מחוור רישא נפל מיניה אזל אייתי סילתא שדא אסיק תרין אמר רב עבדי נמי הכי אסרינהו ניהליה
cleaning the head of an animal in the river. The head fell from him. He went and brought a basket, cast the basket into the river, and pulled out two animal heads. Rav said to him: Does it commonly happen this way that one loses one item and finds two? Just as one of the animal heads is not the one you dropped, it is possible that neither of them is the one you dropped. Therefore, Rav rendered both of them forbidden to him.
אמרי ליה רב כהנא ורב אסי לרב דאיסורא שכיחי דהתירא לא שכיחי אמר להו דאיסורא שכיחי טפי
Rav Kahana and Rav Asi said to Rav: Is forbidden meat common but permitted meat not common? Most of the meat in this general location is kosher, so why did you forbid the two animal heads? He said to them: Forbidden meat is more common. From this incident the Sages derived that according to Rav, meat that has been obscured from sight becomes forbidden due to the possibility that the meat one finds now was actually deposited by ravens, who transported it from a location where the majority of the meat is forbidden.
וכי מכללא מאי פרוותא דעובדי כוכבים הואי תדע דקאמר להו דאיסורא שכיחי טפי
The Gemara asks: And what does it matter if this opinion of Rav is known by inference based on this incident, rather than by an explicit statement made by Rav? The Gemara answers: There is room to say that this incident cannot serve as a precedent for a general policy, because that location was a port of gentiles, where most of the meat was non-kosher. Know that this is the case, as Rav said to Rav Kahana and Rav Asi: Forbidden meat is more common. Consequently, it is possible that Rav would not have prohibited the meat in a location where the majority of the meat is kosher.
אלא רב היכי אכל בשרא בשעתיה דלא עלים עיניה מיניה איבעית אימא בציירא וחתומא ואי נמי בסימנא כי הא דרבה ב"ר הונא מחתך ליה אתלת קרנתא
The Gemara asks: But how did Rav ever eat meat if he holds that meat becomes forbidden if it is unsupervised for even a short time? The Gemara answers: Rav ate meat only in its time, i.e., shortly after it was slaughtered, when it had not been obscured from his sight from the time of the slaughter until he ate it. Alternatively, if you wish, say that Rav ate meat that was tied and sealed in a way that proved it had not been swapped for non-kosher meat. Or alternatively, he ate meat that could be recognized by a distinguishing mark, like that practice of Rabba bar Rav Huna, who would cut meat into pieces with three corners, i.e., triangles, before he would send it to his family members.
רב הוה קאזיל לבי רב חנן חתניה חזי מברא דקאתי לאפיה אמר מברא קאתי לאפי יומא טבא לגו
The Gemara relates that Rav was going to the home of Rav Ḥanan, his son-in-law. He saw that the ferry was coming toward him just when he arrived at the riverbank. He said: The ferry is coming toward me even though I did not arrange for it to come now; this is a sign that a good day, i.e., a festive meal, awaits me in the place where I am going.
אזל קם אבבא אודיק בבזעא דדשא חזי חיותא דתליא טרף אבבא נפוק אתו כולי עלמא לאפיה אתא טבחי נמי לא עלים רב עיניה מיניה אמר להו איכו השתא ספיתו להו איסורא לבני ברת לא אכל רב מההוא בישרא
After crossing the river on the ferry, Rav went and stood at the gate of Rav Ḥanan’s home. He looked through a crack in the door and saw an animal that was hanging and ready to be cooked. He knocked on the gate, and everyone went out to greet him, and the butchers also came out to greet him. Rav did not remove his eyes from the meat that the butchers were preparing. He said to them: If you had eaten the meat based upon the supervision you provided now, you would have fed forbidden meat to the sons of my daughter because no one apart from me was watching the meat when you all came out to greet me. And despite the fact that he had kept the meat in his sight Rav did not eat from that meat.
מ"ט אי משום איעלומי הא לא איעלים אלא דנחיש
The Gemara asks: What is the reason that Rav did not eat the meat? If one suggests that he was concerned because it had been obscured from sight, that cannot be the reason, as Rav kept watching it so that it was not obscured from sight. Rather, Rav did not eat because he divined, i.e., he saw the arrival of the ferry as a good omen. This is prohibited, and therefore Rav penalized himself and abstained from the meat.
