Eruvin 51 מדבר שקר תרחק and telling an untruth for people’s good

My next few daf posts, admittedly slightly behind, are dedicated in loving memory of our dear Rosh-Yeshiva of Yeshiva-college, South Africa, Moreinu haRav Avraham Tanzer of blessed memory, who passed-away peacefully last night in Johannesburg.

It is thanks to him, that I, and countless others, started on our journeys in Torah study as children, and that I, and so many others, have had a long and successful career in Torah Chinuch as adults.

I also hope to share in this forum some personal thoughts and experiences about my relationship with the Rosh-Yeshiva and what I have learned from him in the coming weeks, Hashem willing.

With wishes of comfort and a long and good life to his holy Rebbetzin, children, and grandchildren, and to all his family of students around the world.

Yoni Isaacson/Ramat Beit-Shemesh.

There is an incredible story with the two leading third generation Amoraim of Bavel, Rabbah and Rav Yosef, who were on a walking journey home on erev shabbos and realized that they would not make it to the techum of their homes before shabbos.

Rabbah relied on the leniency we have been discussing that allows a poor person ( a traveler being considered a poor person regarding this law) to set aside his shabbos base from a distance in a place that is within 2000 amos both of their current position and that of their home , thus allowing them to get home on shabbos.

Rav Yosef responded that he was not familiar with that place, and Rabbah suggested that he rely on the Beraisa that brings Rabbi Yosi’s view that if one of the travellors is not familiar with the designated place, his companion may declare the shabbos base on his behalf together with his.

The Gemara then notes that Rabbi Yossi was not really the author of the quoted Beraisa, but that Rabbah merely told Rav Yosef that he was in order that he would accept the ruling, given the stature of Rabbi Yossi.

We should note that Rav Yosef was not some newly religious zealot or regular community member who needed “permission” from a great Rav to do something .

He was Rabbah’s colleague, known also as רב יוסף סיני after his superior breadth of knowledge, as opposed to Rabbah who was known as עוקר הרים- ” an uprooter of mountains- after his superior analytical skills ( see Brachos 64a.)

It is simply mind boggling that Rabbah would attempt to mislead Rav Yosef in such a way and that Rav Yosef with his superior knowledge of Beraisa’s would be misled, unaware that the quoted Beraisa was not the view of Rabbi Yossi.

Whereas it is possible that this event occurred at the time in Rav Yosef’s life when illness had caused him to forget his learning (Nedarim 41a) , it seems beyond understanding how a leading sage like Rabbah, could “lie” about the authorship of a Beraisa to get Rav Yosef to listen .

The Torah is the ultimate truth, the true Kohain has the Torah of truth in his mouth (Malachi 2/6), the seal of Hashem is truth (Sanhedrin 64a) , and we are warned clearly in the Torah “מדבר שקר תרחק” – ” distance yourself from falsehood.” )Shmos 23/7)

This command is taken so seriously by Chazal that someone who knows the law is on his side but lacks 2 witnesses to testify in his favor is not permitted to bring a second witness just to stand there to strengthen the words of the other ( see Shvuos 31a)

We seem to see from here that truth is not simply a utilitarian means to an end but also a means in itself- even lying for the sake of justice is problematic.

Whereas the context of the passuk and the above quoted sugya is clearly focused on a court situation, the passuk is also interpreted in a broader sense as referring to gossip and talking falsehood in general (see Rishonim on the passuk and the discussion regarding a bride in Kesubos 17a for an example)

Despite the above, we cannot escape the fact that there are some exceptions to the command to stay away from falsehood.

Yaakov Avinu himself was told by his mother, presumably prophetically, to lie to his father about his identity.

Chazal too tell us that for the sake of peace, it is sometimes permitted not to tell the whole truth, and that even Hashem did so with Avraham and Sarah, the angel did with Manoach, and we erased Hashem’s name in the case of the Sotah, (Bamidbar Rabbah 11/6.)

They also taught that Torah Scholars are accustomed to “change” their story in 3 cases- regarding his personal life ( for modesty reasons,) regarding his hosts generosity( to prevent others from taking advantage of this generosity, and regarding his knowledge (for reasons of humility – (Bava Metzia 23b and Rashi there)

It appears that there are some values such as peace, humility, modesty and shielding others from being taken advantage of that are even higher values than telling the objective truth.

This does not apply to one’s own financial benefit, even when the law is on one’s side, as seen in the above quoted sugya in Shvuos, but does seem to apply in the above instances.

It seems from the case on our daf that this is the case when it comes to the welfare and/or convenience of one’s neighbor or colleague.

Given the extreme discomfort that being stringent would cause Rav Yosef, and possibly even some risk to his wellbeing, given his age and health, Rabbah was prepared to compromise on the absolute truth of the identity of the lenient opinion’s author, seeing as he was himself of that opinion in any case.

Given the various mitigating factors in this case, and the severity of making false statements in general, it is clear that extreme caution is required in applying this leniency to other situations, but we can certainly learn the importance of helping others be lenient when permitted in cases of inconvenience- as Chazal have taught us – כח דהתירא עדיף – the power of leniency is preferred )see eg brachos 60a), a principle that might be given new meaning by this story!

Rav Tanzer of blessed memory, embodied the combination of dedication to Torah, truth, and helping others that we learn from this story- It is see who spread the truth of Torah in South-Africa over almost 60 years, at first going from door to door begging parents to enroll their children in his once fledgling and now flourishing Torah school in an age where this was almost unthinkable for most parents.

Yet the same Rosh-Yeshiva was never unnecessarily stringent at other’s expense, and always applied the principle of כח דהתירא עדיף to make life as easy for people as the halacha allowed him to do, even if it meant following more lenient opinions that colleagues of his were uncomfortable with.

After all, if Rabbah went to such lengths for Rav Yosef whose spiritual motivation hardly needed protection, how much more so is this necessary in a time and place where undue stringency can hurt, chase away or burn-out the very people we try to bring near.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Eruvin 50 Tannaic versus Amoraic authority and “רב תנא הוא ופליג”

In the Mishna on 49b, we are told that  a person who is on a journey home on erev Shabbos and realizes that it is starting to get dark and he is still not within 2000 amos of his home or city (but is within 4000 amos) , may designate a place that he knows along the way as his shabbos base, thus allowing himself to walk a further 2000 amos from that designated space and reach his home on Shabbos.

The Mishna stresses though that simply declaring his shabbos base to be under a particular tree does not do the trick- he needs to specify where under the tree, such as at its base, otherwise “he has not done anything.”

Rav and Shmuel dispute what the Mishna means by “has not done anything.”

Rav is of the view that he has disqualified his current position from being his shabbos base by showing that he does not intend it to serve this purpose, but has also not successfully declared a new shabbos base, and he is thus confined to his 4 amos for the duration of shabbos (as explained by Rashi, but see Rambam Eruvin 7/5 who appears to rule like Rav but understand that his current position remains his shabbos base.)

Shmuel, in contrast, holds that so long as the entire area under the tree is within 2000 amos of where he is, he may walk to the area under the tree and 2000 amos from it.  However, seeing as he did not specify which area under the tree is to be his shabbos base, this area has the law of a חמר גמל  (donkey and camel man- see earlier post on Eruvin 35) and he may only walk within 2000 amos of the furthest part of it from where he wishes to go.

Most of our daf is dedicated to discussing this issue, and on 50b, the Gemara brings a Beraisa in support of Shmuel and in refutation of Rav, yet the Gemara answers that bringing a Beraisa against Rav is not sufficient to prove him wrong, seeing as “רב תנא הוא ופליג” -Rav is  a “Tana” and argues (with other Tannaim.)

It is taken as axiomatic throughout the shas that the Tannaim (sages of the Mishnaic period) are more authoritative than the Amoraim (sages of the Talmudic period) and that an Amora may never disagree with a Tana unless he has another Tana to back him up- The main job of the sages of the Gemara is to interpret, reconcile, and adjudicate between the Tannaim but not to disagree with them.

