Brisk and Telz

(Published in the December 2010 issue of Kol Hamevaser, “The Jewish Thought Magazine of the Yeshiva University Student Body”. The issue’s topic: “Derekh Ha-Limmud”. (Two additions not in the published version are added in this sans-serif font.)

At some point during my time in Yeshiva University, I chose not to follow the more popular “track,” leading to R. Hershel Schachter’s and R. J. B. Soloveitchik’s shi’urim. Instead, upon my return from Israel for my junior year, I joined R. Dovid Lifshitz’s shi’ur, where I remained until my graduation from Yeshiva. A large part of my motivation was that my great-grandfather, R. Shlomo Zalmen Birger, had a kloyz, a small beit midrash, in Suvalk, and Rav Dovid, the Suvalker Rav, knew him and remembered my family. However, the primary impetus of that decision was my sense that something inherent in the Brisker derekh did not speak to me, whereas Rav Dovid’s derekh ha-limmud was that of his rebbe, R. Shimon Shkop, a variant of the Telzer derekh, which was a methodology that did speak to me. I do not claim that I could have articulated this clearly at the time, but I have given a good deal of thought to the matter since and hope to explain it now, as well.

First, what is the Brisker derekh? Perhaps a good place to start, not in the least because it is somewhat humorous and therefore memorable, in addition to still being pretty accurate, is with R. Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer’s essay comparing how various darkhei ha-limmud would try to answer the question, “What makes tea sweet – is it the sugar or the spoon stirring?”

The Brisker answer:

“There are two (tzvei) dinim in sweetening tea: The cheftza (substance), i.e., the sugar; and the pe’ula (activity), i.e., the stirring with the spoon. Everyone knows that Lipton is the ‘Brisk’ tea bacause [sic] it has a double (tzvei dinim) tea bag.”[1]

This is typical of the Brisker derekh, which seeks distinctions, hakirot. One therefore contrasts multiple cases, or multiple opinions within a single mahaloket (dispute), to see how they differ. The explanations involve ideas like heftsa vs. pe’ullah, heftsa vs. gavra (is it that the object must have something done to it [heftsa], or that a given person has a duty to do something [gavra]?), pe’ullah vs. halot (the time or location of the action [pe’ullah], vs. the time or location of the change of halakhic state [halot]), etc. This allows the Brisker to fit the specific positions under discussion into overarching halakhic categories.

In a sense, the Brisker derekh is a scientific endeavor. In an experiment, one compares the experimental set with the control set, trying to find two cases that only differ in one point so that the scientists can determine which point is the cause of the phenomenon. Then, the phenomenon is fit into a larger pattern in order to derive or generate a single formula that fits a wider variety of cases. The goal is to find the hakirah and use it to tie the case into a broader principle.

In contrast, the following is R. Bechhofer’s response to the question about tea in the style of R. Shimon Shkop: “It is the Hitztarfus (Fusion) of tea molecules and sugar molecules that makes the tea sweet.”[2] The point here is that R. Shimon often goes beyond the limits of Halakhah to appeal to the reality or experience it generates in his answer to a question. These first principles, givens that are self-evident before entering the halakhic system, allow R. Shimon to discuss the lessons the Halakhah was intended to impress on the one following it.

In the same issue of Kol Hamevaser, Rabbi Aryeh Klapper has an article titled “Can Retson Hashem matter in Lomdus?: Mitsvah ha-Ba’ah ba-Aveirah and the Limitations of Formalism[*]. It is worth perusing in this context. I think Rabbi Klapper intentionally limited his discussion to Brisker lomdus in particular, due to its overwhelming popularity. As he opens: “We live in the universe Brisk hath wrought, and I do not propose to begin Cartesian-style from first principles.”

The answer I’m effectively offering here is that the limitations aren’t of formalism, but of Brisker derekh and its “scientific” approach in particular. And there are other methodologies already developed, one needn’t begin anew to utilize a different methodology.

