1) FOLLOWING ASTROLOGICAL PREDICTIONS
QUESTION: The Tana'im and Amora'im discuss the effects of the Mazalos (constellations) on human behavior and destiny. The Gemara describes how certain Tana'im and Amora'im were concerned about the effects of the Mazalos.
This Gemara seems difficult in light of the Gemara in Pesachim (113b). The Gemara there says that it is forbidden to ask a "Kalda'ei" for advice, because the verse says "Tamim Tiheyeh Im Hash-m Elokecha" -- "You shall be completely faithful to Hash-m your G-d" (Devarim 18:13). The Gemara here describes a "Kalda'ei" as a Nochri astrologer who gazes at the constellations and predicts future events based on them. Why does the Gemara here describe this discipline as something which is trustworthy, when the Gemara in Pesachim says that we are not allowed to have any trust or faith in it at all?
(a) RASHI in Pesachim translates "Kalda'ei" as "Ba'alei Ovos," those who divine with bones and commune with dead people.
However, everywhere else in Shas where the word "Kalda'ei" is mentioned, Rashi says that it means astrologers. Apparently, Rashi understands that the Gemara in Pesachim cannot refer to astrologers, because -- as the Gemara here states -- there is nothing wrong with consulting astrologers. (TOSFOS and the RASHBAM there take issue with Rashi's definition of "Kalda'ei" as "Ba'alei Ovos.")
(b) The RAMBAN (in Teshuvos ha'Meyuchasos #243) and the NIMUKEI YOSEF (Sanhedrin 65b) write that the Gemara in Pesachim does not mean that there is an Isur d'Oraisa to consult astrologers. If there would be such an Isur d'Oraisa, the Gemara would cite as the source the negative commandment (Devarim 18:10) not to be involved in any type of divination. It must be that consulting astrologers is not included in that prohibition. Rather, there indeed is some veracity to the science of astrological prediction. Consequently, if a person is told his astrological forecast, he must not attempt to defy it because he might thereby be placing himself in danger (see, for example, the story of Rav Yosef in Berachos 64a). Rather, he should heed the warning and avoid the situation which his forecast says is dangerous for him.
When the Gemara in Pesachim says that one may not consult with astrologers, it means that the Chachamim advise that one not look into astrology in the first place. Instead, one should place his trust fully in Hash-m and acknowledge that his prayers to Hash-m can be effective in altering his fate. The reason why the Tana'im and Amora'im of the Gemara were concerned about their astrological forecasts was not because they went to consult with astrologers, but because they happened to find out about their forecasts. In order to defy what they heard in such a manner, they would have to rely on a miracle to save them, and one may not rely on a miracle.
(c) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Avodah Zarah 11:8) rules that an Isur d'Oraisa forbids one to look into his astrological horoscope. How, then, does the Rambam understand the Gemara here?
When the Gemara lists each Mazal and its effects on the person born in it, that information does not tell the person anything about how he should act in the future (for example, what day will be a good one and what day will be a bad one). Rather, that information merely tells the facts about what that person's tendency will be. Apparently, accepting such information is not included in the prohibition against divining. Similarly, when Rebbi Akiva was concerned for the astrological prediction that was said about the fate of his daughter, he was merely worried, but he did not act on the prediction of the astrologer.
However, the Rambam writes later (11:16) that anyone who believes that there is any truth in such predictions is foolish and childish. How, then, could Rebbi Akiva and the Amora'im be concerned for the predictions of astrologers?
The Rambam, in his Introduction to Perush ha'Mishnayos, implies that the predictions of astrologers contain truth, but they are not exact in their predictions. He may mean that a person's fate, as seen by astrological prediction, is liable to change based on the performance of good deeds, exactly as the Gemara here concludes. In Hilchos Avodah Zarah, when he writes that anyone who believes in astrological predictions is foolish, he means that one must put his faith only in Hash-m and acknowledge that Tefilah and Yir'as Shamayim can change one's fate entirely, and that, therefore, it is futile to place one's trust in the Mazalos, as the Gemara concludes.
When Rebbi Akiva was worried about the prediction of the astrologer, he was worried for someone else (his daughter), since she might not be G-d-fearing enough to merit a good future. Similarly, the mother of Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak was worried for the prediction said about Rav Nachman, because she was worried that her son might not have enough merit to save him from the fate that the astrologer predicted. About one's self, though, a person need not fear; he simply must place his trust in Hash-m and perform Mitzvos, and the dreaded outcome will not come to pass. (M. KORNFELD)
2) CUTTING GOURDS FOR ONE'S ANIMAL
QUESTION: The Mishnah teaches that one is permitted to cut gourds on Shabbos for one's animal to eat.
