115a-b - Tivulo Bemashke

  • Rav Ezra Bick

            We are beginning a completely new topic today. The gemara text begins from the next-to-the-last line on 115a ("Amar R. Elazar…"). As usual, the daf has been posted on the website, together with other additional material and aids.



"Amar R. Elazar…."

R. Elazar said in the name of R. Oshia: Whatever is dipped in liquid requires washing of the hands.

Rav Papa said: From this we may infer that the lettuce (of Pesach) must be dunked in charoset because of "kapa." For if you would maintain that it need not be dunked, why is washing of the hands necessary? For he has not touched?!

            We have two statements here, one by R. Elazar and one by Rav Papa. The second one states a deduction based on the first. First we shall understand the statement of R. Elazar, then we shall have to figure out the logic of the deduction of Rav Papa.

A. R. Elazar

            Rashi explains the statement of R. Elazar:

"Tzarich netilat yadayim"

Requires washing of the hands - because of the liquids, for hands are "seconds" (sheniyot), and whatever invalidates for teruma defiles liquids etc.

            This does not seem to help us very much. Rashi is obviously assuming we know what he is talking about, as is indicated by the "etc." at the end. But if you do not, you are worse off now then before you read Rashi. Let us take a look at the Rashbam.

"kol she-tibulo be-mashkin"

 Whatever is dipped in liquid - such as a vegetable in sauce or vinegar, requires the washing of the hands because of the liquid, for the hands are "seconds," and whatever invalidates teruma defiles liquids and makes them "first."

            Not much better. The Rashbam has completed the quote (it is from a mishna in Para 8,7), but has not seen necessary to explain it. Both Rashi and the Rashbam assume that by referring to a mishna, even one in Seder Taharot, they have made the gemara clear. Obviously, they assume that you have completely learned the entire Mishna before attempting Gemara!

            So, what does all this mean? The laws of "netilat yadayim," washing hands before eating, are based partially on the laws of "tum'a" (ritual defilement). Tum'a is transmitted hierchially; that is, each time tum'a is transmitted from one object to another, the level of tum'a decreases. Each decreasing level has a lower ability to transfer tum'a. In regular objects, there are only three possible levels, which are called:

1. "Av ha-tum'a" (the original object which is the source of the defilement, such as the body of a dead animal, or certain insects and rodents) - This can pass on tum'a to people or to utensils;

2. "Rishon l'tum'a" (first derivative stage) - This can pass on tum'a to foods;

3. "Sheni l'tum'a" (second derivative stage) - This normally cannot pass on tum'a any further.

            There is a rabbinic edict which declares that one's hands are in a state of "sheni l'tum'a" even if one is unaware that one has touched anything which has tum'a, based on the assumption that hands are touching all sorts of things during the day without one paying attention. There is a second rabbinic edict which declares that teruma (tithed food, which has a semi-sacred state) has a fourth level of tum'a ("shlishi l'tum'a," the third derivative stage), which it receives from contact with a "sheni l'tum'a." There is a third rabbinic edict which states that liquids also can become tamei from a "sheni l'tum'a," like teruma, and when, this takes place, the liquid "jumps back" in state and assumes the state of a "rishon l'tum'a." In short - and this is the principle quoted by Rashi and the Rashbam -

Whatever invalidates teruma (i.e.; a "sheni l'tum'a") defiles liquids and makes them "first" (i.e.; a "rishon l'tum'a").

            Hence, one's hands (sheni l'tum'a, by assumption) turn the liquid on the food that has been dipped into a rishon l'tum'a, which now has the ability to defile any food in which it is in contact. If this liquid is ingested, the drinker is also ritually defiled (tamei), which, in ancient times, would have various consequences which we need not detail. To prevent this, one must wash one's hands, which removes the sheni l'tum'a status from them (just as immersion in a mikva would remove de-oraita tum'a from one's entire body), thereby maintaining the purity of the liquid. This is the logic of R. Elazar's ruling - "Whatever is dipped in liquid requires washing of the hands" (before eating it).

            Admittedly, this is rather complicated. But the exact details of the laws of tum'a are not really necessary to understand what is going on here. It is sufficient to know that there is a particular sensitivity of liquids to tum'a, and therefore R. Elazar required that hands be washed - ritually purified - before eating wet foods.

            (The halakhic consequences of this statement for modern halakha will be discussed below.)

B. Rav Papa

            Rav Papa applies the logic of R. Elazar in order to understand a feature of the seder. He knows (although the gemara has not yet stated this explicitly) that one washes one's hands before eating lettuce. He deduces that this must be because of the principle of R. Elazar, who introduced hand-washing to all foods and not just bread. But even according to R. Elazar there is no need to wash one's hands unless the maror - lettuce - has been dipped in a liquid. From this, Rav Papa concludes that the lettuce is in fact dipped in a liquid. Apparently, maror is dipped in charoset. Why is the maror dipped in charoset. Rav Papa answers, because of "kapa."

