basic principles that he puts forward is that even if a given law is repeated a number of times in the Torah it does not indicate that the thing is commanded or forbidden more than once. Due to this position, the Rambam is forced to explain the cases in our Gemara as referring to unique creatures whose physical makeup allows them to fall under separate categories – that it is a water insect, a winged insect, a crawling insect, etc. – all at the same time. Most other rishonim, however, follow the opinion of the Geonim, who accept this Gemara at face value and understand that you can, on occasion, be held liable several times for one Biblical prohibition.
Pesahim 25a-b - To save a life
As we have seen, not only is it forbidden to eat hametz during Pesah, deriving other benefit from it is prohibited as well. In order to develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between eating and deriving benefit from forbidden foods, the Gemara compares hametz to other things forbidden by the Torah, including basar be-halav (meat and milk) and kilei ha-kerem (wheat grown in a vineyard). One point the Gemara makes very clearly is that in a case of piku'ah nefesh – of danger to human life – we dispense with all of these rules. Ravin in the name of Rabbi Yohanan taught that anything – even things usually forbidden – can be used to save someone who is in danger, with the exception of three things: Avodah Zara (idol worship), Gilui Arayot (forbidden sexual relations) and Shefikhut Damim (murder).
The Gemara presents Biblical passages as the source for this rule regarding Avodah Zara and Gilui Arayot. When it comes to Shefikhut Damim the Gemara argues that no proof-text is necessary, as it is a sevara – a logical argument – that murder cannot be permitted to save a life. To illustrate the sevara, the Gemara tells of a person who approached Rava with the following question:
"The ruler of my village came to me and said 'kill that person, and if you do not then I will kill you.' Can I follow his order so that I will be able to save myself?"
"Allow yourself to be killed, but you may not kill another. Who says that your blood is redder than his? Perhaps his blood is redder than yours."
On a simple level, Rava's argument is that we cannot tell whose life is more valuable, so we will not allow you to save your life at the expense of another.
Rabbenu Yehonatan explains Rava's answer by arguing that really the laws of the Torah are so important that we would not allow them to be "pushed aside" even at the expense of human life. The reason the halakha permits someone to transgress a serious prohibition – like Shabbat – in order to save a life is because we weigh that single hillul Shabbat (desecration of Shabbat) against the potential Shabbatot that the person will observe in the course of his lifetime. In our case the argument is that we cannot possibly know "whose blood is redder" i.e. who will live longer and perform more mitzvot.
Pesahim 26a-b - Benefiting from consecrated objects
One of the examples that the Gemara discusses of things that are assur behana'ah – that one cannot derive pleasure or benefit from – is kodashim – things consecrated for use in the Temple. The technical term for deriving such pleasure is me'ilah – making inappropriate use of sacred property.
A baraita is brought by the Gemara quoting Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi who teaches that not all types of benefit are considered me'ilah. Specifically, sound (e.g. hearing the singing of the Levites), sight (e.g. viewing the beauty of the Temple itself or even making use of the light from the Temple for mundane activities) and smell (e.g. enjoying the smell of the ketoret – the Temple incense) are not considered making inappropriate use of the Temple's property.
The Gemara questions this ruling by pointing out that the Torah prohibits one from making ketoret for his own use (Shemot 30:37), and that someone who smells the ketoret that was made for use in the Temple may not be held liable for it, but nevertheless is considered to have committed me'ilah.
Pappa said: Sound and sight are not subject to the prohibition of misuse of
consecrated property, because they have no substance.
Therefore, smelling the ketoret would be considered me'ilah until after it had been lit, that is to say, until after the mitzvah had been fulfilled. The distinction that Rav Pappa makes is based on the fact that the properties of both smell and taste are carried by tiny bits of the substance itself that act upon receptors in the person's nose and mouth. Thus, the senses of smelling and tasting derive benefit from the object itself. In order to see and hear, however, the body has receptors that react to light waves or sound waves that come from an object, but are not part of the object itself.
Pesahim 27a-b - Making inappropriate use of sacred property
On yesterday's daf (page) we learned of the unique status of kodashim – things consecrated for use in the Temple, and the rule of me'ilah – making inappropriate use of sacred property. The source for the laws of me'ilah appears in Vayikra 5:14-16, and an entire tractate of the Talmud – Massekhet Me'ilah – is devoted to the study and analysis of this rule. Here is a brief synopsis of me'ilah:
When someone derives benefit or pleasure by accident from something that has been consecrated to the Temple (i.e. he does not realize that the thing was kodesh), he is considered to have committed me'ilah, and he will be obligated to bring an appropriate sacrifice, and to pay back the value of his benefit to the Temple, together with an additional fifth (20%) as a penalty. Generally speaking, after the object has been used for some mundane purpose and the person has fulfilled the requirements as mentioned above, the object then loses its status as kodashim and can now be used for normal purposes (hullin). In effect, the holiness has transferred from the object to the money that has been paid to the Temple in its place.
As noted above, the rules of me'ilah only apply when the object was used by accident. If someone makes use of kodesh – of an object that belongs to the
Another halakha about kodashim discussed on our daf is the rule that it cannot become batel – it cannot become nullified when combined with other things. The background to this rule is that most things can become nullified when they are in a mixture in such a small quantity that they can no longer be noticed. For most food, for example, the ratio is 60:1; therefore, when there is sixty times more kosher meat than non-kosher meat, we view the non-kosher meat as having been nullified and the mixture is permitted.
There are a number of explanations as to why this rule is not applied to kodashim. The Meiri suggests that it is because in this case, aside from the question of issur ve-heter – of permissibility on a ritual level – there are also questions of money and ownership involved, since the kodashim is perceived as being the property of the Mikdash. Those types of questions are not governed by the same rules of bittul (nullification).
Pesahim 28a-b - Laws that applied only to the first Passover
The Torah tells us the story of the first Passover holiday that was celebrated at the time that the Jewish people were leaving Egypt (Shemot 12) and specifically commands to continue celebrating the anniversary of this event when they arrive in the Promised Land (12:25). Furthermore, the Torah emphasizes that this commemoration is an obligation for all time (12:24). Yet we know that the rules and regulations that applied to the Children of Israel at the time that they were leaving
Clearly, many of the rules apply whenever Jews celebrate Pesah, whether in Egypt, Israel or in the Diaspora. Yet, the pesukim (verses) in Sefer Shemot are not clear with regard to establishing which rules were meant to apply for all generations and which only for the first Passover.
As basic a rule as the law forbidding eating hametz is subject to a disagreement in the Gemara. Rabbi Yosei HaGelili is quoted in a baraita as saying that during the Exodus the prohibition to eat hametz lasted only one day. While this does not have practical ramifications for us today, when it is clear that the prohibition is in place for the entire seven day holiday, it points to the different possible interpretations of the passages in Sefer Shemot. Rabbi Yosei HaGelili interprets the juxtaposition of the statement "…and you shall not eat hametz" to "today you are leaving" (see Shemot 13:3-4) as indicating that the prohibition of hametz during yetziat mitzra'im (the exodus from