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, Part 4

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin, Part 4
Reading for Wednesday, October 17
Avodah Zarah 70-4

 

 

ההוא אריא דהוה נהים במעצרתא. שמע עובד כוכבים טשא ביני דני

אמר רבא חמרא שרי מימר אמר כי היכי דטשינא אנא איטשא נמי ישראל אחוריי וקא חזי לי

A lion once roared in a [Jewish] wine-press. A non-Jew[who was working in it], on hearing this, hid among the jars. Rava said: The wine is permitted for [the non-Jew] would have thought, “Just as I am hiding here, so also may the Jew be hiding behind me and watching me.”

 

Since the non-Jew does not know if the Jew is there or not, the wine is permitted. I do hope that they stay away from the wine-press until the lion goes away. Or at least write a children’s book—“The Lion in the Winepress.”

 

הנהו גנבי דסלקי לפומבדיתא ופתחו חביתא טובא. אמר רבא חמרא שרי מ”ט רובא גנבי ישראל נינהו

 

Some thieves came up to Pumbedita and opened many casks of wine. Rava said: The wine is permitted. What was his reason?  Because the majority of thieves [in Pumbedita] are Jews.

 

This story, if historically accurate and if it’s not just a leniency by Rava, shows how dominant the Jews were in Pumbedita, or at least among the thieves!

 

 הוה עובדא בנהרדעי ואמר שמואל חמרא שרי כמאן כרבי אליעזר דאמר ספק ביאה טהור דתנן הנכנס לבקעה בימות הגשמים וטומאה בשדה פלונית ואמר הלכתי במקום הלז ואיני יודע אם נכנסתי לאותה שדה אם לא נכנסתי ר”א אומר ספק ביאה טהור ספק מגע טמא

 

The same thing happened in Nehardea and Shmuel said: The wine is permitted.

According to whom [was this decision made]? According to R. Eliezer who said: When there is uncertainty about his entrance he is pure; for we have learned: If a person entered  a valley during the rainy season and there was something impure in a certain field, and he said, “I walked in that place but am not sure whe00ther I did or did not enter that field,” R. Eliezer says: When there is uncertainty about his entrance he is impure but if the uncertainty is about his having touched [the impure object] he is defiled.

 

Shmuel also rules that as long as we are not sure that non-Jews touched the wine, the wine is not considered yayin nesekh. The Talmud suggests that this law follows R. Eliezer and not the rabbis who would hold that he is impure even if he is not sure whether he walked in that field. In our case with the wine, it is unclear whether gentile thieves entered the house at all, for the thieves may have been Jews. This is like R. Eliezer’s rule—if we’re not sure he even entered the field, then he remains pure. The rabbis though would hold that the wine is impure.

 

לא שאני התם כיון דאיכא דפתחי לשום ממונא הוה ליה ספק ספיקא

 

No, it is different there [in the case of the thieves] because there are some who open [the casks] to search for money; thus there is a double uncertainty.

 

In the case of the casks, there are two uncertainties—one, whether the thieves were Gentiles or Jews, and even if they were Gentiles, perhaps they were looking for money and not wine. Therefore, even the rabbis who are more stringent than R. Eliezer with regard to the rules of impurity, would hold that this wine is pure.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin, Part 3

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin, Part 3
Reading for Tuesday, October 16
Avodah Zarah 70-3

 

 

 

ההוא ישראל ועובד כוכבים דהוו יתיבי בארבא. שמע ישראל קל שיפורי דבי שימשי נפק ואזל

אמר רבא חמרא שרי מימר אמר השתא מדכר ליה לחמריה והדר אתי

A Jew and a non-Jew were sitting on a ship. The Jew heard the sound of the shofar on erev Shabbat. So he left [the ship] and went ashore. Rava said: The wine is permitted, [for the non-Jew would say], “He will remember the wine at any moment and return.”

 

The Jew leaves the ship because it is Shabbat and does not take his wine with him. Rava assumes that the non-Jew does not know that the Jew will be away all of Shabbat, so he will not touch the wine, afraid that the Jew will come back any moment. The principle here is the same we’ve seen before. If the non-Jew is afraid of getting caught, he will not touch the wine.

