Eating Tameh Food

Taharot (2:2) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

The Mishnah (2:2) discusses the law regarding one that eats tameh food. According to R’ Eliezer, whether one eats food that is rishon, sheni or shelishi le’tumah, that person becomes tameh at the same level as the tameh food he consumed. According to R’ Yehoshua if one ate food that is rishon or sheni – then he becomes a sheni le’tumah. If he eats a food that is shlishi then he becomes a sheni le’tumah, but only with respect to kodshim and not trumah.

Based on our learning thus far, the fact that a person can become tameh for tameh food is surprising. Indeed, the Gemara (Shabbat 14a) explains that this tumah is rabbinic. It was introduced out of a concern that one might eat tameh food and drink trumah liquids at the same time and invalidate it. Rashi explains that allowing this to happen violates the Torah command to keep trumah tahor (Bamidbar 18:8). Consequently, the Chachamim decreed that anyone eating tameh food would become tameh so that people would not eat tameh food and trumah together.

The Maharsha questions Rashi’s explanation of the gezeira. Why does he explain that the concern is a lapse in guarding the teruma from tumah? Surely the concern is that a person will be eating tameh teruma which is a (heavenly) capital offence (mita b’dei shamayim)!

The Pnei Yehoshua however responds that the mita b’dei shamayim is only for a tameh person that eats tahor teruma. Our case would be a tahor person that eats tameh teruma. As such it would be a lav(regular negative prohibition) or according to the Rashba there is no prohibition at all.

The Tosfot R’ Akiva Eiger (Shabbat 1:4) notes that Rashi (Bechorot 14b, s.v. challah) does indeed explain that if one ate tameh challah it would be punishable with mita b’dei shamayim. He however agrees that such a position is difficult as it run counter to the Gemara Yevamot (73) that explains otherwise.

Nevertheless, R’ Akiva Eiger explains that Rashi’s explanation that the gezeira is built around the mitzvah of guarding teruma is answering another question. One might ask, granted that as a result of the gezeira the person would become tameh, what does it really achieve? The primary concern is that one might forget that tameh food is in his mouth and drink trumah liquids. So if he forgets that tameh food is in his mouth then he also will not know that he his now tameh as a result of the gezeira and still drink the tameh liquid. Consequently, Rashi explains that since one is commanded to prevent trumah from becoming tameh, once the gezeira is in place that he is tameh, he will naturally begin separating from terumah. If he were tahor as prior to the gezeira, there is no reason to pause and teruma will continue to be accessible increasing the likelihood of error. Rashi’s point is therefore not the reason for the gezeira but rather the basis of its efficacy.

The Chatam Sofer however answers that Rashi understands that chazal were not concerned that one would completely forget and swallow the tameh teruma. One could assume that he would realise when it is in his mouth and spit it out. Nevertheless, the termua would still be pasul.

Given that the concern is that the tameh food will make the terumah tameh one would suspect that the amount of tameh food one would eat to fall under this gezeira would be a k’beitza (size of an egg). The reason is that this is the minimum size for tameh food such that it can cause other things to become tameh. Nevertheless, the Bartenura explains that the minimum amount is a half a peras – a larger amount (1.5 beitza according to the Rambam and 2 according to Rashi). Why?

The Rash and Tosfot explains that the reason for the larger size is that it is only with a larger amount that one is likely to accompany it with a drink. The Mishnah Achrona however asks that while that explains the measure of tameh foods, the measure of tameh liquids is a reviit where as in truth there is no minimum amount for tameh liquids to impart tumah. He suggests that these measures represent a minimum amount for a keviat seudah – establishing a meal. It is in that context that one is likely to eat and drink together and give rise to the concern of the trumah potentially becoming tameh.

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