Masechet Beitzah 7a-13b

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03 Nov 2006

The Coming Week’s Daf Yomi by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim (original ideas) of Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.

This month’s Steinsaltz Daf Yomi is sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. Alan Harris, the Lewy Family Foundation, and Marilyn and Edward Kaplan

Beitzah 7

We have learned that activities that are essential for food preparation are permitted on Yom Tov, based on Shmot 12:16. Among the activities that are part-and-parcel of preparing a holiday meal is shechita – ritual slaughter – without which fresh meat would not be available. [It should be noted that modern innovations such as refrigeration have relegated shechita to commercial slaughterhouses, and the kosher kitchen rarely deals directly with such halakhot.]

Some animals – specifically fowl and wild animals – require a ritual called kissuy ha-dam, covering the blood of the slaughtered animal (see Vayikra 17:13). The Mishnah (2a) takes for granted that a person can, theoretically, slaughter an animal for its meat on Yom Tov, but what should be done about covering the blood? Plowing and other types of digging are forbidden on Shabbat and Yom Tov; the act of covering the blood – while an important mitzvah in connection with the act of shechita – cannot be considered an essential part of food preparation.

The Mishnah records a disagreement between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel on this issue. Bet Shammai recommends allowing shechita by lifting a deker that is already in the ground, allowing the dirt to fall onto the blood, thus fulfilling the requirement of kissuy ha-dam. According to Bet Hillel, a person should not slaughter an animal that requires kissuy ha-dam unless he has dirt prepared from before Yom Tov with which to cover the blood – although they agree that if a person has already slaughtered the animal, then Bet Shammai’s method can be used.

The term deker, used by Bet Shammai to describe the implement that may be used to cover the blood, is the subject of some disagreement among the rishonim. The Arukh defines it as a bar with a sharpened end. Rashi and others describe it as a spade.

The Re’ah explains that even Bet Shammai agrees that there has to be some level of preparation prior to the holiday for covering the blood. Thus he does not permit digging, rather making use of an implement that already was in the ground.

Beitzah 8

On yesterday’s daf we were introduced to the mitzvah of kissuy ha-dam – the obligation to cover the blood of fowl or wild animals that are slaughtered (see Vayikra 17:13). Thus, someone who performs shechita (ritual slaughter) on chicken or venison would be obligated to cover the blood, whereas shechita on cattle – e.g. cows, sheep, goats – would not be obligated in this mitzvah.

The Gemara on our daf introduces a koy – an animal that has the features of both a wild animal and a domesticated one – and rules that such an animal cannot be slaughtered on Yom Tov, since it is not clear whether slaughtering a koy obligates the shochet in kissuy ha-dam. Were it not Yom Tov, we could simply cover the blood without reciting the blessing. Since it is Yom Tov, however, we cannot permit a melacha to be done if there is doubt as to whether it is truly an obligation in this case.

Identifying the koy is a difficult task. Even though it is mentioned many times in the Mishnah and Talmudic literature, that is not because it is a common animal, rather because its status between a wild and domesticated animal allows it to be a test case for many halakhot. The disagreement as to its identification began in the time of the Mishnah, when some of the Sages argued that it is the offspring of a deer or similar animal with a goat. Others claim that it is a unique type of animal – an Ayal ha-bar.

The ayal ha-bar can be identified with the ovis musimon, which, according to many, is the forerunner of domesticated cattle. It is distinguished by its short hair and grey color, and it lives in mountainous regions, where it is a nimble climber – today mainly in uninhabited areas in Europe. It is likely that the clear similarities between a koy and a sheep, together with its being a wild animal, led to the Sages’ confusion about its classification.

Its name – koy – and even the pronunciation of the name, are themselves the subject of disagreement.

Beitzah 9

The new Mishna on our daf brings yet another disagreement between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel on the topic of food preparation on Yom Tov. If a person needs to climb up into a dovecote to bring down doves for food, Bet Shammai forbids moving a ladder from one dovecote to another, although he can shift it from one opening to another in the same dovecote. Bet Hillel permits even moving the ladder for one dovecote to another.

