Hechsher for an Eventual Av Ha’Tumah

Uktzin (3:2) | Yisrael Bankier | 8 years ago

With the final perek of Uktzin we revisit the laws of hechsher and mechshava. The Rambam notes that many of the laws of hechsher have been covered in masechet Machshrin (see also volume 6, issue 44). Similarly, we touched on the laws of machshava in masechet Taharot. Nevertheless, we complete our study of these concepts in this perek.

In brief, for foodstuff to become susceptible to tumah it must be considered food. If something is not ordinarily eaten by humans (but edible) it would require machshava (to be considered by the owner for consumption). Also, as we have learnt, for food to become tameh, it needs to come into contact with one of the seven liquids (in concert with the will of the owner). If however the food itself is a source of tumah that can make people or keilim tameh then it does not require hechsher. This is also the case even if “sofo le’tameh tumah chamurah”. In other words, even if it is not now an av tumah, but will/can be, then it does not require hechsher. One example of this is the neveilat ohf tahor that acts as an av ha’tumah only when it is in the throat of the person eating it (see volume 12, issue 44).

The second Mishnah discusses flesh that was cut from a person, animal or bird. The Barterura explains that these were severed while the person or creature was alive. Since only a severed limb would be a source of tumah and not flesh, the meat would require both machshava and hechsher in order to become susceptible to tumah.

The Gemara (Keritut 21a) also sites this law and explains that it was cut for feeding other animals. If it was cut for human consumption, the very act of cutting would be equivalent to machshava. The Tosfot (Keritut 21a) also adds the case where it was cut for medicinal purposes. They explain that the Gemara stressed where it was intended for animals to highlight the law that machshava for animals is not equivalent to machshava for human consumption.

The Rambam (Tumat Ochlin 3:9) however rules that if one cuts basar from an adam chai to feed to a dog, then subsequently considers it for human consumption, it requires machshava but not hechsher. The Raavad argues that this goes against our Mishnah that rules that hechsher is also required.

While our version of the Gemara seems to be in concert with our Mishnah it appears that the Rambam had a text which read that machshava is required but not hechsher. According to the Kesef Mishnah this appears to be a Beraita and he attempts to resolve the conflict.1 He suggests that the Beraita is dealing with a case where the flesh was cut off by a person, while our Mishnah must be understood to mean that the meat was torn off, but not by a person and therefore requires hechsher and machshava. What would be the basis for this distinction?

The Aruch La’Ner suggests that this relates to another debate between the Raavad and Rambam. We mentioned already that an object that is sofo le’tameh tumah chamurah does not require hechsher. The Rambam rules that if one cut meat from an ever min ha’hachai and then thought to consume it, it requires hechsher. This is because when it was severed it was not to be consumed and when it was, that piece was not sofo le’tameh tumah chamurah. If however he thought to eat it before cutting the meat then it would not require hechsher because at the time he thought to eat it, it is part of an eiver min ha’chai which is an av ha’tumah. The Raavad however disagrees arguing that even if the machshava was before it was cut it still does require hechsher – it is not considered sofo le’tameh tumah chamurah.

The Aruch La’Ner therefore suggest that the two debates are related. The case in the Gemara is where the machshava that it would be for animal food was while it was still attached. Since the person can become an av ha’tumah, even whilst alive (e.g. a zav) the Rambam would maintain that this is another case of sofo le’tameh tumah chamurah. Consequently, once it is cut, it requires machshava for human consumption but not hechsher since the Rambam considered that previous “minor” machshava for animal consumption while it was attached. According to the Raavad who does not consider there to be a difference when the intent is applied, it is not considered sofo le’tameh tumah chamurah and would require hechsher as well. If however the meat was separated, but not cut (as the Kesef Mishnah explains our Mishnah) then even the Rambam would agree that hechsher is required.

Yisrael Bankier

1 The Haghut U’tzionim notes that that appears to be the version in the ktav yad and our version appears to have been corrected based on the comment of Rashi that cites our Mishnah. See the Chazon Nahum who questions that there was a conflicting Beraita and ask, if there was, why the Gemara raised the Beraita in its discussion rather than our Mishah.


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