RABIN MISHNAH STUDY GROUP


TRACTATE PESAĤIM, CHAPTER ONE

Mishnah 1 | Mishnah 2 | Mishnah 3 | Mishnah 4
Mishnah 5 | Mishnah 6 | Mishnah 7


MISHNAH ONE:

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On the evening of the fourteenth a check for ĥametz is made by lamplight. Any place into which ĥametz is not introduced need not be checked. So why did they say 'two rows in a cellar'? - into which ĥametz is introduced. Bet Shammai say, 'two rows across the whole cellar'; Bet Hillel say, 'the two uppermost external rows'.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
As is usual, our mishnah utilizes terms and forms which remain unexplained, because it is assumed that the reader knows the meaning of the terms and is familiar with the form. Furthermore, an understanding of the basic issues involved concerning Pesaĥ [Passover] is assumed. We can make no such assumptions, and so we must preface an introduction to the topic.

2:
The Torah stipulates five basic mitzvot [religious requirements] in the celebration of Pesaĥ:

1) the complete absence of ĥametz [leaven] [Exodus 12:15];
2) the eating of the paschal lamb; [Exodus 12:43-49]
3) the eating of Matzah; [Exodus 12:16]
4) the eating of Maror [bitter herbs] [Numbers 9:11];
5) telling the children the story of the exodus from Egypt with appropriate embellishments [Exodus 13:8].

(The above biblical references are not unique: these requirements are stipulated in several places in the Torah.)

3:
The term Pesaĥ has two meanings in rabbinic parlance: it can refer to the festival of Passover; but it can also refer to the paschal lamb itself. It is this latter connotation that the name of our tractate holds: Pesaĥim means 'paschal lambs', and the tractate will cover the whole ceremony of the slaughter and ritual eating of the paschal lamb on the night of Nisan 15th each year. Even though this element of the ritual has been missing for one thousand nine hundred and thirty one years (since the year 70 CE when the Bet Mikdash was destroyed) all the other elements associated with it are still relevant today, so our study will not only be of historical interest, but will also - and primarily - be of practical interest.

4:
The Torah requires that the whole people of Israel form itself into groups [Exodus 12:4], each group large enough to consume a roast lamb at one sitting with nothing left over. This lamb is to have been slaughtered in the Bet Mikdash on the afternoon of Nisan 14th and is to be consumed later that evening together with Matzah and Maror, accompanied by appropriate educational explanations. Before the lamb was slaughtered all leaven and its products had to have been removed completely from every household. Anyone familiar with the Seder ceremony today will immediately recognize all these elements (except for the slaughtered roast lamb).

5:
Tractate Pesaĥim will deal with all these elements in a chronological manner, starting with the search for leaven on the evening of the 14th, through the slaughter of the lamb during the next afternoon, to the ceremonies accompanying its festive consumption at the Seder service later that night, the evening of Nisan 15th.

6:
Our present mishnah sees the start of the process of eliminating ĥametz before Pesaĥ. It would perhaps be helpful at this stage to offer a non-exhaustive description of what technically constitutes ĥametz from the halakhic point of view. When certain species of grain (wheat, barley, oats, rye and spelt) are allowed to remain in contact with water for sufficient time to allow the process of fermentation to begin (18 minutes or more) they have become ĥametz and transmit that condition to any other product with which they make contact. So ĥametz means 'fermented grain and any product that contains it'.

7:
The Torah does not merely prohibit the consumption of ĥametz during Pesaĥ. It introduces two other requirements as well: ĥametz may not be seen [Exodus 13:7] or possessed [Exodus 12:19] during the whole of the Pesaĥ period. Thus all ĥametz must be removed or eliminated before the Pesaĥ celebrations can begin (with the slaughter of the Paschal lamb). The sages formalized this process of removal and elimination by requiring a systematic search for ĥametz among all one's possessions and living space.

8:
Even though the Torah only requires the complete removal of all ĥametz from a Jew's possession, sight and thought, the sages went a stage further and required that a search be made throughout the household so that it would be certain that no ĥametz remains. The thorough search is to be made on the evening of Nisan 14th so that it can be completely disposed of the following day before the time arrives for the sacrifice of the paschal lambs.

9:
There is considerable discussion in the Gemara concerning the exact timing of the search - and even more importantly the timing of the disposal of the ĥametz. The discussion seems to have been prompted by a certain confusion in the Torah itself. The festival of Pesaĥ begins with the onset of dark after Nisan 14th (at which time the 14th becomes the 15th in Jewish chronology). The Torah makes it quite clear that the possession of ĥametz is prohibited for the entire period of the festival, which should mean that the prohibition begins at the same time as the festival begins. But the Torah itself requires the cessation of ĥametz 'on the very first day' [Exodus 12:15], and if one waits until the onset of dark after the 14th one cannot help but possess ĥametz (even momentarily) until it has been removed and disposed of - and yet the festival has already begun, including the dire punishment of excision [karet] for the possession of ĥametz (even momentarily).

10:
Here is the definition of karet as given by Rambam (Moses Maimonides [1135-1204]:


The ultimate punishment is the extinction of the soul, that it will perish and cease to exist. This is the 'excision' mentioned in the Torah. Excision means the utter extinction of the soul. In the Torah [Numbers 15:31] we read 'that soul shall be absolutely cut off', and the rabbis have explained that as meaning 'cut off in this world, cut off in the next'. Anyone who has sunk into physical pleasure to the exclusion of the truth is cut off from that attainment and remains excised matter.)

11:
The Torah [Exodus 12:15-19] stipulates:

... :

Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the very first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day to the seventh day, that person shall be cut off [excised], from Israel... No leaven shall be found in your houses for seven days. For whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off [excised] from the community of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a citizen of the country

12:
The solution accepted by all modern biblical scholars is that the Torah is speaking of two festivals - different but intimately connected: there is the 'festival of the Pesaĥ' (in its connotation of the paschal lamb) which is followed by the seven-day 'festival of Matzot' (unleavened bread). That the day of Nisan 14th when the paschal lambs were slaughtered was a festive day will become apparent from our study of this tractate. Thus it is not surprising that the sages also took the term of the Torah 'the very first day' to mean, in fact, Nisan 14th and not Nisan 15th. The sages, of course, would not have recognized the thinking of the modern scholars, but they did come to the same practical conclusion. The Torah stipulates that 'You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with anything leavened; and the sacrifice of the Feast of Passover shall not be left lying until morning' [Exodus 34:25]. In the Gemara [Pesaĥim 5a] the Baylonian Amora Rava quotes this verse and gives it the meaning: 'You shall not slaughter the paschal lamb while ĥametz still exists'. Since the paschal lamb was slaughtered on the afternoon of Nisan 14th it follows that all ĥametz should have been disposed of before the afternoon of Nisan 14th. The sages therefore instituted that it must be disposed of before the end of the morning of Nisan 14th - and this requires the search to be made the previous evening. The Tanna Rabbi Yosé interprets the phrase 'the very first day' to indicate the very beginning of that day - which is the night before.

