Trusting The Baker

Demai (5:1) | Amitai Marmor (Trans. Mark Steiner) | 19 years ago

At the beginning of the fifth perek of Masechet Demai it becomes clear that one is required to view produce as Demai in the case of a Nachtom, i.e. in the case where one purchases bread from a baker.

The Yerushalmi on this Mishnah brings an immediate problem, reminding us that we learnt in the first perek that there is no obligation of separating Demai from bread.

It seems though as if this problem is easily solved as done by the Rash, who claims that we can differentiate between the separations of an Am Ha’aretz, to that of a Chaver. I.e. we can say that in our case in the fifth Perek we are accepting the bread from an Am Ha’aretz, and therefore it has to be separated again, whereas in the first Perek it is discussing the case where a Chaver separated the Demai, and therefore it does not have to be repeated, as we know he adheres to all the commandments of the Torah and can in turn be trusted to have acted appropriately.

Despite this seemingly simple answer, many commentaries have a problem with this because it seems apparent elsewhere that even Amei Ha’aretz are not considered suspicious with regards to this issue, and therefore can be trusted.

In the Yerushalmi there is a difference of opinion brought between R’ Elazar and R’ Yochanan. R’ Yochanan explains that in our case the person’s actions are not done in accordance to all the laws of ritual purity, but in the first perek they are. I.e. In the first perek the Nachtom is concerned that his bread should be edible also by Kohanim, and therefore he was careful to separate out all the trumot and ma’asrot. The Pnei Moshe in the Yerushalmi explains that the same Nachtom was requested by a Chaver that he should take out all the necessary separations for him, and therefore it can all be trusted.

In our Mishnah though we are talking about a Nachtom who does not share the same concerns, and therefore the ingredients that he uses are not necessarily suitable for use by Kohanim, and he has no intention to sell his products to Kohanim. In turn, someone who buys from him must separate the necessary donations himself.

According to R’ Elazar it’s clear that the case is one where the Nachtom is reliable with regards to purity etc., but one who buys from his still has to separate. This is because in the first perek the Nachtom sells in small amounts, and is therefore required to separate himself. In the fifth perek though we are dealing with a Nachtom that sells produce in large amounts and therefore is exempt from taking out the requirements himself, and therefore when one buys it from him, the obligation rests still upon the buyer. It appears that the Rambam holds like R’ Yochanan since he mentions “that he separated in purity” and all commentators explain this statement in accordance to the opinion of R’ Yochanan. On the other hand, many of the commentaries on the Mishnah hold like R’ Elazar.

Of course, there is a practical implication between the two. For example, according to R’ Yochanan it doesn’t matter in which fashion, with regards to size or prices, the Nachtom sells. Even if he was to be selling large amounts, R’ Yochanan would force the Nachtom to take out the separations if he was selling it to Kohanim.

According to R’ Elazar, we rely on all the Nachtomim that they only sell that which is pure, and this has great implications with regards to places that are populated by Kohanim which must be extremely weary of all these issues. Of course, there are other practical implications between the two. In any case, according to Kehati, the Halacha follows R’ Elazar.


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