Dr. Joshua Kulp

About Dr. Joshua Kulp

Dr. Joshua Kulp, Rosh Yeshiva, is co-founder of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem where he has taught Talmud and halakhah for the last 20 years. He is the author of the recently published book Reconstructing the Talmud (Mechon Hadar, 2014) as well as the The Schechter Haggadah: Art, History and Commentary (Schechter Press, 2008). Beginning in 2001 and continuing through 2013, Dr. Kulp authored a commentary in English on the entire Mishnah, which served as the basis for the Mishnah Yomit project. In 2013 Dr. Kulp began the Daf Shevui program, the study of one daf of Talmud per week and has so far completed a commentary on Tractates Sukkah and Megillah and has begun work on Tractate Ketubot. Dr. Kulp was raised in Margate, New Jersey, where his family was active in the Conservative Movement. He spent his summers at Camp Ramah in the Poconos, Camp Ramah in Canada and for the last ten summers, he has served as the scholar-in-residence at Camp Ramah in New England. Dr. Kulp made aliyah in 1994 and currently lives in Modiin with his wife, Julie Zuckerman, and their four children. In his spare time, he is an avid triathlete and runner and has completed three Ironmans.

Dr. Joshua Kulp

Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin Aleph, Part 3

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin Aleph, Part 3
Reading for Tuesday, October 23
Avodah Zarah 71-3



Today’s sugya is about the laws of acquisition. For Jews, acquisition (according to Talmudic law) is effected generally through drawing the object towards oneself—meshikhah. In other words, if you promise to pay me ten dollars for my book, you still do not own the book. You acquire only when you take it into your possession. Furthermore, if you take it into your possession you must pay me for it, even if you don’t like the book (you will like both of my books, do not worry).

Our sugya talks about whether non-Jews acquire in the same way. I should note that there are a lot of principles related to both laws of acquisition and the laws of yayin nesekh brought up in this sugya. It is not an easy passage—the give and take is quite complicated. Good luck!


מתני׳ המוכר יינו לעובד כוכבים פסק עד שלא מדד דמיו מותרין מדד עד שלא פסק דמיו אסורין:


If [a Jew] sells his wine to a non-Jew—if he set the price before he measured it out, the purchase-money is permitted;

But if he measured it out before he set the price, the purchase-money is prohibited.


If a Jew sells his wine to a non-Jew, he must make sure that he is not receiving money for what is now yen nesekh.  If he measures out the wine to the non-Jew and then sets a price, he is actually receiving payment for selling yen nesekh, since the wine becomes yen nesekh as soon as it is in the non-Jew’s possession.  Therefore, he must set a price before he gives over the wine.  Note that once the price is set he need not receive the money, for the debt of the non-Jew is already established.


גמ׳ אמר אמימר משיכה בעובד כוכבים קונה תדע דהני פרסאי משדרי פרדשני להדדי ולא הדרי בהו

רב אשי אמר לעולם אימא לך משיכה בעובד כוכבים אינה קונה והאי דלא הדרי בהו דרמות רוחא הוא דנקיטא להו

GEMARA. Amemar said: Meshikhah effects acquisition for non-Jews. You can know this from the practice of the Persians who send presents to one another and never retract.  

Ashi said: I can always say to you that meshikhah does not effect acquisition for non-Jews, and the reason why [the Persians] do not retract is the haughtiness that they have adopted.


Both Amemar and R. Ashi agree that when Persians give gifts they do not retract. The question is why not? According to Amemar it is because according to non-Jewish law, meshikhah effects acquisition. Persians do not retract because gifts cannot be taken back. But R. Ashi says that this is simply due to their refusal to go back on their word. It is not a legal principle. They could retract if they wanted to.


