• Rav Zev Jacobson
Davar Ha-gorem Le-mammon
Daf 5b-6a
            This week we will take a break from the regular format of the shiur and concentrate briefly on the concept of Davar ha-gorem le-mammon. As this is not a shiur kelali, the discussion will be neither exhaustive nor definitive; rather the emphasis will be on HOW to approach the topic on a basic level - one that can be used whenever studying gemara.  Of course there are many other methods - what follows is simply the way I would address the issue at hand.
            The gemara [daf 5b line 45] records the instruction of Rava to the inhabitants of Mechuza before Pesach: "Dispose of the chametz which the army entrusted into your care!"  He explains to the townspeople that the chametz is considered theirs since they are responsible to replace it, even if it is lost or stolen.  Thus, they may not retain it in their possession during Pesach.
            Initially, the gemara hypothesizes that according to Rava - davar ha-gorem le-mammon ke-mammon dami (that which causes a liability for money is considered as money).  However, the gemara concludes that Rava would still require the disposal of the army's chametz even if he was of the opinion that davar ha-gorem le-mammon LAV ke-mammon dami (that which causes a liability for money is NOT considered as money).
            There are a number of questions that can be raised:
1. What is the meaning of the concept "davar ha-gorem le-mammon ke-mammon dami?"
2. What is its logical basis?
3. Why are there two formulations in the gemara according to which we understand Rava?
            Assuming that:
a. this is the first time that you have seen the concept; and
b. you have not come across other related, similar concepts (such as kol ha-omeid ligvot ke-gavuy dami - a debt which is liable to be collected is considered to be collected already); you will have to rely solely on the text and your own logical processes to begin your analysis.  [At this stage we will not be dealing with the Rishonim yet.]
            We will examine the concept of davar ha-gorem in and of itself, simultaneously discussing it in the context of our gemara.
1. Degree of ownership
            According to the beraita [daf 5b lines 5-10] one is forbidden to see one's OWN chametz, but permitted to see that of others.'  Thus, initially, it seems clear from our gemara that since davar ha-gorem le-mammon KE-mammon dami, the chametz is actually considered one's OWN and, therefore, the prohibition mentioned in the beraita applies.  However, the gemara concludes even if davar ha-gorem le-mammon LAV ke-mammon dami, it would still be necessary to dispose of the army's chametz as the Torah states: "Lo yimatzeh" (chametz shall not be found at all).  At this point, it is dubious whether our initial assumption is correct.  Perhaps, davar ha-gorem does NOT make one the owner of the chametz.  It is entirely possible to claim that davar ha-gorem is irrelevant in the face of lo yimatzeh and that, even though the concept of davar ha-gorem does NOT give ownership, it is still mandatory to dispose of the army's chametz.
            This dilemma is evident in the very term "davar ha-gorem le-mammon KE-mammon dami."  The expression "ke" is somewhat ambiguous.  How far does the comparison between davar ha-gorem le-mammon and mammon itself extend?  It is possible that ke-mammon is merely a simile and does NOT imply actual ownership of the davar ha-gorem le-mammon.  One could argue, however, that "ke" involves a complete likening between davar ha-gorem le-mammon and mammon - just as one owns mammon, so too he owns davar ha-gorem le-mammon.
            Once we have established two possible readings of the gemara and two possible explanations of ke-mammon dami, it is imperative to try understand the logic of each possibility [perhaps eliminating one possibility or giving it more credence]:
2. Logic [Sevara]
            If ke-mammon dami implies OWNERSHIP, we would have to explain that the army GIVES the chametz to the individual on condition that they are supplied with a corresponding amount of bread.  The chametz belongs to the individual but he is still subject to external conditions.  [This is similar to one who gives a gift on condition that it is returned.  It belongs to the receiver but he is still subject to certain constraints.]
            This extreme view is lent credence by the fact that the responsibilities of the people of Mechuza are not those of a regular shomer (trustee).  They are liable to compensate any loss that may occur, even if it is beyond their power and so, in essence, it can be said that they exercize conditional ownership over the chametz.
            Alternatively, we could claim that ke-mammon dami is FUTURE orientated: Retroactively, once the chametz is stolen and compensation has taken place, it becomes apparent that it belonged to the Jew during Pesach.  In order to avoid such a problem occurring, Rava ordered the disposal of the chametz.
            It may seem more logical to claim that davar ha-gorem implies no more than a higher level of TRUSTEESHIP.  Rava himself uses the phraseology "ke-dilkhon DAMI" - it is considered like it is yours.  Furthermore, if one assumes that the people of Mechuza own the chametz, the suspect conclusion would be reached that the chametz does not belong to the army.
            Thus, there is logical and textual support for both of the possibilities.  However, we have dealt only with the first formulation in the gemara: If davar ha-gorem le-mammon KE-mammon dami Rava has no need for "lo yimatzeh" [see 1].  According to the second formulation [line 48] there is still a need for lo yimatzeh, even if davar ha-gorem le-mammon KE-mammon dami.  What is the basis of this distinction?
            It is possible to suggest that, according to the first formulation, KE-mammon dami implies full ownership and, therefore, there is no need for the extra pasuk of lo yimatzeh in this context.  However, according to the second formulation, KE-mammon dami implies only a higher level of trusteeship and, therefore, without the pasuk of lo yimatzeh the people of Mechuza could have retained the army's chametz.  Thus, the two understandings of KE-mammon form the basis of the two formulations of the gemara.
            This point is critical when extending the principle of davar ha-gorem le-mammon to other areas of halakha.  If KE-mammon dami implies full ownership, one can apply the principle to other areas.  However, if KE-mammon implies only a degree of ownership of the chametz to mandate its disposal, it can be argued that the criterion necessary to own chametz are different from the criterion of ownership in other areas of halakha and thus the application of davar ha-gorem is limited to Pesach.