A Light Mixup
‘Anything That Is Counted…’
Our Gemara mentions the well-known Talmudic rule: “A thing that is counted does not become bateil (insignificant).” In other words, the halachah of bitul berov, according to which the minority of a mixture becomes like the majority, does not apply if the minority is a davar she’b’minyan – something that is usually counted and not sold in bulk without mentioning its number.
The importance and uniqueness of the article prevent us from relating to it as insignificant in a majority. Our sugya and others cite disagreements of Tanaim and Amoraim regarding the exact parameters of this rule. Poskim disagree as well. (As for the halacha, see the Mechaber and Rema on Yorah Deah 110:1.)
A Chanukah Candle?
There is a fascinating discussion among Acharonim about a Chanukah candle that became mixed with ordinary candles and cannot be identified. The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 673:1) rules that a candle used for the mitzvah of Chanukah may not be used for any other purpose. But what if a Chanukah candle becomes mixed with ordinary candles – are they all now forbidden to use? Or is the candle batul, in which case all the candles can now be used?
The Terumas Hadeshen (Responsa, 102, cited by the Rema, Orach Chayim. 673:1) rules that the Chanukah candle does not become batel among the other candle and therefore it is forbidden to use any of them. A Chanukah candle is considered a “counted thing” since every night of Chanukah we count the candles (see ibid. for his proof from Yevamos 81a).
Significant Or Insignificant
This ruling contains two interesting chidushim. First, the importance of the Chanukah candle is not intrinsic (like gold, for example). Its importance derives solely from its owner (who used it for Chanukah). Yet, nonetheless, it is considered a davar she’beminyan.
Second, while a gold coin remains significant no matter where it lands, a Chanukah candle loses its significance to the owner once it gets lost in a pile among other candle. Yet, nevertheless, it is considered a davar she’beminyan and therefore is not batel berov.
The Taz (ibid, s.k. 6) disagrees. In his opinion, an item remains a davar she’beminyan only if continues to be significant after it becomes lost in a pile. A Chanukah candle is therefore batel berov because it is only important so long as it is a Chanukah candle. Once it’s lost in a pile, it’s not significant any longer. It therefore is not a davar she’beminyan.