Wednesday, August 23, 2006

d'mai - issur gavra or issur cheftza

The gemara (Chulin 6) tells a story of Rav Asi being served a mixture of eggs and wine (which had the status of d’mai) at an inn. R’ Zeira did not eat the mixture but R’ Asi did. When R’ Zeira asked how R’ Asi ate d’mai, R’ Asi answered that his action was inadvertent as he had not considered the situation. Asks the gemara: hashta b’hemtam shel tzadikim ain HKB”H mavi takalah al yadam, tzadikim atzmam lo kol shekein – we know Hashem does not let a tzadik come to an inadvertent sin of eating something prohibited, so how could this have happened?! R’ Yosef Engel and R’ Elchanan focus on this question and relate it to our chakira of whether issurei derabbanan are issurei gavra or issurei cheftza. D’mai is food which comes from an am ha’aretz, someone not completely trustworthy when it comes to being mafrish terumos u’ma’asros k'halacha. In truth, rov amei ha’aretz m’asrin heim, most people did take off terumah and ma’aser properly, but the chachamim made the takanah of d'mai to be chosheish for the minority. Given that background, it is strange that the gemara should compare d’mai to eating ma’achalos asuros. The fact that Hashem does not allow tzadikim to stumble might simply mean in this case that the d’mai which was served came from an am ha’aretz who was properly mafrish terumah and ma’aser and therefore there was nothing wrong with the wine. From the fact that the gemara does not consider this possibility, it seems to indicate that once the gezeira of d’mai is in place, irrespective of the truth of whether teruma and ma’aser was properly taken, the food becomes a chefzta shel issur, something inherently prohibited. Does this mean issurei derabbanan should be treated as issurei cheftza, or can you distinguish between d'mai and other types of issurim?


  1. Arthur Digby Sellers10:02 AM

    Isn't there a Tosafos that asks about an Amora eating before havdala? Isn't he michaleik between an issur on the food itself (which the gemara in Chullin is referring to) and an issur on the person (eating before havdala).

  2. Yes, Tosfos does say that. Which is exactly the problem - here the gemara treats dmai as an issur inherent in the food, not just an issur gavra to prevent some remote possibility of eating tevel (i.e. something inherently assur).