I would like to give a real example, but first, let me apologize for its complexity. By the very nature of the topic of derekh ha-limmud, it is difficult to find simple examples that are illustrative. If the topic were straightforward, the lines of reasoning would be short and probably not be made explicitly. As a side note, side-by-side comparisons of darkhei ha-limmud are also difficult to find. Before even looking at the differences in answers created by the differences in learning styles, one must realize that the types of questions that each derekh considers significant and worth exploring also differ. I am therefore choosing a question actually discussed by R. Shimon Shkop that is more “Brisker” in tone than some others.[3]

Let us look at how the two darkhei ha-limmud would understand the mechanics of bittul hamets, of nullifying one’s hamets (leaven) before Pesah. In reality, Halakhah does not recognize real ownership of the hamets, since ownership means rights to use, and one may not use hamets on Pesah. The “ownership” one is nullifying is that created by a special biblical decree. The Gemara (Pesahim 6b) compares this to a pit dug in public property. You are culpable for any harm that comes from stumbling on “your” pit, even though it is in the public domain and your ownership of the pit is not real.  Rabbeinu Nissim (Ran, ad loc.)  explains that this “non-ownership” is why bittul hamets is effective; since the whole problem is caused by non-ownership, simply making a statement of nullification is enough to eliminate it. However, no one would claim that one could declare that he or she no longer has an attachment to the pit and thereby avoid payment! Why shouldn’t we draw this conclusion, though, if the Gemara itself compares these two forms of pseudo-ownership?

This question is more typical of Brisker analysis, using a distinction to find the borders of an idea. A Brisker answer to such a question focuses on the difference between a prohibition related to an object (heftsa) and, in this case, the responsibility for an event that occurred due to someone’s action (pe’ullah). The prohibition is not to eat hamets, an object. However, the financial obligation to make restitution for someone’s injured or lost property that fell into a pit dug in public land is due to the event of that property falling into the hole, an action. Therefore, one needs more than a simple declaration to eliminate one’s ties to the pit.

Rav Shimon (Sha’arei Yosher 5:23) gives a different answer. He says that the validity of bittul hamets rests on the fact that it is the Halakhah that generates the non-reality of the ownership. Had the Torah not prohibited the use of hamets, the person would remain the full owner. Therefore, he has the authority to renounce what remains of the ownership (which Ran tells us is slight and can therefore be eliminated by a simple formula). In the case of the pit, the “ownership” is itself the verse’s decree – the property in question is public property. Since one does not have inherent ownership of the pit, one cannot distance oneself from it. Within Rav Shimon’s worldview, the question is whether one’s “ownership” of the object is inherent or scriptural, and from that point the discussion moves on to what this notion of inherent (perhaps I should say “pre-halakhic”?) ownership means and how it impacts bittul and related matters.

To Brisk, the problem is collapsed into the object vs. action distinction made in the Gemara elsewhere with respect to oaths and vows. To Rav Shimon, though, it is an instance of a basic principle about the philosophy of ownership, a return to first principles.

Telz’s first rosh yeshivah was R. Eliezer Gordon, a student of R. Yisrael Salanter. Although it had a strong Musar (ethical improvement) program, its approach was far too intellectual to qualify as a genuine “Musar yeshivah.” Rather than the emotional Musar shmues (ethical discourse), the Telzer approach focused on shi’urei da’at, classes on thought and attitude. One attended a shmues not so much to learn information he did not yet know, but to be moved by the experience of the presentation. In a “shi’ur da’at,” one would reach for the same goal of spiritual wholeness as in the Musar yeshivot, but via an intellectual path. Without the experiential focus of Musar and its shmuesn (talks), its exercises and unique practices, its more emotional approach to internalizing texts, Telz still fit within the main Lithuanian yeshivah mold.

