Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Two minor items to get out of the way:
1. The Likud event yesterday was the usual uninspiring stuff. The result -- primaries will not be moved up (earlier) -- was very disappointing. I am partly to blame -- I only voted once.
2. What's the deal with yihyu leratzon in shma koleinu of selichos? Does anybody actually say it? If not, why is it there? Is this just a trick to expose baalei teshuvah?

Now for the main point.

There is a rule cited a number of times in the gemara that kol kavua ke-mechtza al mechtza dami. The canonical example is that if there are ten butcher stores in town and someone bought meat in one of them but does not know in which of the ten, we do not follow the usual principle of following the majority but rather it is treated as "mechtza al mechtza" (roughly translated as "50-50" but this is not quite right). By contrast, if a piece of meat is found on the street in that town, we follow the rule of kol de-parish mi-ruba parish. That is, we follow the majority.

Most commentators, including RGN, explain that for one reason or another (either logical or psychological), cases of kavua are such that the set from which the object originates (e.g. the ten stores) is rendered irrelevant so there is no majority to follow and we're left with a 50-50 problem (safek hashakul) by default. I'm quite certain that this is wrong.

The proper explanation, I believe, is that cases of kavua are such that the object in question is so inextricably part of the set (e.g. of the ten stores) that in assigning it some status, we must first assign the set of stores a status, namely "mixed", and the object in question then inherits that mixed status. In the case of parish, however, where the object has been isolated from the set, the status "mixed" is inappropriate (it's a single object) and we must therefore assign it a definite staus. So we assign it the majority status.

My explanation is the opposite of the usual one. Kavua means that the object is in the set, not out of the set. It inherits the set's "mixed" status only where bitul could not be applied to the set; where bitul is applicable the set is not regarded as mixed. According to this explanation, "mechtza al mechtza" does not mean 50-50 (safek hashakul) but rather is a definite status, like that of a mixture of two objects, one kosher and one not kosher (hence, "mechtza al mechtza").

There are numerous proofs that kavua is not treated as safek hashakul, but I'll spare you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forgive my ignorance, but could you elaborate on the opposing shittah? How is "kavua" different than "parish" according to them?

3:24 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

The standard approach has it that parish is part of the set and therefore we follow the majority of the set. Kavua, they hold, is not part of the set and therefore the object stands on its own and is a safek hashakul.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

As far as your slichot question:

I found this site (can't figure out who the rabbi is):


But I don't really buy it.

My guess? According to Nusach Lita, that pasuk is said later. According to that nusach, all the psukim that are read out loud are consecutive. Probably that's the earlier minhag.

9:43 PM  
Blogger D.C. said...

Dave is correct.

I don't know about what's the "earlier minhag," but minhag Lita, as opposed to minhag Polin, does have have the "silent pesukim" later, and the 4 pesukim that are said out loud are consecutive.

For some reason, while many shuls usually say selichos according to minhag Lita, all of the Yom Kippur machzorim tend to go with minhag Polin. So on Yom Kippur, all of a sudden, those pesukim find themselves moved up. Also, after the pizmon (or after ya`aleh ve-yavo, if selichos were omitted entirely), we find ourselves going right to "zekhor rachamecha," instead of saying the pesukim "al tizkor lanu" and "chatos ne`ureinu" first.

Real minhag Lita would be the same on Yom Kippur as it is on the other days of selichos.

6:08 PM  
Blogger mnuez said...

Benny boy, you know as well as I do that the sacred writs are a hodgpodge of opinions, ramblings, errors and whatnot. Naturally with a good yiddeshe kup you can get some klal out of the whole thing, anyone (with a good yiddishe kup) can do that. And anyone can do it for Shakespeare, Moby Dick and Dr. Seuss too.

Don't get me wrong, I'm quite good at the svara game and played it to some profit in the past, but as fun as it may be, knowing that its major players view it as emet l'amito while in fact it's nothing of the sort wrings a cry of revulsion from my mind that keeps me far from the table.

You apparently have no such cry wrung from you though. I must suppose therefore that the pleasure of the mental masturbation is more enjoyable for you than the pleasure of knowing the difference between emet and sheker and loudly labeling sheker when you see it.

5:27 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Sometimes there is a klal, sometimes we can manufacture a klal, sometimes, well, it's a mess. I don't see your problem here.
BTW, I've never deleted any of your comments (even at the expense of losing readers), so please repay the courtesy by not commenting on Shabbos.

Ksiva vechasima toiva,

12:27 AM  

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