Rav Chanan bar Ami argues that the only disagreement is in public, when Bet Shammai is concerned with marit ayin. He is afraid that people will think that the ladder is being moved to assist in painting the roof – an activity forbidden on Yom Tov – while Bet Hillel is not concerned about that, since the dovecote indicates that the true nature of his activity is a permitted one. Were the dovecote in a private area, where there is no concern that someone will see and draw the wrong conclusion, even Bet Shammai permits moving the ladder.

In response to this ruling the Gemara objects by quoting a well-known statement of Rav Yehuda in the name of Rav who teaches that whatever the Sages forbade for reasons of marit ayin will be forbidden even “in a room within a room.” While our Gemara suggests that the tanna’im differ regarding this position, the Talmud Yerushalmi quotes a series of Mishnayot that clearly distinguish between activities done in public – which are forbidden – and in private – which are permitted, based upon which, the Yerushalmi rejects Rav’s teaching entirely. The Rashba and others suggest that there is room to differentiate between cases where there is suspicion of an act that is truly forbidden (like our case where painting the roof is forbidden on Yom Tov) and cases where people mistakenly think that a given action is forbidden. In the latter cases the Sages forbade performing such an action publicly, but permitted it to be done in private.

The Rambam rules that marit ayin applies even in private, and explains that our Mishnah is a unique case where the Sages were lenient in order to encourage joyous celebration of the holiday.

Beitzah 10

Generally speaking, animals are considered muktzah on Shabbat and Yom Tov. That is to say, farm animals whose normal activities are associated with melachot – activities forbidden on those days – cannot be used. Thus, in the event that an animal is to be slaughtered for food on Yom Tov, it must be prepared or set aside for such use prior to the beginning of the holiday.

The Mishnayot on our daf discuss doves that are set aside for food on Yom Tov. Bet Shammai rules that the doves must actually be handled to indicate that they have been chosen, while according to Bet Hillel it is enough to choose them by making a statement about which ones you want. It is interesting to note that in this case, all agree that the concept of muktzah exists, apparently because animals are similar to the case of drying fruit, which – as we will see at the end of the tractate – is something that everyone agrees is muktzah. In the case of drying fruit, once the fruit is put out to become dried it is clear to everyone that it has been set aside and will not be eaten – or even touched – until the drying process is complete. A similar idea exists in our case, where animals are set aside specifically for work (in the case of doves, they are usually raised to be trained as homing pigeons or carrier pigeons), and cannot be used for another purpose without a clear statement before the holiday.

The Re’ah points out that this is true only of animals like doves that are not specifically raised to be used for food. Chickens or geese, for example, which are raised for slaughter, would not require such preparation. Nevertheless, according to the Yam Shel Shlomo it is appropriate to choose specific chickens or geese before Yom Tov and set them aside, as well, if they are to be slaughtered on Yom Tov.

An obvious question that comes up regarding the Gemara‘s discussion of this matter is whether a person can announce before Yom Tov that the entire dovecote is set aside for slaughter for food on the holiday. Making such an announcement does not obligate one to use all of the doves, and would solve the Gemara’s concerns with which birds were actually prepared. The Rashba argues that someone who makes such a statement can successfully avoid all problems. Rabbeinu Peretz, Rabbeinu Yerucham and others say that this cannot be done because no one who raises doves would plan to destroy his entire dovecote, so the statement cannot be taken seriously.

Beitzah 11

Another case of muktzah that is discussed by Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel is the case of an eli – a board of sorts that was ordinarily used to grind or crush things that cannot be done on Yom Tov. Can such a pestle be used for permitted food preparation – e.g. cutting meat – on Yom Tov, or is it considered muktzah and cannot be moved?

In the Mishnah, Bet Shammai forbids the use of an eli, while Bet Hillel permits its use.