            What is kapa? Here Rashi will be helpful. Read Rashi (115b, s.v. "tzarich"). What sort of a halakha is the dipping, according to Rashi?


Rashi -

Tzarich lishku'ei

Must be dunked in charoset because of kapa - toxin which is in the lettuce, for the juice of the lettuce contains a toxin, like onions.

            Rashi explains the word "kapa" to mean a toxin, which is harmful when digested. The purpose of the charoset is to weaken and counteract the natural effects of the bitter herb. This custom, then, of eating charoset TOGETHER with the maror is for health reasons, and not for religious ones. It does, however, engender the halakhic necessity of washing the hands, because of the law of R. Elazar.

            The Rashbam elaborates, and then quotes a different explanation of the word "kapa."

Rashbam -

Tzarich lishku'ei

Must be dunked in charoset because of kapa - toxin, for lettuce has a toxin like the onion, and therefore one must wash one's hands before the first dipping, as (is written) below, since he will touch liquids when he dunks the lettuce in charoset.

The Rach (Rabbeinu Chananel) explained that "kapa" is a worm, as we find in Terumot, "Worms that are in the roots of trees, and the 'kapa' that is in greens, gnats in vinegar and wine, are permitted. If he sifted them out with a sifter, they are forbidden…." This is the better (explanation).

(The second explanation cited by the Rashbam is ascribed to the Rach, Rabbeinu Chananel, who is one of the first systematic commentators on the Talmud. For many tractates, including Pesachim, the commentary of the Rach appears in the outside column of the printed Talmud. You can see the comment quoted by the Rashbam at the top of the Rach in the right column of this daf. The print in the webscan is hard to read, and the Rashbam quotes it accurately, but you may as well try and check it out for yourself. The exact quote is marked on the webscan).

The second explanation, ascribed to the Rach, states that there was a worm common to lettuce, and this worm, although not a kashrut problem, is apparently a health problem. So here too the charoset is a kind of prophylactic medicine, rather than a ritualistic symbol.

            Back to the gemara. (We have turned the page and are on 115b.) Rav Papa has concluded that lettuce must be dunked in charoset. The gemara questions the logic of his deduction.

Perhaps one does not have to dunk, and the kapa dies from the smell; and why do I require washing of the hands? - for perhaps he will dunk.

(I.e., one does not have to dunk, but one is required to wash one's hands because one MIGHT dunk the lettuce voluntarily, for purely culinary reasons. The POSSIBILITY of liquid mandates washing, not an OBLIGATION to dunk).

Rav Papa also said: One should not leave the maror in the charoset, lest the sweetness of the spices cancel the bitterness; while we require that there be a bitter taste and now there will not be one.

These two statements are, I think, clear. I leave them with you to understand on your own.

Continuing on….

Rav Chisda called on Ravana Ukva, who then taught: Even if he washed his hands for the first dipping, he must wash his hands for the second.

The sages quoted this in front of Rav Papa, and added: This statement refers to a general situation…

Rashbam (s.v. "ha"): In other dippings the whole year long, which are not fixed, so that when he washes for the first he did not know that there would be a second, and he let his mind wander. (I.e.; he was not careful to keep his hands pure).

for if you will suggest that it refers to our situation (the seder), why does he need to wash twice, he already has washed his hands the first time?

Rav Papa said to them: On the contrary! It refers to our situation; for if you suggest that it refers to a general situation, why is he dipping twice?

So, if it refers to our situation - then why does he need to wash twice, since he has already washed his hands the first time?

Answer, since he has to say the haggada and hallel, perhaps he will let his mind wander and touch (something unclean).

            Rav Chisda said that when there are two dippings, one must wash one's hands each time. It is not clear to what subject this statement refers. This is actually a fairly common occurrence in Talmudic discussion. The reason is simple - the learning is being done from memory, where statements of various sages are formulated and memorized. If the statement is quoted out of context, it may not be clear to what it refers. The students of Rav Papa are debating whether it refers to any two dippings, or specifically to the seder night. Rav Papa's conclusion is that it refers to the seder night, and a second washing is necessary because the intervening recitation of the Haggada interferes with the mental supervision of one's hands, returning them to the state of impurity in which hands are normally found.

The Rashbam identifies the "first dipping" here as "karpas" (which he calls "other vegetables"), and the second dipping as maror. This seems a bit strange, as we do not actually wash our hands before eating maror. We DO wash our hands a few minutes before, since the matza precedes the maror, and matza of course requires washing hands like bread the whole year. Tosafot (s.v. "tzarich") will comment on this point.

            This is the whole sugya dealing with washing hands before lettuce. There were basically two main parts here - first the explanation of the need to wash hands, based on the statement of R. Elazar, and secondly the explanation why one needs to wash TWICE, based on "hesech hadaat," a wandering of concentration.

            We now turn to the comments of Rav Kahn on this sugya, taken from the original VBM Gemara Pesachim shiur. My additional comments are in parentheses, and signed - EB.




