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 Samech Tet, Part 6

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Tet, Part 6
Reading for Friday, October 12
Avodah Zarah 69-6

 

Introduction

Today’s sugya offers a halakhic ruling in the case of the wine jar left in the hands of the non-Jew.

 

אמר רבא הלכה כרשב”ג הואיל ותנן סתמא כוותיה דתנן היה אוכל על השולחן עמו והניח לגין על השולחן לגין על הדולבקי והניח ויצא מה שעל השולחן אסור מה שעל הדולבקי מותר ואם אמר לו הוי מזוג ושותה אף שעל הדולבקי אסור חביות פתוחות אסורות סתומות מותרות כדי שיפתח ויגוף ותיגוב

 

Rava said: The halakhah agrees with R. Shimon b. Gamaliel, since we teach an anonymous mishnah in accordance with him; for we learn: If [a Jew] was eating with [a non-Jew] at a table and set some flasks upon the table and others upon a side-table and leaving them there went out, what is upon the table is prohibited and what is upon the side-table is permitted.

And should he have said to him, “mix [some of the wine with water] and drink,” even what is upon the side-table is prohibited.  

Opened casks are prohibited, and the closed ones are permitted [except when he was absent a length of time] sufficient for [the non-Jew] to open it,  put a new stopper on and [the new stopper] to become dry.

 

The last clause of the mishnah does not contain a dispute between the rabbis and R. Shimon b. Gamaliel and yet seems to follow R. Shimon b. Gamaliel’s opinion. This indicates, according to Rava, that the halakhah follows Rabban Shimon b. Gamaliel. In other words, the editor of the mishnah hinted here that the halakhah follows Rabban Shimon b. Gamaliel.

 

פשיטא מהו דתימא כולה רשב”ג קתני לה קמ”ל

 

This is obvious! What might you have said? The whole passage was taught by R. Shimon b. Gamaliel. Hence he teaches it that it is not so.

 

The Talmud raises a difficulty—obviously this last passage follows R. Shimon b. Gamaliel. Why did Rava need to even state thi? The answer is that we might have thought that this last passage was actually stated by R. Shimon b. Gamaliel. If this were true it would not be a case of the mishnah following him, but just R. Shimon b. Gamaliel again stating his opinion. To teach you that this is not the case, Rava says that the halakhah follows R. Shimon b. Gamaliel because the anonymous mishnah follows him.

 

וכי מאחר דקיימא לן כוותיה דרשב”ג דלא חייש לשתומא והלכתא כוותיה דרבי אליעזר דלא חייש לזיופא האידנא מאי טעמא לא מותבינן חמרא ביד עובדי כוכבים משום שייכא

 

Now since we have established that [the halakhah] agrees with R. Shimon b. Gamaliel, who is not concerned about the possibility of a hole being bored in a jar, and the halakhah also agrees with R. Eliezer, that we need not be concerned about the possibility of the seal being forged, what is the reason that we do not nowadays leave [stoppered casks] in the hands of a non-Jew? On account of the bunghole.

 

The Talmud here offers a rare remark on current practice. Theoretically, the rulings have consistently followed the lenient opinions among the tannaim. We are not concerned with a hole being bored in a jar nor are we concerned that seals will be forged. And yet, Jews do not leave wine in the hands of unsupervised non-Jews. Why not? The answer is that we fear that the non-Jew will use the bunghole to extract some wine. Rashi says that this is a small hole put in the side of the jar to let some smell out. Perhaps, Jews fear, the non-Jew will slightly widen the hole and take some wine out.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Tet, Part 4

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Tet, Part 4
Reading for Wednesday, October 10
Avodah Zarah 69-4

 

Introduction

Today’s section explains why the mishnah had to teach all of the cases in the mishnah. Why couldn’t we have learned one from the other?

 

המניח עובד כוכבים בחנותו כו’ המניח יינו בקרון או בספינה כו’:

וצריכא דאי תנא עובד כוכבים דסבר דלמא אתי וחזי ליה אבל בקרון או בספינה אימא דמפליג לה לספינתיה ועביד מאי דבעי

If [a Jew] left a non-Jew in his shop etc. If [a Jew] left his wine in a wagon or a ship etc. [Both cases] are necessary; for if it had taught only the case of a non-Jew [transporting jars of wine], [I might have thought the wine is permitted] since he thought that perhaps [the Jew] would come and see him, but when [the wine is left] in a wagon or ship, I might say [that it must be prohibited because the non-Jew] could set sail and do whatever he wished [to the wine].

