Shiur #15: Meat Allocation on Chag

  • Rav Moshe Taragin
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Talmudic Methodology
Yeshivat Har Etzion


Lecture #15: Meat Allocation on Chag


By Rav Moshe Taragin



Although the slaughtering and preparation of meat on Yom Tov is permitted, the mishna in Beitza (27b) describes a particular prohibition of ALLOCATING meats during Yom Tov.  In the pre-refrigeration era, meats would usually be purchased by a group, who would purchase an entire animal; each member of the group would commit to acquiring (and eating) a certain percentage of the meat.  This "group formation" cannot be performed on chag.  On Shabbat, this prohibition is moot, as meat cannot be slaughtered nor prepared (and is therefore muktza).   


Rashi, in his comments to the gemara, assumes that the allocation included price quotation.    Rashi cites the verses in Nechemia 13 which describe how Nechemia witnessed the compromising of Shabbat for business activity.  By closing the gates of the city for the entire Shabbat, Nechemia hoped to eliminate this activity.  Rashi suggests that subscribing to membership in group of meat purchasers while mentioning prices is a form of COMMERCE and would be forbidden under Nechemia's edict. By citing prices, the group has engaged in pseudo-commerce and has violated the prohibition of conducting commerce on Chag. 


Indeed, the gemara immediately inspects the original phraseology of the mishna regarding the prohibition of subscription to the group: "ein nimnim" (literally, "do not subscribe").  The gemara comments that the prohibition is only breached if MONIES were mentioned (pisuk damim).  This would seemingly support Rashi's contention that subscription is only forbidden if it entails a form of commerce. 


An interesting sub-question surrounds the final clause of the mishna, which allows pre-arranging a membership group PRIOR to Chag and completing the details during Yom tov.  It would appear that the actual formation may be clinched on Chag as long as monies aren't verbally mentioned.  This allowance is articulated and adopted by the Tzlach and reflects the simple reading of the dual-claused mishna.  Rashi, however, opposed this reading and reworked the text of the mishna.  Rashi's aversion is understandable: if the prohibition of subscription is based upon commercial activity, clinching this membership on Chag should be forbidden even if actual monies were not stated but are prearranged!


Perhaps Rashi and the Tzlach differ as to the basis of the prohibition surrounding commerce.  As stated earlier, Rashi cited the verses in Nechemia as sources for the prohibition.  Interestingly, a later Rashi (Beitza 37a) cites a verse in Yeshayahu 58:13, which directs us to alter our activities on Shabbat, in addition to altering our speech (ve-daber davar);  This pasuk refers to acts of communication and engaging in commerce is forbidden because it compromises the unique sacred discourse of Shabbat.  (It is intriguing that Rashi, in his comments to the mishna in 27b, did not cite the verses he listed in Beitza 37a).  In theory, prohibiting commercial activity based on the concern of non-Shabbat talk would not extend to situations in which all the terms were predetermined and the deal or membership was only completed on Chag. 


Perhaps the allowance of the Tzlach stemmed from associating the prohibition with the speech-based pasuk in Yehsayahu.  On the other hand, Rashi attributed the prohibition to Nechemia's decree, which would presumably concern ANY form of commerce, even the non-spoken variety and even if the terms were pre-stated and the deal was clinched on Chag. 


A similar logic arises from Rashi's position regarding yet another permissible option which the gemara poses.  Although it is forbidden to subscribe to a certain price quantity of meat, the gemara allows a person to speak of his share as being similar to a known quantity of meat.  He may even hold up the quantified meat and claim, "My portion will be equivalent." 


Rabbenu Chananel in describing this allowance portrays a situation in which the comparable share had already been priced before Chag.  By comparing your subscription to the already priced meat, a person is effectively pricing his share without overtly mentioning a sum.  Rashi objects, presumably because this would violate the prohibition of conducting commerce.  Instead, Rashi allows a person to describe his subscription based on a quantified, but not yet priced, portion of meat.  AFTER Chag, that meat will be priced and the appropriate monetary obligations met.  Again, Rashi displays an aversion to allowing actual commercial type transactions simply because they avoid mentioning monies. 


A third example of commercial transaction without mentioning money emerges from an interesting qualification of the Or Zarua.  Although the gemara provides several options of permissible meat allocation and division, the Or Zarua prohibits all allocation with gentile partners.  The Magen Avraham (Orach Chayim 500:6) attributes this qualification to the infrequency of subscription with gentiles.  Since this partnership is so uncommon, it constitutes commercial activity and is prohibited under any circumstances.  The Or Zarua, similar to Rashi, was willing to impose the prohibition against commercial activity even in the absence of any spoken monies or pricing.