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Thought for the Day: Not Bad Is Not The Same As Good

There is an interesting (your mileage may vary, of course; but I find it interesting) logical principle known as the law of the excluded middle.  In broad/loose terms, it asserts that every statement is either true or false.  It follows from that law that proving a statement is not false is the same as proving it is true.  There are some interesting "corner cases" (such as whether to call the following true or false:  "The current king of France is bald"; being as there is no current king of France, it is hard to call it true, but false implies there is a king of France).  Be that as it may, this law is not a good approach to avodas HaShem.

We had the z'chus (by "we", I mean the vasikin minyan) to have Rabbi Doniel Lehrfeld, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Beis Yisrael davening with us for nearly a week.  As is our custom, the Rosh Yeshiva was asked to say a d'var at our kiddush Shabbos morning.  As is his custom, the d'var torah was delightful, to the point, and very clear.  The Torah at the end of parashas Shemini explains our basic kosher dietary laws.  Regarding the animals, the Torah begins with the rules for those animals that we are allowed to eat; chew their cud and have split hooves.  In regard to the birds, though, the Torah lists those birds which are forbidden to us.  The m'forshim (see Rashi there) bring the reason: Most animal are no kosher, so the Torah tells us which are permitted; most birds, however, are kosher, so the Torah tells us which are forbidden.

Noted R' Lehrfeld: we have a rule in כל התורה כולה that we follow the majority in case of doubt.  That being the case, why are we only allowed to eat animals for which we have a tradition they are permitted?  In particular, how can there possibly be an issue with turkey?  Even though we have no clear מסורה that is it permitted, there is no question that it is not on the forbidden list.  The answer is from the last verse of the parasha; these laws are given to distinguish between the unclean and the clean (more accurately: בֵּין הַטָּמֵא וּבֵין הַטָּהֹר), and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.  As Rashi there notes:
It is not enough to just learn the laws, one must become an expert in recognizing and identifying these animals.  It is not hard to distinguish a deer from a donkey: the Torah wants us to know to distinguish בֵּין הַטָּמֵא וּבֵין הַטָּהֹר for us; that is, between a שחיטה that goes through most of the esophagus and/or trachea and only half; between a fully healthy animal and one with signs of a treifah.
For a Jew it is never good enough to know "it's not forbidden"; the Torah demands that we know with certainty that is it permitted.

This principle of avodas HaShem is particularly relevant now at Peasch.  At the seder (and, according to many poskim) we are required to eat shumra matzah; matzah that has actively been keep chameitz free.  In all the halachos of questions on the matzah which are after the fact permissible -- wheat may have gotten wet before Pesach, flour may have been nibbled on by a mouse (much cuter than a rat), touching a doubled matzah in the baking, etc, etc, etc -- the Mishna Brura, after noting its permissibility, never fails to add:  But not at the seder (and, according to many poskim, all of pesach); permitted it is, guarded it is not.


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