אמר רב אשי מנא אמינא לה מדאמר להו רב להנהו סבויתא כי כייליתו חמרא לעובדי כוכבים שקלו זוזי מינייהו והדר כיילן להו ואי לא נקיטו בהדייהו זוזי אוזיפונהו והדר שקילו מינייהו כי היכי דתיהוי הלואה גבייהו דאי לא עבדיתו הכי כי קא הוי יין נסך ברשותייכו קא הוי וכי שקילתו דמי יין נסך קא שקילתו ואי ס”ד משיכה בעובד כוכבים קונה מדמשכה עובד כוכבים קנייה יין נסך לא הוי עד דנגע ביה


Ashi said: From what source did I say this? From that which Rav told [Jewish] wine-sellers, “When you measure wine for non-Jews, first take the money and then measure for them, and if they do not have zuzim with them, lend to them and get them back later, so that it should be a loan [of money] with them; for should you not act in this manner, when it becomes yayin nesek it will be in your possession and when you receive payment it will be for yayin nesekh.”

Now should you think that meshikhah effects acquisition for a non-Jew, then as soon as the non-Jew drew [the wine] to himself he acquired it and it did not become yayin nesekh until he touched it.


Ashi attempts to prove that meshikhah does not effect acquisition for non-Jews from instructions that Rav gave to Jewish wine-sellers. Rav essentially told the Jews to first take the money from the non-Jew, or at least make the non-Jew obligated to pay back a loan, and only then to pour the wine into a container and give it to the non-Jew. Otherwise, the wine will still belong to the Jew up until the point that the non-Jew drinks it and when the non-Jew pays the money back, they will be paying the Jew for nesekh.

However, if simple meshikhah acquired the wine, then as soon as he poured the wine into the container and gave it to them, it would be their wine, but it would not become yayin nesekth until they touch it. Thus meshikhah must not effect acquisition.


אי דקא כייל ורמי למנא דישראל ה”נ לא צריכא דקא כייל ורמי למנא דעובד כוכבים


If the wine was measured and poured [by the Jew] into the Jew’s vessel, it would indeed be so. But this measure is necessary where [the Jew] measured and poured it into the Gentile’s vessel.


Amemar admits that R. Ashi would be correct if all he is concerned about is a case where the Jew was pouring into Jewishly owned vessels. But if the Jew is pouring into a vessel owned by the non-Jew, the wine will indeed become nesekh immediately. Thus this source really has nothing to do with acquisition through meshikhah.


סוף סוף כי מטא לאוירא דמנא קנייה יין נסך לא הוי עד דמטי לארעיתיה דמנא ש”מ נצוק חבור


At all events when [the wine] enters the interior of the vessel [the non-Jew] acquired it, and it does not become yayin nesek until it reaches the bottom of the vessel. 

Are we, then to conclude that the flow is considered a connecting link?


Even according to Amemar’s situation, where the wine is put into the non-Jew’s vessel, we can still say that it is acquired before it becomes nesekh, and thus Rav’s instructions are not necessary. For as soon as the wine enters the vessel, even the vessel’s airspace, it would be acquired by the non-Jew. But it would not become nesekh until it reaches the bottom. So why would this be a problem—the non-Jew would be paying for regular wine. Perhaps, the Talmud suggests, that Rav holds that liquid being poured counts as a connective. If so, then when the beginning of the flow hits the bottom, the entire stream becomes nesekh, and then the wine would become nesekh while still in the Jew’s possession. Note—the Talmud does not think that flow serves as a connective. This is why this is a difficulty.


לא אי דנקיט ליה עובד כוכבים לכלי בידיה ה”נ לא צריכא דמנח אארעא


No; if the non-Jew was holding the vessel in his hand it would indeed be so [that he acquires it before it becomes nesekh].  But it is necessary [to suppose the circumstance] where it was resting upon the ground.


Amemar further resolves the difficulty by saying that in this case the non-Jew was not holding the vessel. Therefore, he does not acquire it before it becomes nesekh by having been put in the non-Jew’s vessel.


