Tuesday 1 December 2020

Schrödinger's Kosher Meat

In Pesachim 9b, which happened to be yesterday's (30/11/2020) Daf for Daf Yomi, the Gemara is discussing what we do if we see a marten dragging leaven into a house that has already been checked for leaven before Passover when such products are forbidden. Part of the problem becomes what do we in situations of layered certainty and uncertainty - we saw the marten dragging the leaven, but we cannot be certain the marten did not eat the leaven, in this case. Having moved through numerous examples trying to ascertain what we do in such situations, the Gemara returns to a previously discussed example:

דִּתְנַן: תֵּשַׁע חֲנוּיוֹת, כּוּלָּן מוֹכְרִין בְּשַׂר שְׁחוּטָה, וְאַחַת מוֹכֶרֶת בְּשַׂר נְבֵלָה, וְלָקַח מֵאַחַת מֵהֶן, וְאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ מֵאֵיזֶה מֵהֶן לָקַח — סְפֵיקוֹ אָסוּר.

"The Gemara elaborates. As we learned in a Baraita: With regard to nine stores in a city, all of which sell kosher meat from a slaughtered animal, and one other store that sells meat from unslaughtered animal carcasses, and a person took meat from one of them and he does not know from which one he took the meat, in this case of uncertainty, the meat is prohibited."

So far, so simple. The Gemara continues:

וּבַנִּמְצָא — הַלֵּךְ אַחַר הָרוֹב.

"This baraita continues: And in the case of meat found outside, follow the majority."

By follow the majority, the Gemara means follow the majority of the stores in the city - in other words, one can assume the meat found outside is Kosher because nine of the 10 stores sell Kosher meat. 

The Gemara moves on to discuss another case without addressing what I think is an inconsistency. Consider a situation where I buy some meat from one of the stores in this city and forget from which store I did so. The meat is presumed unkosher - "וְלָקַח מֵאַחַת מֵהֶן, וְאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ מֵאֵיזֶה מֵהֶן לָקַח — סְפֵיקוֹ אָסוּר" In this case of uncertainty, the meat is prohibited. Having realised I am in possession of meat that is now prohibited to me, I drop it to the ground keen to forget about the entire situation. A friend of mine later finds the meat and picks it up, knowing that there are a majority of kosher stores and therefore the meat is presumed kosher: "וּבַנִּמְצָא — הַלֵּךְ אַחַר הָרוֹב". The meat, suddenly, is presumed both kosher (for my friend who found it) and unkosher (for me, who forgot which store I bought it in) at the same time. 

I am later invited round for dinner at my friend's house (covid rules permitting, of course) and he proclaims: 

"Great news, Raphael, one my way to buy food for dinner, I found this meat outside at [spot where I dropped it on the ground]. Free steaks for dinner!" 

Can I eat the steaks? Or are they forbidden to me?