Daf 69b continued

  • Rav Michael Siev


Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev

Kiddushin 05 - Daf 69b continued

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Last week, we were introduced to the teaching of Rabbi Yossi regarding the strength of the concept of chazaka. This concept essentially means that we maintain the status quo regarding a person's status, or the status of anything else, until we have conclusive evidence to support uprooting that status quo. Chazaka is widely applied in halakha, and relates to issues as diverse as one's ability to marry, property rights and kashrut. The particular application of chazaka in our gemara was with regard to the priestly family known as the "Sons of Barzilai." This family returned to Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) with those seeking to build the Second Temple. Upon investigation, it came to light that they could not prove the purity of their lineage; they were therefore disqualified from participating in any of the activities specific to kohanim (priests) that would become reinstated with the building of the Beit Ha-mikdash. Nevertheless, since they had been eating teruma (agricultural produce endowed with sanctity and permissible only to kohanim) all along, they were permitted to continue doing so, due to the fact that there was no proof that they were not in fact true kohanim.

We concluded last week's shiur with the gemara's challenge to Rabbi Yossi and its initial answer: Why does Rabbi Yossi proclaim that "great is chazaka" if it did not solidify the priestly status of the Sons of Barzilai enough to grant them any further privileges? The fact that they were not disqualified from eating teruma, something they had been doing for generations, is no great feat; after all, there was no evidence to suggest that they were not actually kohanim! The gemara answered that initially the Sons of Barzilai had lived close to, but outside of, Eretz Yisrael, and therefore only ate teruma that was of Rabbinic status. They were permitted to continue eating teruma even when they returned to Eretz Yisrael, where produce can be considered teruma on a Biblical level. We are always more stringent when it comes to Biblical law than when it comes to laws instituted by the Sages. Nevertheless, the Sons of Barzilai's status as kohanim, as confirmed by their publicly recognized right to eat teruma, was solid enough to consider them kohanim regarding all types of teruma - due to the concept of chazaka. The gemara now continues with an alternate suggestion.

We are ten lines from the bottom of 69b.

And if you want, say: Really, even now they could eat from Rabbinical [teruma], but could not eat from Biblical [teruma],

and that which we elevate from teruma to lineage - from Biblical [teruma];

from Rabbinical [teruma], we do not elevate.

If so, what is [the meaning of the statement] "great is chazaka?"

That originally there was no need to decree [that they should not eat Rabbinical teruma] because of Biblical teruma,

at the end, even though there is [reason] to decree because of Biblical teruma,

they may eat Rabbinical teruma, they may not eat Biblical teruma.

ואיבעית אימא: לעולם השתא נמי בדרבנן אכול, בדאורייתא לא אכול,

וכי מסקינן מתרומה ליוחסין - מדאורייתא,

מדרבנן לא מסקינן.

אי הכי, מאי גדולה חזקה?

דמעיקרא ליכא למיגזר משום תרומה דאורייתא,

לבסוף אף ע"ג (=על גב) דאיכא למיגזר משום תרומה דאורייתא,

בדרבנן אכול, בדאורייתא לא אכול.

The gemara now suggests an alternative answer: perhaps the Sons of Barzilai were not permitted to eat Biblical teruma; their status as kohanim was maintained only regarding the exact privileges they had enjoyed in the past, namely Rabbinical teruma. The gemara points out that this also takes care of an additional concern that we mentioned briefly last week. Kohanim who are publicly recognized as such, in that they perform functions or enjoy privileges reserved especially for kohanim, are presumed to be legitemate regarding all matters - including with regard to "lineage," which means that we will assume that his daughters can marry other kohanim. (If the kohen was a chalal, descended of a kohen and a woman that a kohen may not marry, his children would also be considered chalalim, and would not be permitted to marry kohanim.)  However, this is only the case regarding laws that are of Biblical origin. If a kohen eats food that is teruma on a Biblical level, for example, we assume that his record must have been closely investigated, and we can consider him a kohen in other areas as well. Since this is not the case when it comes to a person or family recognized as kohanim merely by the fact that they eat Rabbinical teruma, allowing the Sons of Barzilai to continue to eat Rabbinical teruma would not lead us to presume their validity as kohanim in other matters - something which we have no right to do.

If this is the case, we are left with the original question against Rabbi Yossi: what about the status of the Sons of Barzilai proved the great potency of the concept of chazaka? The gemara answers that, in fact, allowing the Sons of Barzilai to continue eating even Rabbinical teruma is a significant policy. Originally, the fact that they ate teruma did not suggest any danger that they would end up violating Biblical commands, as there was simply not any Biblical teruma available. Now that they had arrived in Eretz Yisrael, there was produce that had the status of teruma on a Torah level; thus, there was reason to forbid them from even Rabbinical teruma in order to make sure that they would not eat Biblical teruma. Nonetheless, due to the concept of chazaka, the Sages allowed the Sons of Barzilai to continue eating produce that had the status of teruma on a rabbinic level.

We should take a moment to make a couple of general points that pertain to our gemara. Firstly, a little background on teruma. The Torah commands that one give a percentage of one's produce to kohanim; this produce is endowed with sanctity and it is strictly forbidden for non-kohanim to eat it. This mitzva is an example of a category of mitzvot known as mitzvot ha-teluyot ba-aretz, mitzvot that relate to the land; these agricultural mitzvot apply only in Eretz Yisrael. The Rabbis decreed that one should keep this mitzva in certain lands that are of close proximity to Eretz Yisrael as well, so that one not mistakenly come to be lenient on these matters in Eretz Yisrael. Thus, before the Sons of Barzilai came to Eretz Yisrael, they had the opportunity to partake of food that had the status of Rabbinical teruma. When they arrived in Eretz Yisrael, there was food of teruma status on both Biblical and Rabbinic levels. Rashi - as always, an important source of information necessary for us to understand the gemara - explains why this is the case. The Biblical command regarding teruma does not apply to all types of produce; it applies specifically to wine, olive oil and grain. Thus, teruma from these types of produce which are grown in Eretz Yisrael have the status of teruma on a Biblical level, while produce of other types attains the status of teruma on a Rabbinical level.

