A Universal Yad and Shomer

Uktzin (2:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 8 years ago

The final masechet deals with extensions of food and whether they are considered part of the food. In Uktzin our attention is primarily on two concepts – the yad and the shomer. The yad refers to a part of the food that is used for handling the food (e.g. a stalk), whereas the shomer is part of the food that protects it (e.g. a peel). Last cycle (Volume 6, Issue 71) we looked at the difference between a yad and a shomer. This cycle we will look at a specific debate.

The Mishnah (2:1) teaches that the fine hairs and the flower-end on a kishut (cucumber) are tahor. In other words, they are neither a shomer or a yad and are therefore not part of the kishut. R’ Yehuda however argues that while they are still in front of the merchant, they are tameh. We shall try to understand why.

The Bartenura provide two explanations. The first is that while those two things are still attached, it appears as though they are freshly picked. Since the owner therefore wants them, there they are considered like a shomer. The second answer is that since kishuim are soft and handled by the many customers, the hair effectively protects them from getting spoiled. Consequently, these things quietly literally act as a shomer. The Eliyah Raba explains similarly that this is because the merchant prefers that the customers handle the kishuim by the hair and the flower rather than kishut itself, otherwise it would more likely spoil it.

It may be readily understandable why according to the second explanation it is defined as a shomer. According to the first explanation however, we shall try to understand why their giving the kishut the appearance of freshness, which is desired by the merchant, qualifies them as a shomer.

The Tifferet Yisrael, argues that one cannot explain that because the merchant wants it to appear fresh and moist that that is the reason why R’ Yehuda argues. If that were the case, R’ Yehuda would also argue in the first case in our Mishnah where the olives were pickled with their leaves. The language of our Mishnah does not suggest that he argues in that case as well. Instead, the Tifferet Yisrael explains that people want to buy produce that have not been handled by many people. The fact that the hair and flower are still attached is evidence that they have not been handled much, otherwise they would have fallen off. Consequently, for the merchant, they are like a shomer since it will help them sell – it is protecting its value. This is different to the earlier case in our Mishnah where the leaves presence alone has an aesthetic value. Unlike the earlier case where the leaves could have been added, in our cases, this items are evidence of their freshness.

The Mishnah Achrona also analyses the first answer of the Bartenura that since it appears more fresh, the owner wants it there and therefore has the status of a shomer. He then asks, what is the point of debate between the Chachamim and R’ Yehuda? He suggests that the Chachamim may argue that since nobody else requires them, they are therefore not a shomer. The debate is therefore about whether the definition of a shomer is a universal one, or whether it is enough for it to be a shomer for the owner alone.

The Mishnah Achrona points us to the earlier debate (1:5) between Chachamim and R’ Yossi as another debate that hinges on this point. There the Mishnah discusses the stalks that are still attached to threshed produce. While the Chachamim maintain that they are not a yad or shomer, R’ Yossi disagrees. The Gemara (Sukka 14a) explains R’ Yossi argues since the presence of the stalks makes it easier to move the produce. Rashi adds that in this case the intentions off the owner was not to completely thresh the produce, but rather soften it (perhaps for further threshing later). Consequently, the stalks are a yad for the remaining produce. The Chachamim argue that the stalks cannot be considered a yad because most people disregard the produce that remains in normal threshing cases – it is only the poor that consider it valuable. According to R’ Yossi however, since in this context it is useful for the owner, it is considered a yad.


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