Intro: The next three se’ifim (paragraphs) in the Shulchan Aruch are fascinating for one who enjoys mathematical logic and permutations. The chances of these scenarios occurring for you and me are less than slim. They deal with questions like, “Suppose I do ‘zimun’ on the only two doves in a particular dove cote before Yom Tov. On Yom Tov morning, I go to gather them up and, lo and behold, I find three doves?! Which, if any, are ‘mezuman’, and which are muktzah?” These cases actually come right out of the Mishnah in Maseches Beitzah (1:4). Do you mind if I just quote the Mishnah for you, along with a few explanatory notes? (Courtesy of the Artscroll Mishnah Series.) Thanks, I knew you wouldn’t mind!
Mishnah Beitzah (1:4): “If one designated [before Yom Tov] black [doves] but on Yom Tov found white doves, [or if he designated] white [doves] but found black [doves]1, or [if he designated] two and found three2 – they are prohibited. [If he had designated] three but found [only] two – they are permissible3. [If the designated doves had been] in the nest, but he found [doves] in front of the nest, they are prohibited4; but if there were none there except these5, then these are permitted [to be slaughtered].”
Notes (based upon the Gemara and commentaries):
1 It goes without saying that if he prepared only black doves and found white ones or vice versa that these birds are not permitted, for the ones he found are obviously not those that he had set aside. The Gemara explains that the Mishnah speaks of one who designated both black and white doves and placed them in separate compartments of the cote. On Yom Tov he found their positions reversed… The question addressed by the Mishnah is whether we can assume that these are the same birds with their positions changed, or must we suspect that the original birds flew away and were replaced by others. (Ed: The Mishnah’s ruling is indeed that we cannot make the assumption that they are the same doves who switched places!)
2 In this case, the addition of a third dove makes it certain that there is at least one muktzah dove among them; consequently, we must be strict on the entire mixture. See the sources for further discussion on the applicability of the ‘bitul’ (nullification) principle here.
3 We assume that only one dove flew away and that the remaining doves are the designated ones – i.e. not that the designated ones flew away and three new ones came along.
4 We must suspect that these doves are not those that were designated. The Mishnah’s stringent ruling demonstrates that the principle of ‘rov’ (majority, i.e. there are more non-designated birds in the area) is the dominating rule, and the principle of ‘karov’ (proximity, i.e. the nearest doves to the current location are the designated ones) is ignored when its outcome contradicts the majority.
5 That is, the nearest dove cote with undesignated doves is more than fifty amos (cubits) away from the current location, and they are not able to fly; thus the found doves could not possibly have come from another location.
Question: What if a non-Jew brings a dove to a Jew on Yom Tov as a gift – is the Jew permitted to slaughter and eat it? After all, the Jewish recipient did not do ‘zimun’ on the dove!
Answer: Here’s a surprise ruling – Since the non-Jew owned the dove before Yom Tov, it is not the Jew’s job to do ‘zimun’ on it. In fact, to the non-Jew, it is ‘mezuman’, and that is good enough for the Jewish recipient as well! [Note: This permit is true provided that: 1) The dove did not require trapping by the non-Jew, and 2) The non-Jew did not bring the dove from outside of the ‘techum’ (boundary of 2,000 amos beyond the city limits.]