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 Het, Part 5

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Het, Part 5
Reading for Thursday, October 4
Avodah Zarah 68-5

    

Introduction 

Today’s section contains a story where the principle of “imparts a bad flavor” has a practical implication. 

 

ההוא עכברא דנפל לחביתא דשיכרא אסריה רב לההוא שיכרא  

אמרוה רבנן קמיה דרב ששת נימא קסבר נט”ל אסור  

 

A mouse fell into a cask of beer and Rav prohibited the beer.  

The rabbis related this in the presence of R. Sheshet and said: Shall we say that Rav holds that when it imparts a bad flavor it is prohibited. 

 

We can assume that the mouse did not improve the flavor of the beer (don’t try this at home to see how it tastes). Nevertheless he prohibited the beer. From here the rabbis assume that Rav holds that even when the prohibited substance imparts a bad flavor, the mixture is prohibited.  

 

אמר להו רב ששת בעלמא סבר רב נט”ל מותר והכא חידוש הוא דהא מימאס מאיס ובדילי אינשי מיניה ואפילו הכי אסריה רחמנא הלכך נט”ל נמי אסור 

 

[R. Sheshet] said to them: Rav generally holds that when it imparts a bad flavor it is permitted. Here, however, we have an anomaly since it is something repugnant and people recoil from it; and even so the Torah prohibited it. Therefore, although it imparts a bad flavor it is nevertheless prohibited. 

 

There is something innovative about the kashrut of a mouse. Mice are disgusting—people do not want to eat them. Nevertheless, the Torah prohibits them. Why, asks R. Sheshet, would the Torah need to prohibit something people would not eat? The answer is to teach that in this case, even though it imparts a bad taste, the mixture is still prohibited.  

 

אמרו ליה רבנן לרב ששת אלא מעתה ליטמא לח ויבש אלמה תנן מטמאין לחים ואין מטמאין יבשים  

ולטעמיך שכבת זרע תטמא לח ויבש אלמה תנן מטמאין לחין ואין מטמאין יבשין 

 

The rabbis said to R. Sheshet: According to your argument [a creeping thing] should defile whether moist or dry; why then have we learned: They defile when moist but not when dry!    

And according to your reasoning semen should defile whether moist or dry; why then have we learned: It defiles when moist but not when dry! 

 

The rabbis raise a difficulty on R. Sheshet. If creeping things such as a mouse are disgusting and the only reason the Torah had to prohibit eating them was to teach that even if they impart a bad taste the mixture is prohibited, then why should a dead creeping thing defile only when moist. When moist the dead mouse is disgusting and obviously it should be impure. If R. Sheshet’s reasoning is correct, then it should defile even when moist. And the same goes for semen—since it is disgusting when moist, it should defile even when dry.  

 

אלא מאי אית לך למימר שכבת זרע אמר רחמנא בראויה להזריע ה”נ במותם אמר רחמנא כעין מותם 

 

Rather, what can you say? The Torah said “seed from lying” this refers to seed capable of fertilizing. Here too [in connection with creeping things] the Torah said “in their death,” i.e., when they are in a state similar to when they died. 

 

The Talmud resorts to a midrash, a close reading of the text, to teach that semen and creeping things defile only when moist. The Torah calls semen “seed from lying” which here is read as implying that the semen defiles only when it is capable of acting like seed. Similarly, creeping things defile only “in their death.”  This is read as meaning they must be similar to the way they were when they died—still moist. I know, this is a bit yucky.      

 

מתקיף לה רב שימי מנהרדעא ומי מאיס והלא עולה על שלחן של מלכים  

אמר רב שימי מנהרדעא לא קשיא הא בדדברא הא בדמתא  

 

Shimiof Nehardea objected: Is [the mouse really] repugnant. Is it not brought upon the table of kings!  

Shimiof Nehardea said: There is no contradiction, for [what is served at meals] is the field mouse and [what fell into the beer] was the domestic mouse. 

 

Shimiraises a difficulty and then answers it (this is a bit odd). Evidently, mice are a delicacy, and are even eaten by kings. So how can they be called disgusting? 

The answer is field mice are delicacies. But the domestic mouse is not.  

Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Het, Part 6

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Het, Part 6
Reading for Friday, October 5
Avodah Zarah 68-6

    

Introduction

This short piece offers halakhic rulings on the issue of “imparts a bad flavor.”

 

אמר רבא הלכתא נותן טעם לפגם מותר ועכברא בשיכרא לא ידענא מאי טעמא דרב אי משום דקסבר נותן טעם לפגם אסור ולית הלכתא כוותיה אי משום דקסבר נותן טעם לפגם מותר ועכברא בשיכרא אשבוחי משבח

 

Rava said: The halakhah is that when it imparts a bad flavor it is permitted, but in the case of the mouse that fell into beer I do not know what Rav’s reasoning was. Was it because he held that when it imparts a bad flavor it is prohibited and the halakhah does not follow him, or because he held that when it imparts a bad flavor it is permitted but a mouse in the beer causes an improvement [to the flavor]!

