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Changing One’s Mind Regarding Mei Chatat

Parah (9:4) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 days ago

The Mishnah (9:4) records a debate regarding one who changes his mind and intends to drink the mei chatat. R’ Eliezer renders the water invalid, while R’ Yehoshua maintains that it is only invalid once the container is titled or moved that the water is invalid; an action is necessary. R’ Yosi has a different understanding of the debate. He explains that the above positions are true when considering water that has be drawn for the purpose of mei chatat but has not yet had kiddush. Regarding mei chatat however, he understands that R’ Eliezer would understand that the water is invalid only once it is tilted (for the purpose of drinking) while R’ Yehoshua would understand that it is invalid only if one actually drank the water.

The Bartenura explains that according to the Tana Kama’s reading, the debate is simply regarding whether machshava alone will render the water pasul or whether a physical action is required as well. According to R’ Yossi however, mei chatat is different. Since the water is already kedoshim R’ Eliezer understands that an action is required since otherwise he can “simply change his mind again”, whereas R’ Yehoshua maintains that intention to repurpose the water is no longer an issue. There is however an issue if one drank from the water since some saliva will inevitably become mixed with the remaining mei chatat and any amount of foreign liquid will invalidate the mei chatat.

The Mishnah Achrona finds it difficult to understand the Bartenura’s explanation of R’ Yossi’s understanding of R’ Eliezer’s position when it comes to mei chatat. Why when it is mei chatat, in the absence of a physical action, can the person simply change his mind again leaving the water unaffected? If hesech daat is the issue, what has changed once the water has had kiddush? This question is further sharpened when considering the position of R’ Yehoshua where it appears hesech da’at is initially a problem, but once they are mukdashim it is not.

The Mishnah Achrona suggest that the debate is about what constitutes a hesech da’at. When the water is first drawn, R’ Eliezer maintains that there has not been an obvious outward show demonstrating its purpose. Consequently, thought alone is enough to render the water pasul. Machshava alone can undo the original machshava. R’ Yehoshua however understands that drawing of water for the purpose of mei chatat constitutes an action, consequently an action, even just tilting the pail, is required to undo the original action.

Once however kiddush is performed and the water is considered mei chatat, everyone agrees that an act has been performed. Therefore R’ Eliezer agrees that an action is required to cause the mei chatat to become pasul. R’ Yehoshua however understands that since a substantial act has been performed – kiddush – simply tilting the container is insignificant in comparison. An act that is the counter-equivalent to kiddush is required. Consequently, it is only once someone drinks from the mei chatat and demonstrates he is not concerned with mixing in other liquids that the mei chatat becomes pasul. 1


1*Based on this explanation that the debate is about the limits of hesech data, the Mishnah Achrona maintains that, unlike the Ravaad, hesech data can still constitute a problem for meit chatat according to R’ Yehoshua*.

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