ותיקני ליה כליו

שמעת מינה כליו של לוקח ברשות מוכר לא קנה לוקח

But let [the non-Jews] vessels acquire [the wine] for him! Learn from here that when the purchaser’s vessels are in the possession of the seller the purchaser does not acquire.


Amemar had just said that Rav referred to a case where the non-Jew’s vessels were on the ground and therefore he did not acquire the wine until he picked it up. By this point it was already nesekh. This seems to imply that in general if a purchaser’s vessels are in the domain of the seller, the vessels do not effect acquisition for the purchaser.


לא לעולם אימא לך קנה לוקח והכא במאי עסקינן כגון דאיכא עכבת יין אפומיה דכוזנתא דקמא קמא אינסיך ליה


No; I can always say to you that the purchaser does acquire them; but what are we dealing with here? For instance when there is some wine held back on the mouth of the smaller vessel for each bit of wine will become nesekh.


Again, we reject the previous conclusion. The purchaser does acquire the wine as soon as it is put into his jug. And still the wine becomes nesekh before it hits the bottom because there might be a little bit of wine belonging to the non-Jew left over in the vessel into which the Jew pours his wine. As soon as the Jew’s wine hits this wine, it becomes nesekh, even before it is acquired by the non-Jew.


וכמאן דלא כרשב”ג דאי רשב”ג האמר ימכר כולו לעובדי כוכבים חוץ מדמי יין נסך שבו


According to whom does this follow?  It does not accord with R. Shimon b. Gamaliel; for if it followed him, behold he has said: All of it may be sold to a non-Jew with the exception of the value of the yayin nesek which is in it!


Rav’s instruction seemingly do not accord with Rabban Shimon b. Gamaliel. Rabban Shimon b. Gamaliel says that when yayin nesekh (in this case, the drop in the vessel) becomes mixed up with non-nesekh wine (the Jew’s wine), the entire mixture can be sold to a non-Jew minus the value of the nesekh. So why should he not be able to receive payment for his wine when it became nesekh in the possession of a non-Jew?


מידי הוא טעמא אלא לרב האמר רב הלכה כרשב”ג חבית בחבית אבל לא יין ביין


This was only an argument against Rav; but did not Rav himself says that the halakhah agrees with R. Shimon b. Gamaliel only when a cask [of yayin nesek] became mixed with other casks but not when wine [which is nesekh] became mixed with other wine.


The Talmud resolves this by pointing out that Rav says that the halakhah follows R. Shimon b. Gamaliel only when casks of permitted and forbidden wine get mixed up. But if yayin nesekh becomes mixed with other wine all of the wine becomes prohibited and may not even be sold to non-Jews.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin Aleph, Part 2

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin Aleph, Part 2
Reading for Monday, October 22
Avodah Zarah 71-2




Today’s section starts with a new mishnah.


מתני׳ האומנין של ישראל ששלח להם עובד כוכבים חבית של יין נסך בשכרן מותר לומר תן לנו את דמיה משנכנסה לרשותן אסור:



If a non-Jew sent to Jewish craftsmen a cask of yen nesekh as their wages, they are allowed to say to him, “give us its value in money”; 

But after [the wine] has come into their possession [the exchange] is prohibited.


If a non-Jew who has hired a Jew to do some work for him, pays him with yen nesekh and actually gives the Jew the wine, the Jew cannot exchange the wine back for money.  Once the wine comes into his possession it is actually his, and exchanging it with the non-Jew would in essence be selling yen nesekh, which is forbidden.  If the Jew were to send back the shipment of wine before it reaches him then he may accept in its place money. Since in this case the non-Jew has never paid back his debt, it is not considered as if the Jew is selling his own yen nesekh.


גמ׳ אמר רב יהודה אמר רב מותר לאדם לומר לעובד כוכבים צא והפס עלי מנת המלך


GEMARA. Rav Judah said in the name of Rav: A man is allowed to say to a non-Jew, “Go and appease for me the king’s taxes.” 


