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 Zayin, Part 1

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Zayin, Part 1
Reading for Sunday, September 23
Avodah Zarah 67-1

 

Introduction

This week’s sugya continues with the next clause of the mishnah. These sugyot are some of the most important in the entire Talmud with regard to the laws of kashrut. The particular rule is called “noten ta’am lifgam”—“gives a bad taste.”

For ease of reference I am copying the relevant clause in the mishnah here:

 

This is the general rule: whatever derives advantage [from yayin nesekh by its]

imparting a flavor is prohibited, but whatever does not derive advantage [from yayin nesekh by its] imparting a flavor is permitted, as, for example vinegar which fell upon split beans

 

זה הכלל כל שבהנאתו בנותן טעם כו’:

אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל הכי הלכתא

This is the general rule: Whatever derives advantage [from yayin nesekh by its] imparting a flavor etc.

Rav Judah said in the name of Shmuel: Such is the halakhah.

 

The halakhah follows the mishnah—if the prohibited substance imparts a bad taste the mixture is permitted.

 

ואמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל לא שנו אלא שנפל לתוך גריסין רותחין אבל נפל לתוך גריסין צוננין והרתיחן נעשה כמי שהשביח ולבסוף פגם ואסור

 

And Rav Judah said in the name of Shmuel: They taught this only when [the vinegar] fell into hot split beans; but if it fell into cold split beans and he then warms them it is as if they were improved and only in the end worsened, and therefore they are prohibited.

 

According to Shmuel, if the vinegar falls into cold beans it improves the taste. This would make it prohibited. When he heats it up the vinegar now imparts a bad flavor. But since it was good at first, the beans stay prohibited. In other words once the flavor is considered good it cannot switch to be considered bad.

 

וכן כי אתא רבין אמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר ר’ יוחנן לא שנו אלא שנפל לתוך גריסין רותחין אבל נפל לתוך גריסין צוננין והרתיחן נעשה כמי שהשביח ולבסוף פגם ואסור

 

Similarly when Rabin came [from Eretz Yisrael] he reported that Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in the name of R. Yohanan: They taught this only when [the vinegar] fell into hot split beans; but if it fell into cold split beans and he then warms them it is as if they were improved and only in the end worsened, and therefore they are prohibited.

 

This is the same tradition as above, here attributed to rabbis from Eretz Yisrael.

 

וכן כי אתא רב דימי כו’ וכך היו עושין בערבי שבתות בציפורי וקוראין אותם שחליים

 

Similarly when Rav Dimi came [from Eretz Yisrael etc.] And thus they used to do on the eve of Sabbaths in Tzippori and they called them cress.

 

Rav Dimi restates the same statement from above. It has been abbreviated in the talmudic record because by now it is getting repetitive. He also adds that they used to make a dish of split beans and vinegar on erev Shabbat in Tzippori. Sounds pretty good if you ask me.

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Zayin, Part 2

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Zayin, Part 2
Reading for Monday, September 24
Avodah Zarah 67-2

 

Introduction

Today’s section explains what constitutes a situation where something is considered to impart a bad flavor.

 

אמר ריש לקיש נותן טעם לפגם שאמרו לא שיאמרו קדירה זו חסירה מלח יתירה מלח חסירה תבלין יתירה תבלין אלא כל שאין חסירה כלום ואינה נאכלת מפני זה

 

Shimon b. Lakish said: When they said “It imparts a worsening flavor,” [they did not mean] that people say that the dish lacks salt or is over-salted, or lacks spice or is over-spiced. Rather [what they do mean is] any food which is not lacking in anything and is not eaten because of this.

 

If one adds a forbidden substance to a food and the food tastes bad because it lacks salt or has too much salt or lacks or has too much spice the food is still prohibited. This is not a case of “imparts a worsening flavor” because it is not the forbidden food that made the dish taste bad. For the food to be permitted its bad taste must be because of the forbidden food.

 

ואיכא דאמרי אמר ריש לקיש נותן טעם לפגם שאמרו אין אומרין קדירה זו חסירה מלח יתירה מלח חסירה תבלין יתירה תבלין אלא השתא מיהא הא פגמה

 

There are those who say: R. Shimon b. Lakish said: When they said “It imparts a worsening flavor,” [they did not mean] that people say that the dish lacks salt or is over-salted, or lacks spice or is over-spiced. Rather it is now impaired [by the forbidden food].

 

This is a more lenient version of Resh Lakish’s statement. If food tastes bad we do not attribute it to too much or too little salt or spice and say that if the food was properly salted or spiced the substance would not have made it taste bad and therefore it should be prohibited. Rather, we say that since the food tastes bad now, it is permitted, no matter why it tastes bad.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Vav, Part 5

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Vav, Part 5
Reading for Thursday, September 20
Avodah Zarah 66-5

 

Introduction

Abaye and Rava continue to argue about whether certain substances combine to create a prohibited mixture.

