1) "OR L'ARBA'AH ASAR" -- THE NIGHT BEFORE THE FOURTEENTH OF NISAN
QUESTION: The Mishnah states that we search for Chametz by the light of a flame on "the night before the fourteenth of Nisan" -- "Or l'Arba'ah Asar." RASHI points out that the proper text of the Mishnah is "Or l'Arba'ah Asar," with the letter "Lamed" written after the word "Or." Rashi repeats this assertion later (3a, DH Or l'Shlishi). What alternative text is Rashi rejecting?
(a) From the words of TOSFOS in Zevachim (56b, DH Or l'Shlishi), there evidently was another text of the Mishnah that read, "l'Or Arba'ah Asar," in which the "Lamed" was placed before the word "Or." Tosfos rejects that text based on the Gemara later (2b). The Gemara there attempts to prove from a Beraisa (Rosh Hashanah 22b) that "Or" refers to the night. The Beraisa uses the words "l'Or Iburo" to refer to the night after the day of the Ibur (the thirtieth day of the month). The Mishnah here, however, refers to the night before the fourteenth of Nisan, and thus it is inappropriate to use the words "l'Or Arba'ah Asar."
This may be the intention of Rashi as well. Rashi rejects the text of "l'Or Arba'ah Asar," because when the "Lamed" is written before the word "Or," it means the evening after the day, and the Mishnah here refers to the evening before the fourteenth. Therefore, the appropriate text is "Or l'Arba'ah Asar." (This is how the MICHTAM explains Rashi. See DIKDUKEI SOFRIM, #20.)
(b) The RAN and MAHARAM CHALAVAH disagree with Rashi. They maintain that the placement of the "Lamed" does not affect the meaning of the Mishnah. Both phrases can refer to either the evening before the day or the evening after the day. They assert that in order to avoid a misunderstanding, the proper text should omit the "Lamed" altogether and read, "Or Arba'ah Asar."
They point out that a practical Halachic implication between their understanding of the meaning of "l'Or Arba'ah Asar" and Rashi's understanding of that phrase applies when one writes the date in a contract. According to Rashi, if the "Lamed" is placed before the word "Or" in the date of a contract, the date refers to the night after the day that is mentioned. According to the Ran, that phrase can mean either the evening before or the evening after the day, and thus one should write the date without the "Lamed" in order to avoid confusion (without the "Lamed," the phrase certainly refers to the night before the day).
Perhaps Rashi argues with this opinion as well and maintains that the Mishnah cannot leave out the "Lamed" altogether, but it must say "Or l'Arba'ah Asar." Rashi's reasoning may be as follows:
The Gemara (3a) asks that if "Or" means night, then why does the Mishnah say "Or l'Arba'ah Asar" and not "Leilei Arba'ah Asar," which is a more straightforward way of saying "the night of the fourteenth"? If the text of the Mishnah has no "Lamed," then the Gemara's question is weak; the Mishnah certainly would prefer to use the phrase "Or Arba'ah Asar" instead of "Leilei Arba'ah Asar," because the Mishnah thereby would save one letter, and the Mishnah always prefers to express the Halachah in the most concise way possible (as the Gemara says on 3b). The Gemara's question, then, would not be valid if the text of the Mishnah was "Or Arba'ah Asar." It must be that the proper text of the Mishnah includes a "Lamed." (M. KORNFELD)
2) THE REASONS FOR BEDIKAS CHAMETZ
QUESTION: The Mishnah teaches the requirement of Bedikas Chametz. RASHI (DH Bodkin) writes that Bedikas Chametz is a preventative measure that ensures that one will not transgress the prohibitions of Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei.
TOSFOS disagrees with Rashi's reason. The Gemara (6b) says that one who performs Bedikah must also perform Bitul (mental nullification) of the Chametz. When one performs Bitul Chametz, there is no longer any concern that he will transgress Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei, because his Bitul renders any Chametz in his possession as no longer extant (Pesachim 4b). If Bedikah is done only to ensure that one will not transgress Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei, why does one still need to do Bedikah after Bitul? Bitul should suffice without Bedikah.
