The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs
Is Clarification Necessary in the Presence of a Rov or Chazaka? Part 1
By: Rav Yechezkel Yakovson
A shiur from Rav Yechezkel Yakobson, Rosh Yeshivat Sha'alvim.
The ramifications of this shiur encompass numerous fields in halacha. We are permitted to rely upon the presence of a majority ( rov) or a pre-existing status or norm of behavior ( chazaka) to determine halachic questions. Where relevant, is one required to verify ( levarer) the situation at hand, or is one permitted to rely upon the rov or chazaka?
In order to avoid a misunderstanding, there are two types of chazakot. A. A status ( ie, a knife that is kosher for slaughtering, a mikve that contains the proper amount of water). B. Norms of behavior ( ie, the majority of people do not return their loans before the due date). The chazaka that will be discussed belongs to the latter category.
The gemara in Masechet Pesachim (4a/b) records the following question that was posed to Rav Nachman son of Yitzchak: If Ploni rents a house from Almoni on the 14th of Nisan, does the dwelling assume the status of having been checked for chametz? If the answer is in the affirmative, Ploni is exempt from performing bedikat chametz.
The gemara immediately objects to the mere question: Let Ploni inquire of Almoni if the house is free of chametz! The gemara responds that Almoni is not present. Is Ploni required to check the rented home, or does a chazaka exist that would exempt him from bedikat chametz?
(At this stage of the gemara, it is apparent that the ability to halachically verify a situation negates the option of relying upon a chazaka.)
Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak quotes a Baraita that states that women, servants and minors are relied upon to testify if a house has been cleansed of chametz. Although they are normally not believed to testify, bedikat chametz is an exception to the rule. This exception apparently stems from the chazaka that homes are free of chametz by the 14th of Nissan.
The Tosafot raise the following objection. If a chazaka exists that the dwelling has been searched for chametz, why is one required to inquire of the women, servants or minors? The Ri maintains that Almoni is present in the city; Ploni must verify with him concerning the status of the rented house. The Baraita reveals that the testimony of the women, servants or minors is sufficient to substitute for the testimony of Almoni.
Thus, even in the conclusion of the gemara, a chazaka does not remove the necessity to verify ( levarer) the actual status of the case in question. The majority of commentators (such as the Ran and the Beit Yosef) concur with the view of the Ri.
The Bach disagrees. The gemara explicitly mentioned the necessity to verify prior to the knowledge that the chazaka exists. Subsequent to the conclusion that houses on the 14th of Nissan are presumed to have previously been searched for chametz, one is not required to independently confirm this status.
The Ran extends the view of the Ri to other realms of halacha as well. The majority of ritual slaughterers ( shochtim) are experts in their fields. Nevertheless, if a shochet is present, one is required to verify that he is indeed qualified to perform shechita. The Ba'al HaMaor (in terms of shechita) and the Ritva disagree.
Two issues must be clarified. 1. What is the essential difference between the camp of the Ri and the Ran and the school of thought of The Ba'al HaMaor and the Ritva? 2. How will the Ritva deal with the apparent proof of the Ri (that one is required to ask the owner of the home if the house has been searched)? Is the Ritva required to agree to the Bach?
The Ritva comments that not all chazakot are identical (thus at times an independent verification is required). What is the meaning of that statement?
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