Yet on our daf, in addition to various other places in the shas, we are told that the leading Babylonian Amora of the first generation of Amoraim, Rav, is an exception, and is considered a Tana who may and does argue with Tanaim.

In another place where this exception is made (Kesubos 8,) Rav and Rabbi Yochanan are both quoted separately as stating that a groom can be counted in a minyan but a mourner can not (what precisely this is referring to is discussed there.)

The Gemara brings a Beraisa to refute Rav which says that both grooms and mourners may be included in the minyan but responds that רב תנא הוא ופליג- Rav is a Tana and argues with the Beraisa.

It brings the same Beraisa to refute Rabbi Yochanan and answers that the Beraisa is talking about ברכת המזון  (grace after meals) in which the mourner may be included towards the required 10 for זמון בשם  and Rabbi Yochanan is talking about the שורה  (the line for comforting the mourners) in which the mourners may not be counted.

There appears to be some logic in this distinction, given that the purpose of the minyan for ברכת המזון  is to allow Hashem’s name to be mentioned in the zimun, and a mourner is equally obligated in being part of this than anyone else.  However, the purpose of the minyan for the שורה  is to comfort the mourners, and the mourners are not part of the mitzva of comforting themselves.

Yet despite this seemingly obvious distinction, Tosfos points out that the Gemara saw this as a “forced” distinction and preferred to use Rav’s status as a Tana to answer the difficulty on him.

In contrast, seeing as Rabbi Yochanan does not have the status of a Tana (the Rabbi Yochanan quoted in a Beraisa [Nazir ] is a different person, a Tana by that name, possibly Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri,) the Gemara had no choice but to resort to this distinction.

Given the apparent superiority of Rav over Rabbi  Yochanan to the point that Rav had the status of a Tana and was thus able to argue with Tanaim, and Rabbi Yochanan did not, it seems rather inconsistent that the rule of thumb throughout the Talmud is that we follow Rabbi Yochanan in cases where he argues with Rav.

To solve this apparent inconsistency, it is necessary to examine various possibilities as to why a Tana is more authoritative than an Amora.

1.       One  possibility is that the Tanaim were closer chronologically to the giving of the Torah, and thus their מסורת  is considered purer and more uncorrupted.

2.       Another option is that the Tanaim were objectively greater in learning than the Amoraim.

3.       A third possibility is that the Amoraim simply had  different roles to that of the Tannaim because  once Rebbe sealed the Mishna, its words become like the authoritative ruling of the great court which could no longer be over-ruled. As such, their only role and sphere of authority was now in interpreting, reconciling, and adjudicating disputes in the Mishna.

Whereas possibilities 1 and 3 above are less likely to allow for individual exceptions, the second reason might leave the door open for an unusually great Amora whose learning was equal or greater to that of some Tannaim  to be able to argue with at least some of them.

According to this reason, it could simply be that Rav’s greatness in learning was such that it was recognized throughout the Talmudic world as being on par with the Tanaim, something that other Amoraim lacked.

However, we would then need to explain why Rabbi Yochanan is considered more authoritative than Rav, despite Rav being on par learning-wise with Tannaim and his apparent failure to be considered as such.

According to the first option, it is certainly possible that the generation that formed the transition between the Tannaim and Amoraim (see Meiri/introduction to Avos who clearly defines this transition, and  includes Rav in this list but not Rabbi Yochanan) were close enough to the מסורות  of the Tannaim  that their מסורות  was sometimes treated as almost or equally as pure.  We would still need to explain why Rabbi Yochanan, though living in the same period, was not included in this transition generation but still was considered more authoritative than Rav when it came to disputes between the two of them.

According to the third reason, it is very possible that when Rebbe and his  court sealed the Mishna as authoritative over all future generations, they excluded certain specific Amoraim who were particularly close to them in terms of the chain of transmission from this limitation, and even conferred them with the type of neo-Tannaic semicha (ordination) needed in order to be exempt from this ruling.

An example of Rebbe’s close relationship and partial ordination of Rav before he went to Bavel can be found in Sanhedrin 5a-5b  where Rabbi Chiya arranged for רשות  (permission to rule) to be given by Rebbe to Rabbah bar bar Chana and to Rav. It is apparent from that sugya that Rav was actually the greater of the two in learning!

It is important to note that this was not actual סמיכה  as in the ordination passed down from Moshe, which might or might not have been held by Rav and/or Rabbi Yochanan, but נטילת רשות להורות  (permission to rule) and to be exempt from liability for errors made- this on its own does not serve as proof of Rav’s exclusion from submission to the Tannaim, but simply as an illustration of his extra closeness to Rebbe.

As Rabbi Yochanan remained in Eretz-Yisroel and might also not have had this same connection to Rebbe, it is possible that he simply never received this special status from Rebbe, and was thus bound by Rebbe’s decree that the words of the Tanaim would be henceforth binding on the Amoraim.

This distinction between Rav and Rabbi Yochanan seems to be mentioned by the Ritva (quoted in Shita Mekubetzes, Kesubos 8a) in order to answer our original question- He explains that we follow Rabbi Yochanan over Rav in a local dispute between the two of them due to Rabbi Yochanan’s greater wisdom but that unlike Rav, Rabbi Yochanan never had the “luck” to be ordained as a Tana in the way that Rav had been.

From the fact that the sugya in Kesubos chose to use Rav’s superior status to refute the proof against him from the beraisa rather than give the answer it gave to uphold Rabbi Yochanan against the same beraisa, it seems that this status is strong enough that it is preferential at least to a “forced” answer, and we indeed see various places in the Rishonim (see Tosfos/Menachos 5a for example)  where they say that instead of giving whatever answer is given to reconcile Rav’s words with a seemingly contradictory beraisa, the Gemara could indeed have chosen to use his superior status as a Tana to answer the question.

Yet in contrast, from the fact that the Gemara regularly poises difficulties on Rav’s statements from various Tannaic sources, it is clear that finding a “non-forced” way of reconciling such difficulties is preferable to resorting to his Tannaic status, which is evidently significantly weaker than that of regular Tannaim.

we see further that some Rishonim in our sugya rule like Shmuel against Rav (see for example Tosfos Eruvin 49b and Piskei Rid Eruvin 50b), even though the halocho almost always follows Rav in a dispute with Shmuel, specifically because the beraisa supports him, implying that this status is not absolute, and that although he may indeed argue with a Tana, other Tannaim are more authoritative than him and the halocho follows them against him, at least when Shmuel rules against him (see though Rif and Rosh who base their ruling like Shmuel on other factors as well.)

It is also clear that his status as a Tana is limited to his ability to argue with Tannaim, but does not limit other Amoraim’s ability to argue with him, or in the case of Rabbi Yochanan in particular, to be considered more authoritative than him when involved in a direct dispute with him.

As such, it seems that the third possibility we raised fits best with Rav’s exceptional status, and that the superiority of Tannaim over Amoraim is not based on either their chronological precedence or their innate superiority in learning, but rather on the authority given by Rebbe’s Beis Din to them over Amoraim, something he likely excluded transition figures such as  Rav from.

While his court excluded Rav from the requirement to submit completely to Tannaim, he did not include him in the list of Tannaim that Amoraim are required to submit.

As a curveball, there is a fourth approach which I would like to entertain.

Perhaps, there was never a specific court ruling or decision that Amoraim may not argue with Tannaim, but it was simply an unwritten agreement that developed amongst the Amoraim of the transition period, for some of the above-suggested or other reasons, which later became established practise.

Amongst the Amoraim of this transition period, some were more accepting of this approach than others, and while Rabbi Yochanan went along with it, Rav did not, as least as far as he himself was concerned.

