The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit
Yeshivat Har Etzion
Shiur #17: Sukka
Kitutei Mikhtat Shiurei - The
Halakhic View of 'Shiur' in Items Designated to be
by Rav Moshe
The gemara in several locations addresses the halakha known as kitutei
mikhtat shiurei. Translated
literally, this halakha is defined as follows: Any item which demands a
requisite quantity to be rendered halakhically meaningful, 'looses' that
quantity (shiur) when the item in question must be burnt. For example, if a person chooses a
lulav from a tree which has been worshipped as avoda zara (known
as an asheira), is subsequently forbidden for use, and must be burnt, he
is not yotzei the mitzva.
For a lulav to be valid it must be four tefachim in
length. Even if such a lulav
presents the necessary physical dimensions, since the item must be burned
"kitutei mikhtat shiurei" (literally – its shiur is cut down) and
the item is invalid for the performance of the mitzva (see Sukka
31b). The same claim is made about
a shofar (Rosh Hashana 28) which was taken from an animal which
was worshipped as avoda zara and is now forbidden. This series of articles will explore the
nature and application of this halakha.
Obviously our first step must be to provide some logic or understanding
for this halakha. Why should an
item, sufficient in its physical dimension, have those dimensions 'cut-down'
simply because the item must be burned?
Rashi in Chullin (89b) and Rosh Hashana (28a) addresses
this issue. He associates this
halakha with a well-known statement of R. Shimon's. The gemara in Menachot (102b)
cites the position of R. Shimon who ruled that items slated to be burnt (such as
para aduma and notar) are considered as having been ALREADY
burnt. According to R. Shimon
"kol ha-omed le-sreifa" (anything slated to be burnt), "ke-saruf
dami" (is considered as already burned). Hence, according to R. Shimon, these
items do not receive tum'a since only foodstuffs a beitza in SIZE
can receive tum'a. A
beitza of notar is considered as burnt ashes and no longer retains
its spatial dimensions. In other
words, according to R. Shimon, halakha allows us in certain instances to view
that future as having already occurred.
In fact, the gemara in Menachot considers analogous applications
of this principle: the collected blood of a korban even before it has
actually been sprinkled, is considered as having been sprinkled (so that any
resulting disqualification which occurs is deemed less problematic since
'zerika' had already occurred; an item which is ready to be harvested, is
considered as having been reaped even before is has actually been cropped (for
purposes of classifying that produce as attached to land or portable). Evidently, R. Shimon (and many who
adopted his opinion) allow for the future to be realized in the
Rashi believes that OUR halakha of
"kitutei mikhtat shiurei" is merely a derivative of R.
Shimon's. Anything, which must be
burnt, is considered as having already been burned. Once we envision the burning as having
already occurred, the item cannot possibly retain its physical size and is
invalid for the performance of the mitzva.
Similar sentiments seem to be
expressed by the Ba'al Ha-ma'or in his commentary to Sukka (17a in the
Rif's pages) when he writes that when something is kitutei mikhtat
shiurei it is considered 'ke-man de-lesei' as if it no longer exists;
evidently, he viewed this halakha in the same way that Rashi did: the designated
burning is considered as having already occurred and hence the item is
halakhically reduced to a heap of ashes.
We might suggest an alternate manner
of understanding this halakha.
After all, the gemara makes no attempt to associate our halakha with R.
Shimon's. In fact, they are
classified differently in terms of they way they are referred to - one is
referred to as kitutei mikhtat shiurei while R. Shimon's halakha is
referred to as kol ha-omed lehisareif ke-saruf dami. Generally, when halakhot are referred to
in different manners they are not identical (though they might be similar). In addition, R. Shimon's halakha is not
universally accepted. After all,
the Chakhamim reject his principle of visualizing the future as having already
occurred. How might we explain the
concept of kitutei mikhtat shiurei according to the
This view, that kitutei mikhtat
shiurei represents a completely different concept, might be voiced by
Tosafot in Sota (25b).
