י״ז באב ה׳תשע״ג (July 24, 2013)

Pesaḥim 34a-b: Using Defiled Tithes

The Gemara discusses what can be done with teruma that has become ritually defiled, and now can no longer be eaten by the kohen. One suggestion is that it can be used by the kohen for fuel, although care must be taken to ensure that such teruma will not be eaten by mistake. As an example, the Gemara tells of Abba Shaul who worked kneading dough in the home of Rebbi, and he would keep the dough warm by burning wheat kernels that were teruma temei’ah – ritually defiled tithes. Rav Ashi explains that he was careful to first prepare the kernels by cooking them and dirtying them in order to make sure that no one would come to eat them.

Tosafot point out that the story is odd, since we know that Rebbi was not a kohen. Why was teruma being used in his house? Some explain that there were kohanim who were part of Rebbi’s household, and their presence allowed for use of teruma temei’ah even though others would benefit, as well. Tosafot Ri”d explains that the laws regarding teruma temei’ah are Rabbinic in nature, and allowed their use for the public benefit even if there are no kohanim involved, and in the house of the the leader of the Jewish community – the preparations were considered to be for the public benefit.

Another case discussed on our daf is a Mishna that appears in Massekhet Terumot, which teaches that a vegetable which was teruma temei’ah and then replanted loses its status as ritually defiled, but it cannot be eaten. The Gemara grapples with this halakha – if returning it to the ground removes its tuma, why can it still not be eaten? Several possibilities are raised by our Gemara. The Gemara records that when Ravin moved from Babylon to Israel he repeated these discussions to Rabbi Yirmeya, who responded by saying, “Those foolish Babylonians! It is because they live in a dark country that they record dark teachings!” He concludes that the reason for this is straightforward – that replanted teruma may remove the tumah, but it does not remove the status of the vegetable as teruma. Therefore, when the Mishna says that it cannot be eaten, it means that it cannot be eaten by someone who is not a kohen.

Rabbi Yirmeya was, himself, born in Babylon and moved to Israel, where he studied under the tutelage of Rabbi Yohanan and his students, and became one of the leading sages there. His statements are quoted in both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud with such frequency that they are quoted as “it was taught in Israel.” His quick, sharp-witted tongue on occasion got him in trouble, to the extent that he was removed from the study hall for a time.

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