Yesterday’s section ended with a difficulty. Earlier in the daf Abaye had said that R. Meir was concerned lest the animal died. But in solving two mishnayot he said that R. Meir was not concerned lest the person die. Today’s section resolves the difficulty by changing Abaye’s statement.
To resolve the difficulty the Talmud reverses Abaye’s statement. The mishnah which was not concerned lest the husband die is now attributed to R. Judah, whereas the mishnah that is concerned lest he die is attributed to R. Meir. This is supported by a baraita which returns to our subject.
The resolution is that R. Meir is concerned with death because death is a frequent occurrence (at least it is a certain occurrence), whereas the splitting of the wineskin in which he was holding the wine he bought from the Samaritan is not a frequent occurrence. Thus R. Meir is a worrywart when it comes to things that happen frequently such as death. But he doesn’t worry about things that happen infrequently or may not ever happen at all.
Today’s daf continues with the sugya from the previous daf. R. Judah had said that one could use an animal as the wall of a sukkah because he is not concerned lest the animal die. But R. Judah doesn’t allow one to separate tithes retroactively because he is worried lest the wineskin splits. So, our Talmud asks, why worry about one and not about the other?
R. Judah doesn’t allow to declare ahead of time that that which he tithes later will count as tithes retroactively because he rejects a principle called “bererah.” This principle allows us to take something whose status is determined later on and let us consider the status as having been determined at an earlier period. In our case, we could say that when he later on separates terumah and tithes the wine that he drank earlier was considered to have already been tithed.
In the continuation of the baraita about tithing retroactively, R. Judah (or others speaking on his behalf) explicitly asks R. Meir about the splitting of the wineskin. Thus it seems quite clear that R. Judah doesn’t allow one to do this because he is concerned about this possibility, and not because he doesn’t hold by the principle of “bererah.” This would return us to our original difficulty—why is R. Judah concerned about the splitting of the wineskin, but not about death.
The Talmud now reinterprets the baraita such that R. Judah does not let one drink the wine before tithing because he doesn’t believe in the legal concept called bererah. When he said to R. Meir “aren’t you concerned about the wineskin splitting” he wasn’t expressing his own opinion, he was rebutting R. Meir on R. Meir’s own terms. R. Meir allows for “bererah” but still he should be concerned lest the wineskin splits and it will turn out he drank untithed wine. R. Judah wouldn’t allow one to do so for other reasons—namely he doesn’t allow for “bererah.”
The sugya ends with another source in which it seems that R. Judah is concerned about the possibility of death. Mishnah Yoma 1:1 talks about preparing the High Priest for the Yom Kippur ritual. The Torah says that he has to make atonement for him and his house—meaning his family, including his wife. Assuming he is already married to one woman, R. Judah says that the rabbis assign him a second wife just in case his first wife dies right before Yom Kippur and he can’t make atonement for him and his wife. Here we see that R. Judah is concerned about death.
The Talmud resolves this by saying that generally R. Judah is not concerned about death but that there is a higher standard regarding the Yom Kippur ceremony. Since this was such a crucial ceremony, R. Judah would say we have to take even remote possibilities into account. But in other matters, R. Judah is not concerned about remote possibilities.
Today’s section continues with the issue of using an animal to form the wall of a sukkah.
On the previous page we saw that R. Zera and Abaye dispute why R. Meir doesn’t allow one to use an animal as a partition. While they provide different reasons, both say that it is “lest” something else occur. This implies that while the animal could actually act as a partition according to Torah law, the rabbis rule strictly and don’t allow it. Usually this results in a stringency—the animal cannot be used as a partition. However, in one case it results in a leniency. If one uses it as a covering for a grave, R. Meir says that it isn’t susceptible to impurity, as a covering for a grave usually is. Thus from this halakhah we can see that R. Meir holds that an animal simply doesn’t count as a partition, even from Torah law. The reasoning is not “lest” it die or run away.
We now have a whole new explanation for R. Meir. R. Aha b. Jacob says that R. Meir doesn’t count as a partition anything that stands through “wind” or “spirit.” Since an animal stands through its own spirit, it can’t count as a partition.
This is a slightly different version of R. Aha b. Jacob’s explanation of R. Meir.
Both statements of R. Aha b. Jacob would mean that an animal can’t be used as the wall of a sukkah, or for any other partition. So in what case would these two reasons differ.
They would differ if one used an inflated wine skin (one blown up by one’s mouth) as a partition. If R. Meir holds that partitions that stand by wind are not valid partitions, then this one is invalid. But it is made by human hands, so if he disqualifies an animal because it is not made by human hands, then this inflated skin is valid for use as the wall of a sukkah. I’m sure you’re glad to know!