 

If the mishnah had taught only the first case where they were transporting jars of wine, I might have thought that the reason it is permitted there (if it was presumed that the wine was under guard) is that the non-Jew is worried that the Jew will come back and see him drinking the wine. But if the Jew leaves the non-Jew by boat or by wagon, the non-Jew could simply travel a bit away and do what he wants. Therefore, the mishnah had to teach us that even in this case the wine is permitted (as long as the Jew did not tell the non-Jew that he was leaving).

 

ואי תנא בקרון או בספינה משום דסבר דלמא אתי באורחא אחריתי וקאי אגודא וחזי לי אבל עובד כוכבים בחנותו אימא אחיד לה לבבא ועביד כל דבעי קמ”ל

 

If it had taught only the case [of wine being left] in a wagon or ship, [I might have assumed that it was permitted] because the man would have thought, “Perhaps [the owner] will come by another path or stand on the bank and see me,” but when a non-Jew [is left] in the Jew’s shop, I would say [that it must be prohibited because] he could shut the door and do whatever he wished. Therefore it teaches us that in both cases it is prohibited.

 

If the mishnah had taught only the case of the wagon or ship I might have thought that in that case the non-Jew is afraid that the Jew will sneak up on him and therefore he would not drink the wine. But if he’s left in the shop, the non-Jew could lock the door and do what he wants. Therefore, the mishnah had to teach that in both cases the wine is permitted, again, as long as the Jew does not inform the non-Jew that he is leaving.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Tet, Part 3

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Tet, Part 3
Reading for Tuesday, October 9
Avodah Zarah 69-3

 

Introduction

Today’s section explains the clause in the first part of yesterday’s mishnah “If a non-Jew was transporting jars of wine together with a Jew from place to place, and it was presumed that [the wine] was under guard.” What does this last phrase mean?

 

גמ׳ היכי דמי בחזקת המשתמר כדתניא הרי שהיו חמריו ופועליו טעונין טהרות אפילו הפליג מהן יותר ממיל טהרותיו טהורות ואם אמר להן לכו ואני בא אחריכם כיון שנתעלמה עינו מהם טהרותיו טמאות

 

GEMARA. What is a case of “and it was presumed that [the wine] was under guard”? As it has been taught: Behold a man’s donkey-drivers and workmen are laden with pure things, even if he goes more than a mile from them, his pure things are considered pure; but if he said to them, “Go on and I will follow you,” as soon as he can no longer see them, his pure things are impure.

 

To understand our mishnah, the Talmud cites a parallel from the rules of purity. The situation describes a Jew who wants to preserve the ritual purity of his food, but hires workers who are not ritually pure. If he just leaves them alone with his food, the food remains pure. But if he tells them he is going, then as soon as they are out of his site he must be concerned that they have touched the food and thereby defiled it.

 

מאי שנא רישא ומאי שנא סיפא אמר רב יצחק רישא במטהר חמריו ופועליו לכך

 

What is the difference between the first and second circumstance?

Yitzchak said: The first refers to when he purified his donkey-drivers and workmen for the task.

 

The Talmud asks why in the first case the food is assumed to be pure and the second it is assumed to be impure. R. Yitzchak explains that in the first case the Jew made sure that his workers were pure. We should not that this is clearly not the simple reading of the baraita.

Clearly the difference is between telling them that he was going away and simply going away. The Talmud will get to such an explanation below.

 

אי הכי סיפא נמי אין עם הארץ מקפיד על מגע חבירו

אי הכי אפילו רישא נמי נימא הכי

If that is so, it should apply also to the second clause!  

An am ha’aretz is not particular about the touch of his fellow.

If that is so, it should apply also to the first clause!

 

The Talmud struggles with R. Yitzchak’s interpretation. First of all, if the Jew had his workers’ purify themselves, then the same would seem to be true in the second clause? If we answer that the am haaretz, while himself pure, will not make sure that others, who are not pure, do not touch the pure things, then the same should be true of the first clause. When the Jew leaves, there is no way of ensuring that someone impure did not touch the pure food.

 

אמר רבא בבא להם דרך עקלתון

 

Rava said: It refers to when [the owner] could come upon them by some roundabout path.

 

Rava says that in the first clause the pure things remain pure because the owner could come back in some roundabout path and they would not see him coming. Since they cannot see him coming, they will be afraid to touch the food.

 

אי הכי סיפא נמי!

כיון דאמר להם לכו ואני בא אחריכם סמכא דעתייהו:

If that is so, the same should apply to the second clause!

Since he had told them, “Go on and I will follow you,” their mind is at rest. 

