Dichui in Mitzvot

  • Rav Ezra Bick
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Gemara Sukka
Yeshivat Har Etzion


Shiur #20: DICHUI IN MITZVOT

BY RAV EZRA BICK

 

 

SOurces:

 

1)         Sukka 33a, "Tani Ulla… ve-anveihu"; 33b, "im mi'atan… tifshot"; and Rashi, ad loc.

2)         Tosafot 33a, s.v. niktam.

3)         Ba'al ha-Ma'or, 15b in Alfasi, s.v. tani ulla.

 

How are we to understand the idea of dichui (permanent disqualification on account of temporary unfitness) in mitzvot? How are we to understand the three distinctions proposed by the Tosafot?

 

***

 

            Our passage divides into two parts. On p. 33a, the Gemara discusses a hadas whose head was cut off (which is unfit), and then a berry grew from it (making it fit). And on p. 33b, it deals with a hadas whose berries were more numerous than its leaves (which is unfit), and then a person came and reduced the number of berries (making it fit). The second part of the passage divides once again into two: where he reduced the number of berries before Yom Tov and where he did this on Yom Tov (in violation of the law).

 

            The law of dichui originates in the realm of kodshim (consecrated animals), and some of the sources are cited by Tosafot. The Gemara's issue is whether the law of dichui regarding kodshim applies also to mitzvot. On p. 33b, the Gemara distinguishes between an article that was unfit from the start (dichui mei-ikara) and an article that was once fit and then became unfit (nir'e ve-nidche). The Tosafot propose another distinction between a case where the person is incapable of restoring the article to fitness during its period of temporary unfitness (ein be-yado letaken) and a case where he is capable of doing so (be-yado letaken). The Tosafot's final position is very complicated. It is our intention here to clarify that position, and arrive thereby at a deeper understanding of the concept of dichui in general.

 

I.          THE POSITION OF THE TOSAFOT

 

Let us first summarize the position of the Tosafot:

 

1)         In the case of kodshim, even dichui from the start is considered dichui.

2)         If a person is capable of removing the cause of the dichui (be-yado letaken), in a manner similar to that in the case where a kohen who was fit for service received the sacrificial blood in a vessel and then handed it to a kohen who was unfit for such service, there is no dichui even where it was once fit and then became unfit.

3)         If he is capable of removing the cause of the dichui, in a manner similar to that in the case where he removes berries from the hadas, or where the altar became damaged, or where he became an apostate – in the case of kodshim, there is dichui; in the case of mitzvot – if it was unfit from the start, there is no dichui (according to the Gemara's conclusion), and if it had been fit and it became unfit (e.g., where the berries darkened on Yom Tov, and the person removed them on Yom Tov), this is the case about which the Gemara raised a question.

4)         If a person is incapable of removing the cause of the dichui (ein be-yado letaken), there is a question in the case of mitzvot even if it had been unfit from the start (this is the case of a hadas whose head had been cut off before Yom Tov, and a berry grew from it on Yom Tov).

5)         The case where wind caused blood to be covered is defined as a case of ein be-yado letaken, because in such a case a person is not obligated to uncover the blood and then cover it again.

 

Rashi does not distinguish between be-yado letaken and ein be-yado letaken regarding mitzvot, and therefore he makes no distinction between the case of a hadas whose head was cut off (ein be-yado letaken) and the case of too many berries (be-yado letaken). Thus, there is a contradiction between the Gemara on p. 33b, which concludes that in a case of unfitness from the start in mitzvot there is no dichui, and the question raised on p. 33a regarding a hadas whose head had been cut off. Rashi resolves the contradiction by saying (33a, s.v. yesh dichui) that "now [the Gemara] does not distinguish between dichui from the start and where it had been fit and it became unfit." In other words, according to the Gemara's conclusion, a hadas whose head had been cut off before Yom Tov, and a berry grew from it on Yom Tov, is certainly fit, even though the Gemara on p. 33a implies that its fitness is in question. The Tosafot, on the other hand, answer that regarding a hadas whose head was cut off, where it is ein be-yado letaken, its fitness is in question even if it had been unfit from the start. It is only in the case where the berries are more numerous than the leaves, where it is be-yado letaken, that there is no dichui if it had been unfit from the start.

 

II.        EXPLANATION OF THE POSITION OF TOSAFOT

 

1)         THE ESSENCE OF THE QUESTION WHETHER OR NOT THERE IS DICHUI IN MITZVOT

 

 

The law of dichui in kodshim is based on the special status of a cheftza (object) embodying sanctity. A sacrifice has the status of sanctity for the altar, and it is this status that allows it to be offered there. The law of dichui in kodshim means that if, in actuality, the sacrifice is unfit for offering, its status as a cheftza embodying sanctity is impaired, and there is no way to repair that.

