Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Shemot – Thoughts on טמטום הלב


Often when discussing a kashrut issue someone will bring up the concept of טמטום הלב. The Litvak in me tends to be skeptical of the whole thing, but the question is; is such a concept professed or even remotely supported by Ḥazal?

Like all things I am cynical about at first, the answer is that of course it is. The Gemara in Yoma says:

תנא דבי רבי ישמעאל: עבירה מטמטמת לבו של אדם, שנאמר[1] ולא תטמאו בהם וְנִטְמֵתֶם בם, אל תקרי ונטמאתם אלא ונטמטם.[2]

The problem is this Gemara does not differentiate at all between forbidden foods and other aveirot. So who says there is an aspect of טמטום הלב unique to foods?

This allegedly unique aspect of טמטום הלב comes up in a variety of conversations, most often with regard to a child eating non-kosher food, with one who consumes such food accidentally, and also with regard to relying on certain leniencies in halakha pertaining to bitul, etc. Let us deal with some specifics for now.

*          *          *          *          *

There is a lengthy sugya[3] dealing with whether the courts are obligated to stop a child from eating non-kosher food. It appears clear however that the question is not limited to eating forbidden foods but to all prohibitions, and that they are equal. For example, the Gemara says in Shabbat:

אבל קטן שבא לכבות אין שומעין לו מפני ששביתתו עליהן: שמעת מינה קטן אוכל נבלות ב"ד מצווין עליו להפרישו.[4]

Had there been a special rule of טמטום הלב by foods, the Gemara could have easily differentiated between the classic קטן אוכל נבלות and the קטן שבא לכבות.

*          *          *          *          *

The Gemara in Ḥullin makes a famous statement in the name of R. Zeira:

השתא בהמתן של צדיקים אין הקב"ה מביא תקלה על ידן, צדיקים עצמן לא כל שכן![5]

Tosafot comment:

תימה דהא אשכחן יהודה בן טבאי שהרג עד זומם בפ"ק דמכות,[6] ור' ישמעאל שקרא והטה בפ"ק דשבת![7] ואור"י דדוקא במידי דאכילה אין הקב"ה מביא תקלה על ידן, שגנאי הוא לצדיק שאוכל דבר איסור.[8]

A few people have expressed to me that this is support for the idea of a special טמטום הלב with regard to foods. However I think that the opposite is the case. Why did Tosafot resort to saying that food is different because of גנאי? I would think that טמטום הלב is qualitatively worse than a moment of shame. Therefore I think that if anything Tosafot is good evidence that there is no such thing as a special טמטום הלב of food.[9]

In all honesty however I cannot say that Tosafot is proof either way, because the problem they are solving is including foods which are only prohibited mid’rabbanan, and perhaps even if such a special concept exists, it would not pertain to issurim d’rabbanan.

*          *          *          *          *

In this week’s parsha the Midrash relates:

ותאמר אחותו אל בת פרעה וגו': למה אמרה מרים מן העבריות – וכי אסור לו למשה לינוק מחלב הנכרית? לא כן תנינן[10] בת ישראל לא תניק בנה של כותית, אבל כותית תניק בן ישראל ברשותה? אלא למה אמרה כן? לפי שהחזירתו למשה על כל המצריות להניק אותו, ופסל את כולן. ולמה פסלן? אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא: הפה שעתיד לדבר עמי יינק דבר טמא? והיינו דכתיב:[11] את מי יורה דעה וגו'.למי יורה דעה? לגמולי מחלב וגו'.[12]

A slightly abridged version of the same Aggada also appears in the Gemara.[13]

It would seem from here that the Moses’s abstinence from non-Jewish milk was a special case and not something for us to glean a halakha from. Yet Rema writes l’halakha:

חלב מצרית כחלב ישראלית, ומכל מקום לא יניקו תינוק מן המצרית אם אפשר בישראלית, דחלב עובדת כוכבים מטמטם הלב ומוליד לו טבע רע.[14]

Interestingly, here we find the idea of טמטום הלב even though there is absolutely no issur involved! The source of this Rema is a Rashba he quotes in the Darkei Moshe:

אבל הרשב"א כתב דמדינא חלב כותית כחלב ישראל, אלא לפי שממדת חסידות הוא שלא להניק מן הכותית, שלפי שטבע של ישראל רחמנים וביישנים אף חלבן כיוצא בהן, ולכן אין להניק מהעכו"ם, עכ"ל.[15]

That sounds much mellower than his wording in the Mapah.

In the actual words of the Rashba he brings the Midrash and ends off:

מכאן נראה שהוא מותר לגמרי ואין בו אלא משום מדת חסידות.[16]

Even mellower!

*          *          *          *          *

Hagahot Asheri, citing the Or Zarua, writes in reference to this non-Jewish nurse we’ve been discussing:

להזהיר את המניקות שלא יאכלו נבילות וחזיר וכל שכן שאין להאכילן דברים טמאים, וראיה מאחר[17] שאמו אכלה ממין עבודת כוכבים, וזה גרם לו לעת זקנותו שיצא לתרבות רעה.[18]

Now we’re getting somewhere.