We can recall that Rav was generally fiercely independent in his approach to halachik decision making and did not accept the many rules of psak that delegated more authority to certain Tannaim over others (see recent  post on Eruvin 47), rules which Rabbi Yochanan did accept and have generally  been accepted to this day.

As usual, there is much more to bring, much more to analyze, and the Rambam’s view on all of this  requires its own unique treatment-hopefully we shall have the opportunity to revisit this again when the topic next occurs.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Eruvin 46 and 47 Rules of psak: הלכה כדברי המקיל בערוב, דעת יחיד בשעת הדחק, ספק דאורייתא לחומרא ,ספק דרבנן לקולא

This daf is heavily concentrated with some of the most important principles of psak halacha that it is even harder than usual to do it justice.

We shall suffice with a brief explanation of some of them and some notes based on an initial analysis of how they are applied on this daf, hoping to build on what we have already done and continue to do based on their application in other sugyas.

The Mishna on Eruvin 45b recorded a dispute between Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri and the Chachamim whether a person can acquire his shabbos techum during twilight of erev shabbos if he is asleep.

Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri rules that he can, whereas chachamim hold that seeing as he was not awake at the time, he did not acquire his 2000 amos from the place where he was, and is limited to the 4 amos in which he was.

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi is quote by Rav Yaakov bar Idi as ruling in accordance with Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri’s lenient opinion.

Rabbi Zeira asked Rav Yaakov ben Idi whether he heard this from Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi as a specific ruling relating to this case, or deduced it based on a general rule of his, which the Gemara identifies as “הלכה כדברי המקיל בערוב” -the law follows the lenient opinion regarding Eruvin.

Rav Yaakov bar Idi replied that he heard it as a specific ruling, and the Gemara explains that this specific ruling was needed in addition to the rule to teach us that this rule applies even when the lenient opinion is a דעת יחיד (single opinion) against the majority opinion, such as in the case of Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri versus the Chachamim.

It is not clear at this point whether this leniency is meant to apply only to this case, or whether this case now serves as a precedent for all the laws of Eruvin, or perhaps even all rabbinical disputes

If the former is correct, we need to explain why this dispute in different to all other disputes regarding Eruvin. If the middle option is correct, we need to explain why the laws of Eruvin are treated more leniently than other rabbinical laws, where we are only lenient when there are as many lenient views than stringent ones.

If the latter is correct, we need to explain why we are so lenient with all rabbinical disputes to the point of pushing aside the general rule of אחרי רבים להטות – following the majority, and defend this statement against any other statements of Chazal that imply the opposite.

We also need to investigate whether Rabbi Yehoshua’s rule of הלכה כדברי המקיל בערוב is merely an application of the general rule of ספק דרבנן לקולא (as in the third option above), with the assumption that an unresolved dispute has the status of a doubt, and whose lenient applications are thus shared with all unresolved rabbinical disputes, or whether it is an independent rule that has its own unique leniencies not shared with other rabbinical disputes (as in the middle option above.)

We have touched on a similar question in an earlier post (Eruvin 35-36) where we discussed ספק עירוב לקולא – the rule that in matters of doubt regarding the validity of an eruv, we are lenient, and there is appeared that the Gemara understood this as simply an extension of the general rule of ספק דרבנן לקולא.

Assuming that a ספיקא דדינא ( a doubt as to which authority the halacha follows) is an extension of the concept of ספק דרבנן, this would imply that a dispute regarding Eruvin should also simply be an extension of the rule of leniency in the case of a dispute regarding any rabbinical law.

However, from a question asked by Rava on the Gemara’s understanding of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi’s statement, it seems that he understands that disputes regarding Eruvin have their own unique leniences.

Rava asks why there was even a הוא אמינא (initial thought) that we would not follow a lenient single opinion against a stringent majority opinion when it comes to Eruvin?!

He points out that this should be obvious, seeing Eruvin is a rabbinical requirement, and in rabbinical disputes, we always follow the lenient opinion, even if it is an individual against the majority!

Various proofs are brought to dispute this assumption of Rava, and this issue is far from resolved at this point, but from his question, it certainly seems that he understood that his colleagues saw Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi’s lenient view regarding Eruvin to be unique to Eruvin.

Though Rava’s assumption seems to be rejected, the Gemara clearly seems to understand than in another unique area of rabbinical law, namely the laws of mourning, the rule of הלכה כדברי המקיל באבל applies even when the lenient opinion is a single authority versus the majority!

More than that, Tosfos seems to understand that this rule that we follow the lenient opinion in the laws of mourning applies even on the first day of mourning which is דאורייתא (biblical) in nature, suggesting that this might be the case regarding biblical laws of Eruvin too (such as the larger techum of 4 parsah (about 16 km) which some view as deorayso, or when enclosing a real public domain), certainly a huge חדוש (novelty!)

Given that the usually undisputed rule regarding biblical laws is ספק דאורייתא לחומרא – in disputes we follow the stringent opinion, this is nothing short of remarkable, and we cannot escape the need to distinguish between the laws of mourning and possibly also Eruvin, from other rabbinical, and even biblical laws.

There is a fairly well- known dispute amongst the Rishonim regarding the status of the rule of ספק דאורייתא לחומרא .

The Rambam (see Issurei Biah 18/17, for example) opines that this rule is itself only rabbinical in nature, and that on a biblical level, one is not required to be stringent in the case of a doubt- the Torah by default forbids things that we know are forbidden and not things whose forbidden status is subject to doubt.

In contrast, when it comes to the status of rabbinical laws, he is of the view that all rabbinical laws start out with biblical status by default, based on the commandment of לא תסור (do not go against their words…see for example intro to M.T)

Although the various leniencies Chazal applied to their own laws can still be explained based on the fact that the Torah gave them the power to both make and define their own laws, in the case of a doubt, this is not necessary, given that the Rambam considers all doubts to only be subject to rabbinical law, and the Rabbis chose to be stringent with biblical doubts and lenient with their own.

This means that theoretically, in cases of doubt, Chazal have the authority to apply any leniencies they choose, even if the doubt is biblical in nature- they simply chose to be stringent most of the time.

In the case of mourning laws and possibly Eruvin, it is thus quite legal for Chazal to choose to be lenient even in cases of biblical level doubt, and perhaps out of sensitivity to a mourner already in such a sad state, and a person stuck outside his techum on shabbos, they chose to be lenient.

Whether this can be extended to following a single lenient opinion against the majority in a biblical matter is less straight-forward, as it is possible that even the Rambam admits that when there is clear majority on the side of stringency in a biblical dispute, it is a biblical requirement to follow the majority, based on אחרי רבים להטות .

It could be possible, however, that the Rambam holds that אחרי רבים להטות only applies when the dispute has come to the great Sanhedrin, but that a dispute that has not come before the great Sanhedrin had no such law, and remains a bona fide ספק , over which Chazal have total control.

However, some other Rishonim )see for example Rashba, Kiddushin 73a regarding Mamzer) are of the view that the requirement to follow the stringent opinion in case of doubt is a biblical requirement, and according to them, it seems impossible for Chazal to be able to push this rule aside in biblical aspects of Eruvin and the laws of mourning.

The mere fact that Tosfos suggests that the laws follows the lenient opinion even in biblical disputes when it comes to mourning and Eruvin, as well as the proofs he brings for it, seem to offer support for the Rambam’s view!

When it comes to most of the laws of Eruvin and mourning which are clearly rabbinical, Chazal clearly have total authority over their own laws, and if for the reasons suggested above, or other reasons, they chose to treat Eruvin and mourning even more leniently than their other laws and follow even a single lenient opinion against the majority, the were certainly within their mandate.

For further analysis, particularly regarding whether we follow this leniency even against the majority, the Ramban’s long treatment on the daf is essential reading.

We have seen above that although regarding the laws of mourning, and possibly also Eruvin, we may follow a single lenient opinion against a stringent majority, this is not necessarily the case in other rabbinic laws.

