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 4

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Het, Part 4
Reading for Wednesday, October 3
Avodah Zarah 68-4



Today’s section analyzes the baraita from above concerning various prohibited substances that fall into a mixture. I am copying here the three clauses of the baraita: 


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. 

If [nesekh] wine fell into lentils or [nesekh] vinegar into split beans, it is prohibited, but R. Shimon permits it. 


הני תלתא בבי דקתני למה לי בשלמא בבא דסיפא קמ”ל בפוגם מעיקרא מחלוקת מציעתא נמי השביח ולבסוף פגם דברי הכל אסור 


These three clauses which are taught, do I need them all?  

The last clause makes sense because it teaches us that if the [forbidden substance] worsens the taste from the outset, they still disagree. 

The middle clause also [needs to be taught so that we know] if it improved and in the end deteriorated all agree that it is prohibited. 


The second clause teaches the principle that if the substance worsens the taste (vinegar fell into cold beans) from the outset the tannaim still disagree. R. Shimon permits and R. Meir prohibits. 

The second clause teaches that if the taste is first improved (by the first yeast being put in) and then worsens (when too much yeast is put in) the mixture is prohibited and even R. Shimon agrees.  


אלא רישא למה לי השתא ומה סיפא דלא קא משבח כלל אסרי רבנן רישא דקא משבח מיבעיא  


But why do I need the first clause? Since in the third clause, where it does not improve it at all, the rabbis still prohibit it, how much more so [must they prohibit it] where it does improve it. 


If in the final clause where the vinegar only worsens the taste the rabbis (R. Meir) prohibit, obviously they would in the first clause where the leavening agent at first improves the flavor and then worsens it. So why do we need this first clause?  


אמר אביי רישא לר”ש אצטריך והכי קאמרי ליה רבנן לר”ש עיסה זו ראויה להחמיץ בשתי שעות מי גרם לה שתחמיץ בשעה אחת איסור ור’ שמעון כשהשביחו שניהם השביחו כשפגמו שניהם פגמו  


Abaye said: The first clause is necessary for R. Shimon, and thus the Rabbis said to R. Shimon: This dough should take two hours to leaven and what caused it to leaven in one hour? Prohibited [yeast].  And R. Shimon [how would he respond]?  

When there was improvement, both [kinds of yeast] improved it and when there was deterioration, both worsened it. 


Abaye points out that we do need the first clause in order to learn that R. Shimon permits this mixture. The rabbis say that it was the prohibited yeast they caused the dough to ferment faster. Therefore, although it went bad eventually, it was the prohibited yeast that improved the dough. R. Shimon would say that we should not look at it this way. The two doughs together helped improve at the beginning and the two doughs together made it worse at the end. The fact that the prohibited dough aided in the deterioration means that the mixture should be permitted.  


לר”ש ליצטרף היתר ואיסור בהדי הדדי וליתסר  

ר”ש לטעמיה דאמר אפי’ איסור ואיסור נמי לא מיצטרפי דתנן הערלה וכלאי הכרם מצטרפין ר”ש אומר אין מצטרפין  


But according to R. Shimon, the permitted and prohibited elements should be combined and render [the dough] prohibited!  

Shimon follows his own opinion, that even two prohibited substances do not combine, for we have learned: Orlah and mixed plantings combine; R. Shimon says that they do not combine. 


The Talmud invokes another principle which would explain why the mixture should be prohibited. When two elements fall into a mixture, one prohibited and one permitted, in this case the terumah yeast and the ordinary yeast, and neither is sufficient to achieve the intended result (leavening) they can combine together to achieve the result and therefore the mixture is prohibited. R. Shimon, who looks at the initial leavening as if it was performed by half the ordinary yeast and half the forbidden yeast should say the two combine to create a prohibition.  

He does not because R. Shimon does not hold that different substances combine, even if both a prohibited. For instance if some orlah and mixed plantings fell into a mixture and neither alone was sufficient to prohibit the mixture R. Shimon would hold that the mixture is permitted.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Zayin, Part 5

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Zayin, Part 5
Reading for Thursday, September 27
Avodah Zarah 67-5



Today’s section discusses the baraita at the end of yesterday’s section, where R. Meir and R. Shimon disagreed over whether a substance that imparts a detrimental flavor causes the mixture to be prohibited.


