Scheming Traders

Demai (4:7) | Yisrael Bankier | 2 years ago

The Mishnah (4:7) discusses the case where two donkey drivers arrive at a town, and their trustworthiness with maaserot and chadash is unknown. One admits that his own produce has issues, yet claims his friend's is fine. The Chachamim argue that they are not believed. The Bartenura explains that we are sure that they planned they would take turns in promoting each other's produce in different towns. This is referred to as gomlin. R' Yehuda however disagrees. The Bartenura explains that since most amei ha'aretz separated all the require maaserot, R' Yehuda ruled leniently to allow a constant flow of suppliers to the city.

The Mishnah Rishona notes that the Mishnah implies that according to Chachamim, it is only out of concerned that they have a reciprocal agreement that they are not trusted. If however another am ha'aretz vouched for them, then he would be trusted. The Mishnah Rishona explains that this would be in line with the position of the Rambam, that even if someone is suspected regarding a halacha, they are trusted to testify about someone else.

The difficulty with this understanding is the Mishnah discussed last week. Recall, that if one had demai on Shabbat, one could ask the seller if everything was separated and rely on his answer. After Shabbat however, the maaserot would need to be separated. The Mishnah ruled that the same is true if one asked another am ha'aretz. Once again, it would only help during Shabbat. If an am ha'aretz is trusted regarding another's produce, then the food should be able to be consumed after shabbat without hafrasha.

The Mishnah Rishona therefore explains that there was a different reason why the Mishnah taught this case. Either that the Chachamim would not trust the am ha'aretz in all cases. The reason why the case of gomlin is taught is to stress how lenient R' Yehuda is in trusting them, out of concern for the welfare of the city. Alternatively, the Chachamim would trust another am ha'aretz, but only to ensure the supplies for the city. Nevertheless the leniency would not extend to the case of gomlin. This however does not explain the Rambam.

The Gemara in Ketubot (24a) notes that the positions of R' Yehuda and Chachamim appear to be reversed in a different case. If two people each say that they are a kohen and attest that the other is a kohen, the Chachamim maintain that we can give them terumah, while R' Yehuda is concerned for gomlin. Abaye explains that the there is no contradiction. R' Yehuda is more lenient in our case since we are dealing with demai. Since most amei ha'aretz separated demai, we can be lenient. The Chachamim however rule differently since their "tools are in their hands". Rashi explains that in our case, the Chachamim rule stringently, since their measuring containers demonstrate that they are motivated to sell their wares - there is more of a reason to be concerned for gomlin. The Gemara also however suggests that perhaps the dispute regarding kohanim is different. R' Yehuda understands that maalin me'terumah le'yuchsin and if we give them terumah, then it might mistakenly be assumed he has kosher lineage.

The difficulty is that that when the Rambam rules regarding our case he does not mention the "tools". The Tosfot suggest that he understands like the conclusion that the debate in ketubot is regarding yuchsin. Yet that answer only explains why R' Yehuda is more strict in the case of kohanim, but not why the Chachamim are more strict in the case of Demai.

To answer both questions on the Rambam we shall turn to the Chatam Sofer. The Chatam Sofer (Ketubot 24a) explains that whether an individual that is suspected can vouch for another is debated between R' Meir and Chachamim with later maintaining they can. While the Rambam rules like the Chachamim in other cases for demai he does not. Recall that most amei ha'aretez separated maaserot. Nevertheless, for demai we are stringent in that we do not rely on that majority. The Chachamim trust one suspected when testifying for another since most people would not sin for the benefit of another. Considering that in demai we disregard the majority, we also disregard the consideration that most people would not sin for the sake of another.

In other words, according to the first answer, the fact that most amei ha'aretz separate is a reason to be lenient in demai. R' Yehuda ruling leniently there therefore makes sense and the Gemara needed to provide the detail of the tools to explain the position of the Chachamim. According to the final answer however, the fact that a majority of amei ha'aretz separated maaserot and nonetheless the gezeira of demai exists is a reason to be more stringent rather than lenient regarding trustworthiness. Consequently, the position of the Chachamim is sound, and the answer of yuchsin is necessary to understand why R' Yehuda is more stringent in the case of the kohanim. The Rambam therefore understands our Mishnah like the Gemara's conclusion.


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