 

This interpretation gets closer to the simple meaning of the mishnah. In the second clause, since he told them that he was going away, they will not worry that he is coming back very soon. Therefore, even if the owner could surprise them by coming back on a roundabout path, they will not be concerned.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Tet, Part 2

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Tet, Part 2
Reading for Monday, October 8
Avodah Zarah 69-2

 

Introduction

Today’s section contains a series of mishnayot in which a Jew leaves his wine in the presence of a non-Jew. The question is whether we must suspect that the non-Jew touched or drank the Jew’s wine.

 

מתני׳ עובד כוכבים שהיה מעביר עם ישראל כדי יין ממקום למקום אם היה בחזקת המשתמר מותר אם הודיעו שהוא מפליג כדי שישתום ויסתום ויגוב רשב”ג אומר כדי שיפתח את החבית ויגוף ותיגוב:

 

If a non-Jew was transporting jars of wine together with a Jew from place to place, and it was presumed that [the wine] was under guard, it is permitted.

But if [the Jew] informed him that he was going away [and he was absent a length of time] sufficient for the other to bore a hole [in a jar], stop it up and [the sealing clay] to become dry, [the wine is prohibited].

Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says: [a length of time] sufficient for him to open a cask,  put a new stopper on and [the new stopper] to become dry.

 

If, while transporting the wine with the non-Jew the non-Jew assumes that the Jew was always watching the wine, the wine is permitted.  As long as the non-Jew suspects that the Jew might catch him opening up the wine and drinking from it, the non-Jew will not do so.  The Jew might even leave the wine with the non-Jew for a while, as long as the Jew does not tell him that he is doing so.

If the Jew leaves the non-Jew and tells him that he is doing so, then the non-Jew knows that he has a certain period of time in which he might be able to drink the wine without being caught.  There are two opinions in the mishnah about how long this period of time must be. According to the first opinion, the non-Jew must have enough time to make a hole in the stopper of the jug (the stopper was made and sealed with clay), and then fill the hole back in, and the new seal to dry, so that the Jew will not be able to tell that it was opened when he returns.  If the Jew did not tell the non-Jew that he would be away for this period of time, the wine is permitted.  The second opinion is that of Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel.  He assumes that if the non-Jew merely makes a hole in the stopper and then reseals it, the Jew will see the damage.  The only way the non-Jew will avoid getting caught is if he removes the whole stopper, and then closes the jug with a new stopper and then the sealing on this new stopper dries.  If the Jew does not stay away for the period of time it takes to do all of this, the wine is permitted.

 

המניח יינו בקרון או בספינה והלך לו בקפנדריא נכנס למדינה ורחץ מותר אם הודיעו שהוא מפליג כדי שישתום ויסתום ויגוב רשב”ג אומר כדי שיפתח את החבית ויגוף ותיגוב:

 

If [a Jew] left his wine in a wagon or on a ship while he went along a short cut, entered a town and bathed, it is permitted.

But if [the Jew] informed him that he was going away [and he was absent a length of time] sufficient for the other to bore a hole [in a jar], stop it up and [the sealing clay] to become dry, [the wine is prohibited].

Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says: [a length of time] sufficient for him to open a cask,  put a new stopper on and [the new stopper] to become dry.

 

In this situation the Jew again leaves the non-Jew with his wine, this time to make a quick excursion into the city.  Note that he uses a short cut into the city.  The fact that he is going and returning quickly will make the non-Jew fear getting caught should he open the cask.  Therefore the wine is permitted.

 

המניח עובד כוכבים בחנות אע”פ שיצא ונכנס מותר ואם הודיעו שהוא מפליג כדי שישתום ויסתום ויגוב רשב”ג אומר כדי שיפתח את החבית ויגוף ותיגוב:

 

If [a Jew] left a non-Jew in his shop, although he kept going in and out, [the wine there] is permitted.

But if [the Jew] informed him that he was going away [and he was absent a length of time] sufficient for the other to bore a hole [in a jar], stop it up and [the sealing clay] to become dry, [the wine is prohibited].

Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says: [a length of time] sufficient for him to open a cask,  put a new stopper on and [the new stopper] to become dry.

 

In this scenario the Jew leaves the non-Jew in the store.  Although the Jew is constantly going in and out of the store, and frequently leaving the non-Jew alone with the wine, the wine is permitted.  Again, as long as he doesn’t tell him that he is leaving and when he is returning, the wine is permitted.

 

היה אוכל עמו על השולחן והניח לגינין על השולחן ולגין על הדולבקי והניחו ויצא מה שעל השולחן אסור שעל הדולבקי מותר ואם אמר לו הוי מוזג ושותה אף שעל הדולבקי אסור חביות פתוחות אסורות סתומות מותרות כדי שיפתח ויגוף ותיגוב:

 

If [a Jew] was eating with [a non-Jew] at a table and set some flasks upon the table and others upon a side-table and leaving them there went out, what is upon the table is prohibited and what is upon the side-table is permitted.

