By Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow
There is a dispute between Rav and Shmuel as to whether or not one is permitted to precisely measure flour on yom tov for the purpose of baking. Shmuel is of the opinion that flour may not be measured. This is in contradistinction to spices, which may be measured precisely on yom tov. The Mishnah Berurah explains that even a small deviation from the required amount of spices can ruin a dish. However, generally the amount of flour in a recipe can be a little off and the baked good will still be just fine. The Gemara notes that while Shmuel himself ruled it was forbidden, in his own collection of rulings from Tannaim there is a Tanna who ruled it was permitted.
Did Shmuel intend to argue on a Tanna? Abaye says that he did not. Shmuel meant to teach the practical halachah. Rashi explains that it is true that according to the letter of the law flour may be measured precisely on yom tov; however, “We don’t teach this law.” This is referred to throughout the Talmud and halachic literature as “halachah v’ein morin kein.” Regardless of whether or not this law was taught in the past, one certainly cannot measure flour precisely nowadays on yom tov. Tosfos explains that the reason the Talmud offered for the lenient opinion no longer applies. Hence, all agree that today we do not measure flour precisely on yom tov.
What exactly does halachah v’ein morin kein mean? If this law is not allowed to be taught, then how do we know it? To understand this concept we will turn to two incidents quoted a page earlier in the Gemara (Beitzah 28a–b).
Rebbe Nechemiah the son of Rav Yosef said, “I was standing in front of Rava while he was rubbing a knife on the mouth of a utensil. I said to him: Are you doing that to sharpen the knife or to clean it? Rava replied, “I intend merely to clean it.” However, it was apparent to me that his intent was to sharpen the knife but he holds halachah v’ein morin kein.” The Gemara then proceeds to cite an almost identical story with Rabbah sharpening his knife and Abaye questioning him. Both Rabbah and Rava held that one is allowed to sharpen a knife under certain circumstances on yom tov but did not want this leniency to become known. Rashi explains that since the sharpening is only permitted in a specific scenario, people might err and unconditionally permit knife-sharpening on yom tov and thereby violate a biblical prohibition.
Both Rabbah and Rava did not want to admit that they were sharpening their knives on yom tov because one is not allowed to teach this halachah. Apparently, we see from this Gemara that if they had admitted what they were doing, then their actions would have been tantamount to teaching that the action is permitted. We see from here that if one is not allowed to teach a certain halachah, he can’t perform it openly since others might learn from his actions.
Rashi in explaining this Gemara says “ein morin l’rabbim kein.” Literally translated, it means that one cannot teach this halachah to the public. The implication is that one is allowed to teach this halachah to individuals as long as they don’t form a large group. Rabbi Yehonason Eibshitz in fact understands Rashi in this way. The obvious question is: Why didn’t Rabbah and Rava answer correctly what their intentions were? In each case there was only one person asking what they were doing! Rabbi Eibshitz answers that there were other people present listening to the conversation. Hence, if Abaye were alone, Rabbah would have taught him the halachah.
However, many acharonim disagree with this interpretation. They say that when there is a halachah about which it is written “ein morin,” one cannot even teach it to an individual, even to his own student or son! Abaye was a talmid/adopted son of Rabbah, and yet Rabbah still would not reveal to him that he held that sharpening a knife on yom tov was permitted under certain conditions. The Mishnah Berurah codifies this as practical halachah that one may not teach a halachah of “ein morin” to one’s own students. Rashi’s use of the term “rabbim” is not meant to be taken literally, but rather just means to the public no matter how many individuals are present (Daas Torah 509:1).
If one is not allowed to teach the halachos about which it is written “ein morin,” then how do we know them? Who taught them to us? The Shulchan Aruch HaRav answers that one is in fact allowed to teach these halachos in the context of going through a topic. Certainly, in the context of discussing that topic it may also be written down in a sefer. Likewise, in middle of a shiur on the daf, relevant practical scenarios may be discussed. However, if the question is raised in a vacuum, “What is the halachah in this case?” the rebbi would not be allowed to answer his own student. He should try to deflect the question. If the rebbi is cornered and forced to answer, he should answer that the conduct in question is prohibited. This is not a falsehood since that is the de facto halachah for the general masses.
These situations of “halachah v’ein morin kein” are rare. However, immediately after the discussion of knife-sharpening, the Gemara again discussed another halachah v’ein morin kein that pertained to leniencies of hilchos yom tov. (According to Rashi, though, they are both based on the same principle.)
The Mishnah Berurah (509) gives a few relevant practical examples of these halachos that can be followed but not taught. Someone who knows hilchos yom tov will be able to be lenient in the exact scenario that his friend will be told by a rav is assur. Perhaps, one can suggest that generally in halachos where it is easy to err, the Sages enacted rabbinic prohibitions that applied to everyone. However, the Sages did not want to do that in this case, because that would lead to less yom tov enjoyment. But they could not simply declare it permitted for everyone because they were afraid that unlearned people would mistakenly misapply the halachah and transgress a biblical prohibition. Therefore, the halachah remained that those who know the halachah and its background can be lenient and those who don’t, need to be stringent.
This should serve as an added reason to never miss a day of the daf; you never know when the daf will reveal one of those rare leniencies that cannot be taught. v
Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead and is a rebbi at Mesivta Kesser Yisroel of Willowbrook. He can be contacted at ASebrow@gmail.com.