Masechet Chullin 82a-88b

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15 Sep 2011

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.

Chullin 82a-b: Setting priorities in the slaughter of animals

We have learned above (see daf 78) that the Torah forbids the slaughter of an animal whose parent was killed on that day. Similarly, if the offspring was killed first, the parent cannot be slaughtered on that day (oto ve-et beno – see Vayikra 22:28). The Mishnah on today’s daf teaches that if mother and offspring were sold on the same day, the person who made the first purchase has the right to slaughter his animal first on that day, precluding the second from slaughtering. If, however, the person who made the second purchase went ahead and slaughtered his animal first, he has successfully claimed the right to do so and the other purchaser may not slaughter the animal that he purchased that day.

The reasoning for this law is explained in the Tosefta. When someone purchases an animal, there is an implicit understanding that he is buying the animal in order to slaughter it on that day. For that reason, he has the right to slaughter the animal that he purchased before the seller slaughters the animal – the mother of the offspring – that he retained. When a second person makes the second purchase, the seller cannot offer him greater rights in the animal than he, himself owns. Therefore the second purchaser buys an animal that should not be slaughtered if the first purchaser chooses to take advantage of his right to slaughter his purchase first.

Based on this explanation the Rosh rules that the law of the Mishnah applies only if the two people purchased the animals from a single supplier. If, however, they bought their animals from two different sellers, then this law would not apply, and either of them has the right to slaughter the animal that they purchased first. The Bach suggests that they use a lottery to decide who should go first.

Chullin 83a-b: When many animals are slaughtered and eaten

According to the Mishnah on today’s daf, there are four periods in the year when someone who sells an animal to another must inform him, “Today I sold its mother to be slaughtered,” or “Today I sold its young to be slaughtered.”

These days include:

Rabbi Yosi HaGalili rules that this is true also on the eve of Yom Kippur, in the Galilee.

The reason for this law is that on these days many people slaughtered animals in preparation for the holiday, so it is understood that the purchaser has bought the animal for the holiday. If it cannot be on that day for that purpose, the purchaser would have to be told. Similarly, according to the Mishnah, if the seller sold a mother animal to the family of a groom and its offspring to the family of the bride he would have to inform them, since it is likely that they will be planning to slaughter the animals on the same day.

Tosafot quotes Rabbeinu Tam as suggesting that on Sukkot people only prepared meat for their meals on the last day of the holiday because at the beginning of the holiday they were occupied with the other commandments of the day – lulav and sukkah. The last day – Shemini Atzeret – is considered a unique holiday on its own that was viewed as a day that celebrates the special relationship between God and the Jewish People (see Masechet Sukkah, daf 55b).

The reason for concern prior to Yom Kippur, would appear to be based on the Gemara in Masechet Yoma (daf 81b) that teaches that someone who eats and drinks on erev Yom Kippur is credited as though he had fasted on both the ninth and the tenth days of Tishrei. This is generally understood to mean that there is a special mitzvah to eat on the day before Yom Kippur. Tosafot explain that although this would appear to apply everywhere, it was only in the Galilee that people ate meat; in other places people preferred lighter fare, like fish or poultry.

Chullin 84a-b: Practical advice from Rabbi Yochanan

On today’s daf we find Rabbi Yochanan offering general advice about a number of life issues.

Rabbi Yochanan also said: Rather drink a cupful of witchcraft than a cupful of lukewarm water; that is so only if it is in a metal vessel, but in an earthenware vessel it does no harm. Moreover, even in a metal vessel we say it is harmful only if no spice roots were thrown into it, but if some spice roots were thrown into it, it does no harm. Moreover, even if no spice roots were thrown into it we say it is harmful only if the water had not been boiled, but once it had boiled it can do no harm.

We are aware of danger in lukewarm water inasmuch as the low-level heat encourages the development of bacteria. Two opposite processes would protect from this development:

Rabbi Yochanan also said: If a person is left a fortune by his parents and wishes to dissipate it, let him wear linen garments, use glassware, and engage workmen and not be with them. ‘Let him wear linen garments, especially of Roman linen; ‘use glassware,’ especially white glass; ‘and engage workmen and not be with them,’ especially to work with oxen, which can cause much damage.

