THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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CHAGIGAH 26 - Dedicated in honor of Mrs. Gisela Turkel by her family, may
she be blessed, in the Zechus of Talmud Torah d'Rabim, with good health and
long years. Herself a devotee of Torah study, may she continue to learn and
ask questions until 120!
1) THIEVES AND TAX-COLLECTORS
QUESTION: The Gemara asks a contradiction between our Mishnah and the
Mishnah in Taharos. Our Mishnah states that if tax-collectors (Gabai'm) or
thieves (Ganavim) entered a house, they are believed to say that they did
not touch anything (and the items in the house are Tahor). The Mishnah in
Taharos (7:6), however, says that if tax-collectors enter a house, the
entire house is Tamei, implying that it does not matter what they say; they
are not believed to say that they did not touch anything.
2) BELIEVING AN AM HA'ARETZ IN MATTERS OF TUM'AH AND TAHARAH
The Gemara answers that the two Mishnayos are referring to two different
cases, as Rashi explains. The Mishnah in Taharos is referring to when a
Nochri accompanies the tax-collectors, in which case they are not believed
to say that they did not touch anything in the house. Our Mishnah is
referring to when there is no Nochri with the tax-collectors, in which case
they are believed to say that they did not touch anything.
The Gemara asks what difference does it make if there is a Nochri
accompanying them. The answer: they check the house more thoroughly either
because they are either afraid of the Nochri himself, or because they are
afraid that the Nochri will report back to their superior, who will punish
them for not searching thoroughly.
Why does the Gemara not explain simply that if there is a Nochri with them,
then everything in the house is Tamei because the *Nochri* might have
touched it? The Nochri has the status of a Zav and is Metamei whatever he
touches. Why does the Gemara say that it was the tax-collectors who touched
the items because they are afraid of the Nochri? (SI'ACH YITZCHAK)
Second, the Gemara explains that the Mishnah in Taharos, which says that the
house is Tamei, refers to a case when there is a Nochri accompanying the
tax-collectors. The Gemara cites support for this from the Mishnah later in
Taharos that says that when there is Nochri with them, they are not believed
to say that they entered the house but did not touch anything.
This support that the Gemara cites is actually the *end* of the Mishnah that
says (in the Reisha) that tax-collectors are not believed; the Mishnah there
goes on to say that "if there is a Nochri with them, they are believed to
say that they did not enter the house, but they are not believed to say that
they entered the house but did not touch anything." How, then, can our
Gemara say that the beginning of that Mishnah in Taharos is referring to
when there is a Nochri with them? The Seifa of the Mishnah mentions that
there is a Nochri, implying that the in the Reisha there is no Nochri, and
yet the tax-collectors are still not believed!
(a) According to the way Rashi explains the Gemara, the questions can be
addressed as follows:
Regarding the first question, that the house should be Tamei because of the
possibility that the Nochri touched everything, we can answer that the
Mishnah in Taharos implies that it is only the Jewish tax-collectors whom we
suspect of touching the items in the house. The Mishnah says that "the
tax-collectors accompanied by a Nochri are not believed to say that *they*
did not touch," implying that we only suspect the Jews of touching. The
Jewish workers search the house; the Nochri is only supervising.
Regarding the second question, how the Gemara can say that the Reisha of the
Mishnah in Taharos is talking about when there is a Nochri if the Seifa
there is talking about a Nochri, the TIFERES YISRAEL (Boaz #6) suggests that
the Reisha of the Mishnah should be read together with the words that
follow, "The entire house is Tamei_if_there_is_a_Nochri_with_them (Im Yesh
Nochri Imahen)," and thus it is saying that the house is Tamei only *if
there is a Nochri with them*. (The Mishnah there continues and says that if
we ask them whether they touched the items in the house or not, and they say
that they did not enter in the first place, then they are believed, but if
they say that they went in but did not touch, they are not believed.)
Alternatively, the Reisha might be talking about when we did not ask the
tax-collectors whether the house is Tahor or Tamei, and thus we must assume
that they did touch things in the house. If so, what was the Gemara's
question from the Mishnah in Taharos in the first place? The Gemara could
have simply answered that the Mishnah in Taharos says that the house is
Tamei because we did not ask them whether they touched anything or not
(while our Mishnah says that the house is Tahor, because we asked them and
they said it was Tahor)!