13:
We have so far established that a search for ĥametz must be made and when that search must be conducted (in broadest terms). Our mishnah says very little about the 'how' of the search and nothing at all about the 'why'. From discussion in the Gemara we can pad out our understanding of these issues.

14:
The search must be made immediately after the onset of dark on the evening that sees the transition from Nisan 13th to 14th. Halakhically this moment is defined as the moment when three medium-sized stars can be seen in the darkening sky. This is also the moment when the time from which the Shema may be recited in the evening. I am going to quote here a much fuller discussion of the definition of "three stars" that I gave when we studied that topic in tractate Berakhot:


We have established so far that our mishnah sets the earliest possible time for reciting the Shema 'at the end of the day' at 'star rise'. This, of course, is a variable; for the time when three stars will be visible in the night sky will depend (among other imponderables) on the state of the weather, the eyesight of the spectator and the magnitude of the stars. To further complicate matters, the sages are wont to distinguish between 'small' stars, 'medium' stars and 'large' stars. It is obvious that since they could have had no concept of magnitude, they must be referring to the luminosity of the stars. Clearly, the visibility of stars is intended to indicate varying degrees of the onset of darkness. 'Large' stars don't count, because they can be seen even before it is dark. The end of Shabbat (which requires an additional amount of non-sacred time to be added on to the sacred time of Shabbat [tosefet]) requires the visibility of three 'small' stars. For the purposes of reciting the Shema 'at the end of the day' the visibility of three 'medium' stars suffices. When we try to give these indications quasi-scientific determinae, we usually describe them in terms of the sun's declination below the horizon. Three medium stars are deemed to be visible when (at any given geographic location) the sun has declined 5.88° below the horizon; three small stars are deemed to be visible when the sun has declined 8.5° below the horizon. In 'real' terms the former occurs about 25 minutes after sunset and the latter about 40 minutes after sunset. (This explains why it is possible on Motza'ei Shabbat [Saturday night] to recite the Evening Shema [= Evening Service] before the time for Havdalah.)

15:
Immediately after Arvit [the evening service] the search is made (preferably, but not essentially, with the members of the household present and assisting). The Gemara [Pesaĥim 4a] says that this is so important that even a scholar who has a fixed time for Torah study at this hour (in order to bridge day and night with study of Torah as a kind of fulfillment of Joshua 1:8) - even a such a scholar must forsake his study and conduct the search at this time. (In the 3rd mishnah of this chapter we shall see what should be done when the search has not been made at this optimal time.)

DISCUSSION:

I wrote:

This lamb is to have been slaughtered in the Bet Mikdash on the afternoon of Nisan 14th and is to be consumed later that evening

Juan-Carlos Kiel writes:

As it would have been impossible for all family heads of the Jewish people to attend the Temple for the sacrifice at a single day, how would those families that could not make the pilgrimage observe the Passover? Wasn't there any alternative possibility at all? As it is mandatory to eat the paschal lamb in Pesaĥ, would the poor, that could not travel to Jerusalem in time, be excluded from Passover?

I respond:

During the last decades (at least) of the Bet Mikdash the number of people who crowded into Jerusalem for Pesaĥ was phenomenal. The Gemara [Pesaĥim 64b] sees it as nigh miraculous that, except for one sad occasion, no person was ever crushed because of the throngs in the main courtyard of the Bet Mikdash on 14th Nisan. Indeed, if only for the purposes of policing and riot control it was necessary for the authorities to know how many people were actually in Jerusalem for the festival. Because halakhah prevents the taking of a census, King Herod Agrippa, who ruled 40-44 CE and was the darling of the sages, had a bright idea. He instructed the High Priest to remove one kidney from each paschal lamb slaughtered. It was found that there were 600,000 pairs of kidneys collected [Pesaĥim 64b]. Since we must assume at least ten people per lamb this would yield an impossible figure. Even allowing for the typological number of 600,000 (the number of Israelites who left Egypt) the incident surely indicates that during Pesaĥ Jerusalem seethed with a phenomenal number of 'internal tourists' - and probably many from the Diaspora as well. This suggests that everyone who could do so did come to Jerusalem for the festival - even sleeping in the streets! Poverty was certainly no obstacle to making the pilgrimage: travel was simple and free. I know of no indication that the paschal lamb was ever slaughtered and eaten outside Jerusalem. I must assume that those who could not make it to Jerusalem had to make do with the Seder service without roast lamb - as we do today.

EXPLANATIONS (continued):

16:
The search is made by artificial light. Our mishnah describes this light as an oil lamp, but the discussion in the Gemara [Pesaĥim 7b-8a] makes it clear that this is only an example: in tannaitic times such lamps were the only really suitable source of artificial light. Certain other light sources certainly are declared to be unacceptable: sunlight, moonlight and a torch brand - this last because the person making the search would be fearful of bringing the brand too close to nooks and crannies (and merchandise!) for fear of causing a conflagration. Today it is customary to use a candle - and this certainly turns the search into a quaint ritual which provokes interest; but it is perfectly permissible - and maybe even preferable - to use a modern battery torch [Mekor Chayyim of Rabbi Chayyim David ha-Levi [vol. 4 chapter 184, paragraph 8), quoting Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz (Chazon Ish), who was one of the greatest ultra-orthodox poskim [decisors] of the first half of 20th century].

17:
Nowadays, of course, the search is more ritual than practical since in traditional homes the apartment has been scoured for ĥametz beforehand. So much so, that some authorities suggested that some ĥametz should be left around the apartment deliberately so that the berakhah [benediction] that is recited should not be a berakhah le-vatalah, a pointless benediction. However, the sages would certainly not agree that the berakhah could be pointless: the search must be made even if it yields no result. Obviously,in tannaitic times life was much less complicated. The search for ĥametz was just that: the ĥametz that was found would be foodstuffs that could be disposed of quite easily, and the amounts would be quite small because of planned household economy before the festival and the fact that people hoarded less and lived more from day to day. (The very rich person was a different case, as the seifa [last section] of our present mishnah illustrates.)

18:
Before the search is made a berakhah must be recited. It is not a berakhah about the search, since the search itself is not a mitzvah [requirement] of the Torah, but a rabbinic innovation. What the Torah requires is the elimination of all ĥametz, and the search is merely preparatory to that end. The berakhah, therefore, is concerning the elimination [bi'ur] of the ĥametz, which process is deemed to begin with the search.

