Mazal Tov! Shabbos 157 The great finale, and back to מלאכת מחשבת

It would probably to wrong to expect a masechet of this nature to end with some “lighter” material, and true to expectation, Maseches Shabbos is a marathon from beginning to end.

On the concluding daf of this epic tractate, we went back to discussing the complex topic of Muktza, focusing on the dispute between Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Shimon regarding whether certain forms of muktza are prohibited on shabbos at all.

We meet exotic types of muktza again, such as מוקצה מחמת חסרון כיס , which even Rabbi Shimon forbids, and which we have already learned may not even be moved if needed for a permitted purpose or for the space it is occupying.

We see that the Amoraim appear to be split down the middle regarding whether to follow Rabbi Shimon or Rabbi Yehuda, with Ula, Rav, and Levi following Rabbi Yehuda, and Shmuel, Zeiri, and Rabbi Yochanan following Rabbi Shimon.

As if this is not enough to pack into the last daf, we learn about annulment of vows on shabbos and in general, and revisit other hot topics we have discussed, such as blocking windows and טומאה.

A final חדוש of the Mishna is that it is permitted, at least under certain circumstances to measure things on shabbos.

Although measuring is usually forbidden on Shabbos or Yom Tov as a form of weekday activity (see Beitza 28a,) our Mishna explicitly permits measuring a cloth to see if it is large enough to become impure, as well as measuring a mikveh to see if the water has the minimum required depth.

At the end of the Mishna, we are told that “from their words, we learnt that we may block, measure, and tie on shabbos.”

Although there is no stipulation in this final sentence that this must be for the sake of a mitzva such as mikva, we will see later that the Gemara understood it precisely in that limited way.

It seems, however that Chazal could not have found a better way to end off though, by bringing in once again the most important concept in Shabbos law- the rule of מלאכת מחשבת.

The Gemara ends with a story where Ula was visiting the house of the exilarch. He saw Rabbah bar Rav Huna sitting inside a bathtub full of water and measuring it while inside.

Shocked, Ullah asked him how he could be measuring on shabbos!

Even though the Mishna permitted measuring on shabbos for the sake of various mitzvot, we do not see that it gave a blanket permission to do so in the absence of a mitzva.

(Why he was not bothered by him being in a bathtub on shabbos was the topic of an earlier post too!)

Rabbah bar Rav Huna responded that he was simply being מתעסק בעלמא (literally busying himself.)

Rashi explains that he was not doing it for any specific need but just to keep himself busy.

We have seen the term מתעסק a few times in this Masechta, and it always refers to performing an action unintentionally in some way.

Performing an action intentionally “just to keep busy” but with no specific need in mind is certainly not the normal use of the word in this masechta, and the masechta has certainly left us with some unexpected homework!

I guess we going to have to come back to Shabbos one day…

הדרן עליך מסכת שבת ודעתן עליך

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