והאמר רב כל נחש שאינו כאליעזר עבד אברהם וכיונתן בן שאול אינו נחש אלא סעודת הרשות הואי ורב לא מתהני מסעודת הרשות
The Gemara asks: But doesn’t Rav say that any divination that is not like the divination of Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, when he went to seek a bride for Isaac (see Genesis 24:14), or like the divination of Jonathan, son of Saul, who sought an omen as to whether he and his arms bearer would defeat the Philistines (see I Samuel 14:8–12), is not divination? Since Rav did not rely on the omen in his decision making, he did not violate the prohibition against divination, and there was no reason for him to penalize himself. The Gemara answers: Rather, the reason Rav did not eat the meat is that it was an optional feast, rather than a feast associated with a mitzva, and Rav would not derive pleasure from an optional feast.
רב בדיק במברא ושמואל בדיק בספרא רבי יוחנן בדיק בינוקא
Having mentioned Rav’s reaction to the ferry in the incident cited above, the Gemara states that Rav would check whether to travel based upon the ferry; if it came quickly he would take the ferry, but otherwise he would not. And Shmuel would check what would happen to him by opening a scroll and reading from wherever it was open to. Rabbi Yoḥanan would check what was in store for him by asking a child to recite the verse he was learning.
כולהו שני דרב הוה כתב ליה רבי יוחנן לקדם רבינו שבבבל כי נח נפשיה הוה כתב לשמואל לקדם חבירינו שבבבל אמר לא ידע לי מידי דרביה אנא כתב שדר ליה עיבורא דשיתין שני אמר השתא חושבנא בעלמא ידע
The Gemara relates an incident when Rabbi Yoḥanan checked his luck based on a child’s verse. During all the years when Rav lived in Babylonia, Rabbi Yoḥanan, who lived in Eretz Yisrael, would write to him and begin with the greeting: To our Master who is in Babylonia. When Rav died, Rabbi Yoḥanan would write to Shmuel and begin with the greeting: To our colleague who is in Babylonia. Shmuel said: Does Rabbi Yoḥanan not know any matter in which I am his master? Shmuel wrote and sent to Rabbi Yoḥanan the calculation of the leap years for the next sixty years. Rabbi Yoḥanan was not impressed by this and said: Now he has merely demonstrated that he knows mathematics, which does not make him my master.
כתב שדר ליה תליסר גמלי ספקי טריפתא אמר אית לי רב בבבל איזיל איחזייה א"ל לינוקא פסוק לי פסוקיך אמר ליה (שמואל א כח, ג) ושמואל מת אמר ש"מ נח נפשיה דשמואל
Shmuel then wrote and sent to Rabbi Yoḥanan explications of uncertainties pertaining to tereifot that had to be transported on thirteen camels. Rabbi Yoḥanan was impressed by this and said: I have a Master in Babylonia; I will go and see him. Before departing on his journey, Rabbi Yoḥanan said to a child: Recite to me your verse that you studied today. The child recited the following verse to Rabbi Yoḥanan: “Now Samuel was dead” (I Samuel 28:3). Rabbi Yoḥanan said to himself: Learn from this that Shmuel has died. Therefore, Rabbi Yoḥanan did not go to see Shmuel.
ולא היא לא שכיב שמואל אלא כי היכי דלא ליטרח רבי יוחנן
The Gemara comments: But it was not so; Shmuel had not died. Rather, the reason Rabbi Yoḥanan was given this sign was so that Rabbi Yoḥanan would not trouble himself to embark on the long and arduous journey from Eretz Yisrael to Babylonia.
תניא רבי שמעון בן אלעזר אומר בית תינוק ואשה אף על פי שאין נחש יש סימן
It is taught in a baraita: Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says: With regard to one who is successful with his first business transaction after he has built a home, after the birth of a child, or after he marries a woman, even though he may not use this as a means of divination to decide upon future courses of action, it is an auspicious sign that he will continue to be successful. Conversely, if his first transaction is not successful he may take that as an inauspicious sign.
אמר ר' אלעזר והוא דאיתחזק תלתא זימני דכתיב (בראשית מב, לו) יוסף איננו ושמעון איננו ואת בנימין תקחו
Rabbi Elazar said: But this is provided that the sign has been established by repeating itself three times. This is based on a verse, as it is written: “And Jacob their father said to them: Me you have bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and you will take Benjamin away; upon me are all these things come” (Genesis 42:36). If calamity were to befall Benjamin, that would establish a pattern of three tragedies.
