The Gemara asks that this contradicts the Beraisa that says that sick people
eat soft guards with bread, implying that gourd is healthy for them and helps
Rava bar Ula answers that the soft inside of the gourd is healthy, while the
hard rind on the outside is unhealthy. To reinforce his answer, he cites Rav
Yehudah who says that the inside of a gourd is good to eat with beets, and
the inside of flax seeds is good to eat with a milk dish called "Kutach." He
adds, "And it is prohibited to say this in front of an Am ha'Aretz."
Why is it prohibited to say this in front of an Am ha'Aretz? The Gemara does
not explain this cryptic statement.
(a) The MEFARESH explains that when the Gemara says that it is "good" to eat
the gourd with beets and the flax seed with Kutach, it means that such food
is a prophylactic, like the previous Beraisa implies. The reason one should
not relate this information to an Am ha'Aretz is because one should not tell
an Am ha'Aretz anything which could benefit him.
TOSFOS rejects this explanation, saying that it does not make sense that it
should be prohibited to help an Am ha'Aretz recover from his illness. (See,
though, Berachos 33a, "It is prohibited to have mercy on one who has no
De'ah"; see also HAGAHOS YA'AVETZ here.)
(b) Instead, TOSFOS explains that we may not relate this information to an Am
ha'Aretz because he will ridicule the Talmidei Chachamim for teaching their
students such trivial information (or such obvious information, ROSH).
This answer is also problematic, though, because there are many pages of
Gemara that teach medical information and general knowledge about the world,
and never do we find such a warning not to relate such information to an Am
(c) The RAN explains that if we tell this information to the Amei ha'Aretz,
they might uproot all of the flax in order to use it for curative purposes,
and consequently the flax crops will suffer.
This explanation is also problematic, because if we are concerned about the
damage to the flax crops, why does the Gemara specifically warn about telling
it to an Am ha'Aretz? *Anyone* who knows that flax has medicinal properties
will uproot it for that purpose! The Gemara should have said, "Do not teach
this in public!"
(d) The ROGATCHAVER GA'ON (Hilchos Kela'im 1:1) suggests an original
explanation. The RASHBAM in Bava Basra (92a) explains that, generally, flax
is not a food item. The only time flax is eaten is for medicinal purposes as
mentioned in our Gemara. Normally, it is used for making ropes and fabric and
The Yerushalmi (end of fifth Perek of Ma'aseros) says that during the
Shemitah year, it is permitted to buy flax from anyone, even from an Am
ha'Aretz, because no one is suspected of planting or tending to flax during
the Shemitah year, since it is inedible and not worth much. Our Gemara warns
against telling an Am ha'Aretz how beneficial flax is for its medicinal
properties, because if they find out that it has such properties, they will
grow it and cultivate it even during the Shemitah year, and then we will not
be able to purchase it from an Am ha'Aretz and we will not have a supply of
flax to use for general purposes during Shemitah.
(e) RAV ELAZAR MOSHE HOROWITZ suggests that the statement, "And it is
prohibited to say this in front of an Am ha'Aretz," is not part of Rav
Yehudah's statement. Rather, it is part of Rava bar Ula's answer that there
is a difference between the healthy inside of a gourd and the unhealthy rind
of the outside of a gourd. The Chachamim prohibited teaching an Am ha'Aretz
that part of a gourd is healthy out of fear that the Am ha'Aretz will confuse
the healthy part for the unhealthy part, and consequently he will eat the
harmful part of the gourd and become ill.
Rebbi Yirmiyah, who was a Tamid Chacham, knew this difference and he kept a
gourd in his house in order to eat the inside for its healing properties. The
doctor did not know about the healthy quality of the inside of the gourd.
Rebbi Yirmiyah did not call back the doctor to tell him that the inside of
the gourd is healthy, because the doctor was an Am ha'Aretz and Rebbi
Yirmiyah did not want the doctor to confuse the healthy part of the gourd
with the harmful part.
(According to this explanation, Rava bar Ula's answer complements Rava's
answer that *Talmidei Chachamim*, who are weak like sick people, eat the
gourds with bread.)