In all likelihood, what is referred to as “white glass” is actually transparent glass, which is much more difficult to make than ordinary colored glass. To make transparent glass, the purest raw materials need to be prepared. During Talmudic times, such glass was rare and expensive. Usually utensils made from such glass were also more delicate, and thus, more breakable.

Chullin 85a-b: Rabbi Chiya and his family

In the context of discussing the mitzvah of kisui ha-dam – the halacha that requires the blood of wild animals and birds to be covered after ritual slaughter (see Vayikra 17:13), which is the focus of the current perek – the Gemara tells a story about Rabbi Chiya. Rabbi Chiya’s flax became infested with insects, and Rabbi’s advice to him was to slaughter a bird over water so that when the worms would smell the blood they would abandon the flax. While the Gemara is initially concerned with why Rabbi suggested slaughtering a bird over water with no apparent concern for the obligation of kisui ha-dam (ultimately the Gemara received testimony that Rabbi’s suggestion was to kill the bird in a manner that would have rendered it non-kosher, and therefore free of the obligation to cover its blood), eventually the Gemara turns to another question: How could such a thing happen to Rabbi Chiya?

How came it that his flax was infested with insects? Did not Rabin bar Abba (others say Rabbi Abin bar Sheva) declare that from the time that the people of the Exile came up to the Land of Israel there ceased to be shooting stars, earthquakes, storms and thunders in Israel, the people’s wines never turned sour and their flax was never blighted; and the Rabbis set their eyes upon (i.e. credited) Rabbi Hiyya and his sons?

The Gemara responds that although the whole world benefited from their merits, they, themselves, did not.

Rabbi Chiya bar Abba was one of the last of the Tanna’im – a pupil and colleague of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. Originally from Babylonia, his family genealogy was linked to King David. His twin sons, Yehuda and Chizkiya were known for their piety; his twin daughters, Pazi and Tavi, headed families of important scholars.

We learn of the importance of the family from the statement of Reish Lakish (see Sukkah daf 20a) who taught that when Torah was forgotten in Israel, Ezra came from Babylon and reestablished it; when it was forgotten a second time, Hillel the Babylonian came and reestablished it; when it was forgotten a third time, Rabbi Chiya came and reestablished it. Furthermore, the Gemara in Bava Metzia (85b) suggests that they were parallel to Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov, and had they strengthened themselves in prayer, they could have brought the Messiah before his time.

Chullin 86a-b: Living on one kav of carob fruit from one Sabbath eve to the other

On yesterday’s daf we learned of Rabbi Hiyya and his sons in whose merit “there ceased to be shooting stars, earthquakes, storms and thunders in Israel, the people’s wines never turned sour and their flax was never blighted” once they moved from Babylonia to the Land of Israel, even though they, themselves, did not personally benefit from their piety. The Gemara on today’s daf compares this to a similar situation –

Even as Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: Every day a Heavenly Voice goes forth and proclaims, ‘The whole world is provided with food only on account of my son Chanina, while my son Chanina is satisfied with one kav of carob fruit from one Sabbath eve to the other’

The reference in this story is to Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa, a student of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, who was well known for his piety and his miraculous deeds. Few of his teachings have been preserved – and those that have are mainly aggadic traditions. He is known mainly for the many stories of his religious devotion. Throughout the Gemara he is presented as the archetype of someone who is righteous in all his ways (see, for example, Ta’anit 24b-25a).

The Chatam Sofer interprets the fact that Rabbi Chanina was “satisfied with one kav of carob fruit from one Sabbath eve to the other” as indicative of his patience and acceptance of his lot in life. In his Torah Chaim, Rabbi Avraham Chaim Shor takes a different approach to this story. Opening with the obvious question – why should Rabbi Chanina not have benefited from his own merit, just as others did? – he explains that the world is judged both on a level of middat ha-din – the attribute of law – and middat ha-rachamim – the attribute of mercy. When Rabbi Chanina, who, due to his piety and righteousness is equated with the entire world, receives the strict judgment of middat ha-din, it allows the rest of the world to receive the more lenient judgment of middat ha-rachamim.

