Eruvin 82   Nature walks on Shabbos and אין מערבין אלא לדבר מצוה

This is one of those daf where there are so many different topics to choose from, (including some we have started dealing with already in previous posts,)  that having to choose one for the purposes of this post is particularly frustrating.

From gambling and אסמכתא  , to the role of קטן, disputes, ברירה  revisited, דעת בערוב, the food used for the eruv, Talmudic measurements, and more, this is no “one-sugya” daf.

Yet I decided to focus on the ruling of Rav Yosef that an eruv techumim may only be made for the sake of a mitzva.

He derives this from the Mishna on this daf which discussed how a person can make an eruv techumim on behalf of other people in his town.

He places the barrel containing the eruv in the chosen place and states that the eruv is  for all inhabitants of his city that want to go to a mourner’s house or בית המשתה  (place of drinking, sometimes used to refer to wedding feast.)

Noting that both examples given are for the purposes of mitzvos (comforting mourners and making the bride and groom happy,) Rav Yosef deduced that it is only for the purposes of a mitzva that an eruv can be made.

This deduction could be questioned for a few reasons:

i.                     Perhaps the Mishna is only mentioning the most common reasons someone would walk that far on shabbos ( אורחא דמילתא ) but does not intend to exclude דבר הרשות  (voluntary or non-mitzva related purposes.)

ii.                   Perhaps the permission to make the eruv on behalf on everyone in the city is limited to דבר מצוה  (matters of a mitzva) but making an eruv for one’s own purposes is allowed even לדבר הרשות?

iii.                 Perhaps this limitation only applies to when one uses food for one’s eruv, but if one is מערב ברגל (makes the eruv by being at the site of eruv just before shabbos,) it may be done even for דבר הרשות.

Whereas the Gemara acknowledges the first point and admits that Rav Papa’s deduction is indeed a חדוש, it does not question his ruling, and he appears to have the final word on the matter.

The second two points are not mentioned at all in the Gemara. While I have not seen any of the Rishonim mentioning the second point, there is indeed a strongly represented view amongst them that makes the distinction raised in the third case (see  among others Rabbenu Yonatan on the Rif, Meiri)

While it seems from this daf that the matter is settled, there are various other sources that show that it is far from simple.

For example, back on Eruvin 31, we saw a debate between Rabbi Yehuda and Chachamim regarding whether one may place the eruv food on a grave- this could be  because one is not allowed to benefit from a grave and the eruv might be considered  benefit seeing as it allows one to walk further than one could without it.

During the שקלא ותריא  (flow of the sugya,) Rava suggested that the debate is dependent on whether one is allowed to make an eruv techumim for something other than a mitzva.

If one is only allowed to do so for a mitzva, then seeing as מצוות לאו להנאות נתנו (mitzvos were not given to derive benefit from,) the eruv is not considered a benefit, and it is fine. This could be the view of Rabbi Yehuda who allows placing the eruv on a grave.

In contrast, Rava explains that the Chachamim hold that one may make an eruv techumin even for דבר רשות, and that the eruv is thus considered a forbidden benefit from the grave.

It could then follow that seeing as Rava was later than Rav Yosef  (הלכה כבתראי אבל צ”ע אם נאמר כלל  זה אפילו בתלמיד נגד רבו ) , and according to him, the chachomim allowed making an eruv for a non-mitzva purpose, this could indeed be the halacha.

Further support for this could be derived from the  Mishna (Pesachim  49a. )  It rules that if someone forgot to burn his chametz on erev pesach and was on his way to make an eruv techumim for a דבר רשות  (voluntary matter,) he needs to go back and burn the chometz, and  simply doing בטול  (nullification) in his heart is not sufficient. This seems to clearly indicate that it is permitted to make an eruv techumim for a דבר רשות.

Although none other than the Or Zarua (brought by  הגאות אשרי עירובין פרק 8 אות 1)  rules leniently and permits this, he appears to be virtually alone.  Virtually all other Rishonim understand that seeing as the Gemara went out of its way to explain the dispute earlier in Eruvin even according to Rav Yosef in a way that all Tannaim agree with him, and that the final word on our daf went to Rav Yosef with no mention of any dispute, the halacha is indeed like Rav Yosef (see for example Rif, Rosh, Rambam Eruvin 6/17, Meiri)

 The above-quoted  Mishna in Pesachim will thus need to be dealt with separately, and hopefully we shall have opportunity to do so when we get there!

Several important questions remain, are discussed in the Rishonim and Poskim, but time does not allow us to go into them in this post. Among them:

1.       What is considered a mitzva regarding this rule? Does even a rabbinical mitzva count, or something that involves a קיום  (implementation) of a  mitzva if done but is not obligatory, or a mitzva that can be fulfilled in a different way?

2.        Is the above definition unique to eruv techumim, or applicable to anything that is permitted for the sake of a mitzva (for example nullifying certain types of vows or a שבות דשבות  on shabbos?)

3.       If one made an eruv techumim for a forbidden purpose, does it work בדיעבד?

4.       If one made an eruv techumim for a mitzva, may it be used for a non-mitzva related purpose as well?

5.       What about community needs and other urgent needs? Do they also have the law of a דבר מצוה  as far as this rule is concerned?

One common practical ramification of this discussion relates to taking pleasurable nature-walks outside the techum on Shabbos .

 Is the “oneg shabbos” involved in the walk enough to be considered a mitzva purpose, or could we argue that “oneg shabbos” is only a rabbinical mitzva or/and could be fulfilled in so many different ways that it does not qualify?

If such a walk does qualify, is it also considered enough of a mitzva to allow one to ask a non-Jew to perform any rabbinically forbidden task to make it possible, safe or more enjoyable (such as carrying water through a כרמלית,) under the rule of שבות דשבות לדבר מצוה?

Although most Rishonim do not seem to list this as an example of a דבר מצוה, in a response on the topic, the תרומת הדשן (responsa number 77) seems to permit it, and this is indeed the ruling of the Rema (O.C. 416/1.)

As far as the later question is concerned, given the huge amount of disagreement regarding the heter for a שבות דשבות  altogether (see posts on the subject on Eruvin 66-68,) it might be a  little more complex, but if people are already going on such a walk in hot weather and water is a necessity, there certainly seems to be room for leniency in allowing a non-Jew to bring water along or meet one along the route, so long as all other halachik requirements are fulfilled, and it is done in consultation with an expert in the laws of shabbos.

UThese 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

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