Tosafot claim that even the Chakhamim who reject R. Shimon accept the
concept of kitutei mikhtat shiurei in the case of avoda zara. As opposed to notar or para
aduma an item of avoda zara is not just designated to be burned; it
is also assur be-hana'a (forbidden) and hence the law of kitutei
mikhtat shiurei applies.
Might Tosafot be arguing with Rashi and claiming that kitutei
mikhtat is really an independent halakha? Even though the Chakhamim reject kol
ha-omed li-sereifa, they might accept kitutei mikhtat.
If indeed kitutei mikhtat is a separate halakha we might have to
consider its definition. One suggestion is to view the item not as burned but
simply as INCONSEQUENTIAL. We do
not envision the future as having already occurred but the very fact that
something is designated for burning subverts its significance and renders it
similar to something without a shiur. After all, the purpose of a shiur
is to confer significance upon an item.
Less than a kezayit of matza is not a significant mass
while more than a kezayit is significant. Less than 4 tefachim of a
lulav is not significant enough a lulav to be used for the mitzva
while more than four is chashuv.
Something which is slated to be burned has a limited future and this
factor might offset the significance, which the quantity generally confers. Kitutei mikhtat does not reduce
the physical shiur; rather it counteracts and counterbalances the effect
of a shiur and renders the object meaningless.
A clear articulation of this
principle can be found in the Ran to Gittin (20a). The gemara allows writing a get on
paper, which is assur be-hana'a.
The Ran questions this halakha based upon the principle of kitutei
mikhtat. The Ran responds that
there is no inherent quantity of paper necessary for a 'get.' The paper must only be large enough to
contain the requisite text. Since
the size of the paper is not a question of shiur or significance, the
disqualification of kitutei mikhtat cannot apply. This problem is only relevant when the
shiur distinguishes between a significant quantity and an insignificant
one (for example 4 tefachim of a lulav). When the shiur does not
characterize the item as significant (but is only necessary to assure a
background to the required text) the lack of future in no way affects the
item. Had the Ran understood
kitutei mikhtat as Rashi did (we view the item as already burnt) he would
not have been able to draw his distinction. The 'get' would be considered ashes
regardless of the role or function which the shiur
A second position which differentiates between kitutei
mikhtat and kol ha-omed lehisareif can be found in the Ra'avia (in
his commentary to Chullin chapter 1140). He poses the following question: Why
should orla and kil'ei ha-kerem become impure? The shiur to receive impurity is
a beitza and these items must be burned. Applying the concept of kitutei
mikhtat would render these items shiur-less (just as R. Shimon
suggested in the gemara Menachot about notar and para aduma
which must be burned and do not receive tum'a due to a lack of the
His answer is illuminating. He claims that kitutei
mikhtat does not render the item as non-existent (as Rashi and the Ba'al
Ha-ma'or explicitly state). Rather,
the limited future renders the item as 'broken' (in his words broken into little
pieces - mukhtot le-chatukhot chatukhot). Hence, these items cannot be used for a
lulav or shofar since these lulav and shofar must
maintain a distinct form. A
lulav is not just a mass of palm tree material equaling 4 tefachim
in volume - it must have a certain shape and form. Similarly, a shofar is not merely
a certain mass of horn-material but must resemble a shofar. If the item will be burnt (read:
deformed) such shape is meaningless.
However, for food to receive tum'a it does not have to assume a
certain form or shape. Simply a
beitza's worth of that food will receive tum'a. Even if I apply kitutei mikhtat
and deform the food the same mass still remains and tum'a is
What emerges unmistakably from the
Ra'avia is that kitutei mikhtat does not constitute a imaginative burning
of the item based upon its future burning.
Had this been so, the halakha would invalidate items even to receive
tum'a. Instead, he viewed
the halakha as attacking the shape of the item because the present form is
unstable due to its limited future.
