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Avodah Zarah, Daf Ayin Bet, Part 3
Reading for Tuesday, October 30
Avodah Zarah 72-3
The mishnah that we will learn today opens a long discussion about a concept called “flow” or “nitzok” in Hebrew. The issue is regarding liquid that flows down into a lower liquid. Does the status of the lower liquid effect the status of the upper liquid? In other words, should this be considered one body of liquid?
We should note that the issue of contamination flowing upwards through a poured liquid, was an issue of major content between different groups of Jews during the time of the Second Temple. In a famous document called “The Halakhic Letter” found in Qumran (The Dead Sea Scrolls”) the author of the document complains that his opponents (probably the Pharisees) claim that the poured liquid is pure. This complaint is also mentioned as a complaint of the Sadducees against the Pharisees in Mishnah Yadayim 4:7. We see that our mishnah takes the Pharisaic point of view. Among scholars of ancient history and especially the Dead Sea Scrolls this might be one of the most important disputes in trying to determine who the authors of these scrolls were.
מתני׳ נטל את המשפך ומדד לתוך צלוחיתו של עובד כוכבים וחזר ומדד לתוך צלוחיתו של ישראל אם יש בו עכבת יין אסור המערה מכלי אל כלי את שעירה ממנו מותר ואת שעירה לתוכו אסור:
If [a Jew] took a funnel and measured [wine] into a non-Jew’s flask and then measured some into a Jew’s flask, should a drop of the [first] wine have remained [in the funnel], then [the wine measured into the second flask] is prohibited.
If he poured from [his own] vessel into [a non-Jew’s] vessel, [the wine in the vessel] from which he poured is permitted and [the wine in the vessel] into which he poured is prohibited.
In the first section a Jew pours his wine into the container of a non-Jew using a funnel. The liquid that remains in the funnel when the Jew pours the wine into the non-Jew’s flask has the same status as the wine in the non-Jew’s flask itself. The fact that the wine in the flask is yen nesekh, means that the wine in the funnel is as well. This is because the funnel goes into the non-Jew’s container and may “take back” some of the yen nesekh. If even a drop of wine should remain in the funnel and the Jew should then pour more wine into the funnel and give it to a Jew, all of the wine has become contaminated as yen nesekh and it is all forbidden.
In contrast, the second section teaches a different principle from the previous section. When one pours from one vessel into another, and the poured liquid never touches both vessels at the same time, there is no contamination from the lower vessel into the higher vessel. While the bottom liquid might become itself contaminated (if it is poured into a non-Jew’s flask), the top liquid remains permitted.
גמ׳ תנן התם הנצוק והקטפרס ומשקה טופח אינו חיבור לא לטומאה ולא לטהרה האשבורן חיבור לטומאה ולטהרה
GEMARA. It was taught elsewhere: Flow, a downward stream of water and dripping liquid do not form a connecting link to transmit either impurity or purity, but a pool of water is a connecting link to transmit both impurity and purity.
This is a mishnah from Toharot 8:9. Flows, downward streams and dripping liquid do not serve to connect separate bodies of water. So if one body is impure, the other body does not become impure. But if there is a pool of standing liquid connecting the two, they are considered connected.
אמר רב הונא נצוק וקטפרס ומשקה טופח חיבור לענין יין נסך
Huna said: Flow, a downward stream of water and dripping liquid form a connecting link with regard to yayin nesekh.
The above mishnah was referring to the laws of purity. R. Huna says that the law is more stringent when it comes to yayin nesekh. Downward flow does cause the two bodies to be connected. Note that this would have drastic consequences for Jews. If a Jew pours wine into a cup held by a gentile, the Jew’s wine becomes yayin nesekh!
אמר ליה רב נחמן לרב הונא מנא לך הא אילימא מדתנן הנצוק והקטפרס ומשקה טופח אינו חיבור לא לטומאה ולא לטהרה לטומאה ולטהרה הוא דלא הוי חיבור הא לענין יין נסך הוי חיבור אימא סיפא האשבורן חיבור לטומאה ולטהרה לטומאה ולטהרה הוא דהוי חיבור הא לענין יין נסך לא הוי חיבור אלא מהא ליכא למשמע מינה
Nahman asked R. Huna: From where do you know this? If from [the Mishnah] which we learned: Flow, a downward stream of water and dripping liquid do not form a connecting link to communicate either impurity or purity, [and you argue that] it is only with regard to purity and impurity that it does not form a link but it does with yayin nesek; in that case say the end: But if there is a pool of standing liquid connecting the two, they are considered connected, [and you would have to say that] it is only in connection with purity and impurity that it does form a link but it does not in connection with yayin nesekh! So from this mishnah nothing can be learned.
Nahman asks R. Huna for the source of his ruling and notes that one cannot deduce the ruling from the mishnah in Toharot. While we could deduce R. Huna’s ruling from the first section, if the same type of deduction was applied to the second section, it would lead to an incorrect ruling (certainly a standing body of liquid would form a connecting link with yayin nesekh). Thus this mishnah cannot be R. Huna’s source.