Whereas we are usually lenient in cases of doubts and disputes regarding rabbinic laws, where the stringent opinion is the majority, the majority might still prevail.

Yet there is a time where it seems to be permitted to follow a lenient single opinion against a majority stringent opinion, under certain circumstances, and that is the case of שעת הדחק – an emergency.

There is a debate (Niddah 2a) between Rabbi Eliezer and Chachamim regarding whether a woman who has not had a period in 3 months and then has a period may assume that until that moment, she was still pure- this would affect the purity status of whatever she was in contact with before.

According to Rabbi Eliezer, everything she was in contact with until now is treated as pure, whereas the Chachamim rule that anything susceptible to becoming impure from contact with a Niddah that she was in contact with over the 24 hours prior to her period is considered impure.

This is a rabbinical rule due a concern that she was already a niddah earlier, even though on a biblical level, we would be lenient.

Rebbe commented that he once mistakenly thought that the law is like Rabbi Eliezer and declared the items in question to be pure.

When he later discovered that the law was like the Chachamim, he did not rule them to be impure, saying that כדאי הוא רבי אליעזר לסמוך עליו בשעת הדחק – in an emergency, one may rely on Rabbi Eliezer.

The Gemara understands this to mean that unlike Rava’s suggestion, we normally follow the stringent majority against a lenient single opinion even in rabbinical disputes, and only in a שעת הדחק, the minority view may be followed.

It follows from this that even according to Rava’s antagonists, a דעת יחיד may be followed in an urgent situation, at least in a rabbinical matter.

What is not clear yet is the scope of this rule:

  1. Does it apply even to a biblical level dispute? According to Rambam’s above quoted view, it is certainly possible, but according to the stringent views that hold a biblical doubt is subject to biblical level stringency, it seems less likely that שעת הדחק would override that rule.
  2. Does it apply to any dispute, even one already resolved, or only to an unresolved dispute- The Gemara seems to take it for granted that this is limited this to an unresolved dispute (possibly similar to that between Rabbi Yehuda and Chachamim regarding the times for Mincha and Maariv- Brachos,) and that in a dispute that has already been resolved, שעת הדחק would not be a factor. It is still unclear, however, what the Gemara means by a resolved dispute- is this only one that has been resolved by Sanhedrin, do even the Amoraim count, or even post Talmud Geonim and Rishonim?
  3. What is the definition of שעת הדחק as far as this leniency is concerned- Tosfos seems to identify two different levels of שעת הדחק !

The above questions can have immense ramifications in many areas of contemporary halacha, and as we move through the daf cycle, we hope to collect more evidence to help us answer them!

Later on Eruvin 46 and moving onto 47, we move to a different set of rules of psak halacha.

Here we deal with the weight given to various Tannaim against one another when a dispute is given.

Various rules of thumb are given, amongst them:

  1. The halacha follows Rabbi Akiva against a single colleague of his
  2. The halacha follows Rabbi Yossi even against a majority
  3. The halacha follows Rebbe against a single colleague of his

Various other now well-known such rules are also stated, after which רב משרשיה claims that none of these rules actually apply, meaning that each case is in fact to be treated on its own merits- bases this on various ruling of Rav which seem to negate these rules.

After various examples brought to back this claim up, it becomes clear that even those who accept these rules must accept that there are some exceptions. היכא דאיתמר איתמר – in a place where a definitive ruling was made against the general rule, that ruling overrides the general rule. Only in a place where no definitive ruling has been made, do we apply these rules of thumb.

Incredibly, Rav does not except the existence of these rules at all, and even in undecided cases, leaves it up to the individual current authority to rule according to which argument makes most sense to him.

As Rabbi Yochanan does except these rules, the irony is that by the rule of thumb that we follow Rabbi Yochanan against Rav, it should follow that these rules are indeed authoritative, and Rashi on the daf says so explicitly, but what is to force those who choose to follow Rav to accept a ruling based on a rule they do not accept in the first place? Seems Kind of like what came first, the chicken or the egg, but in truth has a lot to do with the power of מעשה בית-דין which still applied to an extent in the time of Rabbi Yochanan!

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Eruvin 44 and 45 Returning from emergency travel on shabbos

A very common issue faced by emergency workers is what to do after taking someone to the hospital.

Everyone agrees that whenever there is a chance of danger to life, one may desecrate shabbos in whatever way  necessary to try and save that life.

As such, it is obvious that taking a person whose life might be in danger to the hospital is not only permitted, but obligatory.

On the other hand, once the immediate danger has passed and the person has been taken to hospital, those who took him there could land up being stuck at the hospital for the rest of shabbos, unable to drive home, or even to walk home if the hospital is not within the techum of his house, assuming walking home is even safe.

Those who do this for a living or as a labor of love on a regular basis could thus land up being almost every shabbos in a hospital reception area.

Whereas halacha is halacha, and במקום שיש חלול ה אין חולקין כבוד לרב  (in the place of Chillul Hashem, such as when a Torah prohibition is about to be broken, we do not consider a person’s honor or dignity, no matter how great he is- Brachos  19b  ,) it would obviously be very useful to find a halachik way for him to return home.

There is also the very real concern that if a halachik way to return home is not found, people will be more hesitant in cases of doubt to take people to hospital, itself causing more danger to life.

At the bottom of Eruvin 44a, the Mishna tells that anyone who leaves the techum under permitted circumstances  and while on his journey, is told that he is no longer needed,  is allowed to walk within a 2000 amah radius from where he is at the end of his mission.

This is despite the usual rule that one who has left his techum, even by force, has to stay within his 4 amos.

At the end of the Mishna, we are told that anyone who left in order to “save” may return to his original place- this seems to mean that he may travel home even more than 2000 amos.

In order to reconcile this apparent contradiction, the Gemara on 45a attempts to distinguish between leaving for regular permitted reasons, and “to save,” the later being treated even more leniently.

Though neither the Mishna nor the Gemara has yet defined what either “with permission” or “to save” means, it seems likely that “with permission” means for certain approved mitzvos, whereas “to save” means for purposes of saving lives.

Yet as examples of leaving ברשות  (with permission,) Rashi on the Mishna  lists leaving in order to testify about the new moon, saving from invading troops or from a flooding river, and a midwife coming to assist with a birth.

Whereas the first example is not a matter of life and death, and the second might be referring to saving property which is also not a matter of life and death, the third example certainly seems like it could be .

Rashi on the Gemara, however, while explaining the possible distinction, seems to consider the birth not to be a life and death matter but saving one’s property from invaders to have the potential to become one (or at least a danger of injury) , should he fail to return home and be chased by them.

As such, the permission to return home would not be because he left for permitted purposes or even life and death purposes, but because his current situation is one of life and death.

However we explain the distinction, the Gemara rejects the distinction, seeing as there is an explicit Mishna (Rosh haShana 2/5 )  that includes one who left the techum to save from troops in the list of people who may only travel 2000 amos from the place where their mission ends.

It thus concludes that there is no blanket permission even for one who left “to save” to travel more than 2000 amos to return home, and 2 different opinions are brought as to what exactly the permission is, both based on current danger and not the fact that he left due to danger.

Based on this sugya, it seems that someone who travelled outside the techum on a life-saving mission, would be permitted to walk no more than 2000 amos back..

It seems that this is despite the concern that without permission to return home, people would be reluctant to return.

If even travelling more than 2000 amos, a rabbinical prohibition, was not permitted after such a mission, it seems to go without saying based on this sugya alone, that transgressing a biblical prohibition in order to return home would not be permitted.

It is, of course, still possible, that the phrase להציל in this sugya is referring to saving property, and that one who left in order to save lives might be treated more leniently.

If this was the fact, though, the Gemara’s suggestion that “to save” should be different to other permitted reasons seems to make little sense- after all, why should saving property be more important that testifying about the new moon, something the entire calendar is dependant on, and that even breaking shabbos on a biblical level is sometimes permitted for (see Mishna  Rosh haShana   )

However, this is not the only word on the subject.

