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וַיָּבֹא הָאִישׁ הַבַּיְתָה וַיְפַתַּח הַגְּמַלִּים וַיִּתֵּן תֶּבֶן וּמִסְפּוֹא לַגְּמַלִּים וּמַיִם לִרְחֹץ רַגְלָיו וְרַגְלֵי הָאֲנָשִׁים אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ.
Breishis 24:32

Rashi on this Posuk says that he loosened their muzzles, for he had sealed their mouths, so they (the camels) should not graze in other people's fields. The Ramban among many others asks a question on this Pshat. The Gemara says that the donkey of Reb Pinchas Ben Yair would not eat from non-Tithed (not taken Masser from) crops, so why is it that Avraham is concerned about his camels?

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Just an amazing Mahrsha I have to Share on this Gemara he asks on the Donkey there is a halacha that if you have in mind you can eat from one end and have in Mind to keep the rest for Masser so Marsha asks why did the Donkey fast he could have made this condition?!!!!!!!! – SimchasTorah Oct 29 '10 at 5:51
And that reminds me about the Lady who told the Rav her husband is A sefer torah the rov was amazed and ask why do you say that she said every week is a new Parsha!! – Y.Stahl Oct 29 '10 at 17:01
The Ramban asks this question from Bereshit Rabbah 60:8. You can see meforshim there who suggest answers. – Chanoch Oct 31 '10 at 1:50

11 Answers 11

up vote 6 down vote accepted

On a more basic level, perhaps, it's just this: People looking at these camels wouldn't know that they instinctively don't eat stuff that's not theirs - they would think that, like any animals, they'll freely graze anywhere if given the chance. So Avraham had them muzzled in order to demonstrate to all the necessity of respecting other people's property.

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Even if he was sure the camels wouldn't eat from others' fields, Eliezer couldn't rely on a miracle. (Etz Yosef)

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The Gur Aryeh brings this as well. (Quoted in the Chumash Shai LeMorah to Bereshit 24:10) – Menachem Nov 17 '11 at 1:30

To answer Let me begin with a story that happened in an office to illustrate a point. There was a person who worked in a frum office and brought his own milk and every day. The milk would mysteriously go missing at the end of every day. He tried many different preventative measures including writing "Lo Signov" on the milk all of this accomplished nothing, as everyday his milk was still missing. Then one day he had a bright Idea. He poured the milk in a container that was Chalav Stam and low and behold the milk was there at the end of the day untouched. Now we have the answer to the original question a Donkey will not eat un-tithed food yet when it comes to Dishonesty it might not be so stringent.

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The Yalkut Shimoni actually makes note of this and says that Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair's donkey did something that even Avraham Avinu's animals would not do

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Gold Do you have a link to this? – Menachem Jun 19 '11 at 2:36

Although Avraham was, let's say, more righteous than Pinchas ben Yair (though it's impossible for me to quantify righteousness at the level of either of them), I have no reason to believe his camels were more righteous than Pinchas ben Yair's donkey. We don't find the g'mara talking about the righteousness of the animals of any other tana (AFAIK): there was obviously something special about Pinchas ben Yair's donkey specifically which did not apply to others' animals, and perhaps also not to Avraham's.

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I think al pi drush, one could argue that untithed produce is spiritually different than tithed produce, and the donkey was able to sense this.

But there's no spiritual difference between one person's apples and another's.

There's a quote why handling cases of civil law is so much harder than questions of kashrut and the like: "between kosher and non-kosher, you just have to distinguish between two very different things. But between one person's money and another person's money, both are holy!"

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I'd be curious to know who said that quote. I bet it a chossid. – Chanoch Oct 26 '10 at 14:17

When R' Pinchas Ben Yair's donkey refused to eat untithed fruit, it was fruit that R' Pinchas Ben Yair didn't know was untithed -- there was no way R' Pinchas ben Yair could have taken precautions to prevent the donkey from eating the food.

Eliezer was in a situation where the camels would have eaten from land that obviously didn't belong to Avraham. Therefore, Elizier could and did have to take precautions.

(This is my own reasoning.)

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The Ramban actually rejects this medrash and says that R' Huna and R' Yirmiya's kasha to R' Chiya bar Rabbah undermined the medrash.

The Maharzu (B.R. 608) upholds the medrash and says "the answer is pashut" that the actual animal ridden by Avraham was protected by the kal v'chomer, but his other animals were not (I don't understand why that's pashut).

[Before seeing the Maharzu, I was thinking that it would be a chilul Hashem for Avraham's animals to be unmuzzled, even though there would be no practical difference.]

After publishing, I see that Chanoch brought the Ramban and Alex brought my second answer.

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I would suggest that while there may have been no difference between Avraham's animals and R' Pinchas ben Yair's animals, it's still true that one should endeavor, as much as possible, to prevent one's animals from doing wrong (whether eating other's stuff, or eating Tevel). Therefore, even though he may not have had to, Avraham still put in effort to make sure that his animals would do no wrong.

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The kal vachomer is only valid for Avraham Avinu's donkey (the one he rode to the akeidah), but not for his camels. (Maharzu.)

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The Maharzu doesn't mention anything about the Akeida, just that the animal that Avraham rode had this protection, not his other animals. Perhaps you are just making a practical inference? – YDK Oct 31 '10 at 19:45
Yeah, either I'm making an inference or I'm misremembering what he said. – Chanoch Oct 31 '10 at 21:48

There should be no difference between P.b.Y.'s donkey & Avraham Avinu's camels, even when in Eliezer's possession - as the gemara says in Gittin 7a, HaShem keeps the beheimos of tzadikim from sinning through eating forbidden food.

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Hey david, welcome to Mi Yodeya! ....I have to say that your answer raises a good point, but isn't that exactly the question? – Shokhet Jul 25 '14 at 22:09

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