 

ואי משום שבתא האמר רבא אמר לי איסור גיורא כי הוינן בארמיותן אמרינן יהודאי לא מנטרי שבתא דאי מנטרי שבתא כמה כיסי קא משתכחי בשוקא ולא ידענא דסבירא לן כרבי יצחק דא”ר יצחק המוצא כיס בשבת מוליכו פחות פחות מד’ אמות

 

But if [we should assume that the non-Jew will know] that he is leaving because of Shabbat, behold Rava has said: Issur the convert once told me, “When we were in our Aramean (non-Jewish) state we would say that Jews do not observe Shabbat, because if they did observe it how many purses would be found in the streets! But I did not then know that we follow the view of R. Yitzchak who said: If a person finds a purse on Shabbat he may carry it for distances less than four cubits.

 

The question the Talmud asks is how come the non-Jew does not know that the Jew will keep Shabbat. The answer, quite fascinatingly, is that indeed, non-Jews do not realize that Jews keep Shabbat. A convert named Issur says that before he converted, he and his fellow non-Jews assumed that Jews do not keep Shabbat, for if they did, then purses would be found in the marketplace all the time, for Jews could not carry them! What he did not know is that R. Yitzchak taught a way that a Jew could indeed pick up a purse and carry it four cubits at a time and thus save it from the marketplace. The purse referred to here is probably not just a random one, but rather a purse that the Jew was carrying when Shabbat began. If there is no alternative but to just toss it, the Jew can carry it four cubits at a time to get it home. But this is only allowed for one’s own purse/wallet.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin, Part 2

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin, Part 2
Reading for Monday, October 15
Avodah Zarah 70-2

 

Introduction

More stories in which Rava rules under what conditions wine left in the presence of non-Jews is permitted.

 

ההוא אושפיזא דהוה יתיב ביה חמרא דישראל. אישתכח עובד כוכבים דהוה יתיב בי דני

אמר רבא אם נתפס עליו כגנב שרי ואי לא אסיר

There was an inn in which Jewish wine was being stored, and a non-Jew was discovered among the jars. Rava said: If he was caught like a thief, the wine is permitted, otherwise it is prohibited.

 

If the non-Jew is startled when the Jew comes in and acts as if he was caught like a thief, then we can assume that the non-Jew was afraid of being caught and would not have drank the wine.

 

ההוא ביתא דהוה יתיב ביה חמרא אישתכח עובד כוכבים דהוה קאים בי דני

אמר רבא אי אית ליה לאישתמוטי חמרא אסיר ואי לא חמרא שרי

There was a house in which Jewish wine was stored and a non-Jew was discovered among the jars. Rava said: If he can offer an excuse the wine is prohibited, otherwise it is permitted.

 

If the non-Jew has a ready excuse for why he is in the house, we must suspect that he snuck in prepared to drink the wine and offer an excuse for why he is caught. But if he has no excuse, then he will be frightened when the Jew comes in and he will not come to touch the wine.

 

מיתיבי ננעל הפונדק או שאמר לו שמור אסור מאי לאו אע”ג דלית ליה לאישתמוטי לא בדאית ליה לאישתמוטי

 

They raised a difficulty against this: If the inn was locked or [the Jew] said to him,  “Keep watch,” it is prohibited. Is it not that [the wine is prohibited] even when the non-Jew has no excuse?  No, [this applies] only when he has an excuse.

 

The baraita seems to say that if the inn was locked or the Jew told him to watch, then the non-Jew would feel safe around the wine and the wine would be prohibited if the non-Jew was found among the barrels, even if he did not have an excuse. But the Talmud resolves the difficulty by saying that the case was only where he did offer an excuse for why he was in the house. If he offers no excuse, the wine is permitted.

 

ההוא ישראל ועובד כוכבים דהוו יתיבי וקא שתו חמרא שמע ישראל קל צלויי בי כנישתא קם ואזל אמר רבא חמרא שרי מימר אמר השתא מדכר ליה לחמריה והדר אתי

A Jew and a non-Jew were sitting and drinking wine together. The Jew heard the sound of prayer in a synagogue; so he got and went there. Rava said: The wine is permitted on the ground that [the non] must have thought, “He will remember the wine at any moment and return.”

