Talmud Tips

For the week ending 6 July 2013 / 27 Tammuz 5773

Pesachim 16 - 22

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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“During the time (erev Pesach) when one may still eat chametz, the chametz may be fed to one’s animals, and it may be sold to a non-Jew and it is permitted to derive benefit from the chametz.”

This statement begins the second chapter of mesechta Pesachim. The gemara on our daf asks why the mishna needs to teach that it may be sold to a non-Jew if it is actually still permitted for any benefit, as is stated in the next few words of the mishna (commentary of Rabbeinu Chananel).

The answer given by the gemara is that the Tana of our mishna is teaching that he disagrees with the opinion of another Tana that is found in another beraita. That beraita teaches that there is a dispute between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai as to whether one may sell chametz to a non-Jew before Pesach if he does not know if the chametz will be consumed before Pesach. Beit Shammai does not allow this sale since the Jewish seller must be sure that the chametz is not in existence when Pesach begins. Beit Hillel holds that it is sufficient that the chametz is no longer owned by the Jew.

The Tana of our mishna teaches that there is no such dispute between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel and the only requirement is that the chametz be sold to a non-Jew at a permitted time, even if it is unknown if the chametz will be consumed before Pesach or not – like the opinion of Beit Hillel in the beraita.

  • Pesachim 21a

"Just as I received Heavenly reward for the drisha (the interpretation), so too will I receive reward for the prisha (abandoning the interpretation)."

This statement is taught on our daf by the Sage Shimon the Amsonite (others say it Nechemya the Amonite). Originally he was involved in interpreting the meaning conveyed by the word “et” each time it appears in the Torah. He thought at first that this word carries an additional special meaning in each and every instance it appears.

However, when he came to the verse, "You shall fear (et) the L-rd your G-d" (Dev.10:20) he reached an impasse. What could this "et" include as an object of fear that could be equated with G-d? Only G-d metes out punishment for wrongdoings. He therefore concluded that there is no special meaning conveyed by the word “et” wherever it appears in the Torah.

When questioned by his Torah students, "Rabbi, what will be with all the interpretations you made until now with the word 'et'?"

He replied, "Just as I received Heavenly reward for the drisha (the interpretation), "so will I receive this reward for the prisha (the abandonment of this approach)." He reasoned that it was a mitzvah to cease his original approach to interpret the word “et” and to “recall” his original teachings he had made, and in doing so he would be suitably rewarded.

  • Pesachim 22b

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