For the week ending 24 September 2011 / 24 Elul 5771

Chullin 93 - 99

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Which chelev (animal fats) are forbidden for consumption
  • Whether butchers can be believed that they removed the gid hanasheh and chelev from meat they are selling
  • Sending a non-Jew meat with the gid hanasheh in it
  • The prohibition against deception of pretending to do a favor
  • Meat that disappeared from view
  • Permissible and forbidden decisions based on omens
  • Identifying signs or recognition as proof of ownership of a lost item
  • How much of the gid hanasheh must be removed and what is the penalty for eating it
  • If the part of the animal with the gid hanasheh was mistakenly cooked with the gid intact
  • When meat and milk were cooked together
  • The status of kachal
  • How does a forbidden item become nullified when mixed with a large quantity of kosher matter

Superstition or Logic?

"Do not indulge in the sorcery of nichush (determining actions based on omen)." (Vayikra 19:26)

This is the Torah prohibition against basing decisions on superstitions like idolaters do. The gemara's example is someone making the decision not to go someplace because food fell from his mouth or his cane fell from his hand. In modern times the more common superstitions have to do with black cats crossing the path or walking under a ladder.

A problem that arises in our gemara is that Yonatan, son of King Shaul, is mentioned as having indulged in nichush. In the war of Israelagainst the Pelishtim he undertook a courageous mission to wipe out a strongly defended garrison of the enemy aided only by his armor bearer. He told him that they would determine whether they had a chance for victory by testing the reaction of the enemy defenders to seeing them approach. "If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you’, we will stand in our place. But if they say ‘Come up to us’, then we will go up to them for G-d has delivered them into our hand, and this shall be a sign to us." (Shmuel I 14:9-10)

Why Yonatan's decision, which resulted in a great victory, is not considered forbidden nichush is dealt with by Tosefot who explains that Yonatan was merely saying this to instill confidence in his armor bearer but had already made up his mind to attack in any case. The Kesef Mishneh in his commentary on Rambam (Laws of Idolatry 11:4) takes a different approach. Yonatan was not basing his decision on the omen of the enemy's reaction. He was rather testing whether the enemy had the courage to resist his attack. Logic, rather than superstition, would dictate that an enemy who is afraid to come towards him was weakened by fear and could easily be overcome. His logic was vindicated by his victory.

  • Chullin 85b

What the Sages Say

"I have a master in Babylon!"

Rabbi Yochanan (upon recognizing the greatness of the Sage Shmuel)

  • Chullin 95a

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