 

Rava knows that when a forbidden substance imparts a bad flavor, the mixture is permitted. But he does not really know if the halakhah follows Rav, that if a mouse falls into beer, the beer is prohibited. It could be that Rav prohibited the beer because he holds that when a substance imparts a bad flavor, the mixture is prohibited. In this case, since we do not hold like Rav, the beer would be permitted (would you drink it?). Alternatively, Rav might hold that the dead mouse improves the taste of the beer. If this is true, we would have to prohibit the beer.

I should conclude that as many of you know, I am a great beer lover and have dabbled in home brewing. I have indeed heard stories of rodents getting into kegs where they drown in their drunkenness. I would not want to know if the homebrewers throw away their precious brew!

Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Het, Part 1

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Het, Part 1
Reading for Sunday, September 30
Avodah Zarah 68-1

 

 

Introduction

This week’s daf continues to discuss the issue of “imparting a detrimental taste.” Last week we learned that R. Meir says that even if the prohibited substance imparts a bad taste, the mixture is prohibited. R. Shimon says it is permitted.

 

 אמר עולא מחלוקת שהשביח ולבסוף פגם אבל פגם מעיקרא דברי הכל מותר

 

Ulla said: The difference [between R. Meir and R. Shimon] is over a case where [the mixture] is improved at first but in the end worsens, but if it is worsened from the outset all agree that it is permitted.

 

Meir prohibits the mixture only if the taste is at first improved and then deteriorates. But if from the outset it gives a dish a bad taste, then the dish is permitted. Here he agrees with R. Shimon.

 

איתיביה רב חגא לעולא יין שנפל לתוך עדשים וחומץ שנפל לתוך גריסין אסור ור”ש מתיר

והא הכא דפגם מעיקרא הוא ופליגי

Haga raised a difficulty against Ulla: If wine [which is yayin nesekh] fell into lentils or vinegar into split beans it is prohibited, but R. Shimon permits it.

Behold here is a case where it deteriorates from the outset, and they still differ.

 

Haga cites a baraita which seems to say explicitly that even though the wine or vinegar impairs the taste of the dish from the outset, R. Meir (the anonymous first opinion) still prohibits.

 

אמר עולא חגא לא מידע ידע מאי קאמרי רבנן תיובתא קא מותיב הכא במאי עסקינן כגון שנפל לתוך גריסין צוננין והרתיחם נעשה כמי שהשביח ולבסוף פגם ואסור

 

Ulla replied: Haga does not know what the rabbis are saying and yet he raises an objection. What are we dealing with here? For instance it fell into cold split beans and he then warms them, this is like a case where it is first improved and then worsened.

 

Ulla vituperatively responds to Haga. The baraita refers to a case where the vinegar first fell into cold beans. This would improve the taste. But when he heats the dish up, the taste becomes worse and thus R. Meir prohibits. R. Shimon permits it in any case.

 

ור’ יוחנן אמר בפוגם מעיקרא מחלוקת

איבעיא להו בפוגם מעיקרא מחלוקת אבל השביח ולבסוף פגם דברי הכל אסור או דלמא בין בזו ובין בזו מחלוקת תיקו

And R. Yohanan said: They argue when [the mixture] worsens from the outset. The question was asked: Do they argue over a case where it worsens from the outset but if it first improves and only in the end worsens all would hold that it is prohibited, or perhaps in either case they argue?  The question remains unanswered.

 

Yohanan says that tannaim argue if the mixture is worsened from the outset—R. Meir prohibits and R. Shimon permits. However, it is not clear what this implies for a case where the mixture first improves and then worsens. It could be that R. Shimon would agree with R. Meir that it is prohibited. Or it could be that he is lenient here as well. In this case they would argue about both cases.

 

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Het, Part 2

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Het, Part 2
Reading for Monday, October 1
Avodah Zarah 68-2

 

Introduction 

In yesterday’s section R. Yohanan claimed that R. Meir and R. Shimon argue over a case where the prohibited substance imparts a bad flavor from the outset. In other words, even though the mixture was made to taste worse immediately, R. Meir still prohibits. Today’s section explores a potential tannaitic source for this statement.  

 

אמר רב עמרם אפשר איתא להא דר’ יוחנן ולא תניא לה במתניתין  

נפק דק ואשכח דתניא שאור של חולין שנפל לתוך העיסה ויש בו כדי להחמיץ והחמיצה ואח”כ נפל שאור של תרומה או שאור של כלאי הכרם ויש בו כדי להחמיץ אסור ור”ש מתיר והא הכא דפגם מעיקרא הוא ופליגי  

 

Amramsaid: Is it possible that R. Yohanan’s statement should be correct and not have been taught in the Mishnah? He went out, examined and found that it was taught: If ordinary yeast fell into dough and was sufficient to leaven it and did actually leaven it, and subsequently terumah yeast fell into it or yeast from mixed plantings in a vineyard and there is sufficient to cause leavening, it is prohibited. But R. Shimon permits it.  Now, here is a case where [the mixture] was made worse from the outset and yet they differ!   

