Wine, Vinegar, Barley, and the Providence of Chametz
What drove Rashi to identify the Lebanese city of Tyre with Eisav and Edom?
Worried about accidentally having chametz vinegar in your house over Pesach? Well to be safe, you may need to clarify the historical identity of the descendants of Eisav.
I'll explain. The Mishna (Pesachim 42a) rules that “Edomi vinegar” is chametz and may not remain in your possession on Pesach. The Gemara (Pesachim 42b) explains that vinegar made from wine is only considered chametz if barley malt was added to trigger the necessary double fermentation process. Apparently, higher-quality wines would only achieve this double fermentation with the help of barley malt, while cheaper wines could become vinegar without that intervention.
"Double fermentation", by the way, means that the product is first transformed from sugar to alcohol - i.e., grapes turned into wine - and then from alcohol to acetic acid.
According to the Gemara, our Mishna is telling us how to identify problematic vinegar products by their country of origin. Vinegar from Edom (the geographic region to the south and east of Israel) is likely to have barley-based ingredients because their wine is known to be of higher quality and would, therefore, never ferment on its own.
Here's how the Gemara puts it:
וחומץ האדומי: דשדו ביה שערי אמר רב נחמן (בר יצחק) בתחלה כשהיו מביאין נסכים מיהודה לא היה יינם של יהודה מחמיץ עד שנותנין לתוכן שעורין והיו קורין אותו חומץ סתם ועכשיו אין יינם של אדומיים מחמיץ עד שנותנין לתוכן שעורין וקורין אותו חומץ האדומי לקיים מה שנאמר אמלאה החרבה אם מלאה זו חרבה זו ואם מלאה זו חרבה זו רב נחמן בר יצחק אמר מהכא ולאם מלאם יאמץ
Edomi vinegar: They add barley. Rav Nachman said, originally when (the Jews) brought libations of wine (to the Temple) from (the province of) Yehuda, wine from Yehuda wouldn't become vinegar unless barley was added. That, they would call "vinegar" (without any geographic designation). But now (when there's no longer a Temple and libations aren't brought from Yehuda), wine from Edom won't ferment unless barley is added. We (therefore) call that Edomi vinegar. This fulfills the verse (Yechezkel 26:2) 'And it was filled from its destruction' (meaning:) if this is full, that will be destroyed, and if that is full, this will be destroyed. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak says (we can learn it) from here (Beraishis 25:23): 'And one will struggle against the other.'
In other words, when the Jews are worthy, their wine (and other economic resources) will benefit. But when the Jews are not worthy, their enemies, along with their resources, will improve.
What was the Gemara’s purpose in quoting those two verses? The second source (“one will struggle against the other”) is clearly referring to the descendants of Eisav - who included Edom. For this reason, the Gemara associated fluctuations in resource-based success with the ancient competition between Yehuda and Edom.
But what about the Yechezkel source? That verse is focused exclusively on the city of Tzor ( Tyre). Tzor, an ancient harbor city along Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast, was a very early Phoenician settlement and, to my knowledge, has never been associated with Edom. I would suggest that the Gemara’s simplest explanation is that the Yechezkel verse amplified the Gemara’s underlying principle; that national success can be reciprocal. But it wasn’t meant to suggest a direct connection between the city of Tzor and Edom.
However Rashi has a very different understanding:
רישא דקרא יען אמרה צור לירושלים האח וגו' אתמלא מן חורבנה של ירושלים וצור מאדום היא
The beginning of the verse (Yechezkel 26:2) states ‘Because Tzor said to Jerusalem’ … and Tzor is from Edom.
Does Rashi have a source for that or is he just assuming that’s what the Gemara must have meant?
And while we’re on the subject, are any of you aware of any source in Chazal associating Edom with Rome? The midrash on which Rashi (Beraishis 36:43) is based only suggests that Eisav was rewarded with the control of settlements “until Magdiel”, not that their populations were his descendants. Ramban there similarly suggests control rather than population integration.
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