Pesahim 23a-b

February 09, 2006

This month's Steinsaltz Daf Yomi is sponsored by:
Dr. and Mrs. Alan Harris
The Lewy Family Foundation
Marilyn and Edward Kaplan


Mazal tov to Lori and Alan Harris on the birth of twin girls on January 12th,
Sophie Grace (Gittel Sarah bat Ziesel v'Avraham) and
Sascha Isabelle (Rivka Michal bat Ziesel v'Avraham).

To dedicate future editions of Steinsaltz Daf Yomi,
perhaps in honor of a special occasion or in memory of a loved one, click here.

*  *  *


As noted on yesterday's daf (=page), the Gemara considers a number of cases of forbidden foods in an attempt to clarify whether an issur hana'ah - a prohibition against deriving benefit - is an inherent part of the issur akhila - the prohibition against eating something. One of the cases where we find a disagreement on this matter is gid ha-nashe (the sciatic nerve - see Bereshit 32:33), where Rabbi Shimon rules that we cannot derive benefit from it and Rabbi Yossi ha-Galili rules that we can.


The Gemara suggests that Rabbi Yossi ha-Galili learns this from a kal va-homer (an a fortiori argument) as follows: We know that the punishment for eating helev (forbidden fats) is very severe (karet), and that the punishment for eating gid ha-nashe is less severe (malkot). Since one is allowed to derive benefit from helev (this is clearly indicated in the Torah - see Vayikra 7:24), then certainly in the less severe case of gid ha-nashe one would be permitted to do the same.


The Gemara records the response of Rabbi Shimon, who forbids deriving benefit from gid ha-nashe, as arguing that we cannot see helev as being more severe, since there are certain rules where gid ha-nashe is more stringent. For example, gid ha-nashe applies to all animals, whereas helev is limited to domesticated animals (behemot) and does not apply to wild animals (hayyot). 


The expression used by the Gemara to argue against a kal va-homer is ikka lemifrakh - literally, "you can break the argument." The idea is that a kal va-homer is predicated on the assumption that one law is more severe than another and will remain so in all of its characteristics. If we can find even one instance where that assumption does not hold up, that is to say, if we can find even one case where the assumed hamur (severe) case is kal (lighter) or the assumed kal case is hamur, the kal va-homer relationship is broken. In that case we can no longer extrapolate from one case to the other.


This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim (original ideas) of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud. To learn more about the Steinsaltz Daf Yomi initiative, click here.


Next: Pesahim 24a-b