• Rav Michael Siev


Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev

Megilla: 16: 23b-24a


A scan of the classic printed daf can be found at:

http://www.e-daf.com/dafprint.asp?ID=14578 for 23b

http://www.e-daf.com/dafprint.asp?ID=14579 for 24a

Key words and phrases in Hebrew and Aramaic are marked in blue, and their translation/explanation can be seen by placing the cursor over them. 

From time to time, the shiur will include instructions to stop reading and do some task on your own. This will be marked by a


red pause box

It is highly recommended that you follow those instructions.

Within the quoted texts, my explanations and additions are also written in red

Last week, we learned the mishna on 23b, which lists the instances in which we require a minyan, and we discussed 10 of those 11 cases. We now move on to the final example in the mishna.

11) And land - nine and a kohen.

Rashi (on the mishna, s.v. "v'hakarka'ot", which is the 20th line of Rashi) explains:

And land - of hekdesh, one who comes to redeem them requires ten, and one of them is a kohen.

Rashi refers us to the laws of hekdesh, which is materials that are consecrated to the bet hamikdash. A person can consecrate land, or any of his property, to the bet hamikdash. Those in charge of the affairs of the bet hamikdash (the gabbai) may then either use those materials for the upkeep of the mikdash, if that is appropriate, or sell them and use the proceeds. The sale of these items is known as pidyon, which means redemption. Once the property is redeemed, it loses its holiness, and can be used for mundane purposes. Before a redemption can occur, the value of the property must be officially assessed. With regard to consecrated land, this evaluation must take place in the presence of ten men, including at least one kohen.

The gemara explains why a minyan is required for this purpose. We are up to the 12th to last line of 23b, the last word on the line:


And land - nine and a kohen, and a person is the same.

From where these words (How do we know this)?

Shmuel said: ten kohanim are written in the parsha - one for itself, and the rest are qualifications upon qualifications, and a qualification upon a qualification comes to include - nine (regular) Jews and one kohen.

And say five kohanim and five Jews! - Difficulty.

והקרקעות תשעה וכהן ואדם כיוצא בהן (וכו')

מנה"מ [=מנא הני מילי]?

אמר שמואל: עשרה כהנים כתובים בפרשה; חד לגופיה, (וחד למעוטי), ואידך הוי מיעוט אחר מיעוט, ואין מיעוט אחר מיעוט אלא לרבות: תשעה ישראלים וחד כהן.

ואימא חמשה כהנים וחמשה ישראלים! - קשיא. 

There are two issues here that the gemara tackles at once; the fact that ten men are required, and the fact that the composition of this group must have at least one - but not necessarily more than one - kohen.

The source for these two details is the fact that the Torah, in presenting the laws of redemption of hekdesh property (Vayikra ch. 27), says that a kohen must assess the property. In this context, the Torah uses the word "kohen" ten times. The gemara learns from this that ten people must be present during this evaluation. Rashi points out that these ten uses of the word "kohen" do not all occur within the specific pesukim that discuss redemption of consecrated land. Three of the usages of "kohen" are with regard to paying one's debt when one makes a vow to donate one's own value to the mikdash (known as erchin), three are with regard to redeeming consecrated animals, and four usages are in the context of redeeming consecrated land. Since the final usages are with regard to consecrated land, it is specifically for this purpose that the ten men are required. Interestingly, we do not find that paying erchin vows requires three men, or that redeeming consecrated animals requires six. Apparently, this is an all or nothing proposition. Perhaps the gemara assumes that there is no significance to a group of less than ten, and therefore if we do not have a requirement for a full minyan, we have no special requirements at all.

Now let's focus on the second factor - the composition of this group of ten. The gemara employs the rule "a qualification (mi'ut) upon qualification is only to include." (A limitation followed by another limitation is understood to be an expansion; i.e., each time the word "kohen" appears it should act as a limitation, restricting the class to only kohanim. Since, it appears more than once, it is understood in the opposite manner, to be inclusive rather than exclusive, and as a result we do not need kohanim for the successive nine persons).


What do you think this rule may mean? Shouldn't we assume that if the Torah presents a double limitation to a rule, that the second one limits the rule even more than the first? How can a limitation become inclusive just because it follows another limitation?

The principle of ein mi'ut achar mi'ut ela l'rabot, that "a qualification upon qualification is only to include," appears numerous times in the Talmud. One understanding of this rule is that the second qualification is unnecessary, because we already have the first one, and it is therefore not to be understood as a limitation of the original rule, but rather as a limitation of the first limitation. This results in a more expansive understanding of the original rule than we had after the first limitation.

 Let's see what this means in our situation. When the Torah uses the first "kohen," that implies that not only must an official be present at the evaluation of the property, but that this official must also be a kohen. This is a limitation, in that only certain people are acceptable for this purpose. When the Torah again uses the word "kohen," this is a limitation that is extra and unnecessary, as we already know that the official present must be a kohen. The gemara therefore limits the first limitation, and concludes that the whereas we do require additional officials, they need not be kohanim.  

The gemara questions the extent of the application of this rule to our sugya. After all, if the second word "kohen" is a qualification upon a qualification because it follows the first word "kohen," and it therefore comes to make the overall principle more inclusive, the third "kohen" can no longer be considered to be following a qualification; the second "kohen" is, in the final analysis, inclusive rather than limiting! Thus, we should only be able to say that every second usage of the word "kohen" is inclusive, and we should require five kohanim and five non-kohanim.