(a) The RITVA and the RAN explain that either Bitul or Bedikah -- whichever is done first -- suffices to prevent one from transgressing Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei. Rashi, therefore, is justified in saying that Bedikah prevents transgression of Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei, if it is done before Bitul.
The RAN proposes that the Mishnah, which mentions only Bedikah and not Bitul, evidently was redacted prior to the Rabanan's enactment to do Bitul. At the time the Mishnah was written, Bedikah indeed was the only Mitzvah which prevented a person from transgressing Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei. Only later, during the times of the Amora'im, did the Rabanan enact the decree that one should also do Bitul after the Bedikah in case one did not find all of the Chametz in his possession. (From that point onward, Bedikah is presumably performed for other reasons, and not merely as a way of preventing transgression of Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei; see (d) below.)
(b) The RAN suggests further that Bedikah is necessary even though Bitul suffices, because of the concern that a person will find Chametz on Pesach. When he sees how nice and tasty the Chametz looks, he might have in mind to keep it. Such a thought will invalidate the Bitul and cause him to transgress Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei. (This is also the BARTENURA's understanding of Rashi. Indeed, Rashi himself (6b, DH v'Da'ato) mentions such a concept.)
(c) The RAN gives another answer for why Bitul should suffice to prevent one from transgressing Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei. Rashi maintains that the reason Bedikah is necessary even though Bitul was done is because of the concern that one did not do the Bitul with a full heart and absolute intent. When one is Mevatel half-heartedly, the Chametz remains his, and he will transgress Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei by owning that Chametz.
(d) TOSFOS argues with Rashi and says that the reason for Bedikas Chametz is not in order to prevent transgression of Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei. Bitul indeed suffices for that purpose. Rather, Bedikah is done only so that one should not find any Chametz on Pesach and eat it. Thus, the Bitul and the Bedikah serve two different purposes. The Bitul prevents one from transgressing Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei, and the Bedikah prevents one from eating any Chametz that he might find on Pesach.
The Acharonim point out that Rashi and Tosfos seem to disagree about the fundamental mechanism of how Bitul works. Tosfos does not suggest the answers that the Ran and others give for Rashi, because he understands that Bitul is a form of Kinyan. That is, through Bitul, one makes the Chametz ownerless (Hefker). Therefore, Tosfos maintains that there is no concern that after one does Bitul, he might find Chametz on Pesach, wait some time before he destroys it, and thereby transgress Bal Yera'eh and Bal Yimatzei (as in (b) above). Even if he does wait and does not burn it immediately, it is still Hefker, because his Bitul effected an actual Kinyan that rendered the Chametz ownerless. The former owner does not acquire the Chametz again merely by looking at it and wanting it. Similarly, if one verbally proclaims his Bitul, but he does not whole-heartedly want to make it ownerless, the Chametz nevertheless becomes irrevocably Hefker (as opposed to the logic mentioned in (c) above). It is the verbal proclamation that is effective when one makes a Kinyan, and not the thoughts in one's heart (Gitin 38a).
In contrast, Rashi may understand the mechanism of Bitul as the Ran explains it: Bitul is not a Kinyan, but it is a frame of mind whereby one shows that he does not want the Chametz. That frame of mind removes the Chametz from his ownership, as it were.
Normally, it is not possible to remove something from one's ownership without a physical act of Kinyan. Nevertheless, with regard to Chametz on Pesach, the Chachamim enacted that since it is already out of his domain partially as a result of the Torah prohibition against benefiting from it (Isur Hana'ah), the Chametz leaves his possession entirely when he views it (at the time that it becomes Asur b'Hana'ah) as having no value to him. Since Bitul is not a Kinyan but a frame of mind, it is a constant process; one must constantly have in mind that he does not want the Chametz. Consequently, if, during Pesach, he changes his mind and decides that he wants to keep the Chametz, the Torah makes it his again, because it was never absolutely Hefker (since there was no real Kinyan, just a frame of mind). Similarly, if one did not do Bitul with full intent to make the Chametz ownerless, it remains in his domain since he did not have the proper frame of mind that the Chametz is worthless.