There is a debate in the  Mishna (Beitza 11b) between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel regarding whether it is permitted to open and close  shutters on Yom Tov .  Beis Shamai rule that both are forbidden whereas Beis Hillel rule that both are permitted.

Ullah explains that the Mishna is referring to the shutters of shops(assuming one is selling for yom-tov needs in a permitted way.)

He also understands that this is an example of 3 things that are permitted סופן משום תחילתן (the end because of the beginning.)

He understands  that Beis Hillel permit opening them in order to supply the Yom-Tov pilgrims, which is considered a bona fide Yom-Tov food need, and  close the windows afterwards  because if one is not permitted to close it, he might refrain from opening it.

As such, we view closing it as a permitted need of Yom-Tov too!

The other examples that Ullah brings are:

1.        putting out the skin of a freshly slaughtered animal for people to step on, thus helping to preserve it. Even though this would normally be forbidden on Yom-Tov, if we do not permit it, the owner of the animal might refrain from slaughtering it for Yom-Tov, and thus this is also considered a need of Yom-Tov

2.       A Kohain who has a bandage on his hand  and needs to remove it in order to perform the Avoda (Temple service,) may also put it back, as if we do not permit him to do so, he might refuse to remove it and the Avoda will not be done. This is thus also considered “part” of the Avoda and permitted.

What we seem to learn from these cases is that when an otherwise forbidden action is permitted for a certain essential  purpose, “undoing” that action might also be permitted if failure to permit doing so will result in the essential purpose not being fulfilled- Essentially, the “undoing” action is viewed as a need of that essential purpose as well.

It is not clear from the sugya whether these 3 (and another 2 that some in the sugya add) are meant to be the only such examples, or examples of a general rule- how such lists are generally viewed is beyond the scope of this post.

While based on the way we interpreted our sugya back in Eruvin, it is understandable why returning from a permitted journey outside the techum is not included in this list, given that there seemed to be no such blanket permission to do so, we need to understand why.

Making things more complex, Tosfos on our daf, as well as the Rashba (on the sugya in Beitza) asks why Ullah did not include this in his list, seeing as it seems clear that this is the reason for the Mishna’s leniency here, and answers that it is because in the case of the Eruv, it is so clear from the Mishna that the reason for leniency is סופן  משום תחילתן that there us no need for Ullah to mention it.

How these Rishonim  understands the conclusion of our sugya which seems to have rejected a blanket permission to return home, requires further analysis.

What is clear is that they indeed view the permission in our Mishna to return to one’s place as permission to return home, and even if they would admit that it is limited to 2000 amos, they certainly hold that the reason for the leniency is סופן משום תחילתן . It also seems that they hold that Ullah’s list is not exhaustive and that he only mentions things that we might have thought were not permitted or were permitted for other reasons.

In fact, The Ritva indeed quotes the Ramban who takes issue with this Rashba based on the conclusion of our Gemara!

Once we have established the scope of this principle and whether it applies to one who left the techum or not, we also need to examine each example given and establish whether the principle only applies to rabbinical transgressions or even  to biblical ones.

At that point, we might be closer to being able to work out whether someone who has left his home for a permitted purpose like saving a life on shabbos should be permitted to return home, and whether he may transgress only rabbinical or even biblical transgressions to do so.

As usual, much more to analyze and discuss, but hopefully this is a good start.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Eruvin 41 and 43 Landing on shabbos, Flying Elijah, and תחומין למעלה מעשר

One of the nightmares faced by the Torah observant traveler is the possibility of a flight being delayed and arriving at the destination airport on Shabbos.

While whether being on a plane per say on shabbos poises any halachik problems is a subject deserving its own discussion, once a person is already in the air, this is no longer within his control.

However, on landing, one is phased with various issues.

Some of them could be faced at the airport itself, if the entire airport is not one large private domain, or if entry forms needs to be filled in on arrival, not to mention luggage handling.

However, one of the most challenging issues is if and how one may get home or to the nearest Jewish community  from the airport.

Even if one is able to leave one’s luggage at the airport and walk, one must deal with the issue of תחומין, the main topic of our perek.

The opening Mishna of the perek taught us that if  a person left his techum (shabbos domain) on shabbos, even by force, he is not permitted to return on shabbos and is confined to the 4 amos radius he currently finds himself in, a seemingly very harsh ruling for a rabbinical prohibition.

This applies even if he is inside the techum of a house or city.

It follows that if a person left the techum that he found himself in during twilight on erev shabbos, whether the departure city or wherever he was in the air at the time, something that doesn’t take very long on  a plane, he might be required to stay within 4 amos of wherever he lands up on shabbos, and not even be able to walk within the techum he has landed in.

The rule that an enclosed area is considered like 4 amos (also discussed in our current dapim)  might allow him to walk within in the airport itself, depending on how that sugya is interpreted and concluded, but leaving the airport would be forbidden.

In truth, this is not a totally new question from the age of aviation but is tied to an old question regarding people who disembark from a ship on shabbos.

In our Gemara, Rav Chananya asks whether the laws of techumim apply more than 10 tefachim above the ground or not.

At first glance, it seems that this must have something to do with the fact that  an area more than 10 tefachim above the public domain is either a private domain (if it has the minimum width) or a מקום פטור , and walking on it is thus considered insignificant when it comes to techumim.

The Gemara immediately clarifies that a pillar that is more than 10 tefachim high and 4 tefachim wide, part of it within one’s techum and part of it outside the techum, may certainly not be used as a legal way of leaving the techum. This is because it is considered ארעא סמיכתא (solid or supporting ground,) a phrase we have seen before regarding land that slopes at a comfortable gradient for walking up  as well as the area below 3 tefachim in a public domain.

In this context, Rashi explains that because it is fit for walking on (presumably due to its flat and wide nature), walking on it is considered הלוך מעליא  (proper walking) and the laws of techumim certainly apply.

It therefore limits the question to a pillar or raised area that is less than 4 tefachim wide, which is harder to walk on , to someone jumping from inside his techum to outside it, or according to a different version,  to a boat in water more than 10 tefachim deep, which is also considered to be 10 tefachim above the ground.

It seems from this that the question about whether the laws of techumim apply above 10 tefachim or not has nothing to do with it being a private or exempt domain as opposed to a public domain or Karmelit, but rather to do with the fact that it is not an area fit for normal walking.

This requires further analysis, but moving on through the sugya, the Gemara suggests various proofs that the laws of techumim do not apply above 10 tefachim.

The first proof is from a case in our Mishna, involving a boat at sea, which the Gemara now seems to take for granted is considered to be above 10 tefachim from the ground .

The Mishna brought the case of various Tannaim who were on a boat on shabbos. Once they had left the techum, they were technically not allowed to move outside the 4-amah radius they were sitting in at the time shabbos started.

Yet Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Elazer ben Azaria walked anywhere on the boat, in keeping with their rule that an enclosed area is treated like 4 amos.

Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yehoshua, who did not accept this leniency when it came to someone who left his techum on shabbos, predictably stayed within their 4 amos.

If the laws of techumim do not apply above 10 tefachim (like in a boat at sea,) their stringent action makes no sense.

As such, the Gemara wishes to conclude that the laws of techumim  do indeed apply above 10 tefachim.

This proof is rejected given the possibility that laws of techumim do not apply above 10 tefachim but they still wanted to be strict on themselves, in case they passed through shallow water which put them within 10 tefachim of the seabed.

The Gemara brings another two proofs which are both rejected, but now that we have seen that the Gemara takes the view that a boat is to be treated as being higher than 10 tefachim so long as the water it is sailing in is more than ten tefachim deep, I will proceed for now to the final attempted proof.