 

חלא לגו חמרא דברי הכל בנותן טעם

 

If [prohibited] vinegar fell into [permitted] wine, all agree that it depends on whether it imparts a flavor.

 

In this case Abaye and Rava both agree that these are two different substances—different names and different tastes. Therefore the wine is prohibited only if the vinegar imparts taste.

 

חמרא לגו חלא אביי אמר במשהו ורבא אמר בנותן טעם

 

But if [prohibited] wine fell into [permitted] vinegar, Abaye said [that it is prohibited] however small the quantity, and Rava said [that it depends upon whether the forbidden element] imparts a flavor.

 

The two sages debate if wine falls into vinegar. Abaye says that even if the wine does not impart taste it causes the vinegar to be prohibited. Rava says that the wine must impart taste. The Talmud shall now explain their reasoning.

 

אביי אמר במשהו ריחיה חלא וטעמא חמרא חלא והוה ליה מין במינו וכל מין במינו במשהו

 

Abaye said [that it is prohibited] however small the quantity because the smell [of the wine] is that of vinegar and the taste is of wine, and therefore it is considered vinegar.

It is then a case of one species [being mixed] with the same species and in such cases even the smallest amount causes a prohibition.

 

Abaye says that as soon as the wine even begins to fall into the vinegar it will begin to smell like vinegar. The smell of the vinegar will waft up into the wine. A substance is defined by its smell and not by its taste. Therefore this is a case of one species being mixed with the same species and in such cases even the smallest amount of prohibited substance causes a prohibition.

 

רבא אמר בנותן טעם ריחיה חלא וטעמא חמרא חמרא והוה ליה מין בשאינו מינו וכל מין בשאינו מינו בנותן טעם

 

Rava said [that it depends upon whether the forbidden substance] imparts taste, because the smell [of the wine] is vinegar and the taste is of wine and therefore it is regarded as wine, and it is a case of one species [being mixed] with a different species, and in such circumstances the mixture is prohibited only if the prohibited substance imparts taste.

 

Rava says that even though the wine smells like vinegar, it is wine and therefore this is a case of two different species being mixed together. In such cases the prohibited substance must impart a taste for the mixture to become prohibited.

I should note that were it not for the Talmud I would have explained the debate in a much simpler way. The taste of vinegar is much more pronounced than wine. So when vinegar falls into wine, we can use the taste test. But when wine falls into vinegar it would require a very large amount to nullify the taste of the vinegar. Therefore the taste test won’t really work. So the amoraim debate whether it should be used in any case.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Vav, Part 6

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Vav, Part 6
Reading for Friday, September 21
Avodah Zarah 66-6

 

Introduction

Today’s sugya contains a very important halakhic debate about whether “smell” is considered substantial in matters of halakhah.

 

האי בת תיהא עובד כוכבים בדישראל ש”ד ישראל בדעובד כוכבים אביי אמר אסור רבא אמר מותר

 

The bung-hole [of a wine-jug]: If an idolater smelled that of an Israelite, it is permitted; but if an Israelite does so with the wine of an idolater Abaye declared it prohibited whereas Rava declared it permitted.

 

If an idolater smells Jewish wine through a bung hole, the wine is permitted. Such wine was not libated. But a Jew may not, according to Abaye, even smell non-Jewish wine. “Smelling” is considered deriving benefit and deriving benefit from non-Jewish wine is prohibited.

 

אביי אמר אסור ריחא מילתא היא רבא אמר מותר ריחא לאו מילתא היא

אמר רבא מנא אמינא לה דריחא ולא כלום הוא דתנן תנור שהסיקו בכמון של תרומה ואפה בו את הפת הפת מותרת לפי שאין טעם כמון אלא ריחא כמון

Abaye declared it prohibited because smell is something substantial, whereas Rav declared it permitted because smell is not something substantial.

Rava said: From where do I say that smell is not considered something substantial? As we have learned: An oven that was lit with cumin that is terumah and they baked bread in it, the bread is permitted because it does not have the taste of cumin but rather the smell of cumin.

 

Rava says that smell is not something substantial and proves it from a mishnah that deals with lighting an oven with terumah cumin. The bread baked in the oven has the smell of cumin but not the taste and therefore it is permitted for a non-priest to eat it.

 

ואביי שאני התם דמיקלא איסוריה

 

Abaye? [What would he say to this argument?] It is different in this instance because the prohibited element was burned.  