And should he have said to him, “mix [some of the wine with water] and drink,” even what is upon the side-table is prohibited.  

Opened casks are prohibited, and the closed ones are permitted [except when he was absent a length of time] sufficient for [the non-Jew] to open it,  put a new stopper on and [the new stopper] to become dry.

 

When the Jew leaves the non-Jew alone at the table with an open flask of wine, it is of course assumed that the non-Jew will drink from the wine, thereby making it forbidden.  However, since it is not customary for guests to drink from the “side-table”, the wine there is not forbidden.  This side-table is evidently somewhat like the shelf behind the bar in our time.  If you leave your guest with a bottle on a table it is acceptable for him to drink from the bottle.  It is much less acceptable for him to go behind the bar and take out his own drink.

If, however, the Jew told the non-Jew that he could mix some wine with water (this is how wine was always drunk during the time of the mishnah), then of course we must assume that the non-Jew will take also what is on the side-table.  Although he did not specifically tell him to take from the wine on the side-table, it is as if he had done so.  It is like someone today saying, “help yourself” to his friend sitting at his bar.  Therefore all of the wine is forbidden.

If the Jew leaves the non-Jew with open casks of wine in the house, they are forbidden.  The closed casks are permitted, as long as the Jew was not absent long enough for the non-Jew to open the cask, make a new stopper and then let the stopper dry.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Tet, Part 1

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Tet, Part 1
Reading for Sunday, October 7
Avodah Zarah 69-1

 

Introduction

We continue to discuss mice falling into drinks, this time vinegar.

 

איבעיא להו נפל לגו חלא מאי?

א”ל רב הילל לרב אשי הוה עובדא בי רב כהנא ואסר רב כהנא

א”ל ההוא אימרטוטי אימרטט

How is it if [a mouse] fell into vinegar? 

Hillel said to R. Ashi: Such an incident happened with R. Kahana and he prohibited it.

[R. Ashi] replied to him: In that case [the mouse] was broken into pieces.

 

Hillel seems to think that the vinegar with the mouse in it is prohibited because you can taste the mouse and even though the taste is a bad taste, it is still prohibited.

Ashi responds that in that case the mouse was, or at least might have been, broken up into pieces. One who drinks the vinegar may actually eat a piece of moust. But if the mouse was whole and could be fished out (moused out?) the vinegar would be permitted because the taste is bad.

 

רבינא סבר לשעורי במאה וחד אמר לא גרע מתרומה דתנן תרומה עולה באחד ומאה

 

Ravina thought to apply here the standard of a hundred and one since it is not worse than terumah [about which we taught]: Teruman [mixed with the non-holy] is neutralized when the proportion is one in a hundred.

 

Ravina thought that if there was 100 times more vinegar than mouse parts that the mouse would be “neutralized.” Meaning that the mixture would be permitted, as long as the volume of the mouse was removed. This is the rule with regard to terumah that falls into non-holy produce. If there is 100 times more non-holy produce, the mixture is permitted, although he does have to remove the volume of terumah that fell in.

 

א”ל רב תחליפא בר גיזא לרבינא דלמא כתבלין של תרומה בקדירה דמי דלא בטיל טעמייהו

 

Tahlifa b. Giza said to Ravina: Perhaps [this case] is like terumah spices [which fell into] a pot of food, whose taste is not annulled.

 

The mishnah about terumah being neutralized at a ratio of 100 to 1 referred to cases where one cannot taste the terumah. For instance terumah oil falls into ordinary oil. But if terumah spices fall into food and they can be tasted, the ratio does not matter. The same should be true for the case of a mouse—it should be subject to the test of taste.

 

רב אחאי שיער בחלא בחמשין רב שמואל בריה דרב איקא שיער בשיכרא בשיתין

והלכתא אידי ואידי בשיתין וכן כל איסורין שבתורה:

Ahai estimated that with vinegar the proportion must be fifty [to one].

Shmuel the son of R. Ika estimated that with beer the proportion must be sixty [to one]. The halakhah in both is sixty [to one], and it is so with all things prohibited by the Torah.

 

We can see here how the concept of “imparts taste” is transformed into a concept of set ratios. The early amoraim operate through a system of imparting taste. This is a sensible system but hard to follow—who wants to taste the mouse beer or vinegar. Therefore, to solve the problem, they come up with set ratios. The latest voice in the Talmud gives the same ratio to everything—60 to 1. In Hebrew this is called “batel beshishim” and is a very important concept in halakhah.

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