The gemara does not explicitly answer this question. However, the halacha stands as it was presented in the gemara. In general, when the gemara concludes a discussion with the word kashya, the statement that has been attacked is not deemed to have been disproven. This contrasts with the usage of the word t'yuvta, which implies that the question was so strong that it has disproven the premise. There are, apparently, some laws which are difficult but nonetheless true.

That having been said, it is unclear why in fact the gemara's question was not fully convincing. Perhaps we can make the following suggestion. The question assumes that the second word "kohen" limits the first "kohen" by implying that whereas we do require that a second official be present, he need not be a kohen. Thus, the first person must be a kohen, the second need not be a kohen, and the following usage of the word "kohen" should not be considered as following a mi'ut. There is another way, though, to understand the usage of the principle of "qualification upon qualification" in our gemara. The first usage of the word "kohen" implies that the official present must be a kohen. The second "kohen" limits this original qualification to the first member of the group. Thus, by definition, other members of the group may be non-kohanim.

Back to the gemara

We have finally arrived at the mishna's concluding phrase, which is related to the case of redemption of consecrated property that we have been discussing. The mishna added that "a person is like them," meaning like consecrated land. The gemara itself questions what this means.

We are up to the 6th to last line of 23b.


And a person is like them

Can a person be consecrated?

R' Abahu said: It refers to one who says "my price is upon me" (to donate to the mikdash), as it says in a b'raita: One who says "my price is upon me" - we evaluate him as a slave (and he must donate to the mikdash the amount of money he would be worth as a slave).  

And a slave has the same status as land, as it says "you shall pass them (slaves) on to your sons after you, to bequeath an inheritance."

ואדם כיוצא בהן

אדם מי קדוש?

אמר רבי אבהו: באומר דמי עלי, דתניא: האומר דמי עלי - שמין אותו כעבד,



ועבד איתקש לקרקעות, דכתיב (ויקרא כה) והתנחלתם אתם לבניכם אחריכם לרשת אחזה. 

A person cannot actually be consecrated to the bet hamikdash such that he would need to be redeemed in order to involve himself in mundane activity. The gemara therefore questions when we ever would need to estimate the value of a person, such that this should be included on the list of situations that require the presence of ten people. We mentioned previously the concept of erchin, which is when a person obligates himself to donate his erech, or value, to the bet hamikdash, but the Torah (Vayikra 27) gives specifies monetary values to different classes of people for this purpose, thus obviating the need for an official evaluation of the individual. The gemara answers that if a person says "my price is upon me," he has to pay his individualized monetary value to the mikdash, despite the fact that he himself is not consecrated. The person's monetary value is ascertained by calculating how much the individual would fetch on the slave market. It is this evaluation that requires the participation of ten people, including one kohen.

The gemara goes on to explain why this evaluation requires the presence of ten people. Since the person is evaluated as a slave, we consider him for these purposes as a slave. The slave referred to here is a non-Jewish slave. Non-Jewish slaves are compared to land, as in the pasuk quoted in the gemara, which says that slaves are passed down as an inheritance from one generation to another, as is one's land. Thus, just as the redemption of consecrated land requires ten men at least one of whom is a kohen, the determination of the value of this donor, which is also a payment made to the bet hamikdash, must also be in the presence of such a group.

We have made it to the end of our discussion of a complicated mishna! Take a short break and a deep breath, and we will get a head start on the next mishna, which brings us back to the halachot of Torah reading.



The mishna 

Our new mishna starts on the second to last line of 23b, and continues on 24a:


One who reads from the Torah should not (read) less than three verses, and should not read to the translator more than one verse (at a time).

And from prophets, (he may read the translator) three (at once). If the three of them were three parshiot - we read one by one.

We skip in the prophets and we do not skip in the Torah. Until how much can one skip? Such that the translator does not finish (translating the previous section before the reader finds the new place).  

הקורא בתורה לא יפחות משלשה פסוקים, ולא יקרא למתורגמן יותר מפסוק אחד.

ובנביא שלשה. היו שלשתן שלש פרשיות - קורין אחד אחד.

מדלגין בנביא, ואין מדלגין בתורה. ועד כמה הוא מדלג? עד כדי שלא יפסוק המתורגמן.

The mishna has listed two differences between halachot relevant to reading the Torah and reading the haftara. The first difference is with regard to how many pesukim the reader can read at once before giving the translator the opportunity to translate, and the second is with regard to skipping around. We'll discuss the second difference next week - for now, let's work on the first one.


Why should there be a difference between Torah readings and haftara with regard to how many pesukim one can read before giving the translator a chance to translate?

In order to understand this issue, we first need to understand why one cannot read more than one pasuk at a time from the Torah, and then we can hope to understand why that does not apply to the haftara. Rashi helps us with both of these steps.

Rashi (starting with s.v. v'lo, at the very bottom of 23b) writes:

And he should not read to the translator more than one pasuk - so that the translator will not err, for he translates by heart.

And from the prophets three - if he wants; and we are not concerned if he (the translator) will err, for we do not take (halachic) rulings from it.

Rashi alludes to an important difference between the Torah and prophets. While the Torah is the foundation of halacha, we generally do not learn halacha from the prophets; those books are meant to teach us how to live as good, moral, religious people. We certainly want people to understand properly everything that we read in public. However, when it comes to Torah, there may be practical halachic significance in every letter of a particular pasuk. The nature of the books of prophets is that their messages are not contingent upon the exact translation of any particular word. As long as the translator is generally competent, we are not concerned that having to translate three verses at a time will lead to mistakes that will have a negative impact upon the listeners.

May we merit to understand and live the halacha as well as the messages of the prophets! Have a wonderful Purim and a great week.