The Torah requires one to separate some dough and give it to the kohen. This is referred to as challah and is the focus of this masechet. Challah shares many similarities with teruma. One difference however is that challah need only be separated from dough from five grains – wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye. For dough to require the separation of challah, the wheat for example, must be 5/4 of a kav1. The Mishnah (1:1) teaches that the five grains can combined to make that volume. The exact case that the Mishnah is referring to when ruling that grains can combine is the subject of some discussion.
The Yerushalmi questions the Mishnah’s ruling by noting that the Mishnah later (4:2) discusses which of the five grains combine with each other to make the minimum shiur and which do not.2 The Mishnah appears to contradict ours which rules that the all combine with each another. The Yerushalmi answers that our Mishnah refers to a case where the flours of the different grains were mixed first and then kneaded together. The later Mishnah which limits which grains can combine, discusses a cases where they were made into dough separately and placed beside one another with the dough of each type “biting” into each other.3
The Mishnah Rishona initially thinks that our Mishnah implies that if one of the five grains mixed with a different grain, even though it is in the majority, the foreign grain could not combine with it. He continues that even though we have the principle that the minority is annulled in the majority (bitul b’rov), the minority is considered is if it is not there and can therefore not combine to make the minimum shiur. Yet the Mishnah Rishona ultimately rejects this understanding as he feels that the poskim understand that in the case of bitul b’rov involving issur v’heter, the issur becomes heter. So too the minority foreign grain should combine to make the shiur. Consequently, he places a further qualifier on our Mishnah explaining that it must be involving a case where there is an even split between two of the five grains.
The Melechet Shlomo (quoting HaRav Rabbeinu Yehosef) however comes to a different conclusion based on a question from another Mishnah. The Mishnah (3:10) teaches that if one mixes wheat dough and rice dough together, whether the mixture requires the separation of challah depends on whether the mixture has the taste of wheat. He therefore asks, what then is special about our Mishnah? It appears that anything can combine! He answers that our Mishnah and the Mishnah that referred to biting dough where only the five grains can be involved, is where none of the mixed-in types on their own have enough to make a shiur. In such cases, unlike the Mishnah Rishona, no other grain can combine to make the shiur. The Mishnah that discusses a mixture of wheat and rice is where the wheat alone has enough to obligate the separation of challah.
A final question, asked by the Tosfot (Menachot 70a) is how can any different species combine at all? We have learnt that if two species are considered kilayim with one another, one cannot separate trumah from one to satisfy the other. If challah is like trumah then how can one separate challah from one part of the mixture to satisfy the other?
They provide two answers. The first is that challah is different because it is separated from dough and therefore we are concerned with the similarity in the dough form (see Vol. 7 Iss. 13). The second answer is that indeed if each of the types of dough made up a minimum shiur then one could not separate challah from one type for the other. One would only be able to separate from one to satisfy another if they only made the shiur in combination with each other.
1 Kehati explains that this measure is approximately 2.5 litres.
2 Wheat only combines with spelt. Spelt combines with everything. Barley combines with everything except for wheat. R’ Yonchanan ben Nuri says that there rest combine with each other.
3 The Bartenura writes, when quoting the Yerushalmi, that the later Mishnah’s case is where the different dough was simply touching each other. The Mishnah Rishona notes that the Yerushalmi stated that in the latter case the dough was “biting” which is more connected than just touching. Initially he answered that perhaps the Bartenura meant that the dough was touching and inside the same kli which would be sufficient for them to combine according to R’ Eliezer (see 2:4). He ultimately rejects this suggestion – see inside for further detail.
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