Happiness in Meat and Wine

Chulin (5:3) | Alex Tsykin | 12 years ago

Our Mishnah (5:3) tells us that when Yom Tov is coming (except for Yom Kippur and Yom Tov Rishon of Sukkot), the halachot for purchasing meat changes. While ordinarily when purchasing a moveable object it would be necessary to take the object for the sale to come into effect, here all that is necessary is the transfer of money. Rabbi Yochanan explains that is so because the necessity for actually taking possession of the object is rabbinic whereas the transfer of coins is a Torah requirement (Chulin 83a). The Chachamim lifted their enactment in this period enabling a person who purchased a part of an animal from a butcher, to force him to slaughter the animal even if the rest was not yet sold.

This Mishnah may hold the explanation for a particular Halacha the Rambam wrote which has puzzled many of the Rishonim and Achronim (Arba’a Turim 529a, Beit Yosef there and others). The Rambam, when discussing the obligation of Simcha (happiness) on Yom Tov, says: “There is no happiness other than with meat, and there is no happiness other than with wine.” (Hilchot Shvitat Yom Tov 6, 18) This seems to contradict the following Gemara:

Rabbi Yehuda ben Beteira says in the time that the Beit Ha’Mikdash stands, there is no happiness other than with meat as it is written: “And you will sacrifice a peace offering and you will eat there and you will be happy before Hashem your God” (Devarim 27, 7) and now, there is no happiness other than with wine... (Pesachim 109a)

Many explanations are proposes, however the two most common are:

  1. The Rambam felt that while the primary mover for happiness today is wine, while meat still has a role. (Bach on the Arba’a Turim, Orach Chayim 529)

  2. The Rambam was referring to different time periods. When he referred to meat he was referring to the time of the Beit Ha’Mikdash and when he spoke of wine he was speaking of the period until the Beit Ha’Mikdash is rebuilt. (Bnei Shmuel on the Rambam)

The second explanation suffers from two flaws: no proof is brought that this was the Rambam’s opinion other than that it seems logical, and it is difficult within the words of the Rambam who does not write about or imply any difference between the two with regard to the mitzvah of happiness.

The first explanation however, is easier to explain (based on the analysis of the Bach). The Gemara on Chulin 83a presents another explanation of our Mishnah:

Rabbi Shmuel bar Rav Yitzchak says... [the Mishnah speaks of a case] where the benefit was conferred upon him by way of another, [but only] in these four times (Erev Rosh HaShanah, Erev Pesach, Erev Shavuot and Erev Shmini Atzeret) because it is a benefit for him, as it is said: one can confer a benefit on another without his knowledge. On other days of the year it is a detriment for him and we do not cause detriment to another without his knowledge.

This means that the meat was given to a third party to deliver. Ordinarily this would be insufficient to effect a change in ownership (meaning that the Shochet could change his mind) until the purchaser received the meat, however, in this case, just the transfer of coins to the seller is sufficient. Rashi comments on the Gemara here, saying:

... “It is a benefit for him” for it (Yom Tov) will not be sufficient without meat.

“It is a detriment for him” [meaning] to pay is a detriment for him...

It would seem from here that there is an obligation of eating meat on Yom Tov, for why else would the expense of the meat not be considered a detriment? If so, it must be explained from here that there is a mitzvah to eat meat on Yom Tov albeit not a very strong one as opposed to the obligation which Rabbi Yehuda speaks about in Gemara Pesachim that refers specifically to eating the sacrifice, which is no longer.

However, the question must now be asked, why is the first Yom Tov of Sukkot different? Rabbi Ovadya from Bartenura answers that the reason is that before Sukkot everybody is worried about building a Sukkah and buying the Arba’a Minim and has no time to buy and slaughter meat. While it seems strange that this would mean that the Halacha does not apply for Sukkot, certainly there are places where the Halacha takes account of torach hatzibbur, the inconveniencing of the public. Similarly, to answer the question of why the mitzvah exists for Shmini Atzeret but not for the last day of Pesach, the Bartenura states that Shmini Atzeret is considered an independent festival, while the last day of Pesach is still part of Pesach and so Shmini Atzeret has a stronger mitzvah of happiness.

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