The Gemara brings a case where someone made an oath that he will be a nazir on the day that the son of David (Mashiach) comes.

Such a person must act like a nazir during all weekdays going forward, seeing as mashiach might have come that day  already and he is simply not yet aware of it.

However,  on shabbos or Yom Tov, he does not have to act like a Nazir.

The Gemara assumes at first that this is because Eliyahu haNavi needs to accompany him and is not permitted to travel so far out of his shabbos domain to do so- apparently even though he is able to fly (an assumption whose halachik significance needs its own discussion of course.)

It thus wishes to conclude from this that the laws of techumim indeed apply above 10 tefachim, otherwise flying such a distance would not represent a problem for him.

The Gemara refutes this proof, given that the passuk in fact tells us that Hashem will send Eliyahu “לפני בא יום ה” – BEFORE the day of Hashem comes, namely the day before.

As we were promised that Eliyahu would not come on a Friday, to avoid disturbing our busy shabbos preparations (itself quite an astonishing statement about the importance of shabbos preparations,) it follows that Mashiach will not come on a Shabbos, and he does not have to act as a nazir.

The Gemara then asks why he is not also exempt from  his vow on a Sunday- after all, seeing as Eliyahu cannot come on Shabbos because of techum issues, Mashiach cannot come on a Sunday- it wants to prove from the fact that he is not exempt on Sunday that Eliyahu could indeed come on shabbos, because there is no prohibition of techumim above 10 tefachim from the ground!

The Gemara answers that it unable to derive from this that there is definitely no issue of techumim on shabbos because it is possible that this was unsure whether techumim apply above ten tefachim or not.

Due to this uncertainty, the vower must take into the account that Eliyahu (who knows the halacha even if we don’t)  might have come on Shabbos, and thus must act as a Nazir on Sunday out of doubt.

However, that does not mean that we can prove from here that there is certainly an issue of techumim above 10 tefachim.

As such, the core question regarding whether the laws of techumim apply above 10 tefachim remains unresolved in the Gemara.

Although we are strict regarding his vow, keeping with the rule of ספק דאורייתא לחומרא , as far as the rules of eruvin themselves are concerned, it follows that we might apply the general rule that in matters of doubt ספר עירוב לקולא .

Assuming that this rule in turn is a derivation of the general rule of ספק דאורייתא לחומרא (something we touched on briefly in an earlier post but that requires further analysis,) it would then follow according to the opinions that תחומין   are biblical after 4 parsa (about 16 km) ,  this leniency might not apply if he has travelled more than that amount since twilight on erev shabbos, an almost certainty with air travel. (see however Ramban, who raised and rejects this distinction.)

Putting the above concern aside, it follows that where prohibitions of techumim are involved, we might be lenient and someone who has travelled through the air, like one who has travelled through the sea, has not transgressed any techum related prohibitions and is thus not subject to the 4 amos restriction.

However, it is still not so simple.

Besides for the question of the larger biblical techum, there is also the question of when and where his shabbos base is determined to be.

After all, if there are no techumim above 10 tefachim, and he was at sea or in the air during the critical twilight period of erev shabbos, he had no techum to become his shabbos base at that time, and it could be argued that he thus has NO shabbos base other than his own 4 amos.

If this were true, then even if disembarking were permitted, and even if he were to be allowed to enter the terminal building,  he would not be allowed to leave the port or the airport on shabbos!

The Ramban notes that he has seen many who have the custom to indeed stay in port under such circumstances.

He suggests that this might be based on the Raavad who understands the Gemara as concluding that we are strict out of doubt regarding techumim above 10 tefachim, not only regarding the vow, but also regarding the laws of Eruvin, an exception to the general rule of ספק עירוב לקולא.

He rejects this view out of hand, and then suggests that it might be due to the above concern regarding him not having any shabbos base at all.

Bringing various sugyos and Rishonim as support, he concludes that this is not a concern, and that in the  absence of a person’s shabbos base being defined during twilight, it is defined as the first valid techum he enters on shabbos itself, in this case the port or city he has arrived in .

Given that, he could technically walk as far as anywhere within the city and within a 2000 amah radius of it.

This would obviously only apply if the port, the parts of the city he walks through, and his home  are halachically considered within the same city (with gaps of less than about 140 amos between the houses or enclosed property’s walls,) something that might apply in city airports but not in many international airports that serve large cities but are situated outside the halachik city  boundaries itself.

Furthermore, unlike a boat which sails in the water till the moment it reaches port, a plane reaches 10 tefachim of the ground just before landing, far away from the airport terminal on a long runway ( a point I saw was raised by Rabbi Daniel Dombroff of New Jersey in a brief online post on the subject.)

Even with the Ramban’s reasoning,  his first valid shabbos base would then be by the landing site, which is unlikely to be in an area that is מוקף לדירה  (surrounded for purposes of dwelling) and is almost certainly in an area larger than a בית סאתיים  (5000 squares amos or about 500 square metres,) and unlikely to be within the techum of the city (though once we square the city and its 2000 amos to define its effective techum, the later is certainly still possible.)

As such, he would only have 2000 amos from that point, and it is likely that by the time he gets to the terminal building, he will have already left his techum and thus at best, be confined to the terminal, and at worst be confined to the 4 amos he is dropped off in.

This seems to be the  basis of common practise to avoid leaving the terminal building, even if the terminal is within the techum of his city.

However, I see some theoretical reasoning for being lenient regarding walking from an airport too, when the terminal is within the city’s techum, in a similar way that the Ramban was lenient in allowing one to walk home from the seaport so long as the port is within the techum of the city.

This is because the plane itself is more than 10 tefachim above the ground, even once it has landed.

Even though some opinions are stringent with a wagon, considering it to be ארעא סמיכתא , a plane while taxiing is very different to a wagon for various reasons, among them:

i.                     It is in a state of continuous and forced motion and cannot simply stop when it wants.

ii.                   It is not only difficult, but both dangerous and forbidden to walk around on it during the taxi stage. (I was interested to see that in a different context, for this and other reasons, מראה הבזק חלק ה brings reasons for leniency even in a wagon or high motorcar)

As such, there is a strong case that his first viable shabbos base to be encountered is not the point at which the plane lands, but at the point where the plane stops, which is far more likely to be within 2000 amos of the terminal or even within the techum of the city.

This is obviously far simpler when an airbridge is used, rather than a bus system, given that there are bona fide partitions around the whole area he will be walking through.

In practise, due to the extreme complexity of this question and the many variables which can change the halacha, it indeed seems hard to be lenient and allow one to leave the terminal building.

It goes without saying that one should do one’s absolute best to ensure a good safety net of time between anticipated landing and shabbos to allow not only for usual arrival procedures and travelling home, but for a reasonably normal delay, and if it is clear that one will land after shabbos once on the plane, to request permission to disembark before take-off.

However given that this is a common issue, perhaps Jewish communities could be encouraged to  get an eruv expert to map the techum of their city and establish whether their airport is indeed within its techum, in which case local halachik authorities  could rule that  in cases where staying at the airport over shabbos is an extreme destruction of one’s Oneg shabbos and/or involves serious discomfort, walking home or to a community center or member’s home might be a valid option.

Though I have not researched the geography of Moscow, it could be that based on the below link,this is precisely what Russia’s Chief Rabbi once did!

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Eruvin 39 and 40 Rosh haShana Matters, the interconnectivity of Torah and ערוב על תנאי

We have mentioned many times this year how regular Torah study so often seems incredibly relevant to the events of the day.

This year, around Shavuos on the daf cycle, Maseches Shabbos took a break from the complexities of the laws of shabbos and focused on the giving of the Torah.

Around 9 Av, the daf seemed to take another diversion and focus on the destruction, and true to form, the past two days, it has morphed from discussion of conditional Eruvin and ברירה  to various matters relating to Rosh haShana.