19:
Our mishnah also makes clear that the search is to be a practical search: only places where it was usual to introduce ĥametz needed to be searched, and there was no need to search for ĥametz in places where it was not at all likely to be found. This, of course, would have included the wine cellars of the rich, into which it was most unlikely that ĥametz would be introduced. However, the earliest of the sages - probably way back in 3rd century BCE when the sages were still anonymous - had declared that wine cellars should be searched. Our mishnah explains that they only intended the search to be made in wine cellars into which it may reasonably be assumed that ĥametz may have been introduced. (For instance, during a meal it may have been necessary to bring in fresh wine from the cellar; the 'waiter' - one of the diners - may have gone into the cellar with ĥametz still in his hand.) The statement of those early sages was so old that by the time we get to 1st century CE we find Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai unable to agree how to understand it.

20:
In all probability the clearest explanation of the end of our present mishnah is that given by Rambam in his commentary on our mishnah. He asks us to imagine a cellar filled with casks: ten casks in each row, ten rows, each with ten casks piled on top of each other - a total of one thousand casks. Bet Shammai say that the two rows nearest the entrance must be thoroughly searched from top to bottom - requiring the physical handling of 200 casks. Bet Hillel say that the two rows mentioned by the earliest sages meant that only the two topmost and outermost rows needed to be searched - requiring the physical handling of only 20 casks.

According to Bet Hillel     According to Bet Shammai


, , , :

We do not worry that a weasel might have dragged [ĥametz] from house to house and from place to place. If that were the case then from courtyard to courtyard and from town to town, and there would never be an end of the matter.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
There is more than one way of understanding the context of our mishnah, but its purport is very clear indeed. What it says is that there is a logical limit to the amount of effort that one needs to invest in order to ensure that all ĥametz has been eliminated. This, in itself, should surely be a welcome breath of fresh air into a sphere of activity which seems capable of introducing self-perpetuating stringencies.

2:
Let us assume that a very pious person has made a thorough search for ĥametz throughout her premises. There was no nook or cranny, no room, no closet, no storage space, no article of clothing, no household appliance - no place at all where ĥametz might conceivably have been introduced that she has not scoured as diligently as one can imagine. (Sounds familiar?) Assuming that this good woman did not search in places where there was no likelihood of ĥametz having been introduced, thus far the sages would have praised her diligence. However, let us imagine that after the search has been made and some time before the last moment the following morning when ĥametz may be eliminated this good housewife has a terrible thought: maybe some small animal has dragged some of the ĥametz that she found yesterday evening into a place she has already searched! And she decides that it is better to be safe than sorry: she'd better do the search all over again. Now the sages say, No. This is taking stringency to unnatural lengths. Are we going to follow after that imaginary animal from room to room? Then why not from apartment to apartment? Why not from building to building? Maybe the animal has dragged her ĥametz to another town by now: is she to follow it there? Maybe it boarded a ship and has taken her ĥametz to a different continent: must she follow it there to retrieve her ĥametz? The sages draw the obvious conclusion: if you follow that line of reasoning there will never be an end to it. Our good housewife did her honest and most diligent best to collect all the leaven from her household. She has done her duty. Period.

DISCUSSION:

David Sieradzki writes:

I'm curious about the expression Or la'arba'ah asar at the beginning of mishnah 1, which would literally mean "light of the 14th." Why is that expression used to mean "on the evening of the 14th"? Does it mean before dark, after dark, or during twilight? Given the difficulty of the understanding what was supposed to happen when, is there any controversy among the traditional sources over the meaning of the word or in this context?

I respond:

I had hoped to avoid this question! The Gemara spends the first three folios (six pages) discussing this very question. Biblical quotations are brought whose primary meaning suggests that the Hebrew term Or means morning; these arguments are rejected by pointing out special conditions that prevail in each case that vitiate the drawing of such a general conclusion. This process is then repeated in the opposite direction. At the same time a good deal of Aggadah [non-halakhic] material creeps in. To my mind it is one of those (futile) exercises in which the evidence is 'explained' until it says what we want it to say. We must remember that the search for leaven (as opposed to its elimination) was a rabbinic innovation.

It seems to me that it is most probable that the original custom - dating back so far into rabbinic pre-history that we cannot pinpoint a time - was introduced as a search to be made on the morning light of 14th Nisan immediately before eliminating the ĥametz. When the custom was pulled back to the previous evening (probably to make sure that a proper and thorough search was made, and not a perfunctory one because of lack of time before the deadline for elimination) the original term 'morning light' was retained and re-interpreted as 'evening light".

This, of course, is pure speculation on my part. What is not speculation is the fact that subsequently the Hebrew term Or took on the meaning of 'the night before" a given date.


EXPLANATIONS (continued):

3:
Rambam seems to understand the context of our mishnah slightly differently from the explanation I gave in our last shiur, but his understanding does not vitiate the conclusion already drawn. Rambam assumes that our present mishnah is still in the context of the previous one. In mishnah 1 the sages said that there is no need to search in places where no one is likely to have introduced ĥametz. Rambam says that mishnah 2 adds to that: there is no need to search such a place even if there is a possibility that some animal may have dragged ĥametz there. (If you actually see an animal do so, the ĥametz must be retrieved if it is still there.)

4:
Another possible interpretation of our mishnah could be a fear that an animal may have dragged ĥametz from a place which has not yet been searched to a place that already has been searched. 'In that case, there would never be an end to the matter.'

5:
I translated 'weasel'. It is possible that the Hebrew word refers to a mole or a rat. The implications are the same regardless of the identity of the animal.

6:
Even today, good intentioned people can take Passover preparations too far. All that has to be done is to make sure that all ĥametz has been found and eliminated. No more than that. Concerning the desire to engage every member of the household in the arduous task of 'getting ready for Pesaĥ' the very prestigious Israeli Rabbi Shelomo Aviner (head of the Yeshivah Ateret Kohanim in Jerusalem) was heard to quip in a shiur: 'Dust is not ĥametz and children are not slaves'.

DISCUSSION:

A few days ago we discussed the paschal lamb outside the Bet Mikdash. Naomi Koltun-Fromm has sent me this article - which I have savagely edited.

