SALT - Tuesday, 15 Sivan 5779 - June 18, 2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
            Yesterday, we noted the theory advanced by the Noda Bi-yehuda (Mahadura Tinyana, Y.D. 201) distinguishing between the two components of the challa obligation – the separation of a portion of dough from the batter, and giving that portion to a kohen.  Seeking to reconcile two seemingly conflicting passages in Rashi’s commentary to Parashat Shelach (15:20 and 15:21), the Noda Bi-yehuda proposed that the Torah obligation to separate challa from one’s batter has no minimum required amount, and even a very small quantity suffices to permit the batter for consumption.  The Torah requirement to give challa to a kohen, however, can be fulfilled only by giving “kedei netina” – an amount significant enough to qualify as a gift.  This explains why Rashi in one context comments that there is no minimum required quantity for challa on the level of Torah law, whereas in another he writes that the Torah obligation of challa requires giving “kedei netina.”
            Rav Asher Weiss adds another possible explanation, based on the remarks of the Radbaz, commenting to the Rambam’s Hilkhot Challa (5:1).  The Radbaz writes that although even a very small quantity of dough suffices to fulfill the Torah obligation of challa – just as a single stalk of grain suffices to fulfill the Torah obligation of teruma – nevertheless, “if one wishes to perform the mitzva properly, he should give ‘kedei netina’.”  According to the Radbaz, it appears, the Torah establishes two levels of performing the mitzva of challa – the preferred standard, and a basic standard.  One fulfills the minimum obligation of challa by giving even a very small portion of dough, but the higher standard is achieved only by giving a “kedei netina.”
            The novelty in this explanation, as Rav Weiss parenthetically notes, lies in the notion of a Torah obligation featuring a basic standard and a preferred standard.  The concept of “le-chatekhila” and “be-di’avad,” whereby Halakha requires a certain standard but deems the lower standard acceptable after the fact, is familiar to us primarily from laws enacted by Chazal.  The Radbaz seems to have understood that the Torah itself establishes both a preferred standard and a minimal standard with regard to the mitzva of challa, a view that necessarily assumes that even Torah law could be subject to the gradations of “le-chatekhila” and “be-di’avad.”  (Rav Weiss references in this context Rav Yaakov Emden’s discussion of this issue in the introduction to his work Mor U-ketzi’a.)
            Interestingly, Rav Weiss notes that Rashi himself appears to express this view – albeit with regard to teruma, as opposed to challa – elsewhere in his writings, as well.  In his commentary to Masekhet Chulin (137b), Rashi writes that even on the level of Torah law, one must le-chatekhila give a meaningful portion of one’s grain for teruma – 1/50th or 1/60th of the crop.  Rashi viewed these amounts not merely as a measure enacted by Chazal, but as the preferred standard established already by the Torah itself.  It is thus entirely possible that when it comes to challa, too, Rashi understood that the Torah establishes two different standards of observance – a preferred standard, and a basic standard at which the Biblical requirement can be minimally satisfied.