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Pesachim 17

PESACHIM 17 - Dedicated by Reb Mordechai Rabin (London/Yerushalayim)


QUESTION: Chagai tested the Kohanim who returned from the exile in the time of the second Beis ha'Mikdash. He asked them what the Tum'ah-Taharah status would be in the case of a Sheretz which touched an object, which in turn touched another object, until a total of four levels of objects had been touched. "If one carried affected meat (Rashi: a Sheretz) in the hem of his garment, and with his garment he touches bread, and cooked food, and wine, and oil, and any other food, does it become Tamei? The Kohanim answered and said, 'No'" (Chagai 2:12).

From the Gemara it is clear that according to the verse's simplest reading, Chagai was asking about an object that was four levels of Tum'ah below a Sheretz ("Revi'i b'Kodesh"). The verse, then, should have mentioned only five things -- a Sheretz and four levels below. Yet the verse mentions seven items --

  1. affected meat ("Basar Kodesh" = Sheretz),
  2. the garment,
  3. bread,
  4. cooked food,
  5. wine,
  6. oil, and
  7. "any other food?"
How does the Gemara see here only five objects, when seven are listed?


(a) RASHI explains that "affected meat" ("Basar Kodesh") means Sheretz, and the word "Kodesh" here means "Tamei," defiled. The word "garment" also refers to the Sheretz itself, since the Sheretz is held in the garment, and not to a garment which merely touched a Sheretz. The last two items in the verse, oil and "any other food" are a single either/or phrase and are not separate levels. Thus, he does not count numbers 2 & 7.

(b) TOSFOS disagrees strongly with Rashi's explanation and asserts that there is no reason to say that "any other food" goes together with oil more than any of the other items mentioned in the verse go together. Furthermore, there is no reason to skip the garment and assume that it is not a separate level touched by the Sheretz. (This question is especially strong, since the Gemara looks for one more level according to Shmuel, and it does not simply answer that the garment is separate from the Sheretz. Secondly, according to this way of counting, Ravina [later in the Gemara] is declaring the bread an Av ha'Tum'ah, as Rashi tells us DH Ravina. But food can never be more than a Rishon!)

Tosfos therefore explains that it was known to everyone that a food can only be Metamei a liquid or v.v., but not food/food or liquid/liquid. Consequently, when Chagai said that the garment touched bread and cooked food, he meant that it touched *either* bread *or* a cooked food, and not that the bread touched a cooked food, because bread and cooked food are both solids and one cannot be Metamei the other. Similarly, wine and oil cannot be Metamei one another because one liquid cannot be Metamei another liquid. Therefore, those two pairs must have been either/or choices. We then eliminate numbers 4 & 6, leaving only five items.

(c) The METZUDAS DAVID says that perhaps it was known to everyone that a liquid cannot be Metamei mid'Oraisa (in accordance with the Tana in the Beraisa who is of that opinion). It is clear that Chagai could not have meant that the wine or oil touches something else and makes it Tamei. Rather, wine or oil must be the last step in the chain of Tum'ah because they cannot make anything after them Tamei. Therefore, the last three items -- wine, oil, or any food -- go together and are read as either/or, eliminating numbers 6 & 7.

(d) The RADAK says that "affected meat" ("Basar Kodesh") is not referring to the Sheretz itself. The Sheretz is not mentioned in the verse, but it is understood that it is the source of the Tum'ah which made the meat Tamei. The chain of transferal of Tum'ah starts with the Sheretz and ends with bread: a Sheretz touched the meat (making it a Rishon), the meat ("Basar Kodesh") touched a garment (making it a Sheni), and then the garment touched bread (making it a Shelishi). All of the other items listed in the verse after bread until "any other food" are alternatives to bread ("either bread or..."). "Any other food" is a separate step, and the fourth and final one (making it a Revi'i), in the chain of Tum'ah. (That is, he eliminates numbers 4,5 &6, and adds an unmentioned Sheretz to the verse.)


QUESTION: The Gemara discusses the opinion of Rebbi Yehudah who says that if we are not sure whether a liquid touched a utensil or not, then out of doubt we assume that the utensil is Tamei. The Gemara says that it must be that Rebbi Yehudah holds that mid'Oraisa a liquid can be Metamei a utensil, since otherwise, Rebbi Yehudah would not be consider the utensil Tamei in a case of a doubt.

How does the Gemara know that Rebbi Yehudah's reason for being stringent when in doubt is because he holds that liquids can be Metamei utensils mid'Oraisa? Perhaps there is another reason why he is stringent:

(a) Perhaps Rebbi Yehudah maintains that a Safek d'Rabanan is also Tamei in Reshus ha'Yachid, and that is why he says that a utensil is Tamei when in doubt if a Tamei liquid touched it. The RAN in Nedarim (19a) mentions such an opinion. (SEFAS EMES)

(b) Perhaps Rebbi Yehudah is stringent in the case of a doubt whether a Tamei liquid touched the utensil because he is referring to utensils other than earthenware, that can be brought to the Mikvah and made Tahor. Since they can be made Tahor, they have the status of a "Davar she'Yesh Lo Matirin," for which we must be stringent even when dealing with laws that are d'Rabanan, as the Gemara says in Beitzah 4a. (TZELACH)

ANSWER: The SEFAS EMES, based on the PNEI YEHOSHUA, answers that there is indeed no proof from the words of Rebbi Yehudah here that he holds that liquids can be Metamei utensils mid'Oraisa. However, the Gemara is basing itself on the words of a Beraisa in Toras Kohanim and in the Yalkut (Parshas Shemini), where we find that Rebbi Yehudah learns from a verse that liquids are Metamei utensils.

The Pnei Yehoshua adds that with this Toras Kohanim in mind we can understand another point in our Sugya. In the Toras Kohanim, Rebbi Yehoshua ben Karchah asks a question on the opinion of Rebbi Yehudah, and Rebbi Yehudah does not give an answer. If so, we can now see why our Gemara, in the conclusion, says simply that Rebbi Yehudah changed his mind and rescinded his opinion that liquids are Metamei utensils mid'Oraisa. Normally, we do not just give up and say that a Tana "changed his mind, but here the implication of the Toras Kohanim is that Rebbi Yehudah admitted to the validity of the question posed to his opinion.

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