While the Temple still stood in Jerusalem Passover was celebrated, along with the other Jewish festivals, by pilgrimages to the holy city and sacrifices in honor of the holiday... When the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, the actual sacrificing of the paschal lamb came to an end, but Passover was still commemorated in the rest of Palestine and in the Diaspora. It is not clear exactly how the Jews celebrated Passover then, for the order of the seder was not finalized until much later. There is evidence, however, that post-temple Jews in various places prepared a lamb for the ritual Passover meal. While not actually sacrificing they slaughtered and roasted a lamb for the seder commemorating the temple paschal offerings. They may even have served up a g'di mikulas. A g'di is a lamb, while mikulas, from the Aramaic kolas for helmet or round, describes a lamb prepared for sacrifice which was roasted with its head and shanks placed with its entrails - but not actually sacrificed at an altar. In other words there was a special way to roast a lamb for a sacrifice which was different from just roasting one for dinner. Nevertheless a sacrifice was not a sacrifice without its blood splashed against the altar in the Temple. A lamb could be prepared as if for sacrifice without the actual ritual occurring. This is exactly the differentiation that Rabban Gamliel made when arguing for the g'di mikulas after the demise of the Temple. Namely, that it was permissible to prepare a lamb as if for sacrifice, in memory of the paschal offering, since it could not be a real sacrifice without the Temple. The other rabbis disagreed, however, and even a g'di mikulas was forbidden. We learn from another source, Tosefta Beitza 2:15, that the rabbis once asked Theodos, the leader of the Roman Jewish community, not to have helmeted lambs at Passover because people confused them with the paschal sacrifice.



Benjamin Fleischer asks:

What's the difference between ĥametz and se'or?

I respond:

Se'or is an chemical agent causing fermentation, yeast; ĥametz is a product which has been altered by this chemical process.


MISHNAH THREE:

, . , , . , . , . , , :

Rabbi Yehudah says that the search is made on the evening of the fourteenth, on the morning of the fourteenth and at elimination time. The rest of the sages say that if one did not search on the evening of the fourteenth one should do so during the fourteenth; if one did not do so during the fourteenth one should do so during the festival; if one did not so so during the festival one should do so after the festival. What one sets aside one should keep in a safe place so that there will be no need to do another search for it.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
Our mishnah contains two sections. (These are given the technical terms reisha and seifa respectively.) Our mishnah continues the discussion concerning the search for ĥametz that must be made before Pesaĥ.

2:
The reisha of our mishnah brings the view of Rabbi Yehudah. (Throughout tannaitic literature if Rabbi Yehudah is mentioned with no further clarification the reference is to Rabbi Yehudah ben-Ilai, one of the most prominent students of Rabbi Akiva and one of the most prominent teachers of Rabbi Me'ir. He was active during the middle years of the 2nd century CE.) The seifa brings the dissenting view of 'the rest of the sages'. According to the procedural rule of the tanna'im it is clear that the view of the sages prevails because 'where the view of an individual is in conflict with the view of the majority, the view of the majority prevails' [Gemara Berakhot 37a].

3:
At first blush it would seem that Rabbi Yehudah requires three searches to be made, and this is indeed the first understanding of his position as presented in the Gemara [Pesaĥim 10b]. Two Babylonian amora'im suggest that his view is based on the fact that the requirement to eliminate ĥametz appears three times in the Torah [Exodus 12:15, 12:19, 13:7] If such a reading of Rabbi Yehudah is correct then his difference of opinion with the rest of the sages would be that they hold that only one search need be made, not three.

DISCUSSION:

Albert Ringer writes concerning the paschal lamb outside the Bet Mikdash:

I am told that even in modern Italy, some Christians habitually slaughter a lamb for Easter. This is not a ritual that is supported by the Catholic church. Could it be a leftover of a Jewish habit that was not supported by pharisaic Judaism, but was practiced by part of the people?

I respond:

I am no expert on such matters, but my intuitive guess would be that there is no connection at all between the practice Albert describes and the paschal lamb (even as described by Naomi Koltun-Fromm above). I think that this custom is prompted by purely Christian considerations.

Albert also asks:

Were casks used in Roman times? I suppose wine was commonly stored in ceramic pots, or in winebags made of leather. You translate 'cellar'. In our modern sense, that connotes an underground storrage. Is that the meaning of the Hebrew word?

I respond:

The Hebrew term chavit which I translated 'cask' is the equivalent of 'barrel'. It seems to be a term used exclusively in connection with the storage of wine and oil - or at any rate of liquids. In tannaitic literature is seems to be interchangeable with the term kad which is usually translated 'jar'. I too would guess that these storage vessels were ceramic. I think that the leather wine bag was used only when travelling. As to the location of a cellar: I am not certain, but two considerations lead me to believe that the Hebrew term martef does indeed refer to an underground storage room. The first consideration is that sometimes the term martef is replaced with the term Bet Otzar, which would seem to indicate an above-ground storage room. But even more so is an indication in the Tosefta [Menachot 9:2] which stipulates that certain foodstuffs were stored 'neither in the cellar nor on the rooftop'.


EXPLANATIONS (continued):

4:
However, the continuation of the discussion in the Gemara [Pesaĥim 10b] seems to vitiate the conclusion that Rabbi Yehudah holds the view that three searches must be made. The Babylonian amora, Rav Yosef, quotes a baraita in which Rabbi Yehudah states: 'Anyone who has not done a search at one of these three times does not search thereafter'. From this baraita it seems that Rabbi Yehudah's view in our mishnah should be understood as giving three alternatives: the search for ĥametz should be made ideally on the evening of the fourteenth; failing that it should be made during the morning of the fourteenth; and if it had still not been done the search should be made before the last moment by which ĥametz must be eliminated. Anyone who did not make the search at one of those times does not make the search thereafter. The Gemara explains that Rabbi Yehudah, it seems, holds that not only is there no point to a search for ĥametz which is made after ĥametz is already forbidden, but it might also have a serious deleterious effect: if ĥametz were indeed found as the result of such a late search the person performing the search might eat the ĥametz that he has found.

5:
Thus it now becomes apparent that the 'machloket' [difference of opinion] between Rabbi Yehudah and the rest of the sages is not about how many searches should be made, but whether a search should be made after the time at which ĥametz has become forbidden. (This time is the subject of our next mishnah.) Rabbi Yehudah holds that such a late search should not be made (for reasons considered above) while the rest of the sages hold that the search must be made at any time one becomes aware that the search was not made - even during the festival itself, and even after the festival is over!

6:
In this matter halakhah follows the sages: if no search was made before the festival it must be made during the festival and even after it.


DISCUSSION:

In shiur Pesaĥim 1:1#18, I wrote:

It is not a berakhah about the search, since the search itself is not a mitzvah [requirement] of the Torah, but a rabbinic innovation.

Bayla Singer writes:

However, in response to a question some time ago, you pointed out that rabbinic innovations such as washing hands and lighting Shabbat and Yom Tov candles were considered as being 'of the Torah'; indeed the very wording of the b'rachot over those actions contains the v'tzivanu (and commanded/required us) formula. Why the seeming difference re the search for ĥametz?