מ”ט דר”מ? גמר מגיעולי עובדי כוכבים גיעולי עובדי כוכבים לאו נותן טעם לפגם הוא ואסר רחמנא ה”נ לא שנא


What is R. Meir’s reason? He derives it from the vessels of Gentiles. The vessels of Gentiles, are they not a case of imparting a detrimental flavor and yet the Torah forbade them; so here also it makes no difference [and it is prohibited].


  1. Meir derives his law from the case of vessels acquired from Gentiles. Such vessels cannot be used unless they are koshered. The assumption is that the taste of the forbidden food cooked in them will be emitted when they are used by a Jew and it will impart its flavor to the Jew’s food. But this flavor by definition will be detrimental because it has been sitting in the walls of the vessel for a long time. From here R. Meir derives the general conclusion that even though the flavor imparted to the dish makes it taste worse, the dish is forbidden.


ואידך כדרב הונא בריה דרב חייא דאמר רב הונא בריה דרב חייא לא אסרה תורה אלא קדירה בת יומא דלא לפגם הוא


And what would the other (R. Shimon) say? Like R. Huna the son of R. Hiyya who said: The Torah only forbade a utensil which had been used [by a Gentile] the same day, for this is not to its detriment.


Shimon would hold that a vessel used by a Gentile cannot be used by a Jew only if the Gentile used it that day. By definition, the taste imparted from the walls of the vessel will be for the betterment of the dish. If the food was cooked more than a day earlier, the dish that the Jew cooks in it is not prohibited.


ואידך קדירה בת יומא נמי אי אפשר דלא פגמה פורתא


And the other (what would he say)?  Even in the case of a pot used [by a Gentile] the same day it is impossible that it should not worsen [the flavor] a little.


Meir responds that the taste emitted by the wall of the pot will always worsen the flavor a little such that halakhically he considers this a case of “imparting a detrimental flavor.” Again, this proves that even if the forbidden substance imparts a detrimental flavor, it is prohibited.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Zayin, Part 6

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Zayin, Part 6
Reading for Friday, September 28
Avodah Zarah 67-6



Today’s section explains R. Shimon’s opinion—if the prohibited substance imparts a detrimental flavor, the mixture is permitted.


ור”ש מאי טעמא דתניא (דברים יד, כא) לא תאכלו כל נבלה לגר אשר בשעריך כל הראויה לגר קרויה נבילה שאין ראויה לגר אינה קרויה נבלה


And what is R. Shimon’s reason? Because it has been taught: “You shall not eat of anything that dies of itself [nevelah]; you may give it to the stranger that is within your gates” (Deuteronomy 14:21). Whatever is fit for use by a stranger is called nevelah. And whatever is unfit for use by a stranger is not called nevelah.


For an animal to be called a “nevelah” and to be prohibited it must be something that people would eat. It must be something that if a Jew gave to a stranger, he would eat. If people would not eat it then it is not prohibited—it is no longer called nevelah. So too anything with a bad taste—if people would not eat it, then it is not prohibited for a Jew to eat it.


ור”מ ההוא למעוטי סרוחה מעיקרא


And R. Meir [how does he explain the verse]? Its purpose is to exclude what was rancid from the outset.


Meir says that this verse teaches that if the animal was never fit for consumption then it is not forbidden to eat it. By extension, it would not be prohibited to eat a food that was never something people would want to eat. But if a food is edible (and prohibited) and then becomes inedible (receives a bad flavor) it remains prohibited.


ור”ש סרוחה מעיקרא לא צריכא מיעוטא עפרא בעלמא הוא


And R. Shimon (what would he say)? An animal rancid from the outset does not need to be specially excluded because it is nothing more than dust.