 

The question then regarding dichui in mitzvot is whether or not there exists a parallel status of a cheftza of mitzva. This finds clear expression in Rashi (33a, s.v. ve-lulav):

 

Since he bound it while it was unfit, and the status of "lulav of mitzva" was applied to while it was [temporarily] disqualified, it remains disqualified forever… It had to say on Yom Tov, for were it not yet Yom Tov, the time of the mitzva would not yet have arrived, nor the status of [object of] mitzva, so that it should be regarded as disqualified.

 

The dichui cannot start before the beginning of the festival, for only at that point does a lulav acquire the status of lulav of mitzva. So too, according to the opinion that a lulav requires binding, the hadas does not become part of the cheftza of the mitzva before it is bound, for according to this position, the cheftza of the mitzva is a unit of three bound species.

 

2)         BE-YADO LETAKEN

 

The Tosafot proceed to distinguish in the realm of kodshim between be-yado letaken and ein be-yado letaken. In the case where a fit kohen received the sacrificial blood in a vessel and handed it to an unfit kohen, there is no dichui, even though it had first been fit, and then became unfit, because be-yado letaken.

 

The fact that the sacrificial blood is in the hands of an unfit kohen has no impact on the cheftza of the blood. The disqualification is in the person who sprinkles the blood, but the blood as a cheftza did not change at all. Therefore, the law of dichui does not pertain here whatsoever, because dichui is based on an impairment of the status of the cheftza of the sacrifice. However, were he incapable of returning the blood to a fit kohen, then the extrinsic matter of being "in the hand of an unfit kohen" would be regarded as affecting the blood itself. For at that time the blood would be unfit for sprinkling – and a sacrifice that is unfit to be brought to the altar does not have the full status of a sacrifice. But if he is capable of returning the blood to a fit kohen, it means that even though the blood cannot be sprinkled at this time, it is still suitable to become fit to be sprinkled. This being the case, there is no disqualification of the cheftza of the blood.

 

3)         THE STATUS OF A SACRIFICE AS OPPOSED TO THE STATUS OF A CHEFTZA OF MITZVA

 

Damage to the altar, on the other hand, impairs the status of the altar, for at the present time it is unsuitable for use. So too in the case of apostasy, the owner of the sacrifice is now unsuitable to bring his offering. In such cases, there is a disqualification in the very cheftza. This being the case, it is not regarded as a case of be-yado letaken, and we say that the sacrifice is subject to dichui and permanently disqualified.

 

In such circumstances there is a distinction between a sacrifice and a mitzva. In kodshim the fitness of the sacrifice depends on sanctity, and since in the present situation, the sacrifice is not suitable to be offered, the sanctity is impaired, and there is a disqualification in the very status of the cheftza of sanctity. In the case of a mitzva, on the other hand, even if we say that there is dichui in mitzvot, and there exists a status of cheftza of mitzva – that cheftza has no independent content other than the fact that it is waiting to be used for the fulfillment of a mitzva; there is no status of sanctity in a cheftza of mitzva. Therefore, since it is a case of be-yado letaken, even though the repair will be made in the cheftza itself, nevertheless the cheftza is still regarded as suitable for the mitzva, and even now (while it is unfit) it retains the status of cheftza of mitzva. This is different from the situation in the case of a sacrifice. For even if the sacrifice has a certain measure of "suitability for sacrifice," we must admit that at the present time its status is different from that of a fit sacrifice, and that this distinction expresses itself in the level of sanctity – sanctity for the altar – that it enjoys. For this reason, since it became temporarily disqualified, it remains disqualified forever.

 

4)         UNFIT FROM THE START AS OPPOSED TO ONCE FIT AND THEN UNFIT

 

