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Thought for the Day: Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right, But Two Doubts Make it Permissible

I thought I'd let the whole brew-ha-ha (brouhaha; get it?  I slay me...) about my post-pesach beer trials and tribulations before bringing up a side point.  I said there that the beer was permitted because we have a ספק ספיקא/doubly inconclusive. Namely: (1) Maybe the malted barley was all bought after pesach; (2) even if it wasn't we can rely on ברירה/choice (since it is d'rabanan).  On that point, some cried, "Nay! 'Tis but a single doubt, though with two dependent parts."

The ספק ספיקא I presented was:  First, we have a ספק if the barley is from before Pesach at all, and since it is d'rabanan we apply the general rule of ספק דרבנן לקולא/in case of doubt on a Rabbinic prohibition, the halacha is to rule leniently.  Second, even if the barley is from before Pesach, we can rely on ברירה/choice and we can assume that the barley used to make my batch of beer came entirely after Pesach.  The nay-sayers claimed that I had really only one ספק; namely, was the barley used to make my beer from after Pesach or not.  I was encouraged to stand my ground (that is really was a ספק ספיקא) from the fact that when I had presented my case to the rabbi, he agreed.  Still... I had no proof.  I also had a סברה/line of reasoning to explain my position, but -- as the saying goes -- סברות are a dime a dozen.

Then I say the Mishna Brura explaining a לימוד זכות for those who didn't worry about חדש in Europe.  Says the Mishna Brura (489:10, sk 45): First, maybe the grain is from last year; and if you want to say it is from this year, maybe it took root before the omer.  (For a relevant review of the rules regarding חדש, see my last post on surrogate motherhood.) Hey!  That sounds just like my case!  With that Mishna Brura, I am completely incorrigible and so herewith present my סברה to explain both these examples.

Suppose you have a mixture of two foods, A and B.  A is definitely permissible and B is only permissible because of a ספק דרבנן.  One of the rules of ספק ספיקא is that you need to be able to say the ספקות in either order.  Here goes.  ברירה first: First you can use ברירה to say that the grain taken for my beer from the mixture came entirely from A (and is therefore permissible), and if you want to say it came from B also, then we can rely on ספק דרבנן לקולא.  Now ספק דרבנן לקולא first: First, B at worst is forbidden by rabbinic decree and ספק דרבנן לקולא; and even if you want to say that B is actually forbidden, then we can use ברירה to say that the grain taken for my beer from the mixture came entirely from A.

Here's another cool question: Can I serve my beer to you?  Am I allowed to rely on the leniencies because I had already bought it (so it is only permissible to me), or do the leniencies make the beer completely permissible?  Stop by and we'll discuss it over a beer or two.


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