A Jew can tell a gentile to go and try to come to a tax settlement with the king or his representatives, even if the agent ends up paying the taxes with wine that might have been used in libations. We should note that the sugya assume that wine is used to pay debts, and indeed we know that throughout history, wine was often used as a trade commodity.


מיתיבי אל יאמר אדם לעובד כוכבים עול תחתי לעוצר


They raised a difficulty: One may not say to a gentile, “Go in my place to the official”!


According to the baraita, one may not tell a gentile to go pay a tax or a bribe (the difference was not always so apparent) out of fear that the gentile will pay the tax in prohibited wine. This is a difficulty on Rav.


אמר ליה רב עול תחתי לעוצר קאמרת הא לא דמיא אלא להא אבל אומר לו מלטני מן העוצר:


Rav said to him: You speak of a case where a man says, “Go in my place to the official.”  But this is similar only to the following: But he may say to him, “Save me from the official.”


Rav said that the situation he refers to is not the same one referred to in the baraita.  When he says “Go in my place,” the gentile is acting directly in his place. If he pays the debt in forbidden wine, then it is as if the Jew is paying the debt. Rav’s situation is more similar to the end of the baraita, which allows the Jew to say, “Save me from the official.” Since this is a less direct command, it is permitted.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin Aleph, Part 1

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin Aleph, Part 1
Reading for Sunday, October 21
Avodah Zarah 71-1




Today’s section discusses non-Jewish soldiers—do we have to assume that they opened casks of wine and drank from them.


מתני׳ בולשת שנכנסה לעיר בשעת שלום חביות פתוחות אסורות סתומות מותרות

בשעת מלחמה אלו ואלו מותרות לפי שאין פנאי לנסך:

If a band of non-Jewish marauders entered a city in a time of peace, the open casks are prohibited and the sealed are permitted;

In a time of war both are permitted because they do not have the leisure to offer libations.


If the marauders enter the city in a time of peace, the assumption is that they may make libations from wine in open casks.  Nevertheless, wine that is found afterwards in closed casks is permitted. The mishnah is not assuming that the marauders will not open the closed casks. After all, we have seen over and over in the previous mishnayoth that we must suspect that the non-Jews will open the casks and take from the wine.  Rather the reason that the wine is permitted is that if the marauders had opened the casks they would not bother to reseal them. Unlike the non-Jews in the previous mishnah who might have attempted to be sneaky and take a drink without getting caught, the marauders have no such concern.

However, if the marauders entered the city in a time of war, all of the wine is permitted, since they are too busy making war to offer libations.


גמ׳ ורמינהי עיר שכבשוה כרקום כל כהנות שבתוכה פסולות


GEMARA. Against this they quoted: A city which been captured by besieging troops, all the wives of priests in it are disqualified [to their husbands]!


The Talmud raises a contradiction which comes from a mishnah in Ketubot. The background to this mishnah is that if a woman is raped, she may not return to her husband if he is a priest. [I know that this is a difficult law. If you’re interested, read the first parts of Mishnah Ketubot]. The mishnah assumes that marauding troops will rape women. Therefore, the women in the city are forbidden to return to their husbands if they are kohanim. So why assume that soldiers at the time of war will have time to rape women but no time to offer libations.


אמר רב מרי לנסך אין פנאי לבעול יש פנאי:


Mari said: [The soldiers] have no free time to offer libations, but they have free time to have intercourse.


The answer is indeed, soldiers have time to have intercourse (i.e. rape) but no time to offer libations. Perhaps we might add that soldiers might just be more interested in some things than others.

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin, Part 6

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin, Part 6
Reading for Friday, October 19
Avodah Zarah 70-6



ההיא מסוביתא דמסרה לה איקלידא מפתחה לעובדת כוכבים א”ר יצחק א”ר אלעזר עובדא הוה בי מדרשא ואמרו לא מסרה לה אלא שמירת מפתח בלבד


There was a Jewish woman who sold wine who left the key of her door in charge of a non-Jewish woman. R. Yitzchak said in the name of R. Elazar: This happened in our Bet Midrash [and they permitted the wine because] they maintained that she only entrusted her to guard the key.