I respond:

There is a fundamental difference here. The seven mitzvot that were 'invented' by the sages have no basis in the Torah. (The reasoning of the sages that they base these mitzvot on Deuteronomy 17:11 is not about the etiology of these seven mitzvot but about the right of the sages to 'invent' them.) The elimination of ĥametz is certainly a requirement of the Torah. However, the Torah does not specifically require us to search for ĥametz, but only to completely eliminate it from our sight, possession and thought. Thus, the search that the sages require is seen as a requirement to facilitate the performance of the actual mitzvah: you cannot be certain that you have eliminated all your ĥametz unless you have searched it out. Thus the process of elimination begins with the preliminary search; therefore the berakhah is made before the search begins, but the mitzvah referred to is 'the elimination of ĥametz'. (Since the berakhah has already been made is is not repeated the following morning when the ĥametz found is physically eliminated.)


EXPLANATIONS (continued):

7:
The seifa of our mishnah states that 'What one sets aside one should keep in a safe place'. This refers to the ĥametz that is still kept for use after the search, to serve as food and drink until the time arrives for the elimination of the ĥametz. If this ĥametz should go astray the search would have to be repeated in order to locate it.

8:
Even the best of searches can have points of failure. Ĥametz belonging to a Jew that is discovered during the festival should be covered and secured in an efficient manner and eliminated after the festival. Even ĥametz that is discovered after the festival is over (Nisan 22nd onwards) must be eliminated, for reasons that will become apparent when we reach the second mishnah of the next chapter.


DISCUSSION:

Marc Sheinberg writes:

You mentioned that 18 minutes was the time that was required for the fermentation process was to begin. I note that 18 minutes also plays a part of candle lighting. Why 18? Is it used like 12 years in a previous shiur to indicate a long time?

I respond:

The identity of the number of minutes is misleading. Eighteen minutes is the accepted measure of the time referred to by the sages as 'the time it takes to walk a 'mil''. (The 'mil' is obviously derived from the Roman 'mile' which originally indicated 'mille pasuum' - one thousand paces.) Since the Roman military machine marched at a 'regulation pace' it was possible to calculate the passage of time thereby. Nowadays the rabbinic 'mil' is calculated as being 1184 metres and that it can be marched in 18 minutes.

It is required that Shabbat begin for us some time before sunset, the amount of time before sunset being known as the tosefet Shabbat, the secular time 'added on' to Shabbat. The length of this additional time is the choice of the individual, and strictly speaking even one minute would suffice. However custom has made certain arbitrary choices in various places. In Jerusalem (and therefore also in Petach-Tikvah which was founded by Jerusalemites) the custom established was that Shabbat should officially begin 40 minutes before sunset. In the much more secular Tel-Aviv it was established that Shabbat would begin only 18 minutes before sunset. Many other places in Israel chose a compromise of 30 minutes.

It is accepted that when baking matzah the time that elapses between when the water comes into contact with the flour and the time when the dough is placed in the oven should be as short as possible. As long as the dough is being handled, kneaded, fermentation will not start. As long as matzah was made by hand there was no real need to define 'how long'. However, in the 19th century bakers started to bake matzot by machine. This invloved a much larger amount of dough for each batch with no human control over the handling. One of the greatest of the European rabbis of the 19th century, Rabbi Shalom Mordechai Schwadron (1835-1911), wrote a responsum to a question addressed to him from St Louis, USA. There a baker had introduced machine-baked matzot. The amount of dough was so large that it required more than 30 minutes of handling by the machine. The local rabbi thought that this was a dangerously long time (from the point of view of ĥametz), but the baker was insistent that he could not reduce the amount of dough for each batch since it would take him four times as long and he would lose money (over a ten-hour working day with all its overheads). Rabbi Schwadron determined that the machine should handle a load of dough no greater than half the 35 pounds that the baker insisted on, and that the handling of the dough by the machine, before baking commenced, should not exceed 'the time it takes to walk a mil - 18 minutes'.



Bill Friedman writes:

You write 'the search is made by artificial light' and go on to quote the permission of the Chazon Ish to use a flashlight (at least, that's the kind of 'torch' I'm assuming you meant). What are the issues, then, with just leaving the lights on in the house and poking around for ĥametz in a fully lit house. After all, lamps are just as artifical sources of light as flashlights.

I respond:

Firstly, as to Bill's quip: I think it was George Bernard Shaw who said that the British and the Americans are one people divided by a common language.

As to the substance of his question: Leaving the lights on in order to make the search would not intrinsically be different from using bright sunlight, which we have already noted is insufficient. The expectation is that the search will be made in nooks and crannies, inside closets and storerooms, in the pockets of clothing, and so forth. Ordinary house lighting is not sufficient for this purpose. The essential reason which Chazon Ish permitted the use of a flashlight is not because the source of its light is artificial, but because - like the candle of the sages - it can concentrate a good light into a small and dark space.



In answer to a question I wrote that yeast is a chemical agent. More than one person has been diligent enough to write to tell me that yeast is a one-celled plant, a living organism. I stand corrected. The main point of my response, however, is unaffected.



Saul Davis writes:

In Mishna 2 it says not to take matters to crazy lengths because 'there would never be an end of the matter'. We see many (well meaning) Jews going to crazy lengths - eg checking the lettuce for bugs under a microscope or not sitting next to a woman on public transport. I wonder if this liberal Mishnaic principle has been used elsewhere to prevent inevitable and prevalent religious fanaticism?

I respond:

I think that we must be careful here, because one man's 'crazy lengths' may not be either crazy or long for another person. Judaism is a religion whose main emotional expression is through the performance of mitzvot and rituals (unlike other religions, where the main emotional expression is through feeling, belief or philosophy). Thus, if a Jew sincerely gets religious uplift from checking her lettuce for bugs through a microscope there is nothing wrong with that for her. It would become extreme when she claims that her act of supererogation is a norm that should be emulated by everyone else. It is the duty of a Conservative Jew to observe the mitzvot as expounded by Israel's sages in all generations (including our own). Individual Conservative Jews may wish to take observance of certain mitzvot one stage further. That is their right and privilege - so long as they do not seek to impose it on others.

As to Saul's main question: there is a famous 'purple passage' in which Rambam writes:

Perhaps a person may say, since envy and lust and status seeking and so forth are the wrong road ... I will keep very far away from them by going to the opposite extreme. Thus he will not eat meat, or drink wine, or marry, or live in a nice apartment, or wear nice clothes; but rather he will wear sackcloth and harsh wool and so forth - as do pagan priests. This too is a wrong road and it is forbidden to travel down it. One who travels this road is termed a sinner: in the case of the Nazirite the Torah says [Numbers 6:1-21] And he shall atone for his sin against the soul. The sages say that if the Nazirite, who only abstains from wine, needs atonement how much more is this true in the case of someone who denies themselves everything. That is why the sages say that people should deny themselves only those things that the Torah has specifically prohibited, and that a person should not deny himself ... things that are permitted. The sages say [Talmud of Eretz-Israel, Nedarim 29a]: "Are not the prohibitions of the Torah enough for you, that you have to add on others for yourself?" [Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot De'ot 3:1]


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Rabbi Me'ir says that [ĥametz] is eaten for the first five hours of the day and is burned at the start of the sixth; Rabbi Yehudah says that it is eaten for the first four hours of the day, is in abeyence throughout the fifth and is burned at the beginning of the sixth.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
Our mishnah is concerned with the exact time when the prohibition against eating ĥametz (and possessing it and benefiting from it) begins. We have already seen two things. Firstly, the Torah states:

...

Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the very first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day to the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel [Exodus 12:15]

The phrase 'on the very first day' was interpreted as meaning 'by the very first day'. In other words the sages understood that in order to prevent the use of ĥametz even for a split second from the start of the first day of Pesaĥ the ĥametz must have been disposed of completely during the day before Pesaĥ.

2:
Secondly, we have already seen that another verse from the Torah was seen as defining a time during the day before Pesaĥ when this prohibition was to come into force. The Torah states:


:

You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with anything leavened; and the sacrifice of the Feast of Passover shall not be left lying until morning [Exodus 34:25].

This verse was understood to indicate that the consumption of ĥametz, its possession and the derivation of any benefit from it began before the time for the slaughter of the paschal lamb on 14th Nisan. As we shall see in a later chapter, the Pesaĥ [lamb] was slaughtered very shortly after noon on that day.

3:
In the ages before the possibility of mechanical time keeping (accurate clocks and watches) the day was divided up into twelve hours, each of which was the equivalent of one twelfth of the total amount of sunlight on any given day. Thus, the hour of the day was determined by observation of the position of the sun in the sky. The first hour began at sunrise, noon was at the start of the seventh hour, and the twelfth hour ended at sunset.

4:
In our mishnah both Rabbi Me'ir and Rabbi Yehudah agree that all ĥametz must have been disposed of at least one hour before the time for the slaughter of the paschal lamb. This gives a leeway to prevent inadvertent infringement of the prohibition by people who tend to leave things until the last minute. The only difference between these two sages is in the gradation of the process of elimination. Rabbi Me'ir holds that on 14th Nisan ĥametz may be eaten, possessed and used right up to the time that it becomes prohibited at the start of the sixth hour (one hour before the noon deadline of the Torah). Rabbi Yehudah holds that people should be weaned off ĥametz more gradually: it is generally permitted until the end of the fourth hour of daylight (approximately our 10 am); it is to be physically eliminated (and ceremonially burned) by the start of the sixth hour (approximately our 11 am). However, he adds a one-hour period of a kind of 'no man's land' in which it may not be eaten but is not yet eliminated. This extra caution is to allow for a possible miscalculation of the time on a cloudy day. Accepted halakhah follows the view of Rabbi Yehudah.


DISCUSSION:

I have previously attempted to answer the question why, when preparing matzah for Pesaĥ, no more than 18 minutes may elapse from the time that water is added to the flour until the dough is put into the oven. I mentioned the matter of the Roman mile and I also mentioned the decision of Rabbi Shalom Mordechai Schwadron concerning automated matzah baking. This prompted Monique Susskind Goldberg to suggest the following:

Is not the number 18 chosen (and not 17 or 19),because of the meaning of its equivalent in letters "Hai", ('live'),as it is written in Leviticus 18,5 Vehai bahem ,'and live by them (i.e. commandments)'?

I respond:

This is not at all the case! I am surprised that certain regular readers of these shiurim who usually pick up on any illogicality in my explanations did not notice in this one a complete non sequitur! (Were Reuven, Jim, Yiftach, Benjamin, Art, Albert and many others sleeping in the back row?) No one castigated me for not indicating what connection there was between the Roman mile and Rabbi Schwadron's decision concerning 18 minutes. Had I done so, Monique would not have been misled.

The Gemara [Pesaĥim 46a] states that the maximum permissible kneading time is the equivalent of the time it would take someone to walk from the village of Migdal Nunya to the town of Tiberias, and this distance is defined as one Roman mile. Elsewhere [Pesaĥim 93b] the Gemara states that on an average day one day's journey (from sunrise to sunset) is 40 Roman miles. This would mean that on that mythical 'average' day of 12 hours sunlight the time it takes to walk one Roman mile would be 720 minutes divided by 40 Roman miles. We have thus reached our 18 minutes.



Mia Buchwald Gelles writes:

I would like some clarification on how and where each phase of the holiday of Pesaĥ was celebrated in the time of the Temple. If, for example, you had to travel a day or more to get there then where would you search for ĥametz? Would you stay in Jerusalem to celebrate the rest of the holiday after the Pesaĥ offering? Would you travel again back home and finish the celebration there?

I respond:

Ĥametz should be searched for before the time for its elimination (though as we have previously learned that if the search was not made before the festival it must still be made during the festival or even after it). Our tractate describes what is usual: that the search for ĥametz would be made during the evening of Nisan 14th. However (and this is still the case), if someone leaves their abode before then and does not expect to return before the evening of Nisan 14th they should search for leaven before leaving. All the historical references that we have suggest that people who made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem stayed there throughout the festival. In fact, most of them stayed longer. There were two times in the year when pilgrims stayed in Jerusalem: from Pesaĥ until after Shavu'ot (a seven week vacation) and throughout Sukkot (a 10 day vacation).



Benjamin Fleischer writes:

You've written a number of times 'Halakhah, of course, follows Tanna Kamma' and recently quoted a source in berakhot 37a which only deals with cases of majority versus minority. There are many occasions when minority opinions have been followed against the majority (BT Brekh. 37a, Yev 108a, Git. 15a, Ket. 48b, Kid. 59b). 'Minority opinions have been preserved in the talmudic sources besides those of the majority so that if a rabbinical court, at a later time, should for some reason of its own agree with the minority, it would have the right to invalidate a previous ruling according to the majority. It would have the authority to do that even if the first ruling was given by a rabbinical court greater in learning as well as in numbers than itself.' (M Eduy. 1:4-6). in Berkovits, E Not in Heaven, (Ktav 1983) p.7-8, cf. p122 n.21 where he explains that though a 'fellow court' cannot annul the majority opinion, a later court may. If that's the case, then in Menachot 43a, the tanna kamma of the baraita obligates women to tzitzit and makes halakah, but we seem to follow R' Shimon who exempts on the matter. Does that rule pertain only the mishnayot, not tanaaic statements?

I respond:

There are several issues in this question (and also some misunderstandings). The methodology used by Rabbi Yehudah the President of the Sanhedrin while editing the Mishnah was to quote the majority view anonymously while attributing minority views. This is explained (as quoted by Benjamin) in tractate Eduyot 1:6. It is quite right, in theory, that a later authority could reverse the decision and accept the minority opinion rejected by Rabbi. However, as the mishnah explicitly states, that later authority would have to be superior to Rabbi's court in learning and number - a possibility which is very unlikely, to say the least.