Why is it necessary for the Mishnah to permit one to cut gourds? Why would we have thought that one is not permitted to cut them?
(a) RASHI explains that a person cannot eat a gourd unless he first cooks it. Consequently, gourds are fit for man to eat, but they are not fit for him on Shabbos. Therefore, they are considered "Muchan l'Adam" (fit for man), which makes them unfit for animals.
According to this explanation, the statement of the Mishnah here is subject to the dispute between Rebbi Yehudah and Rebbi Shimon, and it is only Rebbi Shimon who permits one to cut gourds. Rebbi Yehudah prohibits it because he maintains that something which is fit for man is considered unfit for animals.
(b) The RITVA also explains that cutting gourds for one's animal is subject to the dispute between Rebbi Yehudah and Rebbi Shimon whether something which is fit for man is fit for animals. The Ritva explains, however, that before Shabbos, the gourds were soft and thus suitable to be eaten by man, but on Shabbos they became hard and unfit for man. Since they are not fit for man now, we do not permit them even for animals (see following Insight).
(c) RABEINU TAM in Chulin (14a) explains that the Mishnah refers to gourds that were cut from the ground on Shabbos. This law is subject to the general dispute between Rebbi Yehudah and Rebbi Shimon with regard to Muktzah. While Rebbi Shimon normally agrees that an item that was cut from the ground on Shabbos is prohibited (because a person had no intention whatsoever to use those items on Shabbos and thus they are Muktzah; Beitzah 24b and Rashi there), in this case Rebbi Shimon permits gourds that were cut from the ground on Shabbos when the person had in mind to use the gourds whenever they would become detached from the ground.
(Although the Rabanan prohibited one from using fruits that were detached from their source on Shabbos ("Peros ha'Noshrin," Beitzah 3a), this prohibition applies only to fruits that can be picked and eaten immediately. It does not apply to gourds, which must be cooked before they can be eaten.)
(d) TOSFOS and RASHI in Beitzah (2a) explain that the Mishnah teaches merely that cutting gourds for animals is not considered an act of creating a new food item (according to Rav Huna on 155a) or making a food item easier for an animal to eat (according to Rav Yehudah on 155a). (Even though the case of cutting gourds is not related to the case of cutting up a Neveilah for one's animal on Shabbos, nevertheless it was placed in this Mishnah because this Mishnah discusses acts that involve cutting.)
According to this explanation, both Rebbi Yehudah and Rebbi Shimon agree that one may cut gourds for one's animal on Shabbos.
3) "MUCHAN L'ADAM MUCHAN L'KELAVIM"
OPINIONS: The Mishnah explains that Rebbi Yehudah and Rebbi Shimon argue whether one may feed to dogs an animal that died on Shabbos. The Gemara says that they argue whether or not something that was fit for man at the beginning of Shabbos is considered fit for dogs as well.
Rebbi Yehudah maintains that something that was fit for man is considered unfit for animals, or Muktzah. When does this prohibition apply? It is obvious that bread, for example, which is fit for man, may be handled in order to give it to animals, and it is not considered Muktzah with regard to giving it to animals.
(a) RASHI explains that any item that will be fit for man to eat after Shabbos but is not fit for man to eat on Shabbos is considered Muktzah with regard to giving it to animals, since it cannot be used for man at present. However, if it can be eaten on Shabbos by man and is not Muktzah for him, it may be moved for either man or animal. For this reason, a live chicken or cow or similar animal which cannot be eaten on Shabbos (because it cannot be slaughtered on Shabbos), but will be slaughtered the next day, is Muktzah. Even if it dies on Shabbos, its corpse may not be given to dogs, according to Rebbi Yehudah (see previous Insight).
(b) The BA'AL HA'ME'OR (142b) and the RITVA explain that something which is, or will be, fit to be eaten by man is not considered Muktzah with regard to giving it to animals, even if it cannot be eaten on Shabbos (for example, it needs to be cooked). Only if it became unfit for man at some point during Shabbos does it become Muktzah with regard to giving it to animals, because it is considered Nolad, since before Shabbos it was fit even for man and on Shabbos it became unfit for him. Even though it is still fit for dogs, it is considered to be a new entity which came into existence on Shabbos, and is Muktzah for both man and animals. (According to Rashi, this may not be considered "Muchan l'Adam...," but rather simply "Nolad." See Rashi to 29a, DH Achlan.)