Shimon would respond that the Torah does not need to permit an animal that never was fit for consumption. That is like telling people they can eat dirt. What the Torah does not need to teach is that if the animal was fit for consumption and then becomes prohibited it is only prohibited to the Jew as long as it is fit for consumption. If a substance imparts a bad taste to it, it becomes permitted.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Zayin, Part 4

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Zayin, Part 4
Reading for Wednesday, September 26
Avodah Zarah 67-4



We continue to discuss forbidden substances that impart a bad flavor.


אמר רב כהנא מדברי כולם נלמד נותן טעם לפגם מותר

א”ל אביי בשלמא מכולהו לחיי אלא דר”ל אמרו קאמר וליה לא סבירא ליה

Kahana said: We learn from the words of them all that when [the forbidden element] imparts a detrimental flavor it is permitted.

Abaye said to him: This make sense with regard to the rest of them, but R. Shimon b. Lakish said, “They said” and it follows that he does not hold that view.


Kahana thinks that all rabbis agree that if the prohibited substance imparts a detrimental flavor it is permitted. But Abaye senses in the statement made by Resh Lakish that there are those who disagree.


מכלל דאיכא למ”ד נותן טעם לפגם אסור

אין והתניא אחד נותן טעם לפגם ואחד נותן טעם לשבח אסור דברי ר”מ

ר”ש אומר לשבח אסור ולפגם מותר

From here we could infer that there are some who maintain that when [the forbidden element] imparts a worsened flavor it is prohibited?

Yes, for it has been taught: Whether it imparts a detrimental flavor or an improved flavor it is prohibited, the words of R. Meir. R. Shimon says: If improved it is prohibited but if worsened it is permitted.


The Talmud notes that there is indeed at least one tanna who holds that even if the prohibited substance imparts a bad flavor the mixture is prohibited. However, this is clearly not the dominant position.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Zayin, Part 3

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Zayin, Part 3
Reading for Tuesday, September 25
Avodah Zarah 67-3



Abahu categorizes which forbidden mixtures are prohibited by the Torah, which are prohibited but not by the Torah and which are permitted.


אמר ר’ אבהו אמר רבי יוחנן כל שטעמו וממשו אסור לוקין עליו וזהו כזית בכדי אכילת פרס


Abbahu said in the name of R. Yohanan: Whenever there is the flavor and substance [of the prohibited substance in a mixture] it is prohibited [and one who eats it] is liable to the punishment of lashes; and this is an olive’s worth [of prohibited substance] eaten in the time it takes to eat half a loaf.


If one eats an amount of prohibited substance equivalent to an olive within the time it takes to eat half a loaf of bread (calculations vary between 2 to 9 minutes) one has transgressed the laws of the Torah and theoretically should be punished by lashes. For instance let’s say some ground pork falls into my stew. If I ate enough of the stew such that it would contain an olive’s worth of pork and I did so within the time it would take to eat half a loaf of bread, I am considered as one who ate pork.


טעמו ולא ממשו אסור ואין לוקין עליו


If the [mixture] contains taste but not the substance, it is prohibited but he is not punished with lashes.


If I can taste the pork but it is only taste and not substance, then the mixture is prohibited but one who eats it has not transgressed a biblical commandment.


ואם ריבה טעם לפגם מותר


But if he put more [of the prohibited substance] so as to worsen it, then it is permitted.


If there so much prohibited substance that it gives off a bad taste then it is permitted to eat the mixture.


ולימא אם נתן טעם לפגם מותר

הא קמשמע לן דאע”ג דאיכא מילי אחרנייתא דפגמה בהדיה

והלכתא כלישנא בתרא דריש לקיש

Let him then say [more explicitly] that if it imparts a detrimental flavor it is permitted!

Behold it teaches us that it is so even when there is another element in it which worsens the flavor.

And the law follows the second version of R. Shimon b. Lakish’s statement. 


Abahu uses some strange language—if he put more of the forbidden substance. Why didn’t he just say “if it imparts a detrimental flavor” it is permitted.

The answer is that R. Abahu was teaching another halakhah. Even if there are other reasons why the food doesn’t taste good, if the prohibited substance does not improve the flavor and the mixture tastes bad, the mixture is permitted.

This also accords with the second version of Resh Lakish’s statement. If the food tastes bad it is permitted even if it could be improved by more or less salt/spice.

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