בעא מיניה רב הונא מרב בחרוזין מהו א"ל אל תהי שוטה בחרוזין הרי זה סימן איכא דאמרי אמר רב הונא אמר רב בחרוזין הרי זה סימן
§ The Gemara returns to discuss distinguishing marks that prevent meat from being prohibited despite its having been obscured from sight. Rav Huna inquired of Rav: If pieces of meat were strung together and then were obscured from sight, what is the halakha? Rav said to him: Do not be an imbecile; of course if the meat is strung together it is considered to be a distinguishing mark, and the meat is permitted. There are those who say this halakha as follows: Rav Huna said that Rav said: If pieces of meat are strung together it is a distinguishing mark, and the meat remains permitted even if it is obscured from sight.
רב נחמן מנהרדעא איקלע לגבי רב כהנא לפום נהרא במעלי יומא דכפורי אתו עורבי שדו כבדי וכוליתא אמר ליה שקול ואכול האידנא דהיתרא שכיח טפי
The Gemara relates that Rav Naḥman of Neharde’a arrived at the home of Rav Kahana in Pum Nahara on the eve of Yom Kippur, which is a day when people commonly eat meat. Ravens came and dropped livers and kidneys. Rav Kahana said to Rav Naḥman: Take these livers and kidneys and eat them, as they are not forbidden, even though they were obscured from sight. This is because at this time permitted meat is more common than forbidden meat, since Jews slaughter many animals on this day.
רב חייא בר אבין איתבד ליה כרכשא (בי דינא) אתא לקמיה דרב הונא אמר ליה אית לך סימנא בגויה א"ל לא אית לך טביעות עינא בגויה אמר ליה אין אם כן זיל שקול
Rav Ḥiyya bar Avin lost a cut of meat from an animal intestine among the barrels of wine in his wine cellar. When he found it, he came before Rav Huna to ask whether the meat was now prohibited because it had been obscured from sight. Rav Huna said to him: Do you have a distinguishing mark on it so that you can identify it? Rav Ḥiyya bar Avin said to him: No. Rav Huna asked him: Do you have visual recognition of it? Rav Ḥiyya bar Avin said to him: Yes. Rav Huna said: If so, go and take it and eat it.
רב חנינא חוזאה איתבד ליה גבא דבשרא אתא לקמיה דרב נחמן אמר ליה אית לך סימנא בגויה אמר ליה לא אית לך טביעות עינא בגויה אמר ליה אין אם כן זיל שקול
Rav Ḥanina Ḥoza’a lost a side of meat. When he found it, he came before Rav Naḥman and asked him whether the meat was now prohibited because it had been obscured from sight. Rav Naḥman said to him: Do you have a distinguishing mark on it so that you can identify it? Rav Ḥanina Ḥoza’a said to him: No. Rav Naḥman asked him: Do you have visual recognition of it? Rav Ḥanina Ḥoza’a said to him: Yes. Rav Naḥman said: If so, go and take it and eat it.
רב נתן בר אביי איתבד ליה קיבורא דתכלתא אתא לקמיה דרב חסדא אמר ליה אית לך סימנא בגויה אמר ליה לא אית לך טביעות עינא בגויה אמר ליה אין אם כן זיל שקול
Rav Natan bar Abaye lost a skein of sky-blue wool prepared for use in ritual fringes. He searched for it and found it. He came before Rav Ḥisda to ask whether the wool was now prohibited because it had been obscured from sight and may have become confused with other blue wool that is not valid for ritual fringes. Rav Ḥisda said to him: Do you have a distinguishing mark in it so that you can identify it? Rav Natan bar Abaye said to him: No. Rav Ḥisda asked him: Do you have visual recognition of it? Rav Natan bar Abaye said to him: Yes. Rav Ḥisda said: If so, go and take it, and you may use it for ritual fringes.
אמר רבא מרישא הוה אמינא סימנא עדיף מטביעות עינא דהא מהדרינן אבידתא בסימנא
Rava said: At first I would say that a distinguishing mark is preferable to visual recognition, because we return a lost item to its owner based on a distinguishing mark,