The answer is that the Gemara thought that when the Mishnah in Taharos says
"When accompanied by a Nochri, the tax-collectors are believed to say that
they did not enter the house," it means that we only believe them that they
*did not enter* because the Nochri's presence reinforces their claim that
they did not go in and touch anything. Initially, the Gemara thought that
only when there is a Nochri are they *believed* to say that they did not
enter the house. If so, that Mishnah contradicts our Mishnah, which asserts
that the tax-collectors are believed even without a Nochri. In its answer,
the Gemara says that the Nochri is not necessary to prove that they did
*not* touch anything. To the contrary, only when there is a Nochri are they
*not believed* to say that they entered but did not touch anything. The
Nochri impairs their trustworthiness. But when there is no Nochri with them,
they are believed to say that they entered the house but did not touch
anything, like our Mishnah says.
(b) RABEINU CHANANEL has an original approach to the Mishnah and Gemara,
which is also the view of the RAMBAM (in Perush ha'Mishnayos and in Hilchos
Mishkav u'Moshav 12:12), according to which our questions do not begin.
Rabeinu Chananel learns that when the tax-collectors are accompanied by a
Nochri, they are *believed* to say that they did not touch anything in the
house. The Nochri actually reinforces their trustworthiness to say that they
*did not* touch anything. This is because he makes sure that they maintain
their professional etiquette and do not go rummaging around the house. His
Girsa in the Gemara was the Girsa of the Mishnah in Taharos as it appears
printed in the Vilna Shas, which says that "if there is a Nochri with them,
they *are* believed to say that they entered but did not touch."
According to this approach, when the Gemara asks why the presence of a
Nochri affects the trustworthiness of the tax-collectors, we cannot ask that
perhaps the Nochri himself touched the items in the house, because the
presence of the Nochri gives more reason to say that the house is *Tahor*
and not Tamei!?
Also, regarding the second question -- how can the Gemara say that the
Reisha of the Mishnah in Taharos is referring to when there is a Nochri with
them -- according to Rabeinu Chananel this is no question. The Gemara is
saying that in the Mishnah in Taharos, there *is no* Nochri with them, and
that is why they are not believed. Our Mishnah, which says that they are
believed, is referring to when there *is* a Nochri with them.
According to this explanation, though, what is the Gemara's next question?
Our Mishnah says that thieves are trusted to say that they did not touch any
other items in the house. The Gemara asks that the Mishnah in Taharos says
that wherever the thieves walked in the house, the house is Tamei. According
to Rabeinu Chananel, how can the Gemara suggest that the house should be
Tahor when visited by thieves, if the only reason to believe uninvited
guests is because a Nochri accompanies them, ensuring that they limit their
activities to official business? When thieves come into a house, there is no
official business, and there certainly is no Nochri accompanying the thieves
making sure that they fulfill their duty! The house should certainly be
Rabeinu Chananel and the Rambam seem to have different approaches to the
Gemara at this point. Rabeinu Chananel is bothered by this question, and he
explains that before asking about the contradiction between the Mishnayos
with regard to thieves, the Gemara already inferred from our Mishnah that
only thieves *who returned* the items that they stole are believed, but
thieves who did not return what they stole are not believed, and the entire
house is Tamei (because we assume that they touched the contents of the
house). The Gemara is asking how could our Mishnah imply that if they did
not return the stolen items, the whole house is Tamei, while the Mishnah in
Taharos says that only where they walked is the house Tamei.
To that the Gemara answers that even after the thieves have done Teshuvah,
the place where they walked is Tamei. The Mishnah in Taharos is referring to
when they did Teshuvah, and thus the place where they walked is Tamei, as
the Mishnah there states, but the rest of the house is Tahor. In our
Mishnah, also, they are not trusted for the place where they walked and it
will be Tamei, but they are trusted with regard to the rest of the items in
the house. According to Rabeinu Chananel, therefore, when thieves have been
in one's home, there is always Tum'ah -- either the entire house is Tamei
(when they did not do Teshuvah), or only where they walked is Tamei (when
they did Teshuvah).
The Rambam explains differently. The only time a Nochri is necessary to
ensure their trustworthiness is when they are tax-collectors. Without a
Nochri supervising them, the tax-collectors would feel at liberty to roam
around the house and rummage through whatever catches their interest. In
contrast, thieves work on a tight schedule. They never touch what they do
not need to touch, because they are in a rush, and they go about their crime
quickly and efficiently, touching only what they take.
