Tuesday, April 24, 2007

yerushalmi - no machlokes in metziyus

The Yerushalmi in Pesachim has a machlokes whether karmis, some type of millet-like grain, can become actual chameitz or not (similar to the more well known machlokes Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri and Rabbanan by millet and rice). Asks the Yerushalmi (17a), why not simply test it and see? The gemara answers that a test was in fact done and what the results were is precisely the point of machlokes.

I seem to recall the Yerushalmi in other places asking similar questions when a debate focuses on issues of fact rather than interpretation – if all that is in question is fact, then we should be able to settle the machlokes. Bnei yeshiva usually operate under a similar assumption that "there cannot be a machlokes in metziyus" and all issues boil down to conceptual disagreements. Interestingly, I cannot recall offhand anywhere that a similar question is raised in the Bavli, but if anyone remembes otherwise, let me know.


  1. Do they argue over the results themselves, or the interpretation of the results, i.e,, whether the observed effect is halachically considered to be chimutz? If the latter, it could still be a conceptual machlokes.

    In aggadah there are frequently machl'kos that would seem to be based in metzius, but maybe the assumption that you mentioned applies only by halachic sugyos?

  2. The language of the Y-lmi is 'al ikkar b'dikasa hein cholkin' and continues that acc. to RybN they tested and found that it did become chameitz, and acc to Rabbanan they tested and found it was not chameitz. It sounded to me like the machlokes is over what results were found.
    I think R' Dessler writes that in aggadah you say 'eilu v'eilu' on everything. R'Tzadok seems to use the same rule even on metziyus related issues, e.g. Chazal have different opinions as to what fruit the eitz hada'as was, and R' Tzadok even goes so far as to come up with a way to learn eilu v'eilu on that to conceptualize it.

  3. Anonymous1:42 PM

    Great topic.

    Interestingly, the Bavli in Yoma (beginning of Perek 8) - when attempting to determine which shiur is larger than the others - does NOT suggest that we perform a liquid displacement test...

    This is great stuff. Keep us posted if you find out anything else.

  4. The most recent volume of Hakira had an article that touched upon this issue with reference to terefot.

  5. I, too, encountered the source you mentioned this Pesach and was struck by the apparent machlokes metziyus. Fortunately, I found a shiur by Rabbi Israel Chait on this machlokes, who explained it conceptually. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to grasp his sevara. Perhaps others will have better luck: http://ybt.org/Sunday04162006a.ram. He begins by going over the facts, and his explanation of the machlokes is between 8:38 and 16:50.

  6. Matt, are you a talmid of R' Chait? I have only had the pleasure so far of hearing his Torah transmitted via 'kli sheni' through R' Friedman's shiurim, but if you get it first hand you are all the more priviliged. Anyway, it sounds like he is contrasting the process of being able to knead something and make dough vs. some additional qualitative chashivus that bread has, but I don't know how you can fit that into the language of the Yerushalmi - tzarich iyyun.
    BTW, I didn't mean that the Y-lmi accepts a nachlokes in metziyus. I thought the kashe proved the opposite. The answer must be somehow that the results were unclear, like Josh M. suggested.

  7. About a month ago I showed the machlokes in the Yerushalmi to Rabbi Chait's son, Rav Pesach, who explained it to me based on his father's shiur. I can't remember at the moment how he resolved the language of the Yerushalmi. I'll have to ask him again tomorrow.

    Incidentally, the website of Yeshiva Bnei Torah (www.ybt.org) has five years of shiurim by Rabbi Chait (among others) available for free in high quality streaming audio. Nothing beats a live shiur, but the YBT tape library is better than kli sheni (not to undermine the gadlus of Rabbi Friedman!).

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  9. I second Matt's observation. The audio shiurim on the YBT site are an outstanding resource for Talmud Torah.

  10. I'm sorry, but I HAVE to mention one more thing about www.ybt.org. If you go to the essay section and scroll to the bottom, you'll see a link to "Svaros-A Commentary on Various Areas in the Mishneh Torah of The Rambam" by Rabbi Saul Zucker. These are some of the best shiurim I have ever encountered. It is a tragedy that this work is not well known. Check it out!

  11. Matt, you're right about "sevaros". Both Chaim B. and David G. would probably enjoy that compilation very much.

  12. Anonymous8:44 AM

    In the scientific/engineering world, test results are often disputed. Objections can include:

    1. Improper test protocol
    2. Improper sampling
    3. Better explanations exist for the same observed phenomena
    4. Results are impossible, so something must have gone wrong
    5. Instruments used were not sensitive enough or calibrated well enough
    6. Results contradict earlier results by the same test method or another method

  13. I want to suggest that the argument may not actually be about the chemistry of the findings. Because if it were, it is easy enough for later generations to repeat the experiment, rather than the dispute. I think the word "iqar" in "al iqar habediqah hein cholqin -- they disagree about the essence of the check". Why "essence"?

    I think they found something that wasn't textbook chameitz-style levening, and RYBN disagreed about whether the finding was chameitz.They agreed on metzi'us, they disagreed about which side of the line it was on. They disagreed on the meaning of the findings (iqar) not the findings themselves.