This is also brought in that same Darkei Moshe and Rema. What does he mean with the Aḥer reference?

In our Gemara we find a number of reasons given to explain what caused Elisha ben Abuyah to go off:

אחר מאי? זמר יווני לא פסק מפומיה. אמרו עליו על אחר: בשעה שהיה עומד מבית המדרש הרבה ספרי מינין נושרין מחיקו.[19]

אמר רב יוסף: אילמלי דרשיה אחר להאי קרא כרבי יעקב בר ברתיה, לא חטא. ואחר מאי הוא? איכא דאמרי כי האי גוונא חזא, ואיכא דאמרי לישנא דחוצפית המתורגמן חזא, דהוה גריר ליה דבר אחר. אמר: פה שהפיק מרגליות ילחך עפר?! נפק חטא.[20]

Nowhere is the reason of the Hagahot Asheri mentioned. But it sounded very familiar to me, so I did some research, and it turns out it’s a Yerushalmi:

ויש אומרים, אמו כשהיתה מעוברת בו היתה עוברת על בתי עבודה זרה, והריחה מאותו המין, והיה אותו הריח מפעפע בגופה כאירסה של חכינה.[21]

It’s also a Midrash in Ruth, with a few added words:

ויש אומרים, על ידי שהיתה אמו מעוברת בו ועברה על בתי עבודה זרה והריחה, ונתנו לה מאותה המין ואכלה, והיה מפעפע בכריסה כריסה של חכינה.[22]

So apparently it seems clear that there is such a Ḥazal which professes a special טמטום הלב with regards to food! Here he didn’t do anything wrong, so לכאורה one cannot say it was simply like breaking any other commandment. It would seem must be because the food has some property in it which causes טמטום.

I will still be persistent and argue that here at least the food was eaten b’issur – that is, his mother was doing something wrong, and I will go out on a limb and say that the version of the Midrash makes more sense. Therefore perhaps even if we should concede that such a quality exists, we should limit our concession to situations in which a מעשה איסור was done. But I admit that it seems quite clear that there is a concept of טמטום הלב when food is eaten b’issur.[23]

What do we do with the קטן אוכל נבלות אין בית דין מצווין להפרישו? Even if they are, we still find no differentiation between eating forbidden foods and other aveirot.

Shakh writes:

אע"פ דקטן האוכל דברים האסורים מדרבנן אין אביו מצווה להפרישו וכמו שנתבאר באו"ח,[24] היינו מדינא, אבל מכל מקום יפרישו מפני שמזיק לו בזקנותו, שמטמטם הלב וגורם לו טבע רע.[25]

So that’s that.

*          *          *          *          *

In conclusion, there appears to be a concept of טמטום הלב in halakha, but it is limited to issurim d’oraita when the מעשה איסור is committed, and possibly also to the milk of a non-Jewish woman, the claim being that on some level it transmits her nature to the child.

One final note: All this seems to indicate that טמטום הלב is not a physical condition, but rather a spiritual one, as it were. There is a Gemara which clearly uses the term in a physical ­context:

ת"ר: שלשה דברים נאמרים בכותח הבבלי: מטמטם את הלב ומסמא את העינים ומכחיש את הגוף. מטמטם את הלב, משום נסיובי דחלבא...[26]

I guess there must be two kinds.



[Edit: 1/12 2:17pm] I don’t know what I was thinking. There is a clear support for the idea of טמטום הלב even when there is no מעשה איסור, from everyone from the Hagahot Asheri onward who say that a child should never be fed non-kosher food. I am bothered by the fact that there does not seem to be a Talmudic source for this; but at the end of the day it is found in the halakhic literature.


[Edit: 1/26 2:00pm] Just saw the Or Zarua inside and he actually says it the way it is quoted in Hagahot Asheri. Not sure why the Piskei didn’t bring it.


[EDIT 5/02 6:45pm] I have recently realized that Rabbi Abadi has a lengthy teshuva in which he covers most of the sources I have brought and deals with the issue extensively. I hope to one day revisit this issue and give it a fuller treatment. The teshuva can be found here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1525&st=&pgnum=269&hilite=