3) A THIEF WHO COMES TO KILL
QUESTION: In the fifth of the Gemara's fifteen attempts to prove whether "Or" means day or night, the Gemara cites a verse from Iyov (24:14) which says, "At Or the murderer arises... and at night he is like a thief," which implies that "Or" means day. The Gemara answers that the verse does not mean that "Or" means day. Rather, the word "Or" in the verse has a different meaning. The verse is teaching that if it is "clear to you like the light of day" that the thief has intention to kill someone, then you may kill him first, but if you are not sure that the thief has intention to kill, then you may not kill him.
This teaching from the verse in Iyov is identical to the teaching derived from the verse in the Torah which discusses a thief who breaks in. RASHI (Shemos 22:1-2) quotes the verse and the Derashah: "'If the sun shone upon [the thief]' -- this is a metaphor, and it means, 'If it is as clear that the robber is at peace with the homeowner as it is clear that the sun brings peace to the world.' That is, if it is clear that the robber will not kill even if the homeowner stands before him to protect his property -- for example, if a father is found trying to steal from his son -- in such a case... it is considered murder if the thief is killed."
The literal meaning of the verse limits this law to nighttime robbers ("If the sun shone..."). Rashi, based on the Gemara in Sanhedrin (72a), explains that the verse is not meant to be understood literally. The homeowner may kill a potential robber-murderer in an act of self-protection both by day and by night (Mechilta). The verse means that if it is "as clear as day" that the homeowner's life is not in danger, he may not slay the intruder. The Torah mentions "day" only as an idiomatic expression.
There is a rule that "Ein Mikra Yotzei mi'Yedei Peshuto" -- the simple meaning of a verse is always preserved (see Shabbos 63a). How, then, can the Gemara interpret the verse in a way that neglects its literal meaning?
(a) The rule of "Ein Mikra Yotzei mi'Yedei Peshuto" does not always apply. There are a number of instances in which the Chachamim teach that the words of a verse are not to be understood literally. Indeed, a Beraisa teaches that "words of the Torah should not be understood solely metaphorically except for three instances...," and one of those three is the verse about the burglar. (Beraisa of "Rebbi Eliezer's 32 Midos," #27; Mechilta, Shemos 22:1-2 and 22:2)
Indeed, the RAMBAM uncharacteristically makes a point of stressing that these three verses must be understood in a non-literal fashion (Hilchos Geneivah 9:8-10, Hilchos Rotze'ach 4:4).
(b) However, other early commentators insist that the above verses indeed may be understood in a literal fashion. The RA'AVAD (Hilchos Geneivah 9:8) explains that one is not permitted to kill the robber by day, because the robber probably presumed that no one would be home during the day, and he intended to run away immediately if spotted. A nighttime-thief knows that the owner is in his home, and he breaks-in with intention to kill or be killed. The RAMBAN (Shemos 22:1) proposes a similar interpretation of the verse. He suggests that a daytime-thief will not kill, because he is afraid that he will be recognized and tried for his crime.
(The Ramban and Ra'avad do not mean to argue with the Midrashim cited above. Rather, they maintain that the simple, literal understanding of the verse is only slightly modified by the metaphorical interpretation. The verse gives a common example of a certain law. It is common that the daytime-thief will not kill, while the nighttime-thief will kill, and therefore one may not kill a daytime-thief. However, it is not day or night that determines whether or not the thief may be killed, but rather the readiness of the thief to kill. Therefore, a father who robs his son may not be killed, since the father certainly has no intention to kill his son, and thus the life of the son is not endangered. (See Parasha Page, Mishpatim 5758, for further analysis of this subject.)