Thursday, February 28, 2013

Why burn si'ur (partially fermented dough) before Pesach?

Here is a time-lapse video of dough rising, shot every 14 seconds for 2 hours. Something nice to share in preparation for Pesach.

I've been learning through Mishnayos Pesachim with my son in preparation for Pesach.

Maybe I missed the gemara that discusses this point -- I looked on the daf in Bavli and Yerushalmi and didn't spot it -- or maybe it is my own innovation. Here is the Mishna and English translation:

מתני' שיאור ישרף והאוכלו פטור סידוק ישרף והאוכלו חייב כרת איזהו שיאור כקרני חגבים סידוק שנתערבו סדקין זה בזה דברי רבי יהודה וחכמים אומרים זה וזה האוכלו חייב כרת ואיזהו שיאור כל שהכסיפו פניו כאדם שעמדו שערותיו:
(a) (Mishnah - R. Yehudah): Sei'or (partially fermented dough) must be burned; one who eats it is exempt; 
(b) Siduk [a dough which has cracks on account of Chimutz] must be burned; one who eats it is Chayav Kares. 
(c) Sei'or [sic] is a dough with cracks resembling grasshopper antennae (isolated cracks in different areas); Siduk is when the cracks intersect; 
(d) Chachamim say, one is Chayav Kares for eating either of these!
1. Rather, Sei'or is a dough that turned white, like one whose hair stands up [from fright].
I've seen it vocalized in a printed Mishna as /see-ur/, with a chirik under the sin and a shuruk after the aleph. And it means partially fermented dough. This is to be distinguished from /se-ohr/, with a sheva under the sin and a cholam after the aleph, which is sourdough, used to make other things chametz. As we see e.g. in Tosefta Pesachim:
איזהו שאור המחמץ את אחרים [חמץ שנתחמץ מידי אחרים] מאימתי קרוי שאור משיפסל [מלאכול לכלב]  א
So, where does Rabbi Yehuda get this idea that si-ur, partially fermented dough, must be burned, but one who eats it is exempt?

I think he gets it as a derasha from the pesukim. To select the first one of the four:

שמות פרק יב
  • פסוק ט"ו: שִׁבְעַת יָמִים, מַצּוֹת תֹּאכֵלוּ--אַךְ בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן, תַּשְׁבִּיתוּ שְּׂאֹר מִבָּתֵּיכֶם:  כִּי כָּל-אֹכֵל חָמֵץ, וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל--מִיּוֹם הָרִאשֹׁן, עַד-יוֹם הַשְּׁבִעִי. 

The pasuk is talking about sourdough, שְּׂאֹר, on a peshat level. But there is an entity called siur, which is consonantally written the say. It is an al tikrei derasha, to read not se'or but see'ur. If so, the pasuk could not be clearer. On the first day, meaning the day before Pesach, remove the se'ur from your house. Thus, burn it. And the pasuk continues to forbid the consumption of chametz, and to associate a penalty of karet with the prohibition of eating chametz. And this is chametz, to the exclusion of the midrashically mentioned see'ur from earlier in the pasuk. So, there is no penalty of karet with eating see'ur.

That is Rabbi Yehuda. The Chachamim would not adopt this derasha, in which case both see'ur and the later siduk are chametz proper, and would merit the penalty of karet.

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