[1] Leviticus 11:43
[2] Yoma 39a
[3] See Yevamot 114a, Shabbat 121a, Niddah 46b
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ḥullin 5b – בהמתן refers to the story about the donkey of R. Pinḥas ben Yair.
[6] Makkot 5b
[7] Shabbat 12b
[8] Ad loc. s.v. Tsadikim
[9] Another thing I have noted from this Tosafot is that they seem to think that the only problem with doing an issur d’rabbanan by accident is גנאי, in contrast to Rashi who uses the wordsהיאך יגרום שום שטן לפני צדיקים ע"י שוגג שום דבר עון (s.v. Heikhi) and also on 6a אי איתא דגזרו חכמים על תערובת דמאי מסתייע מילתא דיגרום עון (s.v. Efshar).
[10] Avodah Zarah 26a
[11] Isaiah 28:8
[12] Shemot Rabbah 1:36
[13] Sotah 12b
[14] Shulḥan Arukh Yoreh De’ah 81:7
[15] Tur Ibid 9
[16] Yevamot 114a s.v. R. Joḥanan
[17] In Piskei Or Zarua 56 he does not mention this proof.
[18] Rosh Ein Ma’amidin §6
[19] Ḥaggigah 15b
[20] Kiddushin 39b – כי האי גוונא refers to a story of someone who lost his life performing שילוח הקן.
[21] Yerushalmi ibid 2:1
[22] Ruth Rabbah 6:4
[23] One could still ask on the Hagahot Asheri (but not necessarily on the Or Zarua, according to what I’ve noted in note 17): How is he learning from the story of Aḥer that the nurse may not eat non-kosher foods, if in the case he is referring to the nurse is not Jewish and therefore it isn’t forbidden for her? I think that it is possible to answer that he is only learning the second part of his statement from Aḥer, and the first he learns like the Rashba.
[24] 343
[25] Shakh Yoreh De’ah 81:26
[26] Pesaḥim 42a

8 comments:

  1. My father says over a story that happened to him. He had been learning gemara with a fellow who was shomer shabbos and kashrus, but not a very learned fellow. Everything was going fine and the individual was learning well and with interest, when suddenly he began to lose interest and was not at all motivated.
    My father asked him if everything is ok etc. He said that everything is fine; he's just not that interested in learning anymore. He does not know why! My father asked him if he's eating kosher. He said that he is. My father pushed him and asked if he's ONLY eating kosher. He recalled that at work they had meetings with food, and there was a certain type of blue cheese that he liked, but was not kosher (he was a baal teshuva, btw). He ate some.
    My father told him to stop and that his head would get back in the game! I believe that they finished that mesechta and maybe even several more!
    My father holds that this story is a perfect illustration of timtum halev. What do you think?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Yechezkel, thanks for the comment!

    As for the story, it's very nice, but I have a couple of issues with it:

    First, all of the sources I brought to support this idea - the Yerushalmi, the Rashba, the Hagahos Asheri, the Rema, the Shach; they all speak of a timtum which affects the person their entire life, not one which stops the moment one resolves to stop eating treif.

    Second, I am assuming the cheese was an issue of gevinas akum. I quoted a Tosafos as proof that there is no such thing as timtum by an issur d'rabbanan.

    The above notwithstanding, I acknowledge that it just could be my cold Litvishe blood which is causing me this cognitive dissonance preventing me from accepting your father's mayseh...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe the cheese was actually הועמד בעור קיבת נבילה?

      Dan

      Delete
    2. Lol that's quite a stretch based on what I understand the metzius to be, but I hear.

      Delete
    3. The rest of the story is less of a stretch?

      Delete
  3. The Abarbanel (Vayikra 11) does discuss the connection between forbidden foods and a spiritual Timtum HaLev: http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14386&pgnum=431 (and the next page)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great source!

      First things first, I think Abarbanel is the last person one would 'suspect' of being into mystical ideas. So we should be a little cautious before we assume he meant something like timtum haleiv in the sense we generally hear the term thrown around. Reading further I think it's quite probable he meant something else. He writes:

      כי היה צריך לשלימת הנפש ובהירותה וזכותה שיתישר מזג הגוף ויהיו מזונותיו מולידים דם זך ומזוקק לא גס ועבה ובלתי מיושר כמו שיתילד מן המאכלים האסורים

      I do not think he is being figurative when he talks about chunky blood versus clear blood. His usage of נפש calls to mind the Rambam's שמנה פרקים where he talks about חולי הנפש, and people who have different consistencies of the four humors in their bodies which physically causes them different tendencies. This is classic medieval medical theory and has nothing to do with 'spirituality' in the mystical sense. At first glance this seems to me a more plausible interpretation of Abarbanel, which would make his words moot for us much as the Ramban he himself quoted in the beginning of the piece, who said that non kosher food is not kosher because it's not healthy. As far as I know the whole four humors thing is long out the window, so Abarbanel's pshat would not be valid.

      Also, he only cites it as one possible pshat, he also says the issur could be to go against some idolatrous practice/idea.

      Last but not least, if he really holds that this is an issue that isn't limited to halacha then whether or not he's right, the Halacha is not like him. The Shulchan Aruch (YD 109:1) paskens that the ikkar Halacha is that if you have three identical pieces of meat that get mixed up and one of them isn't kosher, you can eat all of them. This doesn't seem to make sense if you say like this Abarbanel, because regardless of issur v'heter, at the end of the day you'd automatically be consuming a significant amount of dangerous stuff.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Delete