Tosafot ask why the eli cannot be used according to Bet Shammai. Although the ordinary use of the eli is for acts that are forbidden on Yom Tov, this appears to be a case of a kli she-melakhto le-issur, le-tzorekh gufo – it is an implement which is ordinarily used for a forbidden purpose (which would make it muktzah) for its own self – i.e. for another, permitted, purpose. Ordinarily such use – like cracking nuts with a hammer – is not considered muktzah and would be permitted on Yom Tov. This question also appears in the Talmud Yerushalmi, which offers an answer similar to Tosafot, that this eli is muktzah for other reasons beyond its being a utensil used for activities forbidden on Yom Tov. The additional source of muktzah might be that it is a valuable implement which is muktzah machamat chisaron kis – because of its value – and cannot be used for another purpose (Tosafot) or it is a large utensil that has a specific place set aside and is not really used for purposes other than its central function (Tosafot R”id). According to this answer, Bet Hillel, who permits its use, does so only because they are lenient in order to encourage simchat Yom Tov – to enhance the joyousness of the holiday.

The Me’iri gives a different explanation to the Mishnah. According to him, Bet Shammai forbids use of the eli because is appears to be a ma’aseh hol – a weekday activity – something that is not accepted by Bet Hillel.

Beitzah 12

As we have learned on the previous pages of Masechet Beitzah, the passage that forbids work on Yom Tov specifically permits those activities that are essential for food preparation for the holiday (see Shmot 12:16). Aside from activities that are directly related to food preparation, like cooking and baking, it is generally accepted that carrying from one place to another is also essential – to bring ingredients or prepared food to the house of a neighbor.

In the Mishnah on our daf we learn that Bet Shammai forbids carrying a child, a lulav or a sefer Torah into the public domain, while Bet Hillel permits them to be moved from one place to another. The Gemara explains that Bet Hillel rules kevan she-hutra le-tzorekh, hutra nami she-lo le-tzorekh – once carrying is permitted for the sake of food preparation on Yom Tov, it is permitted even for reasons aside from that of food preparation. Bet Shammai rejects this line of reasoning.

Even Bet Hillel would agree that there needs to be some purpose in carrying in order for it to be permitted on Yom Tov; lugging around rocks is forbidden even according to Bet Hillel. The purpose can be the needs of a mitzvah – like carrying a lulav to the synagogue or a sefer Torah to study from, or the needs of simchat Yom Tov, enhancing the joyousness of the holiday. Rabbeinu Tam explains that a child can be taken outside because staying at home, or leaving family members behind, would detract from the simchat Yom Tov of both the child and his parents.

Rabbeinu Chananel explains that all of the cases in the Mishnah are referring to situations where the object needs to be carried for the purpose of a mitzvah – the child needs to be circumcised, the lulav to be shaken during Hallel in the synagogue, the sefer Torah to be read from. Rashi, however, interprets the cases to be any need, even if it is not specifically a mitzvah.

Beitzah 13

When a farmer harvests his crop, the Torah obligates him to offer a series of tithes to the kohanim and levi’im as well as to the poor.

Among these tithes we find:

Although terumah gedolah does not need to be measured, since it can be any amount, how is one to measure the harvest in order to assure that the correct amount is distributed for ma’aser rishon and terumat ma’aser? The Talmud Yerushalmi offers three acceptable options:

Our Gemara brings the opinion of Abba Elazar ben Gimmel who quotes the passage in Bamidbar 18:27 and interprets it as meaning that there are two types of terumah, both of which can be distributed based on estimation and intent. This opinion is accepted as the halakha by the Rambam (Hilkhot Terumot 3:4), who rules that it is a mitzvah to distribute terumah gedolah based on estimation rather than by weighing or measuring it. The Me’iri applies this ruling to terumat ma’aser, as well, arguing that it is the responsibility of the Levi to be sure that he estimates generously so that the kohen will receive no less than 10% of the ma’aser rishon that the Levi received.

This teaching of Abba Elazar ben Gimmel is the only one that has been preserved, although due to its importance it appears several times in the Talmud. In the Sifrei the name appears as Abba Elazar ben Gamliel and the contraction to “Gimmel” “Gomel” and “Gamla” (as it appears in other sources) appears to be a nickname of sorts. He appears to have been a contemporary of Rabbi Akiva; during that period the title “Abba” was the honorific title given to a number of Sages.

In addition to his monumental translation and commentary on the Talmud, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored dozens of books and hundreds of articles on a variety of topics, both Jewish and secular. For more information about Rabbi Steinsaltz’s groundbreaking work in Jewish education, visit or contact the Aleph Society at 212-840-1166.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.