The Tosafot raise yet another distinction between unfit from the start and once fit and then unfit. That which we said regarding a cheftza of mitzva – that if it is be-yado letaken it is not impaired, because it is regarded as if it were fit for the mitzva – only applies in the case where the mitzva object was unfit from the start. But if it had been fit, and then became unfit, it might become permanently disqualified (the Gemara leaves this as an unresolved question). That is to say, that even regarding a cheftza of mitzva, we might say that if the object achieved the status of a cheftza of mitzva, and then it became unfit, it can no longer be restored to fitness. However, if from the very outset it was be-yado letaken, there is room to say that owing to this possibility of being repaired, it is not yet called a cheftza of mitzva. Just as we say that prior to the binding (according to the view that a lulav requires binding), there is no cheftza of mitzva, so too in our case, there is no cheftza of mitzva before the repair is executed; finishing all the preparations is a condition for the conferring of the status of cheftza of mitzva. In the case of ein be-yado letaken, all possible preparations have been completed – thus the object acquires the status of cheftza of mitzva, and it is disqualified; but in the case of be-yado letaken, we see the future repair process as part of the preparation of the cheftza, and therefore the status of disqualification is not conferred until the process is completed. This possibility does not exist in the case of a sacrifice, because there the status of a cheftza of sacrifice begins immediately with the consecration; in the case of a mitzva, on the other hand, there is no act that is parallel to the consecration (mental designation has no validity [or as the Gemara on p. 33b puts it, "hazmana be-alma"]), and the status of cheftza of mitzva depends upon readiness for use for the mitzva.

 

III.       SUMMARY: THE LAW OF DICHUI IN MITZVOT

 

To summarize, we raised two questions regarding dichui in mitzvot:

 

1)         Does the concept of dichui pertain at all to mitzvot? It might be argued that there is no concept of a cheftza of mitzva paralleling the concept of a cheftza of sanctity.

2)         Assuming that the concept of dichui applies even to mitzvot, is the position that we presented above in section 3 correct? Does be-yado letaken prevent the disqualification of a cheftza of mitzva, which is merely an article that can become fit for the performance of a mitzva? Or perhaps it must already now be fit for the mitzva. Even if we accept the second possibility, the Gemara concludes that in a case where the article was unfit from the start, there is the additional argument presented above in section 4.

 

According to Rashi, who disagrees with the Tosafot (and so too the Ba'al ha-Ma'or, ad loc.), in the case where the article was unfit from the start, there is no dichui in mitzvot (even in the case of ein be-yado letaken). The rationale is that in the case of mitzvot the article is not a cheftza of mitzva until it is fully fit for the fulfillment of the mitzva: in the case of kodshim, its special status is conferred at the time of consecration, but in the case of a mitzva, the determining factor is the article's fitness for use. And the case where the article had been fit, but then later became unfit, the Gemara poses as a question.

 

IV.       THE LAW OF DICHUI IN THE CASE WHERE BLOOD WAS COVERED BY THE WIND

 

The last point in the Tosafot (according to our list above, and not according to the order in which the Tosafot present the material) relates to the law of covering blood. Since the Tosafot distinguish between a case of be-yado letaken, e.g. where the berries of the hadas are more numerous than the leaves, and a case of ein be-yado letaken, e.g., where the head of the hadas was cut off, there is a difficulty understanding the comparison made by the Gemara between the case of a hadas whose head had been cut off, and the law of covering the blood. For surely in the case where the wind covered the blood it is possible to repair the situation by uncovering the blood. The Tosafot answer that since he is not obligated to do so – for in such a case he is exempt from the mitzva of covering the blood – it is regarded as a case of ein be-yado letaken.

 

The explanation is simple: Be-yado letaken does not make the object fit in and of itself, but rather it confers upon the object the status of being able to become fit for the fulfillment of the mitzva and being able to become fit for sacrifice. The Tosafot maintain that in order to be able to become fit for the mitzva, it must be meant to be used for the mitzva. In the case of covering the blood, since there is no requirement whatsoever to uncover the blood and then cover it a second time, there is no connection between the blood that was covered by the wind and the future mitzva of covering the blood; the blood is exempt from covering, and therefore it is not meant to be covered, and there is no reason to see it as a cheftza of the mitzva of covering blood. Thus, it follows that if there is dichui in mitzvot, it should be permanently disqualified.

 

***

 

            The next shiur, by Rav Shmuel Shimoni, will deal with the prohibition to make a hadas fit on Yom Tov by reducing the number of berries, and the various allowances. Please learn the Gemara on p. 33a: "Tanu rabanan: Ein mema'atin … achariti" and Rashi; Tosafot, s.v. mode, and Ritva, s.v. ve-ha. It is also advisable to see the Rambam in Shabbat 111a, "Ve-Rav Natan Ba'al ha-Arukh… ve-lo lehana'ato hu ose; ve-zu ha-sevara… ve-zo ke-yotze ba."

           

            As for the severity of the prohibition, see Rashi 33a, s.v. avar; Mordekhai, sec. 747, in the name of the Riva. Is the position of the Riva connected to the principles that we saw regarding the lulav's status as a "utensil" in shiur no. 18? Try to explain the Gemara's conclusion according to Rashi and the Ramban in light of what we learned in that shiur. 

 

(Translated by David Strauss)