Rav Dovid Lifshitz was a strong believer in the use of the shmues and emotion. For example, shmuesn usually included singing a song, and the first shi’ur of a semester was among the occasions that were always marked with a shmues and a song. Once, we sang the song “Ve-taher libbenu,” a song containing a total of four words, over and over for more than twenty minutes, asking for Hashem’s aid to “purify our hearts” for the start of the zeman, the term. And this was typical.

Still, the Musar elements of Telz meant that the notion that Halakhah as a whole has a purpose was a given. This was further enforced by the claim that the purpose of Halakhah is shelemut ha-adam, completion and perfection of the self. Therefore, while Brisk sought the explanation of individual laws in terms of halakhic principles, Telz looked for a purposive explanation. And while Brisk looked at multiple opinions of a single case, or multiple cases, Telz focused on the singular. Even when looking at multiple opinions, its purpose was to find what they shared in common, not to find contrast. What do these approaches say about what is essential about the meaning, purpose and role of the mitsvah?

Fundamental to Brisker philosophy is the idea that Halakhah has no first principles. It can only be understood on its own terms. As R. Soloveitchik describes in Halakhic Man, it is only through Halakhah that man finds a balance between his religious need for redemption and his creative, constructive self. As the book opens,

“Halakhic man reflects two opposing selves; two disparate images are embodied within his soul and spirit. On the one hand he is as far removed from homo religiosus as east is from west and is identical, in many respects, to prosaic, cognitive man; on the other hand he is a man of God, possessor of an ontological approach that is devoted to God and of a world view saturated with the radiance of the Divine Presence.”[4]

This notion is a major theme running through the work, if not its primary thesis.

(Ironically, a true Halakhic Man would never explore the questions addressed by Halakhic Man! R. Soloveitchik’s loyalty to Brisk, while true in terms of derekh ha-limmud, style of studying Gemara, and the shi’ur he gave in Furst Hall, was also compromised on the perspective level by his interest in philosophy – as heard in his public discourses.)

A telling statement about the Brisker mindset is this bafflement expressed by Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik:

I have always been troubled by the role and position of the prophet. On the one hand, we rule that a navi is prohibited from introducing innovation in halakhah, from adding or detracting “even the serif of a yud“; on the other hand, Hashem communicated with the nevi’im, they prophesied, and their prophecy was written for all future generations. What purpose did their prophecy serve, given that they could introduce no halakhic chiddush? True, they rebuked the nation, and to give rebuke is certainly one of the reasons prophets were sent. But still, I am troubled by the notion that their message should be completely devoid of halakhic content.[**]

This instinct that for something to have religious content it must be phrased in terms of halakhah, that messages of Jewish thought or of fundamental values are inherently suspect is not one a Telzher, or most non-Briskers, would share.

The Brisker derekh gave the post-Haskalah (Enlightenment) observant Jew a mental experience that compared to the thrills of scientific study. The Telzer derekh gave him the excitement of philosophical study and connected his learning and mitsvah observance to his quest to be a better Jew.

Loosely along similar lines, Rav Hayyim Soloveitchik, known as Rav Hayyim Brisker, rejected the argument in favor of accepting Radziner tekhelet (blue dye used in tsitsit) because it was a scientific one, not halakhic in basis. Accordingly, Halakhah is itself the primary basis – non-halakhic argument is irrelevant.

This distinction is also manifest in the two derakhim’s approaches to going beyond the letter of the law. The Brisker view on humra, stringency, is one where the person is “hoshesh le-shittat peloni almoni,” concerned for the position of so-and-so. It is the notion that while the baseline law is lenient, one may want to “cover all the bases” and satisfy all opinions. In Telz, a humra would be chosen based on a person’s plan for shelemut, an awareness of what personal flaws he is ready to address, and the identification of opinions that can be related to them.