The gemara's discussion here also displays a halakhic mechanism that is widely used and has made a significant impact upon Jewish life: the concept of a gezeira. The Torah teaches that "You shall make a safeguard for my statutes" (Vayikra 18:30), which is interpreted as a directive that we take whatever legislative measures are necessary to ensure that we do not violate the Torah's laws (see Mo'ed Katan, 5a). The Rabbis therefore have license to use the power invested in them to make new laws (see Devarim 17:8-13 and Rambam, Hilkhot Mamrim, 1:2) to enact gezeirot, which are prohibitions instituted by the Sages to safeguard us from violating Biblical prohibitions. Thus, for example, they prohibited taking medicine on Shabbat, under certain circumstances, for fear that one would come to violate Torah law in preparing the medicine (See Shulchan Arukh, OC, 328). The concept of gezeira informs the gemara's discussion regarding the strength of chazaka; normally, the possibility that a kohen of questionable status would eat Biblical teruma because he is so used to eating Rabbinic teruma would be a great enough danger to warrant a "safeguard" in the form of a Rabbinic decree that they may not even eat Rabbinic teruma. Nevertheless, because of the great power of chazaka, the Sons of Barzilai were permitted to continue eating Rabbinic teruma.

We have now analyzed the gemara's two suggestions as to why Rabbi Yossi considers Hattirshata's instructions to the Sons of Barzilai to demonstrate the great power of chazaka.

It is important to be able to isolate the differences between the two answers, and how each provides a solution to the initial question. Take a moment to look back and the question and answers and make sure that this is clear in your mind!

The initial question was essentially composed of two assumptions:

1) The Sons of Barzilai were only allowed to continue doing exactly what they had done until that point.

2) This does not show the strength of chazaka; there was no reason to disqualify them, as there was no proof that they were not genealogically pure.

Each of the gemara's two answers respond to the question by undermining one of the two assumptions. The first answer argues that, actually, the Sons of Barzilai were permitted to do more than they had done in the past: Originally, they had only eaten Rabbinical teruma, whereas now they would be able to eat Biblical teruma. The second answer admits that they were only permitted to continue eating Rabbinical teruma, but argues that this is, in fact, a significant concession due to the powerful concept of chazaka: even though there was reason to forbid them from eating Rabbinical teruma so as to ensure that they would not eat Biblical teruma, this gezeira was not instituted.

Let us continue in the Gemara. We are six lines from the bottom of 69b.

And does it not say: "And Hattirshata said to them that they should not eat from the most sanctified;"

from the most sanctified they should not eat,

but from everything [else] they can eat!

This is what it means to say: not something that is called holy,

and not something that is called sanctified:

not something that is called holy, as it says: "And no stranger (i.e., non-kohen) shall eat holy [food];"

and not something that is called sanctified, as the verse states: "And the daughter of a kohen who shall be [a wife] to a strange man,

she shall not eat from the gift of the sanctified [food],"

and the Master said: from that which is separated from what is sanctified she shall not eat.

והכתיב: ויאמר התרשתא להם אשר לא יאכלו מקדש הקדשים;

בקדש הקדשים הוא דלא יאכל,

הא כל מידי ניכול!

הכי קאמר: לא מידי דמיקרי קדש,

ולא מידי דמיקרי קדשים;

לא מידי דמיקרי קדש, דכתיב: וכל זר לא יאכל קדש;

ולא מידי דמיקרי קדשים, דאמר קרא: ובת כהן כי תהיה לאיש זר

היא בתרומת הקדשים לא תאכל,

ואמר מר: במורם מן הקדשים לא תאכל.

The gemara now challenges the second answer that we have already discussed. That answer claimed that the Sons of Barzilai were permitted to continue eating Rabbinical teruma but were not allowed to eat Biblical teruma. However, the verse states that Hattirshata instructed them not to eat "the most sanctified" food, a reference to certain types of sacrificial meat. This implies that they were allowed to eat all other sanctified food, including Biblical teruma and even lower level sacrificial meat!

The gemara responds that we should not read the phrase kodesh ha-kodashim as meaning the most sanctified, or more literally, the "sanctified of the sanctified." Rather than kodesh modifying kodashim, the two words should be understood as referring to two separate types of food: Kodesh refers to teruma, as in Vayikra (22:10). Kodashim should be understood as in Vayikra (22:12), which speaks of the "gift of the sanctified food." The gemara explains that this refers to certain parts of sacrificial animals that were donated to the kohanim; although the daughter of a kohen may partake in such food, this privilege is suspended once she marries a non-kohen. Thus, the verse has been interpreted to mean that the Sons of Barzilai could not eat from low-level sacrificial food or from teruma. Since we are talking about a pasuk, the teruma that is prohibited is clearly Biblical teruma; they were thus permitted only to eat Rabbinical teruma.

We have concluded the Gemara's discussion of the Sons of Barzilai, and along the way we have been introduced to the concept of a gezeira and the important principle of chazaka. As we have completed an entire page of Gemara, it would be a great idea to review the Gemara that we have learned together so far. Simply reading the text, with the help of our shiurim and/or the Artscroll, will go a long way toward improving one's textual abilities in Talmud study.