 

When heading off to synagogue, Jews won’t want to leave their wine behind for long. I must say that this is another one of those lines in these passages that strike me as still true.

 

Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin, Part 1

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin, Part 1
Reading for Sunday, October 14
Avodah Zarah 70-1

 

Introduction

This week’s daf opens with stories in which the rabbis have to determine whether we assume that a non-Jew touched Jewish wine.

 

אמר רבא זונה עובדת כוכבים וישראל מסובין אצלה חמרא שרי נהי דתקיף להו יצרא דעבירה

יצרא דיין נסך לא תקיף להו

Rava said: A non-Jewish prostitute and Jews reclining at the table with her, the wine is permitted. While the desire for sin will overcome them, the desire for yayin nesekh will not overcome them.

 

Jews may visit (or host) non-Jewish prostitutes. But, according to Rava, they will not transgress the prohibition of drinking yayin nesekh. Therefore, we can assume they will not let the non-Jewish prostitute touch their wine. As an aside, in light of human behavior, this does not seem at all shocking. It is not uncommon to see people who are cautious about ritual laws be more lax on moral ones.

 

זונה ישראלית ועובדי כוכבים מסובין חמרא אסור מ”ט הואיל וזילה עלייהו בתרייהו גרירא

 

A Jewish prostitute and non-Jews were reclining with her, the wine [which belongs to her] is prohibited. Why? Because she would be held in contempt by them, she is subject to them.

 

If the prostitute is Jewish and she is surrounded by non-Jewish clients, she will not be able to stop them from drinking her wine. Therefore the wine is prohibited.

 

ההוא ביתא דהוה יתיב ביה חמרא דישראל. על עובד כוכבים אחדה לדשא באפיה והוה ביזעא בדשא אישתכח עובד כוכבים דקאי ביני דני. אמר רבא כל דלהדי ביזעא שרי דהאי גיסא והאי גיסא אסור

 

There was a house in which wine belonging to an Israelite was stored. A non-Jew entered and locked the door behind him. There was a crack in the door. It was discovered that the non-Jew was standing among the jars. Rava said: All those which were opposite the crack are permitted, but those on either side are prohibited.

 

Since Jews can see the jars opposite the crack, we can assume that the non-Jew would not drink them. However, he might have opened the jars that could not be seen through the crack and therefore they are prohibited.

 

ההוא חמרא דישראל דהוה יתיב בביתא דהוה דייר ישראל בעליונה ועובד כוכבים בתחתונה. שמעו קל תיגרא נפקי קדים. אתא עובד כוכבים אחדה לדשא באפיה. אמר רבא חמרא שרי מימר אמר כי היכי דקדים אתאי אנא קדים ואתא ישראל ויתיב בעליונה וקא חזי לי

 

Wine belonging to a Jew was stored in a house where a Jew lived on the top floor and a non-Jew on the bottom floor.  Once they heard a sound of quarrelling [in the street] and went out. The non-Jew came back first and locked the door behind him. Rava said: The wine is permitted. For the non-Jew would have said, “Just as I came back first, so might the Jew have come back first and be sitting upstairs and he would see me.”

 

Since the non-Jew does not know that the Jew is away, we can assume that he would not sneak a drink of the Jew’s wine. Note that the assumption in both this story and the previous one is that non-Jews will drink the Jewish wine unless they are sure that they will be caught. This is not necessarily a statement though about the nature of non-Jews. It may very well just be a statement about people—when they don’t think they will be caught, they will drink other people’s alcohol. I’m sure that remains true at times today.

Review the Daf with this week’s Daf Summary:

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Tet, Part 5

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Tet, Part 5
Reading for Thursday, October 11
Avodah Zarah 69-5

 

Introduction

In the Mishnah, the tanna kamma (the author of the first opinion) and R. Shimon b. Gamaliel dispute concerning how long the Jew has to be away for the wine to become prohibited. According to the first opinion, if the Jew is away for as long as the non-Jew would need “to bore a hole [in a jar], stop it up and [the sealing clay] to become dry” the wine is prohibited. Rabban Shimon b. Gamaliel is more lenient and provides a longer time: “[a length of time] sufficient for him to open a cask, put a new stopper on and [the new stopper] to become dry.” Today’s sugya discusses this topic.

