Talmud Tips

For the week ending 29 December 2018 / 21 Tevet 5779

Chullin 16-22

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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The Custom of No Return

Rav Ashi said, “Since he had no intention to return to his original place he is not bound by their customs, and is permitted to eat the meat in accordance with the custom of his current place of residence.”

The gemara relates a case about Rabbi Zeira. After he went up to the Land of Israel, the gemara tells us that he ate meat from an animal that was slaughtered in a way that was a matter of dispute. The Sages Rav and Shmuel, great authorities in Bavel from which Rabbi Zeira had come, ruled that the shechita was not fit, rendering the meat neveila and forbidden to eat. This was the custom in Bavel. Authorities in Eretz Yisrael, however, ruled that meat that resulted from this shechita was permitted. And this was the custom in Eretz Yisrael.

The gemara asks a question: We know that we are taught elsewhere in Shas (Pesachim 51a) that he who travels from one place to another must abide by the stringencies of both places. Therefore, asks the gemara, why did Rabbi Zeira find the meat in question to be kosher for consumption?

Two answers are offered to this question on our daf. The Sage Abayei answers that the rule of observing the strict views of both places does not apply when a person travels up to Eretz Yisrael. In such a case, which is the case of Rabbi Zeira, the person may rely on the ruling and custom in Eretz Yisrael, despite its being more lenient than the ruling in Bavel. Eretz Yisrael is superior to Bavel and is the primary source for Torah teachings.

The second answer is that given by Rav Ashi: “Since he had no intention to return to his original place he is not bound by its customs, and is permitted to eat the meat in accordance with the custom of his current place of residence.” According to this answer, the person’s intent regarding whether he plans to remain or to return is what determines what custom he must follow, and is independent of the identity of the specific places involved.

The halacha is in accordance with the second answer, the teaching of Rav Ashi. Therefore, the traveler’s intent is

what matters. If he plans to return home, he must continue to observe the stringent ruling of his original location. But if he plans to remain in the new place, he should observe the customs of the new place, regardless of whether they are stricter or more lenient than his original location. Rabbi Zeira intended to stay in Eretz Yisrael, according to Rav Ashi, and could therefore be lenient in this matter, in keeping with the custom of Eretz Yisrael.

There is a qualification found to Rav Ashi’s rule in practice. Even if a person came from a lenient place, and indeed intends to return to his original place, although he may be lenient in private, publicly he must still observe the strict view of his current place so as not to separate himself from the community and appear contentious. (Rabbeinu Nissim)

A similar type of reasoning might perhaps be applied to Abayei’s answer as well. If the custom of his original place was to be strict, and he traveled to another place which was not Eretz Yisrael and was lenient, he would not continue to be strict while visiting the place with the more lenient custom since his acting frummer than the local populace might lead to argument and enmity. He would therefore rely on the lenient ruling of where he is temporarily found.

But, according to Rav Ashi, if the person who traveled intends to stay and remain in the new place to which he has traveled, he should embrace the custom of his new residence, and is not bound by the ruling and custom of his former location. He should always observe the customs of his new home.

(Note of disclaimer: Of course, in a practical matter of halacha, such as one that involves the subject discussed in this article, or in any of the articles in this series, one should ask a qualified halachic authority for an individual ruling, specifying all pertinent details of the case.)

  • Chullin 18b

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