We do not need to assume that the Jewish woman gave her the key so that she could enter the room. She may have been given the key just to watch the key, not so that she can enter the store.


אמר אביי אף אנן נמי תנינא המוסר מפתחות לע”ה טהרותיו טהורות לפי שלא מסר לו אלא שמירת מפתח בלבד השתא טהרותיו טהורות יין נסך מיבעיא


Abaye said: We have also taught in a baraita: If a person entrusts his keys to an am ha-aretz his things which are pure remain pure because he only entrusted him to guard the key. Since his things which are pure remain pure, would we even need to say this about yayin nesekh.


Abaye cites a baraita to prove the above ruling. The baraita says that we can assume that the am ha’aretz was entrusted only with the key and will not go in and defile all of the pure things. All the more so we can make this assumption about yayin nesekh whose rules are assumed here to be more lenient.


למימרא דטהרות אלימי מיין נסך אין דאיתמר חצר שחלקה במסיפס אמר רב טהרותיו טמאות ובעובד כוכבים אינו עושה יין נסך ורבי יוחנן אמר אף טהרותיו טהורות


Is this to say that the laws of purity are more stringent than those of yayin nesekh? Yes, for it has been stated: If a courtyard that was divided off by a low partition, Rav said that the pure things [of the haver] are impure, but [if the resident on the other side is] a non-Jew he does not render the wine [of the haver] nesekh; and R. Yohanan said: Also his pure things remain pure.


The Talmud confirms that the laws of purity are more stringent than those governing yayin nesekh. The halakhah here refers to a case where a courtyard was divided with a low partition and a haver, one who strictly maintains the laws of ritual purity, lives on one side and an am ha’aretz, who does not maintain his own purity, lives on the other. According to Rav we must assume that the am ha’aretz touched the pure things belonging to the haver and defiled them. But if a non-Jew is living on the other side, we need not assume that he touched the wine and caused it to be nesekh.


מיתיבי הפנימית של חבר והחיצונה של ע”ה אותו חבר שוטח שם פירות ומניח שם כלים ואע”פ שידו של עם הארץ מגעת לשם קשיא לרב

אמר לך רב שאני התם שנתפס עליו כגנב

They raised a difficulty: [If there are two courtyards one within the other,] the inner belonging to a haver and the outer to an am ha-aretz, the haver may lay out his fruits there and leave utensils there, even though the hand of the ‘am ha-arez can reach it.  

This is a difficulty for Rav!

Rav can answer you: It is different in this case because he can be regarded as a thief.  


The baraita refers to a case where there is an inner and outer courtyard, the inner one belonging to a haver and the outer one belonging to the am ha’aretz. Although the am ha’aretz could stretch out his hand and touch the haver’s belongings, we do not have to assume that he did so. The haver’s stuff remains pure. This seems to contradict Rav.

Rav answers that this refers to a case where the am ha’aretz will fear getting caught—looking like a thief. Thus he will be deterred from touching the haver’s pure things. But if he has no such fear, the pure things would have to be considered defiled.


ת”ש רשב”ג אומר גגו של חבר למעלה מגגו של ע”ה אותו חבר שוטח שם פירות ומניח שם כלים ובלבד שלא תהא ידו של ע”ה מגעת לשם

קשיא לרבי יוחנן אמר לך רבי יוחנן שאני התם דאית ליה לאישתמוטי מימר אמר אימצורי קא ממצרא

Come and hear: R. Shimon b. Gamaliel says: If the roof of a haver is higher than the roof of an am ha-aretz, the haver may lay out his fruits there and leave utensils there, provided the hand of the ‘am ha-aretz cannot reach to it.  

This is a difficulty for R. Yohanan!

Yohanan could answer: It is different in this case because he could offer the excuse that he was only stretching.