As someone who often tends more towards the Rambam’s natural approach to every-day events (for a different post), it is still impossible not to see the angle of the Ramban who see’s miracles at work in every asset of life.

I have not done a statistical study on how significant this is, or of previous years of the daf cycles, nor do I intend to- I feel that  such things are and are meant to be subtle, and non-scientific- yet at the very least, we can appreciate through them the unimaginable inter-connectivity of everything in the Torah, to the point that there is always something relevant to our situation in whatever we learn, and that very often, it is so striking that one cannot ignore it.

The nature of today is such that an analytical  study of the daf is even more challenging than usual, but let us at least try to mention some of the Rosh haShana related issues here on these daf of Eruvin:

We have already discussed when and how it is possible to make various conditions regarding an Eruv.

One might also be able to set one Eruv for the first day of Yom Tov, and another for the second, according to the view that the two days of Yom-Tov are considered two separate holy entities, and are not dependant on one another.

This generally accepted view is based on the fact that originally, two days of Yom Tov were kept in the diaspora out of doubt as to which day was really Yom-Tov.

This is because the calendar was based on witnesses testifying to the new-moon having been sighted, and once the Beis Din (court) in Yerushalayim had declared which of the two possible days was Rosh Chodesh, messengers had to be sent to the entire Israel and diaspora to inform them.

Even though the chagim were generally late enough in the month for the messengers to reach the inhabitants of Israel (roughly speaking at least), much of the diaspora was too far, and they would often be unaware of which of the two days was really Yom-Tov.

Given that Rosh haShana is at the beginning of the month, it sometimes happened that messengers did  not reach the Beis-Din in Yerushalayim on time to know for sure which of the two days would be Rosh-haShana.  In such a case, they kept the 30’th of Elul as if it is the 1’st of Tishrei.

If the messengers came later after the cut-off point, the first day remained holy, and the next day was also kept as Rosh haShana.

In such a case, not only were 2 days of Rosh haShana thus kept even in Israel, they were treated as if both were definitely Yom-Tov, as “one long day” all of which was holy, and this how the 2 days of Rosh haShana are viewed today.

Though the Mishna on 39a records some dispute about this, the halacha follows this view and we do not  rely on conditional or split Eruvin for Rosh-haShana, or on other leniencies based on  the fact that both days Yom-Tov are treated as a doubt.

There is also a debate regarding whether the davening of Rosh haShana needs to include a special mention of Rosh-Chodesh or not, and according to that view, whether one may make a conditional declaration on each day.

The former issue is discussed in detail on 40a  and as explained by Rashi, depends on whether the reference to זכרון תרועה  (memory of the Shofar) that refers to Rosh haShana also incorporates Rosh Chodesh, which is also referred to as a זכרון (memory.)

The Gemara concludes on 40b that Rosh Chodesh does not get a special mention on Rosh haShana.

Another fascinating discussion on 40b revolves around whether the bracha “Shehecheyanu”, also referred to by Chazal as “זמן”  (time) is to be said on Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur.

On the one hand, it is not one of the three festivals referred to as a רגל, and perhaps does not qualify as enough of a (special) זמן   to warrant the bracha.

On the other hand, it does come מזמן לזמן, on a regular basis, so the phrase לזמן הזה  does apply.

In truth, both of these arguments seem to miss the point- Can one really think that the greatest days of the year, the days of judgement and atonement, are in any way less special, in any way less of a “זמן”  than the other festivals? There is indeed a discussion as to whether there is a mitzva of simcha (rejoicing) on these days, but since when is the bracha Shehecheyanu dependent on rejoicing?

On the other hand, are we to assume that the only reason to say such a bracha on such an incredible day is because it is an annual event? If it only happened once in history, would it not merit such a bracha? Do once off incredible events in one’s life or those of the nation not also merit a bracha that thanks Hashem for bringing us to such a time?

There are obviously certain assumptions that Chazal had about the purpose and scope of this bracha which we have not taken into account in this question, and hopefully, as we encounter more sugyot that discuss it, we shall succeed in identifying and understanding these better.

 כתיבה וחתימה טובה  

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Eruvin 37 and 38 Yiftach’s daughter and ברירה

One of the many truly tragic stories in the Tanach is the case (Shoftim 11) of the daughter of the judge, Yiftach.

Yiftach rose from a difficult youth to become the leader of Israel. However, while he seemed to mean well, his lack of Torah scholarship was evident in what must surely go down as the most awful act of his life.

Before his final major military campaign recorded in Sefer Shoftim, the war against Amon, Yiftach promises Hashem that if he helps the campaign succeed, the first thing that exits the doors of his house to meet him on his triumphant return will be for Hashem, and he will offer it up as an עולה (burnt offering.)- וְהָיָה֙ לַֽיקֹוָ֔ק וְהַעֲלִיתִ֖הוּ עוֹלָֽה:

When he returns, his daughter comes out enthusiastically to greet him, and instead of enthusiastically embracing her, he tells her the awful news that his vow applies to her.

Despite her pleas, he is adamant that he is unable to go back on his vow, and after she is given 2 months of freedom in the mountains, we are told that he does what he had vowed to do to her.

There is much discussion amongst Chazal and the Rishonim as whether he actually killed her and offered her as a sacrifice, or whether he made her live a life of isolation and chastity, as well as regarding whether his vow was indeed binding or not.

After all, a vow to commit a transgression is generally invalid, and murder is certainly a transgression. In addition, a human being is not a valid “object” of a burnt offering, or any other sacrifice for that matter.

Furthermore, human sacrifice in general and child sacrifice specifically is condemned by the Torah.

It is also highly unlikely that Yiftach really considered the possibility that his daughter would be the one his vow would apply to (though it does seem strange that he did not do so, given its seemingly high probability), and this could make it an example of a halachically invalid type of commitment known as אסמכתא.

Chazal (Taanis 4) severely criticize Yiftach for not going to Pinchas to have his vow annulled, and Pinchas for not reaching out to him to do so.

Ironically, however, the implication of this is that at least according to this view, the vow was indeed valid.

One possible reason for this “vow” to be invalid might be related to the sugya of ברירה , which dominates our daf, and can also be found in many other places in the Shas.

The Mishna on 36a tells us that a person who is not sure which direction he will need to walk more than 2000 amos in on Shabbos, may place 2 “conditional” eruvin at the end of each side of his shabbos domain and stipulate the conditions under which each one will be valid.

For example, if he suspects that a Torah scholar is coming to visit and he wishes to walk more than 2000 amos to greet him, but is not sure from which direction he will come, he may stipulate that “ if he comes from the east, the eruv in the east will be valid, if he comes from the west, the eruv in the west will be valid, if one comes from each direction, I can choose which way to go, and if one does not come at all, neither eruv is valid and my shabbos zone remains as is.”

Rabbi Yehuda agrees with the above but stipulates that if a Torah scholar comes from both sides and one is his Rabbi, the eruv in the direction from which his Rabbi is coming is valid. If they are both his Rabbis, Rabbi Yehuda agrees that he may choose which one to greet.

The Gemara understands that this is an example of a קנין (transaction) or חלות (status change) that is dependent on a future event, known as ברירה.

Unlike a regular conditional transaction which is dependant on a future event happening or not, this is a transaction where the uncertainty is not based on a future event taking place, but on the object to which this future event takes place.

In our case, the eruv food on which the legal mechanism of Eruv Techumim will fall is not determined at the time of the setting up of the eruv, or even at the time of its activation, during twilight of Erev Shabbos, but later on, retroactively, based on which direction the scholar comes from.

Although Rabbi Yehuda appears to agree with the Tana Kama that such a legal status change is valid, the Gemara notes that in other places, he clearly holds that such a mechanism does not work – a legal status change can not be applied to an item which is undetermined at the time of the status change.

Another example brought in the Gemara , from a Mishna, is the case of someone who buys wine from a כותי , also known as Samaritans.