However, on a few occasions the Amora'im in the Gemara do give valid reasons why halakhah should follow a minority opinion and not Tanna Kamma (who represents the majority). The occasions are few, indeed, and for our purposes may be seen as 'exceptions which prove the rule' that halakhah almost invariably follows Tanna Kamma - let's say 99 times out of 100.

Halakhah concerning women and tzitzit (tallit) follows the (minority) view that women are excused this mitzvah. However, 'excused' does not mean 'prohibited'. Rambam states quite clearly that women who wish to wear tzitzit may do so [Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Tzitzit 3:9]; he also says that this applies to any positive time-specific mitzvah. There is a difference of opinion in this matter, however, between Ashkenazi tradition and Sefaradi tradition. Sefaradi tradition [exemplified by Rambam in the above mentioned locus] says that women electing to perform a positive time-specific mitzvah may not recite the accompanying berakhah. Ashkenazi tradition [exemplified by Rabbenu Tam] says that they may recite the accompanying berakhah. The arguments hang on the phrase in the berakhah 'who has hallowed us with His commandments'. Sefaradi tradition says how can a woman who has been excused from observing a commandment say that she is hallowed by being required to observe it? Ashkenazi tradition says that the phrase refers to all the commandments, which were given to Israel as a people, and therefore women are certainly hallowed by being required to observe God's commandments as part of the people of Israel. Conservative Judaism encourages women to see themselves as being obligated by all the commandments and to ignore their being excused, as it were.



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Another thing that Rabbi Yehudah said: Two Thanksgiving loaves that are disqualified and placed on the roof of the stoa - as long as they were there the people could eat; when one was removed it would be held in abeyance, neither eating nor burning; when both had been removed the people began burning. Rabban Gamli'el says that secular food was eaten for all four hours, Terumah for all five, and they would burn [ĥametz] at the beginning of the sixth.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
There are two parts to our mishnah. The long reisha reflects a view of Rabbi Yehudah while the short seifa reflects a view of Rabban Gamli'el. However, the seifa is complementing the reisha, not contradicting it.

2:
Nowadays many people are accustomed to request an aliyyah to the Torah in synagogue when they wish to demonstrate their gratitude to heaven for favours bestowed by reciting what is now called Birkat ha-Gomel. This is a berakhah whose particular section starts with the Hebrew word ha-Gomel and which praises God for having bestowed kindnesses on the grateful recipient. (This is a berakhah which must be recited in the presence of a minyan, but to be honest it is not necessary to be called to the Torah in order to do so.) Halakhah requires certain people to demonstrate gratitude to heaven, but anyone can do so who feels so urged even for other reasons.

3:
During the time of the Bet Mikdash there was another way in which people demonstrated their gratitude to heaven. This way is defined in the Torah:


: : : : :

This is the ritual of the sacrifice of well-being that one may offer to God: if he offers it for thanksgiving, he shall offer together with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes with oil mixed in, unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of choice flour with oil mixed in, well soaked. This offering, with cakes of leavened bread added, he shall offer along with his thanksgiving sacrifice of well-being. Out of this he shall offer one of each kind as a gift to God; it shall go to the priest who dashes the blood of the offering of well-being. And the flesh of his thanksgiving sacrifice of well-being shall be eaten on the day that it is offered; none of it shall be set aside until morning. [Leviticus 7:11-15]

We should note in particular the fact that the animal sacrifice of thanksgiving (which was festively eaten by the celebrants and their relatives and friends) was accompanied by a meal (i.e. cereal) offering consisting of both matzot and loaves of bread. The presence of the loaves of bread meant that pilgrims would not be able to offer their thanksgivings during Pesaĥ; and Deuteronomy 23:22 would prohibit them from postponing offering their thanksgiving until after Pesaĥ. This meant that there were an awful lot of thanksgiving offerings brought to the Bet Mikdash on Nisan 13th.

3:
A careful reading of the passage from Leviticus quoted above will reveal two important points: firstly, that some of the loaves were the perquisite of the priests; and secondly, that these loaves had to be eaten on the same day as they were offered. This meant that on Nisan 13th there were regularly far too many thanksgiving loaves for the priests to be able to eat them by midnight after Nisan 13th (the evening when the search for leaven was made). Not only were there too many to be eaten in the time limit, but because they were leaven they would have to be eliminated before the onset of Pesaĥ, just like any other ĥametz. However, here's catch 22: these loaves are sacred and may not be destroyed. So they cannot be consumed and they cannot be destroyed - and they are ĥametz in our possession just before Pesaĥ.

4:
Rabbi Yehudah in our mishnah describes how the problem was solved. Two representative loaves were left on the roof of the stoa so that they would become disqualified - by exposure to the elements, insects, reptilia etc. 'Stoa' is a word derived from the Greek which indicates a passageway formed by a colonnade which has been roofed. Such a colonnade surrounded the Bet Mikdash. During the morning of Nisan 14th these loaves would be retrieved in order to be eliminated by noon. This served as a kind of signal to the people, defining the times described by Rabbi Yehudah himself in the previous mishnah.

5:
The problem of how to dispose of sacred ĥametz was not just in the case of the thanksgiving loaves. Any Terumah produce was sacred. (This was food given to a priest as his perquisite and which could be eaten only by priests and their families.) Terumah which was ĥametz would have to be eliminated before Pesaĥ just like any other ĥametz. However, an extra hour was given to the priests to eat Terumah which was ĥametz in order to reduce as much as possible the destruction of sacred produce. Thus Rabban Gamli'el explains that non-sacred ĥametz could not be eaten beyond the fourth hour, as stated by Rabbi Yehudah in the previous mishnah; but sacred ĥametz could be eaten during the extra hour which had been added as a precautionary measure; all ĥametz must be eliminated by noon.


MISHNAH SIX:

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Rabbi Chananyah, the Deputy High Priest, says: The priests never refrained from burning meat which had become ritually impure by [contact with] sub-degree of impurity together with meat which had become ritually impure with a major source of impurity, even though they were [thus] increasing its degree of impurity. Rabbi Akiva added: The priests never refrained from lighting oil that had become disqualified by [contact with] 'a recently bathed priest' by a lamp that had become ritually impure by contact with someone who had been in contact with a corpse, even though they were [thus] increasing its degree of impurity.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
The last two mishnayot of Chapter 1 do not deal with the search for and disposal of ĥametz at all. They are placed here as the result of a developing thought process: the previous mishnah had dealt with the destruction of sacred produce - thanksgiving loaves and terumah. Our present mishnah takes the issue of destruction of sacra in a different direction.

