By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Yevamos 104 – Don’t Put it Past Yourself
The Mishna explicitly mentions that individuals who are deaf-mute cannot do chalitza. Initially, the Gemara had it that Rava was of the position that the reason for this is that they are not bnei-deiah, and daas is a critical component in the chalitza process. Accordingly, individuals that are only mute but not deaf are able to do chalitza. However, the Gemara rejects this on the basis of Rabi Yanai’s statement that the reason why deaf-mutes cannot do chalitza is that they are unable to perform the oration of the pertinent pesukim, which is one of the three components of the chalitza process. As such, even someone who is just mute cannot do chalitza despite the fact that his/her hearing is perfectly fine.
A major challenge, though, on this explanation of Rabi Yanai (and its ramification on those that are only mute) is the first part of the Mishna that clearly says that the pesukim-recital is not vitally imperative. Yes, it is of course a mitzvah for the yavam and the yevama to recite their respective pesukim as the Torah clearly indicates, but even if they didn’t the chalitza is b’dieved valid. How, then, can you say that the reason a deaf-mute cannot do chalitza is because he is not able to recite the pesukim?
To answer this question, the Gemara evokes an oft-quoted and broadly-applied principle of Rabi Zeirah: Kol ha’rauy l’bilah ein bilah m’akeves bo v’chol sheh’ein rauy l’bilah bilah m’akeves bo, Anything which is fitting for mixing, the lack of mixing does not disqualify it; but that which is not fitting for mixing, the lack of mixing disqualifies it.
This statement of Rabi Zeirah was said regarding the status of an oversized korban mincha. One of the things you have to do with a korban mincha is mix oil into the flour. Even if you don’t mix it in, though, the mincha is still accepted, albeit b’dieved. However, explicates Rabi Zeirah, if the mincha is so large that it is not possible to mix the oil in properly, then that would in fact disqualify the mincha (which makes your only recourse to divide it up into separate utensils).
Here, too, says the Gemara, the same idea is at work. A person who inherently possesses the ability to recite the pesukim is able to do chalitza, and the lack of the recital will not disqualify it. However, someone who completely lacks that capability is in fact disqualified from being able to carry out chalitza.
Although Tosafos makes it plainly evident that this is not a concept that can be intemperately touted about, and that there needs to be either a derasha or justifiable sevara to apply it; it nevertheless seems pretty clear from the many sugyos where this comes up that it is not just an incomprehensible g’zeiras ha’kasuv, but it is a notion that carries a definite component of logical reasoning.
This is in fact the sense one gets from the way Rashi says, “it has to be something that is possible for the [full] mitzvah of [bringing a korban] mincha to be performed with it.” In other words, yes, there are components of the mitzvah of bringing a korban mincha that are not l’ikuvah. But, at the same time, you cannot really call this a mincha if it is something with which it is not even theoretically feasible to carry out every part of the mitzvah process, can you?
What we are dealing with here is a matter of definitions and status. How do you assess and measure up this item? If it is something with which everything could be done, then that’s a mincha! Irrespective of whether or not you actually did carry out every last detail. But, if it isn’t, then that is just not a mincha. And the same goes for chalitza. It is not that the oration of the pesukim in of itself is an indispensably crucial component; it is that someone who cannot recite the pesukim under any circumstances cannot be defined as a person who is shayach to chalitza.
In a broader sense, as well, this idea is an important one to bear in mind.
The range and scope of human endeavor and accomplishment is simply staggering. There is an endless amount of character perfection to be had, forms of chesed to be championed, mitzvah observance to be refined, Torah wisdom to be expounded and taught, and the list goes on. Obviously, not everyone is going to do everything. We have no choice but to limit and constrict ourselves in a certain sense by intently focusing on a few areas at a time. That we will never get to “the end” is irrelevant, as the Mishna in Pirkei Avos says, “It is not upon you to finish the work.”
However, it is important, at the same time, to not internally lock ourselves out from any facet of worthwhile undertaking and achievement. Even if chairing the international organization for lending assistance to widows and orphans, for example, is nowhere on your practical radar screen, don’t “turn off” that potential part of you. Thoughts such as, “That is just not for me,” do not have to be part of our way of thinking. Instead, think, “Right now I am focusing on this.”
If at first this seems like an exercise in mere semantics, seeing that, after all, “I am not going to do that”, consider again what we just learned about kol ha’rauy l’bilah. Being inherently suitable for mixing completely alters the status of this item: it is now classified as a mincha. Whether or not the act of mixing is actually carried out on the practical level is not the main point. It is whether it could have been done.
Now, of course, no-one is “disqualified” chas v’shalom from being a good Jew just because they may have “shut off” in their mind the theoretical possibility of chairing the international organization of providing assistance for widows and orphans. However, what we can see from here is that someone who leaves that switch on – even if only in the theoretical realm – is on a different plane. His status is totally different. He is uplifted to a higher realm, and that can only have a greatly positive impact on everything that he does do. Because in the deepest recesses of your consciousness you know that, essentially, there is no facet of human endeavor and achievement that is beyond you.
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. In addition to having authored Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim on Halacha and Hashkafa, writes comprehensive chazara questions (in Hebrew) for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha. Rabbi Berman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.