R. Soloveitchik famously declared that “there is no ritual in Judaism;” he saw no reason for additional rituals. To quote one example:

“For instance, a recent booklet on the Sabbath stressed the importance of a white tablecloth. A woman recently told me that the Sabbath is wonderful, and that it enhances her spiritual joy when she places a snow-white tablecloth on her table. Such pamphlets also speak about a sparkling candelabra. Is this true Judaism? You cannot imbue real and basic Judaism by utilizing cheap sentimentalism and stressing empty ceremonies. Whoever attempts such an approach underestimates the intelligence of the American Jew. If you reduce Judaism to religious sentiments and ceremonies, then there is no role for rabbis to discharge. Religious sentiments and ceremonies are not solely possessed by Orthodox Jewry. All the branches of Judaism have ceremonies and rituals.”[5]

I was once asked by someone if wearing Rabbeinu Tam tefillin necessarily expressed a lack of certainty that Rashi’s opinion about the ordering of texts in the tefillah worn on the head was correct. I would say his question reflects a Brisker position — “Brisker humrot are about hashash, uncertainty in ruling. A typical explanation of such a humra would be: “We hold like Tosafot, but it pays to be stringent to be hoshesh for Rosh’s opinion.” In Telzer thought (and not uniquely Telzer – it is typical of the Hasidut and Musar movements, as well), one might do so because one found a kavvanah (intent) that better fits the order of parashiyyot in Rabbeinu Tam tefillin, and thus wishes to experience that in addition to fulfilling what he knows to be the accepted law.

To R. Soloveitchik, kavvanah and religious experience can only authentically come from following Halakhah. The notion of extra-halakhic spiritual experience does not fit the Halakhic Man’s framework.

In short, Brisk asks the scientist’s “Vos?” (What?), and Telz asks the philosopher’s “Far vos?” (Why?). In my own desperate search for a more meaningful avodat Hashem, worship of God, I found it much more easily in the latter.

R. Micha Berger is a graduate of YC and lives with his wife and ten children in Passaic, New Jersey. He is the founding president of The AishDas Society, an organization that “empowers Jews to utilize their observance in a process for building thoughtful and passionate relationships with their Creator, other people and themselves.” Professionally, he is a software developer with over twenty years of experience in the financial industry.


[1] Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer, “An Analysis of Darchei HaLimud (Methodologies of Talmud Study) Centering on a Cup of Tea,” available at: http://www.aishdas.org/rygb/derachim.htm. His complete survey is broader than these two examples, and includes some less humorous discussion as well.

[2] Ibid.

[*] Rabbi Aryeh Klapper, Kol Hamevaser December 2010, “Can Retson Hashem matter in Lomdus?: Mitsvah ha-Ba’ah ba-Aveirah and the Limitations of Formalism” (Retrieved Dec. 29, 2010)

[3] If you do not wish to slog through the example, skip ahead to the paragraph that begins, “Telz was founded by…”

[4] Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man, trans. Lawrence Kaplan (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1984),

[**] Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Shiurim leZeukher Abba Mori, vol II page 173; rough tr. by Rabbi Chaim Brown, Divrei Chaim Blog, Nov. 25, 2010, “The role of nevuah in the eyes of a Brisker” (Retrieved Dec. 29, 2010)

[5] Lecture, “The Role of the Rabbi,” given to the Yeshiva University Rabbinic Alumni, May 18, 1955 (Yiddish). Translation by Rabbi Aharon Rakeffet, The Rav: The World of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, vol. 2, (Hoboken, N.J.: Ktav, 1999), p. 54.

Glory and Egalitarianism

I want to share, with permission, the following exchange I had with Ellen Rosen, a member of The Mussar Institute.

On Thu, Dec 30, 2010 at 09:15:00AM -0800, [email protected] wrote:

I have a question that perhaps Rabbi Berger might consider.

And so, [Dr.] Alan [Morinis] forwarded me your email.

This is: Why does Jewish tradition glorify men?

Let me start a little afield…. [This background is an approach I picked up from an article by Rav Herschel Schachter.]