2:
When we studied tractate Yadayyim already in the very first shiur we noted the various degrees of ritual impurity. Here is what I wrote in greatly reduced form:


The primary source of ritual impurity is a human corpse. The Torah teaches:

... :

Anyone who touches a human corpse shall be impure for seven days... If a person dies inside a tent anyone who enters the tent ... shall be impure for seven days [Numbers 19:11-14]

...Other major sources of ritual impurity are insects and reptilia [Leviticus 11:29ff], the carcasses of animals [Leviticus 11:27-28], people who suffer excretions from their genitalia [Leviticus 15], women during and after menstruation and childbirth [Leviticus 12], and various forms of skin disease [Leviticus 13 and 14]. The most severe form of ritual impurity is what derives from physical contact with a human corpse. This source of ritual impurity is termed 'the supreme major source of impurity' [Avi Avot ha-Tum'ah]. The other sources are termed 'major sources of impurity' [Avot ha-Tum'ah]. The practical halakhic difference between them is the fact that anyone who comes into contact with a human corpse (the 'supreme major source') immediately becomes 'a major source' himself or herself; whereas anyone who comes into contact with the others only becomes a 'minor source' of ritual impurity [Vlad ha-Tum'ah]. But it is not only people who can contract and transmit ritual impurity. The list also includes clothing and utensils made out of metal, wood, leather or bone and earthenware pottery. Foodstuffs that have come into contact with liquids and liquids themselves can contract ritual impurity (but they do not transmit it further down the line).

3:
Thus sacrificial meat could become invalidated by being in contact with something which had been in contact with something which had been in contact with something ... which had been in contact with a corpse. Such meat must be burned. Let us assume also another piece of meat which had become disqualified because of contact with a source of ritual impurity that was much higher up a chain, which was nearer to its original source of impurity. Strictly speaking, the moment the first piece of meat was laid next to the second piece of meat the degree of its ritual impurity was increased. All our mishnah says is that the priests never let that thought bother them!

4:
Rabbi Akiva brings a cognate example. Priests who had temporarily become ritually unfit service because of ritual pollution were required to bathe in a mikveh [ritual bath] and then wait for the day to end: after dark had set in they were considered once again to be ritually qualified. The term 'recently bathed priest' is my clumsy attempt to represent the Hebrew technical term 'tevul yom'. This indicates a priest who had already bathed in a mikveh but before the onset of dark. If such a priest touched oil the fuel thus contracted a minor degree of impurity. If it were ignited by a lamp that had been in contact with a much higher degree of impurity the degree of ritual impurity of the oil was increased thereby. All Rabbi Akiva says is that the priests never let that thought bother them either!


MISHNAH SEVEN:

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Rabbi Me'ir said: From their words we learn that [ritually] pure terumah may be burned together with impure [terumah] on Pesaĥ. Rabbi Yosé retorted: that is not the [correct] reasoning. And Rabbi Eli'ezer and Rabbi Yehoshu'a concede that each is burned separately. On what did they disagree? - On doubtful [terumah] together with impure [terumah]: Rabbi Eli'ezer holds that each must be burned separately whereas Rabbi Yehoshu'a holds that they may be burned together.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
The two previous mishnayot have dealt with, each in its own way, the problem of the permissibility or otherwise of putting together items of varying degrees of ritual impurity that are about to be destroyed. In the previous mishnah rabbis Chananyah and Akiva expressed opinions which involved the idea that in the circumstances described above (the mingling of varying degrees of impurity among items about to be destroyed) the priests had no qualms about so doing.

2:
Our present mishnah continues that thought. The thanksgiving loaves mentioned in mishnah 5 were not the only sacred products that might have to be eliminated on Nisan 14th. In all probability there would be priests who had received terumah which was ĥametz, and this too had to be eliminated before Pesaĥ.

3:
Terumah, you will recall, was agricultural produce that the farmer was required to donate to the priest of his choice - approximately two percent of his yield each year. This terumah ['donative'], which was to compensate the priest for the loss of income incurred by his duties in the Bet Mikdash, could only be eaten by the recipient priest and his immediate household. This produce was considered sacred and in order to enjoy it the priest had to be in a state of ritual purity; and in tractate Yadayyim we learned that netilat yadayyim was originally intended to appertain only to priests about to consume terumah produce. Obviously, in addition to the general law prohibiting the wanton destruction of foodstuffs [bal tashchit] in the case of the elimination of terumah there was the added problem of the elimination of sacred foodstuffs.

4:
In our present mishnah Rabbi Me'ir says that a logical extension of the principle underlying the opinions of the sages quoted in the previous mishnah would be that ritually pure terumah could be eliminated together with ritually impure terumah. Terumah which had become ritually disqualified was treated like any other foodstuff: it lost its restrictive sacred character. Therefore, on Nisan 14th such ĥametz foodstuffs which were no longer ritually terumah could only be eaten up to the beginning of the fifth hour of the day [see mishnah 4 above]. Rabbi Me'ir holds that ritually pure terumah which is ĥametz is also eliminated at the same time, even though placing the two kinds of terumah together involves the contamination of the pure by the impure.

5:
Rabbi Yosé says that Rabbi Me'ir is making an unjustified comparison. The cases discussed in mishnah 6 involve products all of which were ritually impure, except that some were ritually impure to a greater degree than others. In the case of terumah Rabbi Me'ir would permit the contamination of foodstuffs which were completely pure with foodstuffs which were not. What underlies the objection of Rabbi Yosé, who here voices the majority opinion, is the fact that the sages were very reluctant to permit the premature destruction of terumah. Technically speaking the Torah only requires the elimination of ĥametz (according to rabbinic interpretation) from noon onwards on Nisan 14th - the time when they started slaughtering the paschal lambs; in order to prevent inadvertent eating of ĥametz the sages had artificially pulled back the deadline [mishnah 4, paragraph 4 above]. The sages hold that this does not apply to terumah: terumah which was ĥametz could be eaten right up until noon. It was hoped that this 'extension' would enable as many priests as possible to dispose of their ĥametz terumah by way of consumption, thus avoiding the necessity of destroying it.

6:
Rabbi Yosé is, in fact, reflecting the agreement of two of the giants of the generation prior to his own. Both Rabbi Eli'ezer (the conservative) and Rabbi Yehoshu'a (the liberal) agreed that this extension was the norm and that it was not permissible to mingle terumah which was ritually pure with terumah which had become ritually impure. Where they did differ was in regard to terumah which might be ritually impure but it was not certain that this was the case. The conservative Rabbi Eli'ezer chooses the path of caution: ritually pure terumah which was ĥametz should be eliminated separately from terumah ĥametz which might possibly be ritually impure. The liberal Rabbi Yehoshu'a holds that they may be eliminated together, at the same time.

This concludes our study of the first chapter of this tractate.