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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.