If so, the invalidation would only apply in cases in which the form is
vital. Interestingly, the Ra'avia
does claim that according to R. Shimon who adopts the kol ha-omed concept
(which views the future as having already occurred) we might consider
invalidating orla from receiving tum'a if the burning would reduce
the volume beneath the beitza level.
He clearly differentiates between kitutei mikhtat which affects
shape (and has no relevance where a shape is not necessary) and kol
ha-omed which renders a burnt state on the item and might even affect volume
To be sure, the Ra'avia articulates
kitutei mikhtat in a manner which differs slightly with my
definition. I assumed that the
limited future stripped the item of the inherent significance which the physical
volume conferred. The Ra'avia
suggested that the significance isn't offset but rather the shape is compromised
(because it will be so temporary).
However, both approaches separate kitutei mikhtat from kol
ha-omed. In the latter case,
according to R. Shimon, we view the item as being completely reduced to
ashes. If so, kitutei
mikhtat would apply across the board. A lulav would be invalid, a
parchment could not serve as the backdrop for a 'get' and food would not receive
tum'a. According to the
Chakhamim, this never occurs but the VERY PROSPECT of future burning influences
the item, its significance or its shape even in the present. This condition might only be problematic
in cases in which the shiur confers significance (as opposed to 'get' in
which the shiur is necessary for purely practical reasons) or cases in
which the shiur is accompanied by a distinct shape.
Now let us investigate possible ramifications of this question - cases
where the applicability of this principle of kitutei mikhtat might hinge
upon the manner in which we understand the halakha of kitutei mikhtat.
For example: Would kitutei mikhtat extend to items which are
forbidden to use but must be buried instead of burnt (for example avoda
zara owned by a Jew)? Tosafot
in Yevamot (104a) present two opinions on this matter. Quite possibly, the debate would revolve
around the nature of this halakha.
If kitutei mikhtat reduces the item to ashes because the future
burning is visualized in the present, we would not apply the rule to items which
are buried. Burial per se – even if
imagined in the present - does not physically reduce or decompose an item as
burning does. If, however,
kitutei mikhtat teaches us that lack of future utility effectively
undermines the quality of an item, we might extend the rule to any item which
must be eliminated - be it through burning or burying.
To better understand the scope of the halakha we might question the role
played by certain shiurim in halakha. This would help us determine whether
kitutei applies to those shiurim. We already witnessed last week that
according to the Ran in Gittin and the Ra'avia, kitutei does not
apply to certain shiurim (the size of paper required to write a 'get' and
the minimum size of food required to receive tum'a) precisely because
kitutei mikhtat is not an imagined burning but rather a subversion of the
item's importance. Some
shiurim are not designed to lend importance to an item; in such cases it
would be interesting to discover whether kitutei mikhtat applies.
Possibly the most direct example would be the issue of kitutei
mikhtat as it applies to lechi and kora. To allow carrying on Shabbat within a
three-cornered alleyway a person must erect a thin vertical beam (lechi)
or construct a horizontal crossbeam (kora) – either of which are placed
at the entrance to the alley. The
gemara in Eiruvin (80b) considers using wood of avoda zara for
these beams. It seems as if the
gemara is willing to validate a lechi of avoda zara wood but
disqualify a kora from the same wood because of kitutei mikhtat
(the shiur of a kora being thick enough and wide enough to support
a brick). Why should our rule only
apply to kora and not lechi (which also demands a shiur of
10 tefachim in height)?
This question was first raised by Tosafot and an interesting answer is
cited in the name of Rav Avraham.