By Rav Yair Kahn

A. Hand-washing Before Eating Wet Foods

The opinion of Rashi, as quoted by Tosafot, compares the hand-washing required for "davar she-tibulo be-mashkeh" - an object dipped in liquid - with that necessary before eating bread. This position corresponds to that adopted by many poskim, which applies this halakha all year round. It follows that, similar to bread, a birkat ha-mitzva (the blessing "al netilat yadayim") should be recited.

(Neither Rashi nor the Rashbam, as appears in out text, actually state explicitly that the washing before wet foods is equated with the washing before bread. Tosafot have a different and longer text, which includes the comparison to bread. - EB)

Tosafot disagree with this understanding. They claim that this hand-washing is different from that of bread. Regarding bread, a special decree was enacted demanding hand-washing. This decree, although rooted in the laws of "tahara" - ritual purity - required for teruma, was extended to everyday eating of bread based on hygienic considerations. Because it is rooted in a rabbinic decree, a blessing is required as well. Davar she-tibulo be-mashkeh, however, is based purely on tahara considerations, which are no longer applicable. Therefore, Tosafot charges that anyone who recites a blessing on this washing has violated the prohibition of a "berakha le-vatala" - an unnecessary blessing.

There are those who claim that the argument of Tosafot is only with respect to the blessing. However, they agree that hand-washing is required for a davar she-tibulo be-mashkeh even nowadays, all year round. Others argue that since laws of tahara no longer apply to eating, this entire halakha no longer applies. Nevertheless, on the seder night, we continue the ancient custom. The Netziv (Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin) explained this practice in his introduction to his commentary on the haggada. According to him, there are many aspects of the seder night which reflect the experience of the paschal service at the time of the Temple. Washing hands for a davar she-tibulo be-mashkeh as well, is reminiscent of the Temple service.

These diverse opinions have practical halakhic significance. From the Rambam (Hilkhot Berakhot 6:1-2) it appears that one should wash his hands with a blessing for a davar she-tibulo be-mashkeh all year round. The Shulchan Arukh (O.C. 158:4), in deference to the dissenting view, rules that one should refrain from a blessing. Nevertheless, he agrees that hand-washing is required all year round. The Magen Avraham, however, defends the common custom not to wash hands, basing this position on Tosafot.

B. Mind-wandering and Interruptions

The gemara required washing one's hands prior to the dipping of the karpas. Nevertheless, one is required to wash his hands again before eating the matza. The gemara explains the necessity of this second hand-washing based on the possible "hesech ha-da'at" - wandering of the mind - in the interim period, when the Haggada and Hallel are recited. At first glance, this gemara supports those opinions which considered the reading of the haggada as a hefsek (an interruption, which breaks the continuum in ritual; as a result, for instance, a blessing recited at the beginning, before the "hefsek," would no longer be operative after it and would have to be repeated - EB).  In fact, the Mordechai quoted our sugya in his rejection of those opinions that claimed that the blessing recited on the karpas ("borei pri ha-adama") covers the maror as well. Based upon our sugya, the Mordechai argued that since Haggada and Hallel separate the karpas from the maror, the blessing recited on the karpas cannot possibly cover the maror due to the intervening hefsek.

The Rosh rejected this proof and claimed that our sugya has no relevance to the question of hefsek with respect to blessings. According to him, our gemara deals with a local hand-washing question - is it possible that while reciting the haggada and Hallel, one inadvertently touched something which will obligate him to re-wash his hands. However, there is no discussion in our gemara regarding the question of broken intention which is critical regarding berakhot. Therefore, there is no contradiction between our sugya and the position of the Rashi and Rav Yosef Tov Elem, that the berakha recited on the karpas can cover the maror as well.

(In other words, the question in our sugya is a practical one - is it likely that while reciting the Haggada, a person might unknowingly touch something unclean. The question of whether a new blessing over the maror is required is dependent on a different question altogether, which is halakhic and not practical in nature - does the blessing in the beginning maintain its relevance when one's mind has been occupied with an activity other than eating? - EB)

C. The Second Dipping

The gemara mentions the need to re-wash one's hands before the second dipping. According to the standard interpretation, this dipping refers to the maror that is dipped in charoset. Therefore, Tosafot (s.v. "tzarich") questions why the gemara refers to the maror, and not to the hand-washing required before eating the preceding matza.

In response, Tosafot claims that the reference to the maror is in fact inaccurate. It was only mentioned in parallel contrast to the hand-washing of the karpas, which is referred to as the "first dipping". Alternate solutions to this problem were suggested by the various other commentators.

Of specific interest is the fact that there are those that consider our gemara to be the source for a very interesting and novel opinion of the Rambam. The Rambam (Hilkhot Chametz U-Matza 8:8) rules that matza should be dipped into charoset. According to him, the reference to the second dipping refers not to the maror, but to matza. Thus the entire problem of Tosafot disappears.