Demai on Shabbat

Demai (4:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 2 years ago

The Mishnah (4:1) discusses the case where one purchased produce from an am ha'aretz and forgot to separate terumot and maaserot prior to Shabbat. On Shabbat, one is not allowed to separate maaserot. The Mishnah however explains that he can ask the am ha'aretz on Shabbat, and if he confirms that everything was separated, then the food can be consumed without hafrasha (separation).

The Yerushalmi records two reasons for the leniency. The Chavraya (talmidim) said in the name of R' Yochanan, that the reason for the leniency is kavod Shabbat. The Gemara asks, that if so, why does one need to ask the am ha'aretz? The Gemara answers that to permit the food, they needed something on which to rely -- the am ha'aretz' answer.

Rashi (Menachot 30b, s.v. Terumat Maaser) explains that this is the food set aside for Shabbat and without it, it would impact one's oneg Shabbat (pleasure on Shabbat). How is this enough for the leniency? Rashi explains the Demai itself was rabbinic stringency - most amei haaretz separated the required maaserot.

Returning to the Yerushalmi, R' Beivai provided a different explanation in the name of R' Chanina. He explains that the awe of Shabbat is such that he will tell the truth. The Gemara then asks that if one can assume he is telling the truth, why does the Mishnah rule that one can only consume the food without hafrasha on Shabbat, but not after Shabbat? The Gemara answers that we are concerned that there are individuals for whom Shabbat does not have this impact. Interestingly, the Gra (Shnot Eliyahu) comments, that the fact that we are not concerned for that minority on Shabbat is because of kavod Shabbat. In other words, the position of R' Chanina relies on both explanations, kavod Shabbat and eimat Shabbat.

How do we understand eimat Shabbat? The Bartenura explains that on Shabbat people had a greater sense of fear in transgressing mitzvot or lying. The Tosfot however provides a different explanation. We will learn that Shabbat is "koveah" for maaser. Simply put, even though one is allowed to snack from produce prior to it reaching "gmar melacha" (completion of work), such food on Shabbat is considered tevel and even a snack is prohibited without hafrasha. It would appear then that it is not the awe of Shabbat that would deter one from lying in general, but rather the impact Shabbat has on the status of the produce itself that would affect his perspective.

It appears that these two understandings are present in the end of the Mishnah. If terumat maaser of demai got mixed with less than one hundred parts chulin it could potentially be meduma. This means that teruma is not annulled and the mixture must be sold to a kohen for its value excluding the terumat maaser in the mixture. The R' Shimon Shezuri explains that one can ask the am haaretz if he performed hafrasha and rely on his answer to save the mixture from becoming demai. R' Shmuel brei DR' Yossi Bar Bun in the Yerushalmi explains that terumah and mixtures of terumah were treated seriously by amei haaretz, consequently they could be trusted in this case. This explanation aligns with the Tosfot above that relies on their attitude to maaserot itself.

Rashi (ibid) however explains that the Chachamim were lenient due to the potential loss to the regular produce. One question posed is that it appears to contradict the Yerushalmi. Recall that Rashi explained the beginning of our Mishnah according to the first opinion, that it was a leniency afforded to Shabbat alone and not based on the impact Shabbat has on the Am Haaretz. Consequently, it follows that according to that opinion, if the change in attitude is not considered, the reason must similarly be a leniency afforded in this case.

One final point is that we find that even the fear of Shabbat has its limits. The Yerushalmi ask how one should approach the am haaretz when asking whether hafrasha was performed. R' Yona explains that it should be in a roundabout manner. For example, R' Yona approached an am haaretz, and explained that it was not because he suspected him, but rather he saw that he was overwhelmed with customers and might have forgot in this instance. The Mahara Fulda explains that if the seller felt he was suspected, he might lie due to embarrassment. The Rash Sirilio however says that the concern is that it would be anger that would lead to this outcome. The concern expressed is in line with the Mishnah in Avot that one's honour can "remove a person from the world"; it can distort his sensibilities. Consequently, the Yerushalmi understood that for this gezeira to work, one needs to be sensitive to the am haaretz.


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