He explains that even after applying kitutei mikhtat to the
lechi, we could still resurrect the beam by reconstructing the pieces
(madbik ketitim). This
answer is reminiscent of what we saw last week in the Ra'avia. Certain shiurim just represent
mass while others are accompanied by a certain shape or distinct form. In the former cases, kitutei does
not apply since the mass still remains while in the latter case we cannot
maintain the shape and the item is disqualified. A lechi requires a 10
tefachim's worth of wood (parallel to a beitza's worth of food
according to the Ra'avia) and it can still be 'accumulated' after applying
kitutei. A kora,
however, is not just a mass of wood but must be a crossbeam; the shiur of
this item (solid and wide enough to support a brick) just ensures that the item
has the function AS WELL as the form of a crossbeam. Since more than just material is
necessary we apply kitutei mikhtat.
This distinction between shiurim of mere mass and shiurim
which define functional items can only be suggested (by the Ra'avia and Tosafot
in Eiruvin) assuming that kitutei mikhtat does not physically reduce the
item to ashes. Were it not so, even shiurim of mass would be affected
since the ashes no longer contain the required volume.
Another distinction between lechi and kora is suggested by
R. Chayim (in his commentary to the Rambam, Hilkhot Shabbat
17:12-13). R. Chayim claimed that
the shiur of 10 tefachim regulating walls on Shabbat should be
understood slightly differently from the manner we are accustomed to. The shiur doesn't define the wall
but demarcates the area. Stated
otherwise: a reshut ha-yachid (private domain) on Shabbat does not
require four walls. Rather, the
walls are necessary to create a setback area or an area not easily accessible to
the public. This type of area is
considered a reshut ha-yachid even in the absence of actual walls. For example, the gemara in Shabbat
(100a) rules that a hill whose incline rises 10 tefachim is considered a
reshut ha-yachid even though no walls actually surround it. This proves that a private domain merely
has to be surrounded by a blockade of 10 tefachim which impedes easy
access. Hence, the 10 tefach
shiur on Shabbat does not define a wall but defines an enclosed area
(only an area enclosed by 10 tefach high blockades is considered
'surrounded' [mukaf]). A
shiur of this nature (which doesn't define the item per se [the wall] but
lends a certain identity to the area) cannot be affected by kitutei
mikhtat which attacks the importance of the item. The 10 tefachim are not geared to
creating a significant 'wall' and therefore a wall made from avoda zara
is unaffected; on a PRACTICAL level the wall still encloses and demarcates the
area. R. Chayim makes a point of
claiming that kitutei mikhtat DOES NOT MEAN that the item is considered
burnt; if this were true kitutei would apply to every shiur and
reduce the wall to ashes rendering the area unenclosed. According to R. Chayim, the 10
tefach shiur of the lechi is immune to kitutei
mikhtat while the shiur of a kora which defines the
kora per se (creating a halakhically meaningful crossbeam) is
Another example of a shiur which might not be affected by
kitutei mikhtat would be the minimum size of the etrog. The gemara rules that it must be either
as large as an egg or as a walnut.
The Rosh in Sukka (3:15) cites two opinions as to whether
kitutei mikhtat would apply.
There is no question that an etrog of avoda zara is
invalid. The only question is: Is
it invalid because of kitutei mikhtat or simply because of mitzva
ha-ba'a be-aveira (a mitzva which was facilitated by an item of
aveira)? When citing the
opinion that kitutei mikhtat does not apply, the Rosh reasons that the
shiur of etrog does not revolve inherently around size. Rather, the size INDICATES that the
fruit has reaches a fully ripened state.
The requirement is to use a fully ripened etrog; the size is
merely the litmus of this ripening process. Since the shiur is a LITMUS
rather than that which lends significance to the item the rule of kitutei
mikhtat does not apply. Again,
the statement of the Rosh can only be accepted in we do not view kitutei
mikhtat as already burnt. If
this were the case the etrog would clearly be disqualified. Evidently, the Rosh as well, developed
an independent definition of kitutei mikhtat (which he does not
articulate) and this rule only affects shiurim which are inherent rather
than indicative of another factor.