 

Abaye, who holds that smell is something substantial, responds that the case of the oven is different, for the prohibited substance is consumed by the fire. In contrast, the wine is still present and therefore a Jew may not smell it.

 

אמר רב מרי כתנאי הרודה פת חמה ונתנה ע”פ חבית של יין של תרומה ר”מ אוסר ור’ יהודה מתיר רבי יוסי מתיר בשל חיטין ואוסר בשל שעורים מפני שהשעורים שואבות

מאי לאו בהא קמיפלגי דמר סבר ריחא מילתא היא ומר סבר ריחא ולא כלום הוא

Mari said: This is like [the difference between the following] tannaim: One who removes a warm loaf [from the oven] and places it upon a cask of wine which is terumah, R. Meir prohibits and R. Judah permits it; R. Yose permits if it is of wheat but prohibits if it is of barley because the barley absorbs [the fumes of the wine]. Are they not arguing about the following: One Master regards smell as something substantial and the other regards it as nothing at all?

 

Mari posits that the R. Meir and R. Yose disagree about the same issue that Abaye and Rava do. R. Meir holds that the loaf is prohibited because it absorbs the smell of the wine. Smell is substantial. This is like Abaye. R. Judah permits the loaf because he holds that smell is not substantial. This is like Rava.

 

לרבא ודאי תנאי היא לאביי מי לימא תנאי היא אמר לך אביי לאו מי איתמר עלה אמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר ר”ל בפת חמה וחבית פתוחה דברי הכל אסורה בפת צוננת וחבית מגופה דברי הכל מותרת לא נחלקו אלא בפת חמה וחבית מגופה בפת צוננת וחבית פתוחה והא דידי נמי כפת חמה וחבית פתוחה דמי:

 

To Rava the tannaim do certainly differ on this matter; but to Abaye are we to say that the Tannaim differ on this matter!  Abaye could say to you: Has it not been stated on this source: Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in the name of R. Shimon b. Lakish: In a case of a hot loaf and open cask all agree that it is prohibited; and in the case of a cold loaf and a stoppered cask all agree that it is permitted; they only differ when the loaf is hot and the cask stoppered or when the loaf is cold and the cask open; and the case under consideration is like a hot loaf upon an open cask.

 

Rava would have to admit that he holds only like R. Judah. But Abaye could say that all tannaim agree with him. They only disagree in a case where the smell is not likely to go into the bread, either because the bread is cold or the wine is stoppered. Abaye could say that smelling the wine directly through the bung-hole is again a case in which all tannaim would agree that the smell is substantial enough for the act to be prohibited.

 

I think people should note how two issues are being conflated in this sugya. Abaye and Rava are arguing whether one is allowed to smell prohibited substances. The issue is whether an action is permitted. In contrast, the sources they bring are discussing whether substances are defined by their smell or not. The issue is status of object. These are not exactly the same issue. I believe that what causes the sugya to discuss them simultaneously is the general rule—smell is substantial or not. This is a classic example of how a general rule allows different subjects to be discussed together and for one to effect the other.

Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Vav, Part 3

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Avodah Zarah, Daf Samech Vav, Part 3
Reading for Tuesday, September 18
Avodah Zarah 66-3

 

Introduction

The sugya continues with Abaye and Rava arguing about whether a food’s status is determined by its name or its flavor.

 

חלא דחמרא וחלא דשיכרא וחמירא דחיטי וחמירא דשערי אביי אמר בנותן טעם בתר טעמא אזלינן והאי טעמא לחוד והאי טעמא לחוד והוה ליה מין בשאינו מינו ומין בשאינו מינו בנותן טעם

 

If wine vinegar [becomes mixed] with wheat vinegar or wheat yeast with barley yeast, Abaye said: [The mixture is prohibited when the prohibited substance] imparts a flavor. For we use the criterion of taste and since each has a separate taste, it is a case of one species [being mixed] with a different species, and in such circumstances the mixture is prohibited only if the [prohibited substance] imparts taste.

 

Wine and grain vinegar have the same name but different flavors, as do wheat and barley yeast. To Abaye these are different species because categorization is done by taste not name. Therefore the prohibition is prohibited only if the forbidden substance imparts taste.

 

ורבא אמר במשהו בתר שמא אזלינן והאי חלא מיקרי והאי חלא מיקרי והאי חמירא מיקרי והאי חמירא מיקרי וה”ל מין במינו וכל מין במינו במשהו

 

But Rava said: [It is prohibited] however even if there is only a small quantity. For we use the criterion of name; and since each is called vinegar or yeast, they belong to the same species and in all such cases the mixture is prohibited even if the smallest amount of prohibited substance is present.

 

Rava says that since these substances have the same name they are considered the same species. Even the smallest amount of prohibited substance causes the whole mixture to be prohibited.

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