 

אמר רבה בר בר חנה א”ר יוחנן מחלוקת בשל סיד אבל בשל טיט דברי הכל כדי שיפתח ויגוף ויגוב

 

Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in the name of R. Yohanan: The dispute is over [a stopper of] lime, but with one of clay all agree [that he must have been absent a length of time] sufficient for him to open, put a new stopper on, and [the new stopper] to become dry.

 

According to R. Yohanan, the rabbis are more stringent than R. Shimon b. Gamaliel in the case of a stopper of lime, where a hole could be sealed relatively easily and not detected. If, however, the stopper is of clay, where a hole could not be sealed, then all agree that the wine is prohibited only if he is absent long enough for the non-Jew to make a new stopper and let it dry.

 

מיתיבי ארשב”ג לחכמים והלא סתומו ניכר בין מלמעלה ובין מלמטה

אי אמרת בשלמא בשל טיט מחלוקת היינו דקתני סתומו ניכר בין מלמעלה ובין מלמטה אלא אי אמרת בשל סיד מחלוקת בשלמא למטה ידיע אלא למעלה הא לא ידיע

They raised the following refutation: R. Shimon b. Gamaliel said to the Sages: But his stopping can be detected either on the outside or the inside! 

If you say that there is difference of opinion [when the stopper is] of clay that is why it teaches [R. Shimon b. Gamaliel] the stopping can be detected either on the outside or the inside. If, on the other hand, you say that there is difference of opinion [when the stopper is] of lime, then it is all right with regard to the inside since it can be known, but as regards the outside it cannot be known!

 

The Talmud quotes a baraita to refute R. Yohanan. In this baraita R. Shimon b. Gamaliel says that if he bores a hole in the stopper, the hole will be seen on both the inside and outside of the stopper. Therefore, R. Shimon b. Gamaliel is concerned only if the Jew is absent long enough for the non-Jew to make a new stopper.

But this makes sense only with a clay stopper. With the lime stopper one could not detect it on the outside because the lime can be smoothed out and made to look as if it was not tampered with. Thus Rabban Shimon b. Gamaliel assumes that the rabbis state their opinion in the case of the clay stopper.

 

רבן שמעון בן גמליאל הוא דלא’ ידע מאי קאמרי רבנן וה”ק להו אי בשל טיט קאמריתו סתומו ניכר בין מלמעלה ובין מלמטה ואי בשל סיד קאמריתו נהי דלמעלה לא ידיע למטה מיהא ידיע

 

Shimon b. Gamaliel was uncertain what the rabbis were saying; so he said to them as follows: If you refer to a clay stopper, then his stopping can be detected on the outside or the inside; but if you refer to one of lime, granted that it cannot be known on the outside, yet it can be known on the inside!

 

This is R. Yohanan’s answer. R. Shimon b. Gamaliel did not know what type of stopper the rabbis were referring to. If they were referring to a clay stopper, then the stopping could be seen on the inside or outside. This is what he said in the baraita. But he also said to them that if they were referring to a lime stopper, the stopping can still be seen on the inside. This will deter the non-Jew and the wine will be permitted under the assumption that the Jew did not leave the wine alone with him for long enough.

 

ורבנן כיון דמלמעלה לא ידיע לא מסיק אדעתיה דאפיך וחזי ליה אי נמי זימנין דחלים

 

 And the Rabbis [how did they respond]?

Since it cannot be known on the outside, it would not occur to him to turn over [the stopper] and inspect it; Alternatively, sometimes [the new stopping] hardens.

 

According to R. Yohanan, the rabbis disagree only concerning the lime stopper. Since the stopping can only be seen on the inside, the Jew might not turn the stopper over to see if it had been tampered with. Knowing this, the non-Jew might bore a hole and drink some wine. Therefore, if he has long enough to do so, the wine is prohibited.

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