Talmud Tips

For the week ending 2 November 2013 / 29 Heshvan 5774

Shekalim 16 - 22

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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“The Torah that G-d gave to Moshe was white fire etched with black fire, fire blended with fire, fire extracted from fire and given by G-d with fire from Heaven.”

This statement is made on our daf by Rabbi Pinchas in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish. In the Zohar we find a similar statement that the Torah was written with "black fire upon white fire." One explanation of "black fire and white fire" is that black fire denotes Divine Mercy while white fire is Divine Justice. The Maharsha explains that to appreciate G-d one must recognize the fact that both mercy and judgment are Divine attributes.

  • Shekalim 16b

“If nine stores sell non-kosher meat and one store sells kosher meat, and one buys from one of the stores but is afterwards in doubt about which store he bought from, there is concern and the meat’s status is forbidden due to doubt; if the meat is found on the ground, however, near these stores, it is forbidden due to certainty.”

This beraita teaches the well-known principles of “rov” and “kavua” — following the majority (rov) unless our doubt is the nature of the place from which one took the meat (kavua).

But does it really make a difference whether the item is forbidden due to “doubt” (kavua) or due to certainty (rov)? Isn’t forbidden always forbidden? Well, it depends. Take the scenario where there are nine groups of chametz and one of matzah, and a piece was taken from one of the groups and moved into a house. Does the house need to be checked on account of that piece? No, since according to Torah law nullification of chametz (bitul) is sufficient, and there remains only the rabbinical obligation to check. But since the piece had the status of doubt and not certainty – since this is a case of kavua – one may be lenient and not check for chametz (Pri Chadash).

  • Shekalim 19b

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