According to the Rambam, therefore, if the thieves did Teshuvah, the whole
house will be Tahor, and if they did not do Teshuvah, only where they walked
is Tamei. (This conclusion is the same as Rashi's conclusion.)
SUMMARY: An Am ha'Aretz is normally not trusted to attest to the Taharah of
an object. We assume that all of his food and utensils are Tamei. The
Mishnayos in Chagigah teach us that there are four types of exceptions to
this general rule.
1. An Am ha'Aretz is trusted during the wine and oil pressing seasons to say
that his Terumah is Tahor.
Although Rashi does not list logical reasons for all of these exceptions, we
find reasons given for them in the other Rishonim:
2. An Am ha'Aretz is trusted all year long to say that his Kodesh is Tahor.
3. An Am ha'Aretz is trusted regarding the Taharah of the earthenware
utensils that he vends. He is trusted as far away from Yerushalayim as
Modi'im with regard to the small ones, and he is trusted only in
Yerushalayim with regard to the large ones.
4. During each festival, when the entire Jewish nation gathers together in
Yerushalayim, the Am ha'Aretz is trusted completely with regard to his
Taharah, just like a Chaver.
1. The reason why an Am ha'Aretz is trusted, during the wine and oil
pressing seasons, to say that his Terumah is Tahor, is because he plans to
give the Terumah to the Kohanim, and therefore he is careful to listen to
the Chachamim and immerse all of his utensils, as the Chachamim required
(RASHI 22a, DH Lo Mekablinan).
However, it is clear from the Gemara that despite the reasons listed above,
we do not place our full trust in Amei ha'Aretz with regard to Tum'ah and
Taharah in these situations. We find, for instance, that if someone opened
his barrel to sell wine or flour during the festival, once the festival
passes it is all considered Tamei because of the Amei ha'Aretz who touched
it during the festival, and that the Kohanim would have to be Metaher the
Azarah after the Regel. Similarly, the pot-sellers are only trusted in
Modi'im if they are traveling in a different direction than the Chaver. It
must be that the Chachamim trusted Amei ha'Aretz in these situations only
out of necessity, and they lent support to their Takanah to trust the Amei
ha'Aretz with the reasons cited above.
2. An Am ha'Aretz is believed regarding his Kodesh, because "Eimas Kodesh
Alav" (TOSFOS 24b, DH sh'b'Yehudah), the "awe of Kodesh is upon him,"
meaning that he has respect for items of such holiness.
3. RABEINU CHANANEL (26a) and the RAMBAM explain that an Am ha'Aretz is
believed regarding earthenware vessels because such vessels are very scarce
in Yerushalayim (since kilns may not be built, in order to prevent air
pollution in the holy city), and thus people take extra care that the
earthenware vessels not become Tamei (because once they become Tamei, they
cannot be made Tahor again and must be destroyed).
4. The RAMBAM (Hilchos Metamei Mishkav u'Moshav 11:9) writes that during the
festival an Am ha'Aretz is Tahor, because prior to the festival everyone is
Metaher himself in preparation for the Yom Tov (Rosh Hashanah 16b).
Why did they feel it *necessary* to trust the Amei ha'Aretz in the above
1. Rashi (25b, DH u'v'Mele'in) says that with regard to Terumah, if the
Chachamim were to uphold their decree that all of the items of an Am
ha'Aretz are Tamei, the Kohanim would lose out considerably, since they
would not be able to accept the Terumah being brought to them by the Amei
ha'Aretz. Therefore, the Chachamim suspended their decree during the wine
and oil pressing seasons.
In short, because of the necessity of the situation, the Chachamim relied on
the supplementary reasons listed above to trust an Am ha'Aretz.
2. The Gemara (22a) says with regard to trusting an Am ha'Aretz with Kodesh,
that the Chachamim only trusted the Am ha'Aretz "so that they not go and
build a Bamah for themselves," for if we were not to accept their items of
Kodesh out of doubt that they are Tamei, it would create enmity and lead to
3. The Amei ha'Aretz were trusted in and near Yerushalayim with regard to
earthenware vessels due to the scarcity of such vessels around Yerushalayim.
(RASHI 26a DH she'Ein, and Rambam in Perush ha'Mishnah ibid.)
4. During the Regel, because all of Klal Yisrael gathers in one small area,
it would physically impossible for the Chaverim to separate themselves and
all of their utensils and clothes from the Amei ha'Aretz. Besides, such
practice during the Regel would undoubtedly cause a major rift in Israel.