Torah Methodology #6 – Klal U’Prat U’Klal

The last part of the preliminary morning service each day is the “Braisa of Rabbi Yishmael.” (A braisa is a teaching contemporary with the Mishna but not included in the final text of that work.) Rabbi Yishmael’s braisa enumerates the thirteen methodologies used for studying the Torah. Once a week for thirteen weeks, we will examine these principles.

In the past two methodologies, we discussed a general followed by a specific (which limits things to the specific examples) and a specific followed by a general (which includes everything in the general category. Now we come to klal u’prat u’klal, a general case followed by a specific example followed by another general. The rule of k’lal u’prat u’klal is that it is not limited to the specific examples per se, but it is limited to things that are like those examples.

An example of klal u’prat u’klal can be found in Deuteronomy 14:26. There, the Torah tells us that money of the second tithe may be spent on “whatever your soul desires, on cattle, on sheep, on wine, on spirits, or anything your soul wants.” “Whatever your soul desires” is a general, “on cattle, on sheep, on wine, on spirits” is a specific, “or anything your soul wants” is another general. This limits things to items that are like meat or beverages – organic produce that comes from things that can generate more of their kind, like plants and animals do. This excludes things like water and salt that are inorganic and do not reproduce.

Another example: Exodus 22:8 speaks of legal liability for loss of “anything misused, an ox, a donkey, a sheep or a garment, any lost object that one can identify…” “Anything misused” is a general, “an ox, a donkey, a sheep or a garment” is a list of specifics, “any lost object…” is another general. From this klal u’prat u’klal, we limit the case to things that are like the specifics, namely personal property that is movable, to exclude real estate (or such abstract concepts as sleep or time).