Machshava of a Katan

Taharot (8:6) | Yisrael Bankier | 12 years ago

Earlier we discussed the requirement for machshava (intention for human consumption) for a neveilat ohf tahor (the carcass of a bird from a kosher species). As we have learnt, a minor does not have da’at (intention) of halachic value so it is no wonder that the Mishnah ruled that they cannot provide machshava (8:6). The Mishnah does however rule that their actions can have halachic implications. If a child collects a neveilah bird for the purposes of giving it to a goi, then the bird can become (and is) tameh. Even though minors do not have machshava they do have ma’aseh. It appears the requirement of machshava is fulfilled through the actions of the minor. Let us analyse how this works.

To better understand our Mishnah we shall open with the question posed by the mefarshim. The Mishnah in Machshirin (6:1) teaches that if someone places their produce on their roof in order to remove mites, if dew then fell on it, it is not huchshar (susceptible to tumah) unless he wanted it to get wet. Recall that produce’s contact with dew (or the other six liquids) would need to be pleasing to the owner for it to be huchshar. If a minor placed the produce on the roof, even if he wanted it to get wet, it is not huchshar. R’ Yochanan in the Gemara (Chulin 13a) adds that if the minor turned the produced over so that all sides got wet then it is huchshar.83

The Rash notes that we find from the above Mishnah that since it was questionable why the minor was taking the produce to the roof, the action of the minor did not have any weight.84 It was not until the minor was turning the produce that the action was considered. Likewise in our Mishnah the minor may have been collecting the bird for purposes other than human consumption; perhaps to feed to a dog. So why in our Mishnah are the minor’s actions considered significant? The Rash answers that our Mishnah must be referring to a case where the katan immediately hands the bird to the goi so that the intent of the action is clear.

R’ Menachem (see Melechet Shlomo) provides a different solution, explaining that the cases are quite different. In the case of the produce, the general reason why one would place produce on his roof was to remove mites. Consequently, the katan would require a further action to demonstrate the intent was for the dew. In our case however, in general the collection of birds is for the purpose of consumption so no further action on the part of the katan is required.

The Mishnah Achrona however answers that these cases are dissimilar for a completely different reasons. In the case of the produce, the primary intention was to remove mites. Secondary to that was the intention that the dew softens the produce. As this intent is secondary it is considered separate to the action and consequently insignificant for the minor. In our case, the primary intent was to retrieve the bird and hand it to the goi. Consequently we have a ma’aseh and machshava together.

The Mishnah Achrona therefore provides a very different understanding of how a ma’aseh works with katan. According to the earlier understandings, the ma’aseh is treated independently. The action is considered important if the action alone appears to communicate intent. According to the Mishnah Achronah however, the intent of the minor is also considered. However it only gains halachic force when combined with an action.85

83 The Gemara continues to explain that there are three levels to consider when referring to a katan. Machshava alone, as we have learnt, does not apply to a katan. The second is machshava that is understood through the actions. This level is where the intent of the action is understandable but not crystal clear. At this level, the requirement for machshava is fulfilled on a rabbinic level. The third level is machshava and ma’aseh. The intent of the ma’aseh is clearly understood and the requirement for machshava is fulfilled on a biblical level. See Rashi and Tosfot for their differing understandings of the practical definitions of each of these levels.

84 The Meiri explains that if the katan at that point articulated that it was taking the produce to the roof to be softened by the dew then the intent of the action would be considered clear. The Tosfot disagree.

85 This distinction could perhaps be behind the debate between Rashi and Tosfot in Chulin. According to Tosfot the three categories (see footnote 83) are defined by the clarity of the action alone. This opinion appears to align with the earlier ones cited. Rashi (with which the Mishnah Achrona aligns himself) however explains that the highest level is where the katan also articulates its intent. Perhaps the speech equates to the katan’s machshava that is required to combine with the action. The Meiri however understand that the articulation only serves to clarify the action (see previous footnote).


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