There is a halakhah that when a man is asked to be chazan, he should decline. When asked a second time, he should again decline, and only when pressed a third time should he agree.

Being a chazan is not considered a positive thing. Being in the limelight in general isn’t a positive thing. This is the middah of Tzeni‘ut, of Modesty. (Not to be confused with Anavah, Humility.)

The problem is, though, that someone has to bite the bullet and assume the responsibility of being chazan. Sacrificing personal spirituality for the sake of the community.

That’s the attitude the Torah would like us to take toward leadership, or doing things that attract attention in general. From the ideal perspective, it is better to pursue a role that is indispensable to the community but does not remove one from being seen as just one of the masses.

In short, I’m saying the cultural difference isn’t really about how Jewish tradition perceives women in contrast to today’s more egalitarian attitude, it’s in the difference in how we define “glorify”. People seek fulfillment in high-profile roles. Those men who think of themselves as being good chazanim don’t turn the gabbai down. But that’s just us, being people with healthy egos, living in a society that lauds such initiative. It doesn’t mean things are supposed to be that way.

So then, why is it that when someone does have to sacrifice their tzeniut and assume the limelight, is the job so often relegated to men?

Well, men have a countervailing need. Healthy women are reminded about the transitory nature of life and the power to create biologically, every month, for at least 33 years. It is notable that the extra rites that are obligatory on men are a subset of those “mitzvot of obligation that are caused by the time”. Those of us who can’t hear the ticking of a biological clock are given more rituals that are tied to the clock or calendar.

And yes, that does translate to more privileges. Because men are obligated in thrice-daily prayer, while the obligation on women is less specific, men can only count each other — fellow duty-bound people — toward a minyan.

In the Artscroll weekday siddur, we read that males give thanks to God for not making them women, that “nations abhor us like menstrual impurity,” and that a quorum of ten men is required for a minyan

I don’t know why you blame Artscroll for that first one. Here’s a comment I submitted for inclusion in the forthcoming RCA siddur.

The blessings were are attributed to Rabbi Meir. (R Meir was a student of R Aqiva; 1st cent CE Israel.) He coined three blessings:

  1. … who did not make me a gentile.
  2. … who did not make me a slave.
  3. … who did not make me a woman.

Rashi, commenting on the talmud where we find R’ Meir’s coinage (Menachos 43b), says that these blessings refer to the greater number of commandments incumbent on the Jewish community, the Jews within that community (as opposed to any non-Jewish slaves owned by a Jew) and men, respectively. Rashi lived in the 12th century. He had no social pressure forcing him to a more PC spin on the text.

But here is some external evidence: R Meir had a famous contemporary who left the fold, a fellow who came to call himself Paul. In a letter to the Galacians (3:38), he writes, “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law… There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor freeman, male nor female…”

So it would seem to have been part of the Jewish culture of the time that these three distinctions were made specifically about different levels of duty within halakhah.

The custom in Italy is to say these blessings in the positive:
1- … who made me a Jew.
2- … who made me a freeman.
3- … who made me a man.

This was actually rejected by the other communities (Askhenaz, Sepharad, Yemen, etc…) as being more prejudicial against the excluded classes. I know, it doesn’t sound that way to our ears. It seems to be another cultural difference. But to the authors of the liturgy, the contrast emphasized the increased number of mitzvot, whereas saying “thank G-d I’m an X” would imply that being a not-X would be valueless.

Note that the corresponding blessing said by women is actually more demeaning toward men. “… Who made me according to His Will.” Womanhood is actually less of a compromise between holiness and the reality of living in this world than Masculinity is. Thus, women are closer to reflecting His Will than men are.

… that “nations abhor us like menstrual impurity,” …

This is actually a hopeful thing… An observant couple could cease to have relations for one of two reasons: either for the 12 days or so for which the wife is a niddah, or because of divorce.

We are saying that the nations avoid us now, but we know that this is temporary. There will be a reconciliation of the split between peoples caused by the Tower of Babel.

