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Thought for the Day: Distinguishing Two Voices and Bitul

I always hate when a sefer has emblazoned all across the front, sides, and back: Do not take anything in this sefer as halacha l'ma'aiseh.  We are just kidding.  (Ok.. they don't usually add that last bit; but it's certainly implied.. or at lest inferred... at least by me.)  I would never do such a thing.  On the other hand, I am in no danger whatsoever of being taken seriously.  I guess that might make a difference...

Talking about hearing aids, there is an issue that has nothing to do with Shabbos or Yom Tov; namely, being yotzi one's obligation via the "shomei'a k'onah" (hearing is like saying) channel.  Minchas Shlomo, after a fair amount of pilpul and analysis, comes to the conclusion that hearing the sound generated by a hearing aid -- no matter how much it mimics and parallels the incoming sound -- just isn't the same sound that was generated from the source.  Bottom line, and as much as he appreciates the hardship and difficulties for someone who is hearing impaired, he cannot be yotzi with "shomei'a k'onah".  Minchas Shlomo is not the only opinion out there, but....

Suppose, however, one were to remove the device from one ear.  That way he would be hearing the direct voice as well as the electromechanically amplified voice.  Does that help or make things worse?  I might make things worse because there is a general principle of "trei kali lo mishtami" (two voices cannot be distinguished).  Hence, one is no better off; even a person who is not hard of hearing would not be yotzi (kiddush, for examle) in that situation.  However, for shofar and k'ri'as megilla, since those mitzvos are so beloved, we do say that two voices can be distinguished and one can choose to pay attention to the voice that will motzi him.  One small problem... the whole reason he is wearing hearing aids is that he can't hear very well.  Won't that render the whole issue moot since the direct voice will be overwhelmed by the amplified voice?

Not comes my chiddush.  In bitul, R' Yehuda has an interesting shita.  Whereas normally we say that a small quantity is negated by 60 times the volume (bitul b'shishim), that is, says R' Yehuda, is for min b'eino mino (two diferent flavors), but if the flavor of the two foods is identical (kosher and non-kosher wine, for example), then there is not bitul at all, not ever.  Moreover, the word used in the poskim to discuss the ability to tell the difference is "margish" (feel), not "to'em" (taste).  So... if you can apply the taste logic to hearing, then it comes out that R' Yehuda, who is usually the machmir, is meikel in this case and the half direct/half hearing aid advice would work out great.  In fact, it would even work for kiddush where we normally do say "trei kali lo mishtami".

You may not agree with this line of reasoning at all.  In fact, the people I have tried it out on so far were moved only so far as to say, "That's interesting" while slowly backing away.  Geniuses are never appreciated in their own time.  Neither are nuts, of course.


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