These were the settlers with whom the Assyrians replaced the exiled 10 tribes of Israel in the Northern kingdom of Israel, who took on belief in Hashem after a plague of lions.

Their status as Jews was debated amongst Chazal, and at the time of this case, or according to the sages quoted here, were considered Jewish.

However, they were apparently not trusted when it came to separating tithes, and one who bought wine from them needed to separate them before drinking the wine.

The quoted Mishna discussed a case where the person wishes to drink the wine, but has not got sufficient vessels into which to pour the various tithes, and suggests a method whereby he may drink the wine already before these tithes are physically separated.

Unlike solid products, where it might be feasible to simply set aside a certain area of the basket full as tithes, liquids are by definition mixed together, and this not possible.

Yet Rabbi Meir expresses the view that one may make a conditional declarations, saying that whatever part of the mixture he will separate for each tithe in the correct amount will be considered retroactively to have been separated from now already.

After this, he may drink the wine, obviously leaving enough for the seperation.

In contrast, Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yossi, and Rabbi forbid this.

The Gemara understands this debate to be about whether there is ברירה or not, in other words whether one may affect a conditional status change on parts of the wine before the specific part of the liquid mixture that this status change is to be applied to has been determined.

In order to reconcile Rabbi Yehuda with his view regarding Eruvin that there is ברירה, Ulah reads the Mishna in a way that Rabbi Yehuda agrees with Rabbi Meir’s permissive opinion!

There is also a suggestion on 37b that we rely on ברירה in rabbinical matters but not in biblical ones.

Coming back to the case of Yiftach, putting aside all the other issues that we raised, this seems at face value to be a typical case of ברירה.

Yiftach essentially effected a status change, from חולין (unsanctified) to הקדש (sanctified) on whichever חפצא (item) would later emerge first from his home to greet him.

This “item” later tragically turned out to be his daughter, but at the time of the vow, was not yet determined.

If this is true, it seems strange that I have struggled to find primary sources that link his conundrum to such a famous dispute.

Perhaps the difference lies in when the actual status change is to be affected.

In typical cases of ברירה , the status change is to be applied retroactively from the time of the condition.

If that was not the case, the eruv would not be valid at the critical time of twilight, and the wine would still be טבל (untithed produce) at the time when he drinks it!

Perhaps the debate around ברירה is limited to whether a status change can fall retroactively at the time the condition is made.

However, in a case where this is not the intention, maybe such a conditional pledge could be valid?

It seems clear from the story that Yiftach never intended for the first “item” to leave his house to be sanctified retroactively, or even to be automatically sanctified from the time of emerging from the house.

Otherwise, he would not have been able to give her 2 months of freedom!

It appears more likely that his was simply a vow that he would later apply a status change to whatever item left his house first.

As such, there is no need to apply ברירה in order to make the status change valid.

He would simply be bound by his initial vow to LATER bring about that status change by declaring that “item” הקדש .

Seeing as the status change itself is not based on anything he said at the time when the item was undetermined, but on his later keeping his vow and sanctifying the item AFTER it had been determined, there is no issue of ברירה at all.

In order to test this theory, a thorough study of all the different sugyas relating to ברירה is necessary, something we will hopefully have a chance to do as we progress through the daf yomi cycle!

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Eruvin 35 and 36 ספק דרבנן, ספק עירוב, and חזקה

On these daf, the Gemara deals with some of the most important principles in all of Halacha.

The Mishna on 35a records a dispute between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yossi regarding a case where it is uncertain whether the eruv techumin was valid during the critical period of twilight on Erev Shabbos.

Various examples are given:

1.       If the Eruv rolled outside his shabbos domain, and it is not clear if this happened before or after dark.

2.       If the Eruv was covered by landslide or burnt, and it unclear whether this happened before or after dark.

3.       If the Eruv consisted of Teruma, became impure, and it is unclear whether this happened before or after dark.

In such cases, Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehuda hold that he is treated like a “חמר גמל” (literally someone who is in charge of both a donkey and camel.)

As Rashi explains, the camel pulls from behind its leader, while the donkey pulls from  in front, making him remain stuck in place!

So also, it is unclear whether the Eruv is valid, allowing him  up to an extra 2000 amos in one direction, while limiting his movement  in the opposite direction, or whether it is invalid, keeping the status quo valid and allowing him 2000 amos in either direction.

As such, he is treated stringently and needs to avoid both areas of doubt, essentially making him “stuck” in the area of certainty between his house and where he placed the Eruv (roughly speaking, though probably really in the area where the two techumim overlap.)

In contrast, Rabbi Yossi and Rabbi Shimon rule that in case of doubt as to the validity of an eruv techumim, we are lenient and the eruv is kosher, allowing him to travel in a radius of 2000 amos from where he placed it.

It is unclear from their wording whether they mean that we treat the eruv as kosher out of doubt, thus also allowing him to walk anywhere within a 2000 amos radius of his house, or whether such an eruv is treated as if it is definitely kosher, thus preventing him from the later.

It is also unclear whether this debate is unique to a doubt regarding an eruv techumim, or applies to any case of doubt regarding a rabbinical law, as per the famous rule of ספק דרבנן לקולא (in case of doubt in a rabbinical matter, one may be lenient.)

The Gemara on 35b seems to take it for granted that this ruling is not unique to Eruvin, but applies to other areas of rabbinic law also, and questions Rabbi Meir’s ruling based on his lenient ruling in another case.

The case referred to is one where a person is impure  and goes down  to the mikva to immerse. himself.

Like in our case, there is some doubt as to whether his action was effective, for one of the following reasons:

1.       He is not sure if he actually immersed himself

2.       He is not sure if he immersed in a sufficient amount of water

3.       There were two mikvaos, one containing enough water and one which does not, and he is unsure which one he immersed in.

Rabbi Meir rules that if the person was impure on a biblical level, he is treated as impure, but if he was only impure on a rabbinical level, he is treated as if he is pure.

This seems to fit perfectly with the general halachik principle of ספק דאורייתא לחומרא  (in case of doubt in a biblical matter, we are stringent) and ספק דרבנן לקולא .

Rabbi Yossi, in contrast, holds that even if he was only rabbinically impure, he is still treated as impure out of doubt.

Here, it is Rabbi Meir who is lenient in the case of doubt, and Rabbi Yossi who is stringent.

Putting the issue of Rabbi Yossi’s apparent self-contradiction aside for a little, the Gemara focused first on Rabbi Meir, and answers that Rabbi Meir is of the view that the law forbidding one to leave one’s shabbos domain is actually biblical in nature.

As such, there is no inconsistency, and Rabbi Meir goes along with the general rule that ספק דרבנן לקולא.

On 36a, the Gemara turns to Rabbi Yosi and tries to explain the discrepancy in his ruling.

After various suggestions are given, the explanation of Rava is given.

Rava explains that although Rabbi Yossi indeed usually agrees that ספק דרבנן לקולא, in the case of the impure person, it is different because he started out with a חזקת אסור  (a forbidden status quo.)

The famous rule of following a person’s original status quo when there is doubt about his status (see Chullin 10a)  apparently overrides the rule of ספק דרבנן לקולא, or alternatively, redefines it as no longer subject to doubt, but as definitely impure.

There is tons more to discuss about the scope of these basic principles and how they relate to Eruvin and other situations- I wish to add that the continuation of the sugya seems to imply that Rabbi Yossi does not only limit the rule of ספק דרבנן לקולא to a case where there is no חזקת אסור working against it, but might even require a חזקת היתר  together with the doubt in order to be lenient.

This would be a huge novelty, with major ramifications, and would contradict much of what we know or assume about this rule- It would then come out that Rabbi Yossi is actually much stricter than Rabbi Meir (and perhaps the other opinions) regarding the scope of this leniency, contrary to what it seemed when we first learnt our Mishna!

Such is the beauty and complexity  of Gemara!

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.