Again, part of the problem is looking from the outside in. “Impurity” is a poor translation of “tum’ah“. “Tum’ah” is caused by an encounter with human frailty — most notably when in contact with the dead. It is an impurity, but impurity of the Will. When we adulterate our awareness of being in the image of G-d with the misconception that we are animals. (Rather than souls that happen to be living in animal bodies.) Menstruation reinforces that illusion by being a “betrayal” by one’s own body.

… and that a quorum of ten men is required for a minyan

I mentioned this already… it’s because women are obligated to pray daily. Most do not rule that the obligation is of any particular liturgy or at any time of day. Therefore, they aren’t among the fellow obligated, who can work together for fulfilling their obligation.

So, at the end of the day, I am blaming two things for that which looked to you like chauvinism:

1- The problem men have developing tzeni’ut because we have a greater need for communal rites and rituals. Man praise G-d for being given these extra mitzvot, women praise G-d for not needing them. We today place great value on fame, so we see this compromise men are more often forced to make as a positive thing. We’re wrong; and our egos make it hard to admit this to ourselves.

2- We lived in societies where women were kept in the private arena for less positive reasons. That’s first now starting to end, but since at least the Greek conquest (before the story of Chanukah), this was the surrounding culture for most of us. We therefore got used to hearing item after item being explained with a negative spin. As I tried to show you with regard to the notion of the impurity of menstruation. To the point that my explanation of how things sound “from the inside” probably sounds like apologetics.

Tir’u baTov!
-Micha

--
Micha Berger             A sick person never rejects a healing procedure
[email protected]        as "unbefitting." Why, then, do we care what
http://www.aishdas.org   other people think when dealing with spiritual
Fax: (270) 514-1507      matters?              - Rav Yisrael Salanter

So, in short: It’s not that Judaism glorifies men over women. It’s that our intuitive definition of glory is not the one maintained by the Torah.

Halakhah and Phenomenology – Addendum: Placebos

One more thought about my “Halakhah and Phenomenology” series….

A basic assumption behind the series is that what justifies looking at the world as experienced and as it could be directly experienced is the idea that this is what shapes a person and makes the deep down changes in character, in how the person relates to Hashem, other people and themselves. That all of one’s intellectual knowledge of the science involved only impacts the person on a more surface level, that any emotions brought about because of it do not make the same existential change.

Well, Time Magazine recently carried a story that supports this notion (click on title for full story):

Placebos Work Even if You Know They’re Fake:
by Maia Szalavitz Monday, December 27, 2010

Physicians have long believed that some form of deception is essential to the placebo effect: after all, if you tell people that you’re giving them a fake drug, why would they respond by getting better? But new research suggests that it may one day be possible to use placebos in everyday medicine without misleading patients into thinking they might get active treatment…

So, it would seem that knowing intellectually that something is a placebo doesn’t operate on a level low enough to invalidate the placebo effect. Similarly, knowing intellectually that a maggot didn’t spontaneously generate from the meat doesn’t change the psychospiritual effects of eating that maggot. The difference between spontaneous generation and birth from a microscopic egg cannot be experienced, and therefore doesn’t impact our deep level responses.

Halakhah and Phenomenology – The Unknown and Bitul

The Yerushami (Challah 3:5) discusses the case of when bread which didn’t have challah taken (or flour which didn’t have terumah taken from it), fell into a quantity of already separated bread. The gemara says the cases are different whether one takes challah from already separated and permissable dough instead of taking challah from another dough to permit its use, or one is taking this dough’s challah from itself. The gemara asks using the parallel case of terumah (20a-b)

מה בין המוציא ממנו עליו מה בין המוציא ממנו למקום אחר?
בשעה שהוא מוציא ממנו עליו הואיל ואין אותו הטבל ראוי להיעשות תרומה כיוצא בו חולין שבו מבטלין אותו. בשעה שהוא מוציא ממנו למקום אחר הואיל ואותו הטבל יכול להעשות חולין כיוצא בו לא (כ:) אמר רבי יוסי הדא אמרה טבל שנתערב’ בתרומה הואיל ואתו הטבל יכול להעשות בתרומה כיוצא בו לא בטל.

