1) THE TYPE OF EARTH THAT IS USED FOR "KISUY HA'DAM"
OPINIONS: The Mishnah teaches that Kisuy ha'Dam must be performed with soft, fine sand (or similar material), and not with coarse sand. In the first version, the Gemara asks what the Mishnah means by "fine" sand. Rabah bar bar Chanah in the name of Rebbi Yochanan says that fine sand refers to any sand that is so fine that a potter would not need to grind it when he makes clay out of it. In the second version, the Gemara asks what the Mishnah means by "coarse" sand. Rabah bar bar Chanah in the name of Rebbi Yochanan says that coarse sand refers to any sand that a potter would need to grind in order to make clay out of it.
The Gemara explains that the difference between the two versions is a material that is chunky but breaks apart easily when handled.
What is the Gemara's intention? Does the Gemara mean that such material is considered fine sand and may be used for Kisuy ha'Dam, or that it is considered coarse sand and may not be used?
(a) RASHI (DH Ika) explains that according to the first version of the Gemara, brittle sand that can be crushed by hand is considered fine sand and may be used for Kisuy ha'Dam. According to the second version, such sand is included in the category of sand that the potter must crush, and therefore it is considered coarse sand and may not be used for Kisuy ha'Dam.
(b) The ROSH cites the RIF and explains that he understands the Gemara in the opposite manner. A chunk of sand that breaks apart easily when handled is not considered fine sand, and thus may not be used for Kisuy ha'Dam, according to the Gemara's first version. However, it is also not considered coarse sand, and, therefore, according to the Gemara's second version it may be used for Kisuy ha'Dam.
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 28:23) rules that any sand that must be crushed by a potter in any manner may not be used for Kisuy ha'Dam, in accordance with the Rosh's understanding of the Gemara's first version of Rabah bar bar Chanah's ruling.
2) "KLAL HA'TZARICH LI'FRAT"
OPINIONS: The Gemara explains that we do not expound the verse, "v'Chisahu b'Afar" (Vayikra 17:13), with the method of "Klal u'Frat u'Chlal," because the Klal ("v'Chisahu") "needs" the Prat ("b'Afar"). In what way does the Klal need the Prat? Why is this verse different from any other Klal u'Frat?
(a) RASHI (DH Klal) explains that the word "v'Chisahu" alone can be understood to mean that one must cover the blood in any manner, even by placing a utensil over it. The Prat ("b'Afar"), therefore, is needed to teach that one must cover the blood not with a utensil, but with earth. Since the Prat is needed to explain the meaning of the Klal, it cannot be used as a Mi'ut to limit what is included in the Klal. In contrast, in other cases of a Klal u'Frat, the Klal alone implies what the Prat is teaching, and thus the Prat must be intended to limit the Klal even more.
(b) TOSFOS (DH Klal) quotes RABEINU TAM who disagrees with Rashi's explanation. He asks that according to Rashi's explanation, "v'Chisahu" alone means both covering with a utensil and covering with earth, while "b'Afar" is a Prat that means only earth. Accordingly, the phrase should be judged as a normal Klal u'Frat, and the Prat should limit the Klal to only earth.
Rabeinu Tam suggests instead that "v'Chisahu" implies that one must cover the blood only by placing something on top of the blood, while "b'Afar" implies that the blood must be surrounded by earth, with earth both beneath the blood and above it (as the Gemara teaches on 83b). Accordingly, the Prat of "b'Afar" limits the Klal to earth, but it also expands the requirement of the Klal to placing earth beneath the blood as well as on top of it. When a Prat both limits a Klal in one respect and expands a Klal in another respect, it is called a "Klal ha'Tzarich li'Frat," and in such a case the Prat cannot limit what is implied by the Klal. (M. KORNFELD)
3) A MATERIAL IN WHICH SEEDS CAN GROW
QUESTION: Rav Nachman bar Rav Chisda expounds that one may perform Kisuy ha'Dam only with a material in which seeds can grow. He cites support for this from a Beraisa that teaches that if a man is in the desert or on a ship and has no dirt with which to cover the blood from the Shechitah, he may burn a garment and use the ashes to cover the blood, or he may grind up a gold coin and use the powder, because the verse refers to ashes and crushed gold as "Afar." He may not use the desert sand, though, because seeds will not grow in it.
If the verse teaches that ashes and gold dust are included in the category of "Afar" and may be used for Kisuy ha'Dam, then why is desert sand not valid for Kisuy ha'Dam? Even though it is not fertile, it should be valid for use for Kisuy ha'Dam, just as ashes and gold dust are valid!
ANSWER: The ROSH explains that for Kisuy ha'Dam one may use only a material that is called "Afar," either by the Torah (as in the case of ashes and gold dust) or by people. However, there is a difference between the two types of Afar. Materials that are called "Afar" by the Torah may be used even when they are not fertile. In contrast, materials that are called "Afar" only by people may be used only when they are fertile. (See also TOSFOS DH Shochek.) (Z. Wainstein)
4) THE REWARD FOR AVRAHAM'S HUMILITY
QUESTION: Rava teaches that as reward for Avraham's humility when he called himself "Afar va'Efer" -- "I am dirt and ashes" (Bereishis 18:27), his offspring merited to have the two Mitzvos of Efer Parah Adumah and Afar Sotah. The Gemara explains that Rava does not mention the Mitzvah of Kisuy ha'Dam, which is also performed with Afar, because the Mitzvos given as reward are Mitzvos from which benefit is derived (such as the Efer Parah Adumah, which makes a person become Tahor, and the Afar Sotah, which permits a woman to her husband and gives her a blessing of children). The Mitzvah of Kisuy ha'Dam provides no benefit; the meat of the Chayah or bird is permitted even if Kisuy ha'Dam is not performed.
What is Rava's source for asserting that these two Mitzvos were given as reward for Avraham's statement? There are many other Mitzvos that were given not specifically as a reward for his statement. Why does Rava assume that these two Mitzvos are a reward for his statement? (TORAS CHAIM)
ANSWER: The TORAS CHAIM answers that these two Mitzvos indeed would not have been given without the additional merit of Avraham's humility, because it would not have been fitting to use such lowly and insignificant materials (dirt and ashes) for Mitzvos that provide benefit.
How did the humility of Avraham Avinu change the status of these materials, making them dignified and worthy of being used for Mitzvos? The answer seems to be that the insignificance that a person attributes to dirt and ashes is due to the person's own sense of feeling important. When a person feels that he is important, he views dirt and ashes as unimportant. However, when a person feels that he himself is no more important than dirt and ashes, he acknowledges that there is nothing insignificant about any of Hash-m's creations, even dirt and ash.
The Toras Chaim points out that Bil'am was astounded to see that the Jews have Mitzvos that involve dirt and ashes, as he declared, "Mi Manah Afar Yakov" -- "Who has counted the dust of Yakov" (Bamidbar 23:10), which the Midrash (see Rashi there) explains to mean, "Who can count the Mitzvos that the Jews fulfill with dirt and ashes?" To Bil'am, the haughty and arrogant Rasha, it truly was a wonder how such lowly materials could be use in the service of Hash-m. (Mordechai Zvi Dicker)