This time the difficulty is against R. Yohanan. This baraita proves that if the am ha’aretz can reach the haver’s stuff, we must consider it impure.

Yohanan could answer that in this case the am ha’aretz could have an excuse—he was only stretching his hand.


ת”ש גגו של חבר בצד גגו של עם הארץ אותו חבר שוטח שם פירות ומניח שם כלים ואע”פ שידו של עם הארץ מגעת לשם קשיא לרב אמר לך רב לאו איכא ר”ש בן גמליאל דקאי כוותי אנא דאמרי כר”ש בן גמליאל:


Come and hear: If the roof of a haver was next to that of an am ha-aretz, the haver may lay out his fruits there and leave utensils there, even though the hand of the am ha-aretz can reach to it.

This is a difficulty against Rav!  

Rav could say to you: Is there not R. Shimon b. Gamaliel who agrees with me?  I made my statement in agreement with R. Shimon b. Gamaliel.


This baraita clearly disagrees with Rav and holds that even if the am ha’aretz could reach there, the haver’s things remain pure.

Rav admits that he does not agree with this baraita. He holds like R. Shimon b. Gamaliel, whose opinion we saw above. Amoraim cannot hold opinions that disagree with all tannaim, but if there is disagreement among the tannaim, they can hold like whichever opinion they want, although there is still a preference for the majority opinion.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin, Part 5

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin, Part 5
Reading for Thursday, October 18
Avodah Zarah 70-5



ההיא רביתא דאישתכח דהות בי דני והות נקיטא אופיא בידה

אמר רבא חמרא שרי אימר מגבה דחביתא שקלתיה ואע”ג דליכא תו אימר אתרמויי איתרמי לה

A [non-Jewish] girl was found among jars of wine and she was holding some of the froth in her hand. Rava said: The wine is permitted for I can say that she took it from the outside of the cask, and even though there is none there any more, I can also say that she happened to find some there.


Rava again demonstrates his ability to explain away suspicious circumstances with regard to wine. Although it very much looks like the girl touched the wine, we are allowed to assume that she only touched the froth on the outside of the jug.


ההוא פולמוסא דסליק לנהרדעא. פתחו חביתא טובא. כי אתא רב דימי אמר עובדא הוה קמיה דרבי אלעזר ושרא ולא ידענא אי משום דסבר לה כרבי אליעזר דאמר ספק ביאה טהור אי משום דסבר רובא דאזלי בהדי פולמוסא ישראל נינהו


A certain army once came up to Nehardea and opened several casks. When R. Dimi arrived [from Eretz Yisrael] he said: This same thing happened in front of R. Elazar and he permitted [the wine], but I do not know whether he did so because he agreed with the view of R. Eliezer who said that when there is uncertainty whether he entered [an impure place] he is pure or because he holds that the majority of the men who were in the troops  were Jews.


Elazar allowed the casks of wine, but R. Dimi is not sure why. It could be that he holds that this is a case where we are not sure if he entered an area with impurity in it (below the Talmud will raise a difficulty on this) or it could be that the majority of the soldiers were Jewish (this seems unlikely to me).


א”ה האי ספק ביאה ספק מגע הוא כיון דמפתחי טובא אימא אדעתא דממונא פתחו וכספק ביאה דמי


But if that is so this is not a case of uncertainty about entrance; but uncertainty about touching! 

 Since, they opened many, I could say that they opened them with the intention of [searching for money] and so it is like a case of uncertainty about entrance.


The story does not seem to be like a case where it is uncertain whether they entered a certain area. Rather it is like a case where we know they entered a certain area that had an impure thing there but we just do not know whether they touched the impure thing. After all, we know they opened many casks of wine. Thus even R. Eliezer should be stringent in such a case.

The answer is that there is in essence another uncertainty in play here. Since they opened so many casks, it could be that they were looking for money and not looking for drink. Therefore, this is like a case of uncertainty about whether he even entered and R. Eliezer would indeed rule leniently.

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