What is the difference whether one takes from it on itself, and what is the difference when one takes from it for the sake of another place['s flour]?

When he takes from itself [as terumah] on it, since this un-separated flour is not capable of becoming entirely terumah [as one cannot separate 100% of the flour as a gift to the kohanim, some must be left for the owner], the secular [flour] which is in it annuls it [by bitul, by being in overwhelming proportion].

When he takes from it [as terumah] for [flour] which is somewhere else, since this unseparated flour can become chullin just like it is, no [it does not annul it].

Rabbi Yosi said: this tells [you that] separated flour that was mixed with terumah, since this tevel could become terumah like it — it is not annulled.

This is an intriguing thing.

Tevel, unseparated flour, has terumah within it that is holy, but it must also contain secular flour as well — since one may not declare their terumah to be 100% of the crop. When this tevel falls into separated flour it seems that both come into play into the same speck of flour.

1- The speck is holy, because some percentage of the wheat terumah, and without separation it could well be this speck.

2- Yet, if the flour in question were definitely terumah, it would nullify by falling into a far greater heap of permissable grain. Because it has the potentiality of becoming the secular grain after the separation, it is of the same kind as the greater heap, and we invoke “min bemino eino bateil — something does not get annulled when mixed with its own kind.”

We treat each speck of wheat as though it’s in both states simultaneously. It’s holy because of one possible outcome, and that holiness does not get annulled because of the possibility of the other outcome.

This parallels what we saw about how doubt is treated as a mixture. Or, as the Bavli put it “isah” — literally: dough or mixture — “lashon safeiq hu — is a term of doubt.” When we deal with doubt about the underlying realia of a case, we do not deal with the unknown objective realities, but we instead providing a ruling by treating doubt itself as the phenomenological reality (world as we experience it) about which to rule. And since we think “maybe it’s X, maybe it’s Y” that resulting reality is an admixture of both. As I wrote then:

R YB Soloveitchik (Yarchei Kalah Shiur, August 1982) discussed the topic of bein hashemashos (twilight) as seen in halakhah. The case he brought was that of an esrog that is used only for part of Sukkos. The gemara concludes that since it was sanctified for a mitzvah on a given day, it may not be used for personal enjoyment (e.g. eaten) on that day. And bein hashemashos (Bh”Sh) is included in that day. However, there is a safeiq whether Bh”Sh is part of the previous day or part of the next day. Therefor, since it is holy for Bh”Sh, it is not to be used the entire next day either.

Rav Soloveitchik points out the obvious dilemma. There are only two possibilities:

  1. Twighlight is part of the first day. In which case, the esrog is holy and prohibited until the end of the first day, which would be the end of bein hashemashos. Or,
  2. It is part of the second day. Then, the esrog should be prohibited until the start of Bh”Sh.

If you want to play safe, then prohibit personal use until the end of Bh”Sh. Prohibiting it the entire next day is declaring bein hashmashos to be actually part of both days. It continues holiness from the previous day, and thereby continues it into the next as well.

According to Rav Soloveitchik, this is not just an oddity about Bh”Sh, but a point about safeiq in general. Safeiq does not mean “either A or not-A, but I don’t know which”. but is itself a third valid state. Similarly, he writes in Ish haHalakhah that halachic logic is multivalent, it isn’t the simple true-vs.-false of Aristotelian logic. There is no law of excluded middle asserting that every claim must be either true or false and no other alternative exists.

Here too, the state of the flour is unknown because it is determined in the future. We do not rule as though it is in one of two distinct states, but treat the terumah and secular states as though they co-exist.