Chullin 87a-b: Stealing a mitzvah

As we have learned, when someone performs ritual slaughter on a wild animal or on a bird, there is a mitzvah of kisui ha-dam – a commandment to cover the blood of the slaughtered animal that is spilled (see Vayikra 17:13). The Mishnah on today’s daf teaches that in the event that the person performing shechita did not fulfill this mitzvah, an onlooker who sees this situation should cover the blood in his stead, thereby performing the commandment.

The Gemara relates a story about someone who performed ritual slaughter, and before he had the opportunity to fulfill the commandment of kisui ha-dam someone else stepped forward and covered the blood, taking away his opportunity to perform the mitzvah. Rabban Gamliel, who was asked to judge this case, ruled that the person who covered the blood should pay ten zehuvim to the slaughterer who lost his mitzvah.

The Chatam Sofer points out that it is impossible to understand that the ten zehuvim were the actual values of the mitzvah that was “stolen,” rather it is a payment made for the emotional distress caused by taking the mitzvah away from the person to whom it belonged. Effectively, it is a penalty imposed by Rabban Gamliel.

While some rishonim understand that this is the set rule – anyone who takes the opportunity to perform a mitzvah from his fellow will be obligated to pay ten zehuvim – others suggest that the penalty will depend on circumstances, and it is up to the judge to determine the appropriate penalty in a given case (e.g. if it was known that the person from whom the mitzvah was “stolen” was particular about fulfilling that commandment, the payment might be greater, while if it was a difficult commandment that he appeared reluctant to perform, the payment would be less). Furthermore, some rishonim suggest that there is another possible option available – the person who “stole” the mitzvah can create a situation where the person could perform that same mitzvah another time (e.g. he can give him a new bird to slaughter). Tosafot rejects this suggestion, arguing that this is a new mitzvah and that the loss of the previous mitzvah can never be recovered.

Chullin 88a-b: How Avraham’s statement “I am but dust and ashes” impacted on Jewish law.

We have been discussing the commandment of kisui ha-dam – the halacha that requires the blood of wild animals and birds to be covered after ritual slaughter (see Vayikra 17:13). With what are they covered?

Although the Torah clearly states that the blood must be covered with afar – with dirt – the Mishnah on today’s daf offers a number of substances that will suffice for this mitzvah, including lime, fine sand, fine dung, or ground-up brick or earthenware. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel concludes by teaching that as long as plants can grow in it, it can be used for covering the blood. The Gemara teaches that ashes can be used, as well.

There are other mitzvot that also involve the use of dirt or ashes. Rava teaches:

As a reward for our father Abraham having said: “I am but dust and ashes” (see Bereshit 18:27) his descendants were worthy to receive two commandments: the ashes of the Red Heifer, and the dust used in the ceremony of a sotah – a woman suspected of adultery.

The Gemara asks why Rava counts these two commandments and does not include also the dirt used for kisui ha-dam.

In response, the Gemara distinguishes between the commandment of kisui ha-dam where the dirt serves no purpose beyond covering the blood, as opposed to the parah adumah and sotah where the dirt and the ashes play a central role in purifying the defiled and establishing the innocence of the woman.

One point raised by the commentaries is why these commandments are considered a unique reward in response to Avraham’s statement; surely such commandments would have been given in any case in order to deal with these particular situations! The Maharsha suggests that in the case of the parah adumah, Avraham’s merit was that these situations could be dealt with relatively simply, rather than through some cumbersome mechanism. In his Etz Yosef, a commentary on the Ein Yaakov, Rabbi Hanokh Zundel explains that with regard to the sotah, it is possible that a woman suspected of adultery would have automatically been forbidden to her husband; Avraham’s merit led to the creation of a mitzvah whose purpose was to establish marital peace and harmony.

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.