Talmud Tips

For the week ending 6 April 2019 / 1 Nisan 5779

Chulin 120

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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A Matzah Smoothie?

“The Torah said ‘The bread of affliction,’ and this (liquid matzah) is not considered ‘bread’.”

This is the reason stated in our gemara for a person’s not fulfilling the mitzvah of eating matzah on Pesach if he “eats” it in a liquid form, such as blending matzah with water and drinking it.

However, if one drinks liquid chametz or liquid cheilev (forbidden fat) he receives the punishment of karet (extirpation). Although the Torah bans “eating” these items, we learn from the word nefesh, which is written regarding these two prohibitions, that drinking chametz and cheilev is included in the prohibitions against eating chametz and cheilev.

Tosefot asks: Why is there a need to include the prohibition against drinking cheilev (or chametz) from the “extra” word nefesh, since there is a Torah principle that “drinking is included in eating”?

An answer to this question that is offered by one of the Achronim is the following: The measurement of what is considered “eating” is a k’zayit (the halachic size of an olive). However, the measurement of what is considered “drinking” is larger than a k’zayit — it is a revi’it (which we know as the required size for a Kiddush cup). Therefore, if we would learn the prohibition of drinking liquid cheilev or chametz from the rule of “drinking is included in eating,” we would have thought that only if one drinks a revi’it of these items would there be a punishment of karet.

For this reason the gemara teaches that drinking these items is banned due to the word nefesh — “For anyone who eats cheilev… the nefesh who eats it shall be cut off from its people.” (Vayikra 7:25) Learning the prohibition from the word nefesh leads to the conclusion that the drinker is obligated karet even for drinking the measurement of a k’zayit, even though he did not drink the larger measure of a revi’it. (Maharitz Chiyut)

Regarding the mitzvah to eat matzah, but not drink it, Tosefot makes an intriguing statement: “The gemara could have said that we learn this from the fact that it is written to “eat” matzah. This would seem to imply that one does not fulfill the mitzvah by drinking matzah. It’s important to note, however, that this is not a mere observation by Tosefot. It is, in fact, a question: Why did the gemara say that the reason for not fulfilling the mitzvah of eating matzah is that one needs to eat lechem, which implies a solid “bread”, when it could just as well have said that the reason to rule out drinking matzah is from the wording of the mitzvah to “eat” matzah, implying not to drink it?

Tosefot asks this question and does not offer any answer. However, according to the novel idea of the Maharitz Chiyut, I humbly suggest the following approach to answer this question of Tosefot. Had we ruled out liquid matzah from the wording in the Torah to “eat” matzah, we might have thought that if one eats solid matzah he fulfills the mitzvah with the measure of a k’zayit — but if he drinks liquid matzah he would also fulfill the mitzvah of matzah, but would need to drink a revi’it of the liquid. The gemara wants to make it clear that this is not the case, and that no amount of matzah drinking fulfills the mitzvah of eating matzah on Pesach. Since the mitzvah is to eat matzah, which is called lechem in the Torah, one must eat matzah which is “lechem” — meaning that it must be a solid and not a liquid.

(A note to preserve intellectual honesty: this suggested answer to Tosefot’s second question, about matzah, could only be possible if one accepts the answer of the Maharitz Chiyut to the first question of Tosefot. However, Tosefot gives an answer that differs from this suggestion of the Maharitz Chiyut, and therefore remains without writing any answer to his second question.)

  • Chullin 120a

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