Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Daf Yomi - Beitza 4 - Fundamental Explanation in the Decrees of the Chachamim

The Gemora drew a comparison between the halacha of an object that will eventually become permitted to a case where there is a uncertainty regarding the status of the egg. When an egg was laid on Yom Tov and became mixed with permissible eggs, we would not nullify the egg in question as the egg will be permitted after Yom Tov. Similarly, in our case where there is a doubt if the egg is rabbinically forbidden, we will not rule leniently as after Yom Tov the egg will nonetheless be permitted.

The Ran in Nedarim (52) offers what seems to be a different reason why an item that will eventually be permitted cannot be nullified. Normally if a forbidden food becomes intermingled with food that is permitted, the entire mixture will be permitted to eat, as long as the permitted food will comprise a majority of the mixture. There are certain exceptions to this rule. One exception is that if the two foods are similar to the point that they are indistinguishable from each other, the permitted foods cannot nullify the forbidden food. The Ran explains that a prohibited item which will eventually be permitted is not discernable from the permitted items and therefore it cannot be nullified.

Rav Elchonon Wasserman in Kovetiz Shiurim questions the words of the Ran from our Gemora. Here we equated the halacha of a case where there is an uncertainty if the egg is rabbinically forbidden to the case where the item will eventually be permitted and we ruled that the forbidden item is not nullified because it will nonetheless be permitted after Yom Tov. According to the Ran, however, there is no comparison. In the cases where the item will eventually be permitted, there is no nullification as the two items are indistinguishable from each other and that is why we cannot be lenient. In our case there is an egg which we have an uncertainty regarding to when the egg was laid, thus creating a Rabbinic doubt, so why should we not be lenient?

Rav Elchonon asks further on the essence of the Ran’s explanation. Why is an item which will eventually be permitted deemed to be indistinguishable from the other permitted items, if at present the item is forbidden. It is evident that they are distinguished from each other because the item is biblically permitted due to the nullification of the majority of items. What, then, compelled the Chachamim to rule stringently and state that an item that will eventually be permitted cannot be nullified?

The most obvious answer to the latter question is that logic dictates that one should not eat something until it is completely permitted, rather than nullifying it in its present state. The Ran, however, maintains that this reason alone would be insufficient for such a stringency. Rav Elchonon writes that there are two fundamental ideas that are required for every rabbinic injunction. First, there must be a legitimate reason for the decree and furthermore, there must be a biblical source that justifies the decree, as the Chachamim need to have a source in the Torah that will reinforce their decree.

The Chachamim saw fit to decree that a forbidden item that will eventually be permitted cannot be eaten now. The reason for this is because one can wait until the item will become permitted and then he can eat it. The justification for the Chachamim issuing this decree was based on the biblical law that a forbidden item which is indistinguishable from the permitted items cannot be nullified.

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