According to Rav, the blood that was on the floor of the Temple is pure, but according to Shmuel, it does have a small degree of impurity.
Rav thinks that the notion that liquids could become impure by contact with an impure thing is only a rabbinic decree. The rabbis made this decree outside of the Temple, but not inside it. Thus these liquids are not susceptible to impurity.
Shmuel holds that this liquid is susceptible to impurity, but that even if impure, it does not convey impurity to anything else. This is unlike liquids in general which are highly conducive of impurity. Liquid impurity is from the Torah, but it is only the rabbis that hold that it can convey impurity to other things.
This section discusses the end of the Mishnah from Eduyot which was cited above.
There are two problems with the last section of the Mishnah. First of all, in this case R. Yose b. Yoezer is stringent. Why then is this put in with the reasons that they call him “Yosef the permitter.”
Second, what he seems to be stringent about is actually in the Torah itself. This is not a rabbinic decree or law of any sorts. It is from the Torah.
This is the first attempt to resolve the difficulty. According to the Torah only one who comes into contact with a dead body is defiled. One who comes into contact with such a person is not defiled. The rabbis added that he too is defiled, but then Yose b. Yoezer came and restored the law to the more lenient, biblical law. That is why they called him a “permitter.”
The problem with the above resolution is that the law that a person who is defiled by contact with the dead defiles another person is also from the Torah. So how can we say the rabbis decreed this? And how could Yose b. Yoezer cancel a biblical law?
According to this suggested reconstruction, the person who touches a corpse transmits sevenday impurity only while he is still in contact with the corpse. The rabbis added that even when he is not in contact with the corpse he still defiles the other person for seven days. Rabbi Yose b. Yoezer restored the law to its biblical form.
The rabbis use a discrepancy in the verses to prove that there is a difference between a case where the person is still in contact with the dead body (he transmits seven-day impurity) and a case where he is no longer in contact with the dead body (he transmit one-day impurity). The verse that says he shall be impure, which means seven days, refers to a person who touches another person who is still in contact with the dead body. And the verse that says that he is only impure until evening refers to one who is no longer in contact with a dead body.
This section continues to try to figure out what it is that Yose b. Yoezer permitted and why the other rabbis called him “Yose the permitter.”
Rava completely dismisses the statement attributed to R. Nahman at the end of yesterday’s section. He has another interpretation altogether of what R. Yose b. Yoezer said that made him seem overly lenient—he stated that cases of doubtful impurity in the public domain should be ruled leniently.
The Talmud points out that the rule for when we rule strictly in cases of impurity in the public domain is learned from the sotah, the woman suspected of adultery. We take these suspicions seriously only when she may have been defiled (had adultery) in the private domain. So too when it comes to doubtful cases of defilement, they are ruled impure only the potential contact occurred in the private domain. Thus we have here the same problem we had before. Yose b. Yoezer’s ruling is the same as the law agreed to by everyone. How then is he a “permitter?”
R. Yohanan says that indeed the halakhah is that doubtful cases of impurity are considered pure if they occur in the public domain. But no one told other people this until R. Yose b. Yoezer came along and taught it in public.
This baraita demonstrates that Yose b. Yo’ezer took efforts to define the public and private domains. The assumption is that this was in order to delineate when doubtful cases of impurity are treated as impure—in the public domain they are not, and in the private domain they are.
According to Rashi people used to come in front of R. Yannai and ask him about cases of doubtful impurity in the public domain. He would tell them to go immerse in the deep waters of the river, as if to say, “what’s so hard about that?”
The mishnah prohibited Jews from eating food cooked by non-Jews. As I have said before, this seems to have been part of a program to prevent assimilation. Cooked food is “civilized” and therefore sharing it is sharing “civilization.” Uncooked food is different and therefore there is no problem for a Jew to eat uncooked food given to her by a non-Jew. As we shall see, the rabbis were relatively lenient with this rule, seeming to observe it in a very technical sense. My assumption is that they were lenient because they did not really worry that eating cooked food together would be sufficient to lead to assimilation.
During their wandering in the wilderness Moses approaches Sihon, King of Heshbon, and asks him for food and water. The rabbis compare the food and the water—just as the water the Israelites will drink has not been modified at all, so too the food that they buy from them must not be modified at all.
If any food that non-Jews change from its original form is prohibited, then if they roast ears of wheat they should be prohibited. But they are not.
The Talmud now refines the comparison with water. Water retains its natural form and so does wheat that has just been roasted. It still looks like wheat. The cooked food would become prohibited only if it has really been modified.
The problem is that even flour ground by non-Jews is permitted.
The final conclusion is that the food must have been changed by fire for it to be prohibited. The role of fire in creating civilization is something that both evolutionary biologists and anthropologists have noted. It is likely that one of the major shifts in primate evolution occurred when human beings (homo something or other) learned to cook their meat. This allowed them to digest far more calories, which allowed their brains to grow and for them to evolve in very different directions from other primates. No other animal has the ability to manipulate fire and most animals fear fire (think of Shere Khan from Jungle Book). Thus manipulation of fire is quintessentially human. Once food has been cooked by fire it is out of the animal realm and in the civilized realm.
We have now gone too far afield from the verse. The verse does not even hint that the food cannot be cooked. Thus the Talmud admits that the prohibition of cooked food is only rabbinic in origin.