Pesachim 53a – A curious Mishnah

The Mishnah in Pesachim (53a) tells us:


ד,ג  מקום שנהגו למכור בהמה דקה לגויים, מוכרין; מקום שנהגו שלא למכור, אינן מוכרין.  ואל ישנה אדם, מפני המחלקות.  בכל מקום אין מוכרין להן בהמה גסה, עגלים וסייחים שלמים ושבורים.  רבי יהודה מתיר בשבורה; בן בתירה מתיר בסוס

In a place where [the people] were accustomed to sell small livestock to gentiles, one [may] sell [them. In] a place where [the people] were not accustomed to sell [them due to certain concerns and decrees,] one [may] not sell [them. However] in every place, one [may] sell [to gentiles] neither large livestock, [e.g., cows and camels, nor] calves or foals, [whether these animals are] whole or damaged.

[The sages prohibited those sales due to concern lest the transaction be voided or one side reconsider, creating retroactively a situation where a Jew’s animal performed labor for a gentile on Shabbat in violation of an explicit Torah prohibition.]

Rabbi Yehuda permits [the sale of] a damaged [animal because it is incapable of performing labor.] Ben Beteira permits [the sale of] a horse [for riding, because riding a horse on Shabbat is not prohibited by Torah law.]

The Koren notes:

The Sages prohibit selling large animals to gentiles due to the concern that a Jew’s animal might perform labor on Shabbat. It is permitted to sell the animal through an intermediary, since the concern with regard to desecrating Shabbat no longer exists.

I find this most curious. Who is this intermediary? If he is Jewish then surely he cannot sell on to a gentile and if he is a gentile then how can the Jew sell to him at all? 

Answers on a postcard please…..


About bookabazza

I am an Osteopath and University Lecturer who is trying to keep up with the 7 year daf yomi cycle. I thought I would try and share a few small thought on the daf each week.
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