 

When the second leavening falls into the dough it makes the dough worse because the dough has already been leavened. Therefore, this second leavening, which comes from a prohibited substance, is considered as “imparting a worsening flavor.” The fact that R. Meir still prohibits the mixture proves that he rules stringently in all cases.  

 

א”ר זירא שאני עיסה הואיל וראויה לחמע בה כמה עיסות אחרות  

 

Zerasaid: Dough is different because it is capable of leavening many other pieces of dough.  

 

Zerasays that the case of this dough is not the normal case of imparting a bad flavor because this overly leavened dough is now capable of leavening a lot of other pieces of dough. It is not ruined or even worsened. 

I should note that the “simple” meaning of this baraita probably has nothing to do with the issue of “imparting a bad flavor.” The original dispute is clearly over whether the forbidden leaven causes a prohibition despite the fact that it was not necessary to leaven the dough. The issue is not “bad flavor” but rather “useless leavening agent.” Still the Talmud seems to think that these two issues are connected and therefore uses the baraita as a source for R. Yohanan.   

Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Het, Part 3

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Het, Part 3
Reading for Tuesday, October 2
Avodah Zarah 68-3

  

Introduction 

Today’s section continues to discuss a potential tannaitic source for R. Yohanan’s claim that R. Meir prohibits the mixture even though the prohibited substance imparts a bad flavor from the outset.  

 

ת”ש שאור של תרומה ושל חולין שנפלו לתוך העיסה בזה כדי להחמיץ ובזה כדי להחמיץ וחימצו אסור רבי שמעון מתיר נפל של תרומה תחלה ד”ה אסור נפל של חולין ואח”כ נפל של תרומה או של כלאי הכרם אסור ור”ש מתיר והא הכא דפגם מעיקרא ופליגי  

 

Come and hear:  If terumah yeast and ordinary yeast fell into dough, each being sufficient to cause leavening, and they leavened it, it is prohibited; but R. Shimon permits it. If the terumah yeast fell in first, all agree that it is prohibited. But if the ordinary yeast fell in first and then the terumah yeast or yeast from mixed plantings in a vineyard, it is prohibited. But R. Shimon permits it. Now here is a case where it is worsened from the outset and yet they differ! 

 

In the first case, both the permitted and the prohibited yeast fall in at the same time. Again, the first opinion (assumed to be R. Meir) prohibits and R. Shimon permits.  

If the terumah yeast falls in first, R. Shimon agrees that it is prohibited because this is not a case where the forbidden yeast worsens the mixture. 

But if the ordinary yeast falls in first, they disagree.  

Again, in this last case the second yeast only worsens the dough and yet R. Meir prohibits.  

 

וכי תימא ה”נ כדרבי זירא ת”ש מסיפא היין שנפל לתוך עדשים וחומץ שנפל לתוך גריסין אסור ור”ש מתיר והא ה”נ דפגם מעיקרא ופליגי 

 

Should you say that here too R. Zera’s explanation applies,c ome and hear from the end [of this teaching]: If [nesekh] wine fell into lentils or [nesekh] vinegar into split beans, it is prohibited, but R. Shimon permits it. Now here is a case where it is worsened from the outset and they still differ!   

 

You might argue that the case of the dough it still not conclusive. We can still argue as does R. Zera that overly leavened dough is not worsened. The problem is that this same baraita continues with a case of vinegar falling into split beans. This seems to be a case where the taste is worsened from the outset and yet R. Meir prohibits.   

 

וכי תימא ה”נ כדשני ליה עולא לרבי חגא כשהשביח ולבסוף פגם ומי פליגי כשהשביח ולבסוף פגם והא קתני נפל של תרומה תחלה דברי הכל אסור אלא לאו ש”מ בפגם מעיקרא מחלוקת שמע מינה  

 

Should you say that here also what Ulla responded to R. Haga applies, that it first improved and only in the end deteriorated, but do they argue where it first improves and only in the end deteriorates, for behold they taught “if terumah [yeast] falls in first they all agree that it is prohibited.  Rather we can conclude from this that they disagree even when it worsened from the outset? Indeed, learn from this. 

 

We could try to say that the case of the vinegar falling into the split beans is a case where at first the vinegar improved the taste (because the beans were cold) and only then did it worsen the taste (because it was heated up). The problem is that we know that if the terumah yeast falls in first even R. Shimon agrees that it is prohibited, even though when the ordinary yeast falls in, the overly yeasted mixture will not taste good.  

Therefore, the only conclusion left to make is that R. Meir and R. Shimon do indeed argue even if the mixture is made worse from the outset, as R. Yohanan said. Thus this second baraita proves that he is correct, or at least that he has a source in tannaitic literature.

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