One final example of limiting the halakha to very specific shiurim
can be located in a Tosafot in Chullin (140a s.v. Limutei). Tosafot (according to the Maharsha's
explanation) question the validity of sacrificing an animal of avoda
zara. If we apply kitutei
mikhtat the simanim (windpipe and foodpipe in the animal's neck)
which must be sacrificed through an act of shechita have already been
burnt. R. Akiva Eiger (responsum
165) rejects even the possibility of reading Tosafot this way. Kitutei mikhtat does not render
the item burnt. It merely offsets
the desired effect of the shiur by undermining the object. In this instance, the shiur (two
simanim on the animal's neck) are not required to define a meaningful
animal. Rather the ACT of
shechita consists of cutting these two veins. If these are already cut then a
halakhically defined act of shechita has not been performed. Since the shiur does not define
the item but the act which must be performed upon the item, kitutei is
rendered irrelevant. Possibly, the
Maharsha understood kitutei mikhtat in the more traditional way – the
item is considered already burnt.
If so, then no ACT of shechita can be performed since the veins
have already been burnt.
We have witnessed two distinct approaches toward understanding the
intriguing halakha of kitutei mikhtat shiurei. It might be a derivative of R. Shimon's
concept of realizing the future as already having arrived in the present (a
theory known loosely as kol ha-omed). Alternatively, we might define it as
reducing the shape or significance of the item even in its present state because
of its limited future.
Understanding kitutei mikhtat as imagined burning would broaden
the scope of its application to most shiurim; if the item is burnt it is
burnt - period. If, however, kitutei merely diminishes an item's halakhic
worth it would apply in fewer cases.
It would not apply to shiurim which are indicative (etrog),
shiurim which create a situation in other items (the 10 tefachim
of a lechi define the area not the lechi), or shiurim which
are merely qualitative (size of paper for 'get,' size of food for tum'a) but are
not accompanied by some shape or utility (as is the case for lulav,
shofar, the shoe used for chalitza, and kora).
The next shiur will focus on the laws governing a removed or split
tiyomet (the central leaf of the lulav). Please advance in the
Gemara until "na'ase ke-mi she-nitela ha-tiyomet u-pasul" (32a), and see
also the parallel passage in Bava Kama 96a: "Amar Rava: Hai man
de-gazal lulava ve-avdinhu hutzi… na'ase ke-mi she-nitela u-pasul, shema
What is the case of a split tiyomet? See Rashi on our passage;
Tosafot, Bava Kama 96a, s.v. nechleka; Rif on our passage,
p. 15a: "Ba'i Rav Pappa… nifretzu ha-alin u-pasul"; Ran, end of p. 14b,
What is the basis of the disqualification, and what are the practical
differences between the different understandings? See Tosafot, Bava
Kama 96a, s.v. nitela; Ran p. 15a, s.v. nechleka;
Magen Avraham, sec. 645, no. 6; Mishna Berura, end of no.
How are we to understand the connection made in the Gemara in Bava
Kama between the kinyan by way of the shinui (change) of a
split tiyomet and disqualification for the mitzva? See the
following Rishonim on the Gemara in Bava
a) Chiddushei ha-Ra'avad, s.v.
If the tiyomet is
removed, [the lulav] is unfit. Is it not that the same law applies if it
is split? This implies that it has changed and become disqualified. Here too it
has changed so that he acquires it.
b) Shita Mekubetzet in the name of the
Since it is disqualified
with respect to the mitzva, even though it is not missing anything, which
implies that it is considered like mere leaves – with respect to a thief it also
effects a kinyan, for originally it was called lulav whereas now
they are mere leaves.
c) Chiddushei Talmid
ha-Rashba ve-ha-Rosh, s.v. ba'i:
Since at first it had
been fit for the mitzva, and now it is unfit, it is also regarded as a change
that effects a
d) Piskei Ri'az, introduction to chap. 9 of
Bava Kama, no. 9:
If a person stole a
lulav that was to be used for the mitzva and the tiyomet split
while in his hands, since it became disqualified for its mitzva, it no longer
bears the name "lulav," and he acquires it with this